Mexico's spring break king is rebounding quickly from last year's triple blow to its tourism industry caused by the country's swine flu epidemic, drug violence and a global economic crisis.
This year, those worries couldn't compete against cheap airfare from the United States and phenomenal package deals that include all-you-can-drink enticements.
Eighty-five percent of Cancun's 28,000 rooms were filled in February, a sign of the city's speedy recovery from 2009, when 1 million fewer visitors came than in a typical year. The relatively high occupancy seen in February is expected to go even higher this month, when more universities are on spring break.
At the sprawling, palm-tree-packed Oasis Hotel, spring breakers dotted the beach. Some took photos with monkeys and others danced to music pumped from gigantic speakers.
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Emma Duranti, a 20-year-old science major at Queens University in Kingston, Canada, decided to come to Cancun after comparing it to Jamaica and finding a better deal. Duranti said she paid $1,040 for a seven-day, all-inclusive trip.
"I was expecting a good party, but it went above and beyond," she said while sunbathing with two friends on the beach of the Oasis Hotel. "There is always a party on the beach and you can party all day and party all night!"
Destinations across Mexico are experiencing a return of tourists despite a U.S. travel alert to stay away from some parts - mostly in the northern border states - because of drug violence.
Lonely Planet's U.S. staff's top-10 list for 2010 put Mexico as the No. 4 destination for the new year, saying that nation is "still a good bargain, easy to get to for most Americans." It's a much-needed endorsement for Mexico's third largest source of foreign income.
Tourism all but came to a halt in April 2009 when fear over the swine flu epidemic virtually paralyzed Mexico, forcing the closure of restaurants and archaeological sites and restricting air travel to Mexico from some countries.
The world has since learned that swine flu is treatable if detected in time, vaccines are available, and death rates have dropped.
Mexico has had a tougher time fighting off its bad image from drug violence, which has left more than 15,000 people dead since President Felipe Calderon declared his war on cartels in 2006.
To counter the bad news, the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco in drug-plagued Guerrero state paid MTV $200,000 for the network to host its spring party there this year. The city expects to draw between 7,000 to 10,000 spring breakers despite the resort's sporadic drug killings and gun battles, one of which took place near a historic tourist hotel last year.
Mexican government officials have taken every opportunity to say the violence is concentrated in a handful of states, most along the Mexico-U.S. border. These include Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua, and in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan - all far from the country's popular beach resorts.
That message appears to be working: Travelocity's senior editor Genevieve Shaw Brown said bookings on Travelocity.com for spring travel to Mexico have shot up 25 percent compared to last year. Cancun is No. 5 on Travelocity's top 10 spring break bookings list for this year, up from the No. 10 spot last year.
She said last year's problems forced Mexico to lower its prices.
"Now Mexico is reaping the benefits of cheap travel costs with the return of spring breakers who are looking for deals," Shaw Brown said. "It's been communicated very well that Mexico is an outstanding value."
Those who risk it are also reaping the benefits for doing so: The federal, state and local governments have invested $80 million to rebuild Cancun's world-renowned powdery white beaches that have been suffering from erosion.
With that project completed along Cancun's 8-mile coast, the beach is now 280 feet wide. The rebuilding, which took a year to complete, is the second attempt to rebuild the sandy playground since Hurricane Wilma devastated the area in 2005. An artificial reef was also built off the coast to help contain the sand.
Elysee Burgess, a 21-year-old nursing major from Oakland University in Rochester, Mich., had only one complaint: She has to get up from the beach every time she wants to get another drink from her hotel bar.
"The beach is great. There are some awesome parties," Burgess said, while her friend Kristen Fleming took a picture with a monkey. "The only thing ... is that you can only get one drink at a time."