If you're thinking about replacing your old laminated countertop, consider a resurfacing project first. If the countertop structure (the framing and particle board underneath) is in good shape, all you need to do is replace the surface. Usually, you can go right over the existing laminate, as long as you prepare it properly. If the countertop has a sink in it, remove it before you resurface, keeping the hole unobstructed so you can put the sink back in.
Ceramic or porcelain tile is an excellent countertop material, because these types of tile are moisture-proof, knife-proof and don't hold heat. To tile over an existing countertop, first lay down a sheet of 1/4-inch cement board, using carpenter's glue and screws. Lay your tile from the middle of the front edge, using rounded "bullnose'' tiles for the front. Lay them with thinset morter, with about 1/8 inch of space between them. When they set, grout the lines between the tiles and seal it well with a waterproof grout sealer.
The old laminate on your countertop is a thin sheet of plastic glued down. You can glue a new one (of an updated style) right over it. Buff the old surface with 100-grit sandpaper, then cut your sheet of plastic laminate so it's straight against the back and hangs out an inch over the rest. Coat both the countertop and the underside of the laminate with contact cement, and let both dry according to the instructions. The two cemented surfaces won't stick to anything but each other. Lay dowel rods every foot or so on the countertop and lay the laminate over them to keep the two surfaces separated until you're ready. Once the laminate is in the right position, slide the rods out one by one, pressing down the laminate as you do. Roll a rolling pin over it to get out any air bubbles. Use the edge of a power router to trim off the laminate overhang at the edge.
Plywood is made of several thin layers of different wood glued together for strength. Furniture-quality plywood, in which the top layer is made of oak or other good hardwood, can be used as a countertop as long as you seal it properly. Cut a 1/4-inch-thick sheet of good plywood to fit on the surface of the countertop. Buff the surface with 100-grit sandpaper, then lay the plywood down with good carpenter's glue. Clamp it tightly down until the glue dries. Lightly sand the plywood, apply a light stain, then apply a coat of clear, floor-grade polyurethane. After it dries, buff it with 220-grit sandpaper to dull the shine so the next coat will stick. Use at least three coats.