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Rio Mar Beach Resort- 2 Bedroom Ocean Villa - Northeast Coast

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We didn't pay the price for paradise on this jaunt into the heart of the Caribbean, I mused as Shawna, Wesley and I arrived at Ocean Villas II, a quiet, family-oriented villa complex at the Wyndham Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa in northeast Puerto Rico. Normally our travels in this tropical region involve at least one—often several—plane changes. Fortunately, because San Juan, capital of this U.S. commonwealth, is a hub for American Airlines, we were able to fly direct (and didn't even need our passports).

Relaxation was instantaneous and it wasn't just the bowed coconut palms overlooking the dappled infinity pool, or the invitingly empty stretch of amber beach. As traveling parents, part of what we appreciate in a resort is understated, but professional, security. At the Wyndham Rio Mar Hotel, the fences were tucked behind the lush, landscaped grounds and the guard at the only gate was pleasant, but reassuring.

Beyond these elements, however, was our realization that we had discovered one of the best-kept secrets in Caribbean travel—a villa complex WITHIN a resort. As a couple we want to enjoy the best the resort has to offer—a small casino, five pools (including a lap pool), two golf courses (carts come with golf villa rentals), restaurants, beach, health club and a wonderful spa. But as a family our needs are a bit more complicated. We like the extra space and amenities you can only find in a villa—a private kitchen, a family room and children's bedroom, purpose-built kiddy pools and space.

At the five-story Wyndham property there are 54 villas broken into three categories—I, II and III and a penthouse—depending on the corresponding number of bedrooms. The décor in each is simple, contemporary furniture and draperies, but the 42-inch plasma television in the living room adds that extra flourish. In short, at the Ocean Villas II, we found the best of both worlds.


We woke to flying surfboards outside our window. Kite-surfers, intrepid athletic souls plying the rolling combers with parasails, gave us our morning entertainment before we had a relaxing breakfast on the patio. Shawna and I did a quick shopping trip last night to a local grocery store where we discovered another great perk of a U.S. commonwealth in the Caribbean—our credit card zipped through fine, with no annoying red flags raised back in the states by overly cautious banks.


We spent the afternoon in the gorgeous infinity pool which doubles as a sloping kiddy pool barely an inch deep. We then wandered over to the red-tile roofed hotel where we all had a splash in the three larger pools (complete with a slippery water slide).

Wesley has been enjoying our stay immensely, and not just because of the arcade, the campfires in the evenings and the kids club. It's the friends he's been making out of the most entertaining locals, vivid green iguanas. Yesterday we left him at the club for a scheduled reptile feeding with other children while we played two games of racquet at the beautiful tennis center. Later in the evening we rented bikes for an hour and rode around the lakes and gardens and had a chuckle when Wesley pointed out the "CautionÉ Iguana Xing" signs.

Tonight we took turns in the Jacuzzi for an extra dose of tranquility. An added bonus is that there are only about 10 other families in the whole complex. Even if it were more crowded, we certainly wouldn't hear any noise from next door thanks to the solid construction and thick walls. Nor do we need to worry about popping some popcorn and turning up the television after Wesley wins another round of Go Fish. We're looking forward to some good old American television, the season finales of "Lost" and "American Idol," all in the comfort of our villa in the heart of the Caribbean.

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