THE WYLAND WAIKIKI
Follow the flagstone whale's tail to enter a world where a $4 million collection of sea-life artwork awaits exploration. Named after marine artist Robert Wyland, the ultrachic hotel reflects all things oceanic, from glass-bubble lamp stands to a tile dolphin mural on the bottom of the swimming pool. Five minutes from the beach, this property is a technophile's dream. The media room brims with cushy massage chairs, video games, and a wall-size flat-panel TV. The 403 guest rooms offer complimentary Internet, free calls anywhere in the United States for up to 15 minutes, and MP3 docking stations. Get a massage at an on-site spa or a cup of Hawaii-grown java at the hotel's coffee bar. Free Otter Pops poolside and Pixy Stix upon check-in boost the fun quotient.
• Rates range from $129 to $405; 808/954-4000 or thewylandwaikiki.com.
"The story of Hotel Burnham is architecture," proclaims the in-room directory. Indeed. The building opened in 1895 as a wonder of its age, a pioneering skyscraper (three blocks from lakefront Millennium Park) designed in part by Daniel Burnham, a titan of the era's "City Beautiful" movement. The hotel plays up its heritage but hardly lives in the past. Amenities include high-speed Internet and CD players, and a playful spirit (bold colors, animal-print robes) tempers the grandeur.
• Rates range from $199 to $399; 312/782-1111 or burnhamhotel.com.
Smack in the center of downtown, The Ritz-Carlton is Cleveland's premier address. Each room offers views of Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, or downtown. No need to venture beyond the marble lobby for breakfast―the on-site Muse restaurant whips up a delicious three-egg omelet. Most everything is nearby, actually. The hotel is part of Tower City Center, which contains a shopping mall and a rapid transit station offering airport connections. Plus the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is within walking distance.
• Rates start at $239; 216/623-1300 or ritzcarlton.com.
HACIENDA SAN ANGEL
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
It's hard to believe that this Colonial-style hacienda, filled with centuries-old artifacts and antique furnishings, opened just five years ago. Owner Janice Chatterton also purchased and transformed five neighboring villas, creating what is now an exquisite hotel. Splashing fountains, courtyards dripping with bright bougainvillea, and multiple ocean-view terraces provide oases throughout. Each of the 16 suites is different―some feature domed ceilings, rooftop terraces, or marble bathtubs―but all are decorated with European touches. A mariachi band kicks off cocktail hour every evening in the main villa, which was formerly owned by actor Richard Burton. Best of all, it's only a short stroll to restaurants and shops, or el malecón, the oceanside boardwalk known for its street performers, food carts, and people watching.
• Rates range from $260 to $680; 877/815-6594 or haciendasanangel.com.
St. Martin, French West Indies
This luxury resort and spa is one of the Caribbean's most seductive retreats. The Baie Royale Suite includes a private, oceanfront terrace with a romantically draped daybed and a plunge pool. Famed for its restaurants' exceptional French-Caribbean cuisine, La Samanna features an award-winning wine cellar. Guests are pampered with massages, scrubs, and wraps at Elysées Spa, which offers a "complete stress reduction" package. Come December, eight villas with three or four bedrooms, private terraces, and infinity pools will be available to rent.
• Rates range from $995 to $8,500; 800/854-2252 or lasamanna.com.