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Are Cancun and Cozumel ready for visitors?

SmarterTravel

Dear Editor,

Are Cancun and Cozumel ready for visitors after being hit by Hurricane Wilma?

– Barbara V.

Dear Reader,

The short answer to your questions is “yes.” Immediately after the storm passed through the region in late October, the Mexican government and tourism operators in Cancun and Cozumel began a rapid clean-up and reconstruction effort. Both resorts are open and have been receiving visitors for the past two months.

However, both destinations are still recovering; rebuilding could take months to complete. In Cancun, some hotels are fully operational, but the resorts of the oceanfront hotel zone were hard hit. Some of the area’s top properties, including the Hyatt Regency, Hilton Golf & Spa Resort, the JW Marriott, and the CasaMagna Marriott will not reopen until spring or summer. Other hotels are “open” but undergoing construction. Many restaurants and nightclubs are also rebuilding or closed until further notice.

Cancun’s biggest loss is its famed white sand beaches, which were severely eroded in places. In some areas, the sand was washed away completely, exposing jagged white limestone rock underneath. The government is spending millions to repair the beaches with sand dredged from the ocean floor, but the project will take time to complete.

Cozumel, which began receiving cruise traffic again on November 14, quickly rebuilt its downtown shops, restaurants, and hotels. But, the island’s beachfront properties sustained serious damage and some are closed until further notice. Most of Cozumel’s diving operations are back in business, despite some damage to the reefs located closest to shore.

Overall, your decision to visit Cancun or Cozumel depends on your expectations and how soon you hope to travel. At the moment, travelers can expect reduced options for accommodations, dining, and entertainment; construction-related noise and inconveniences; less-than-perfect beaches; and subdued nightlife. Also, while some properties and vacation sellers have offered discounts, prices haven’t dropped enough to make either destination a real bargain getaway this winter. However, as the months pass, conditions will improve and off-peak deals will start to crop up, making the region a more attractive vacation option.

If you decide not to wait, be sure to do careful research. Start by visiting Cancun.info or IslaCozumel.com.mx for up-to-date information about hotel openings and the general reconstruction effort. Before booking a hotel, call the property directly and ask detailed questions about construction projects, the state of its beach and other amenities, and the status of nearby restaurants and attractions.

As an alternative destination, you might consider destinations further south on the Mayan Riviera. You’ll find all-inclusive resorts and white sand beaches that rival Cancun’s in or near the resort town of Playa del Carmen, plus several smaller, less-developed beach towns that appeal to those looking for a more peaceful Mexican getaway. This area suffered far less damage than its neighbors to the north, and its tourism infrastructure, including most hotels and popular attractions such as the Xel-Ha, Xcaret, and the Tulum Mayan ruins, is operating as normal or will be shortly. Go to RivieraMaya.com to learn more.

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