For a generation, Cancún was known as the package-tour spring break capital, a place where college coeds and peso-pinching gringos had free rein of its translucent water and powder-white sand. That is, until Aqua came to town this winter. Conceived by Grupo Posadas, the resort has brought a new level of sophistication to a city notorious for its never-ending happy hour. Built on the last stretch of undeveloped property on the man-made strip, Aqua has 371 rooms outfitted with Frette linens, Bose home theaters, and balconies overlooking the Caribbean. Beyond the guest quarters, there's more than enough action to fill a week: eight pools; a spa with a Mayan temescal steam room; and three restaurants, including one run by celebrity chef Michelle Bernstein (formerly of the Mandarin Oriental Miami's Azul) and another by the doyenne of Mexican cooking, Patricia Quintana. Adios, body shots; hola, martinis. Aqua, Km 12.5, Blvd. Kukulcán, Zona Hotelera, Cancún; 800/343-7821 or 52-998/881-7600;; doubles from $396.
—Hillary Geronemus