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Twin Rolls-Royce sedans, in pale green to match the color of the Caribbean, are parked outside the plate-glass doors of Cancun’s glamorous new Aqua hotel. They’re clearly a symbol of what’s to come.


The first of a new luxury brand for Mexico’s Grupo Posadas, Aqua was open for only 10 months before Hurricane Wilma’s knockout blow in 2004. It reopened in December 2007 with windows strong enough to withstand Category 5 winds, a casual-elegant ambience, eight swimming pools and a snappy, 21st-century look that leaves Old Mexico in the dust.


Aqua stands on a prime stretch of beach in the heart of Cancun’s Hotel Zone. The lively Las Islas shopping, dining and entertainment center is directly across the highway. The Kukulcan luxury mall, with the likes of Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Versace, is a five-minute stroll away. Except for day tours to Cancun’s famed Maya archeological sites (by Rolls for the big spenders), most guests feel no need to stray any farther.


Aqua’s gourmet restaurants (reasonably priced by U.S. standards) are already making a name for the hotel. James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein, of Michy’s in Miami, prepares luxury comfort food in her gourmet dinner house, MB, and Mexico’s superstar chef, Martha Ortiz, runs the nouvelle Mexican Siete, serving three meals a day. There’s the informal but widely acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant Azur by the beach; the AKA bar, stocked with fine wines and mezcals; and the Egos bar, which heats up its dance floor with a techno beat.


Sharing the plaza level with restaurants, gift and beauty shops is a fitness center with banks of the latest equipment. Across from the fitness center is the hotel’s jewel, the candlelit Spa Aqua. There, ancient Maya massage is fused with native rubs and wraps from Sweden, Australia, Polynesia, Morocco and India. Such relaxation treatments as Watsu, in which the body floats in water, go hand in hand with management’s good-hearted mission to help put each guest in touch with his or her inner self.


The perpetually amiable employees greet guests with arms folded across their chest, a Maya sign of welcome and oneness. Four times a day, a small group of them performs tai chi and other rituals outdoors, and anyone can join in. And at one end of the manicured grounds, the hotel’s yoga master waits in a shaded pavilion to coach guests who drop in for a stretch.


But the main action, of course, is around the eight pools, with three temperatures, and varying styles and depths. The centerpiece pool is 200 feet long. Though the delightful Caribbean laps at the beach, most guests prefer the poolside camaraderie and Aqua’s unparalleled service. (For an extra charge, you can reserve a cabana with a king-size bed-swing, with beach boys offering sweets; tropical slushes; icy, herb-infused towels; and foot massages.)


Pampering continues in the welcoming, aromatherapy-scented lobby, with muted decor in browns and beiges and a row of cushiony chaise lounges facing the sea. Guest rooms offer such amenities as a choice of pillows, cordless phones, Bose sound systems, oversize safes for laptops, iPod docking stations and an aromatherapy menu that allows guests to select their room’s scent of the day. There is no desk, and that, according to management, is to encourage rest and relaxation for Aqua’s often overstressed high-profile guests. But rooms do have Wi-Fi, and there’s an army of computers and a full-service business center in the library/lounge.


All of the 371 rooms have spacious balconies and face the ocean, though some have limited views. A standard oceanview double measures 417 square feet, and the size goes way up from there.


Though families are welcome, there is no kids’ club, but the concierge can recommend one at a sister hotel.


For more information, call 866-931-AQUA or visit Inge

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