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When you look around at the giant hotels and supermalls it’s hard to imagine that pre-1970s there was nothing here but sand and fishermen. In the 1970s Mexico’s ambitious planners decided to outdo Acapulco with a brand-new, world-class resort located on the Yucatán Peninsula. The place they chose was a deserted sand spit located offshore from the little fishing village of Puerto Juárez, on the peninsula’s eastern shore: Cancún. Vast sums were sunk into landscaping and infrastructure, yielding straight, well-paved roads, potable tap water and great swaths of sandy beach.

Hurricanes Wilma and Emily whipped into town in 2005, destroying area hotels, flooding much of the city and carrying off much of Cancún’s precious beach sand. Nearly M$200 million later, the beaches are back, the hotels are up and running, and Cancún is ready to get you drunk and get you tanned.