Casa de Campo, La Romana, Dominican Republic

The faraway pulse of Dominican merengue music sends a soft siren's call to dance the tropical night away. But the smooth bubbling of the Jacuzzi's water jets, and the distant splash of waves on the white sand beach argue against setting down a freshly lit cigar. Instead, the blue curls of smoke drift upward into the dazzling star-filled sky above one of Casa de Campo's private villas, and the conversation dwells on the joys of a fine cigar and a glass of Dominican rum. A perfect Caribbean night.

Casa de Campo is one of the Caribbean's best kept secrets. Once a private playground for Gulf & Western corporate executives, the 7,000-acre resort in the Dominican Republic offers something for everyone. On any given day, the hotel's runway welcomes private jets from around the world. The long, palm tree-lined beach often resembles a sun-baked United Nations, and you're just as likely to see someone reading The New York Times as Mexico City's Excelsior or Paris's Le Monde.

The particulars are almost too numerous to mention. There are 950 rooms, including the hotel and the dozens of private villas, many of which are available to rent. There are two championship golf courses designed by the renowned golf course creator Pete Dye, and one, dubbed The Teeth of the Dog, is considered the thirty-first most difficult 18 holes in the world. There are three polo fields with 200 ponies and 2,000 more horses are kept at the resort's equestrian center. There are 14 swimming pools (not to mention the pools at some of the private villas), 13 tennis courts, a skeet shooting range and a complete health and fitness center with squash and racquetball courts.

Food isn't necessarily the reason to go to Casa de Campo. But the restaurants are more than adequate. For instance, the main hotel restaurant serves up a sandwich buffet at lunch with fresh chicken, ham, beef and turkey and freshly made breads. There are eight other restaurants on the resort property, and in nearby La Romana, there are several establishments that serve decent fare in quaint settings. Some of the resort restaurants are located in an area above the main villas and hotels known as Altos de Chavon, a stone replica of a 16th century Italian village. The views are breathtaking. And, during the day, the small shops sell a wide range of art and native handicrafts.

While the hotel rooms are standard resort accommodations, the private villas are Casa de Campo's special attraction. They come in one, two, three and four bedroom arrangements. Some are constructed so that the bedrooms are on ground level, and the second floor is an open terrace with views of the golf courses and the ocean. Each house is beautifully finished with white stucco exteriors, red tile roofs and exposed wood beams. There are packages available that provide maid and butler service for ten hours a day, and they will prepare breakfast for you every morning. Golf carts are provided to speed guests back and forth between their villas and the beach or tennis courts.

This year, for the first time, the resort is offering "One-Price Vacations" with prices ranging between $300 to $350 per day per person in a villa with everything inclusive, including meals, from December 21 to January 7. From January 7 through the peak season, the prices range from $275 to $332 per person daily.