When I mention Cancún to my 23-year-old stepson, he pumps the air with his fist and says, "Señor Frog's! Spring break! Party, dude!" He is referringjokingly, of courseto the bar that's the Mexican nexus of Girls Gone Wild, the reason many sane people run screaming when someone mentions "vacation" and "Cancún" in the same sentence.
Cancún, however, is also home to a stretch of luxury resorts designed to shield grown people from girls (or anyone else) going wild. In fact, Cancún's hotel zonea 13-mile-long coastal island across a causeway from the fairly dispirited downtowncan sometimes seem like the world's largest gated community. Often there is an eerie hush to the streets near the resorts, as most of the tourists stay on the fortresslike properties all day, lounging by the pool or on the gorgeous beaches, until the sun goes down and it's time to go to one of the chain restaurants, like Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, the Hard Rock Cafe or even Señor Frog's. The good news: With the arrival of Fiesta Americana's new Grand Aqua resort, everyone's dining prospects are much improved.
Set atop a steep driveway, Aqua is making a clear bid to be the new king of the hill. It announces its themes the moment you enter: It is about water, luxury and service. An army of waitstaff in white tunics stands at attention in the marble lobby. Large windows provide a stunning view of the sea and many infinity pools (cool, warmer, warmest). Outside, the white beach is immaculate and never overcrowded, even in high season. Shaded cabanas with double beds are tidy, inviting and always stocked with fresh towels. On the hotel's plaza, a tai chi instructor goes through his slow-motion dance. Two scarlet macaws fly from the arms of one trainer to another's. In my room, a card informs me that there are eight kinds of pillows for my sleeping enjoyment (including the several nice ones already on the bed). I need only dial a few numbers to have them, or pretty much anything else I should desire, delivered. My husband and I almost didn't leave the grounds, but in the end we couldn't be this close to Chichén Itzá and not go see the Mayan architecture from circa A.D. 900. But we followed that five-hour round-trip excursion with a run right home to those pillows.