RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- For agents whose clients are in the villa mind-set but also want the trappings of a resort, the Ocean Villas at Rio Mar Beach could well fit the bill.

Located in what is becoming a popular resort area 19 miles from San Juan -- Sol Melia's Paradisus Puerto Rico Beach & Golf Resort opens in Rio Grande in November -- the 59 villa units in two five-story buildings are adjacent to and share the facilities of the Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club next door.

The villas are independently owned, available for rent and pay 10% commission, according to a spokesman.

The complex opened in October 2000, offering one-, two- and three-bedroom units ranging in size from 860 square feet to 2,250 square feet.

Depending on the layout of each unit, villas overlook either the beachfront or the 16th hole of the 18-hole Ocean golf course, designed by Tom and George Fazio.

Each villa features its own balcony, a fully equipped kitchen, terra-cotta floors, ceiling fans and a Bose stereo system. Guest facilities at the villas include a restaurant, two pools, a water-sports center and a dive shop.

According to the spokes-man, villa guests have full access to the Westin Rio Mar's facilities, including its 12 restaurants, lounges, entertainment venues, two championship golf courses, 13 tennis courts, pools, Le Spa and fitness center, retail shops and the 7,000-square-foot casino as well as concierge service.

An added incentive for villa guests this year is a fixed rate on weeklong bookings.

Each of the 59 units at the Ocean Villas at Rio Mar Beach in Puerto Rico is a blend of Caribbean and Mediterranean decor, furnishings and amenities. Villas range in size from one to three bedrooms. The starting rate, available through Dec. 19, is $2,100 for a one-bedroom villa, which represents savings of $5,100 off the published rack rates, the spokesman said.

The starting rate for a two-bedroom unit is $3,000 for a week, which includes the seventh night free when six are booked.

Villas, property still linked

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico -- Although the Ocean Villas at Rio Mar reverted to private ownership last year, the villa complex remains intimately linked with its neighbor, the 600-room Westin Rio Mar Beach Resort & Golf Club.

The facilities share the same 500-acre site on Puerto Rico's north coast; guests arriving at the villa complex first check in at a desk in Westin's main lobby and then are shuttled to their units.

Villa guests have access to the facilities at the 600-room Westin; Andy Papoutsis serves as the general manager for both facilities; and agents can book the commissionable villas through Westin's reservations system.

"The Ocean Villas opened in October 2000 and was owned and operated by Westin until last year, when the units reverted to individual, private ownership," said Tina Bernard, Westin's leisure sales director.

Westin's equivalent of the Ocean Villas are its 72 one- and two-bedroom Ocean Suites, targeted to high-end clientele.

Renovation of the suites is one phase of Westin's ongoing renovation program.

Recent projects included a redo of the conference center and meetings space; new flooring on the 10,000-square-foot deck of the Ocean Terrace overlooking the resort's mile-long beach; and a facelift for Club Coqui, the poolside dining facility.

New entertainment venues are the Players Bar and David's Cookies Cafe, both near the Rio Mar Casino.

For reservations or for more details on the Ocean Villas or the Westin Rio Mar, call Westin Resorts at (888) 625-4949 or visit the properties' Web sites, at www.oceanvillasrentals.com or at www.westinriomar.com. -- G.N.M.

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