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Aqua Cancún, Cancún 

See the Cancún Guide ›
Boulevard Kukulkán, Km 12.5
Zona Hotelera
Mexico 77500
Tel: 800 343 7821
Tel: 52 998 881 7600
view web site ›'s insider take:

Not-so-subtle aromatherapy scents waft through the lobby and hallways at the recently reopened Aqua, the splashiest property (for now) in the Zona Hotelera. When it first opened in 2005, its stylish architecture and celeb-chef restaurants snagged international attention. After Hurricane Wilma decimated the zone a few months later, the curving facade offered unintended sea views through blown-out walls. Now, designer Francisco Gutiérrez has developed an all-new Aqua with a vibe that manages to both soothe and stimulate the senses. An aromatherapy menu rests beside an espresso machine in the 371 rooms. Whirlpool baths for two hold a place of pride between thronelike beds and open bathrooms. Suites have slick entertainment gadgets and multiple mirrors reflecting the blue sky outside the balcony doors. The spa is similarly revitalizing, with Australian aboriginal music, Moroccan oils, and Mayan temezcal techniques. Haute comfort food courtesy of Miami star chef Michelle Bernstein keeps the posh MB restaurant packed with Cancún's monied set. Siete's nouvelle Mexican menu is equally popular. Come nightfall, live performers flow through New Agey dance performances as scarlet macaws swoop above the eight on-site pools and tiered balconies. Tip: Despite its professed focus on ritual and renewal, Aqua is a status spot. Be sure to pack your designer resortwear.

From the editors of Condé Nast Traveler:

A handful of style-conscious resorts have popped up in Cancún since the rebuilding fervor following Hurricane Wilma in late 2005. But the reopening of the 371-room Aqua (after being destroyed by the storm) sets the bar higher. Yes, it has the now-obligatory aromatherapy menus, iPod docks, and sharp staff uniforms (black-and-white caftans, in this case), and check-in is done on sumptuous sofas, overlooking the eight pools that fill the space between the building's two angular white wings. But what really sets this resort apart is its food. Mexico City's queen of alta cocina, Martha Ortiz, elevates tacos to high art at Siete, as mosaics of pop icons like Frida Kahlo look down from pillars. At MB, hot Miami chef Michelle Bernstein favors gutsy dishes with Latin and Asian influences. Even drinks get the celebrity treatment: "wine geek" Steve Olson has concocted mezcal cocktails, plus a solid wine program—a treat in Mexico, where vino is expensive and not always well cared for. In the two hip lounges, one a library with photography and design books lining its walls, the other a red-lit glass box that faces the pools and the sea, a DJ spins electronica and house—this is one place you definitely won't hear "YMCA."

—2008 Hot List

When to go: The gem-blue Caribbean is at its finest in late winter and spring.

Which room to book: The Luna y Sol Suites face the sea on one side and the lagoon (and the setting sun) on the other. Their garden terraces are good spots for a private massage

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