Florida – Acqualina

Once the haunt of Jackie Gleason and Ava Gardner, Sunny Isles Beach — Florida’s Riviera — is located on a barrier island midway between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It is home to the Mediterranean-style Acqualina, which is overseen by Canadian hotelier Klaus Tenter, a veteran of the Four Seasons Toronto and The Hazelton, and towers over the Atlantic on the east and the Intracoastal Waterway on the west.

Upon arrival, we’re greeted with champagne and Bellinis; children sip apple juice. Guests are spared the front-desk registration lineup and are checked in within the privacy of their suites.

Our stay just happens to be around American Thanksgiving, and there’s no shortage of grandmothers swimming with tots — all well-behaved, I might add — and dads taking in some sun and a cocktail with, well, their dads. There is also an adults-only pool, but for the most part, the hot spot at the resort is the main pool, flanked by private cabanas on one side and the beachside Costa Grill resto on the other. The cabanas can be booked for a fee and include mineral water on ice, sunscreens of all SPFs and a poolside reflexology foot treatment. Lounges decked out with cherry red cushions line the beach, served with courteous attention from the hotel staff.

For dinner, there’s the Zagat top-rated Il Mulino New York, where the menu suits palates of all ages with classic Italian fare and brilliant presentation. We’re nearly satiated with salty hunks of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, carved straight from the wheel at our table, along with a selection of antipastos that would make any Mama envious.

On most floors, there are four guest rooms or suites situated in the four corners of the hotel, two on each side of the hall. Closing the double doors near the end of the hall allows for a pair of cross-hall rooms to be booked for larger families; leave the room doors open with the hallway door locked — and presto! — you have an apartment that can comfortably sleep six, complete with kitchen, living room, daybed/office and private terraces. The marine biology-based AcquaMarine program, nanny services and a “Kid’s Night Out” round out the family-friendly activities.

The resort features ESPA, one of the rare North American outposts of this English leader in spa treatments. Guests can use facilities such as the Crystal Steam Room or the Ice Fountains while indulging in treatments, and the 45-plus set will enjoy ESPA’s latest trio of facials, which use the company’s new Super Active product line. We’ll have them all.

-Vivian Vassos