Luis Acosta / AFP via Getty Imag
Workers install pipes used to drain sand to recover the beaches in Cancun, Mexico Jan. 31, 2006. The government and tourist businessmen have initiated the recovery of the beaches, devastated by Hurricane Wilma.
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updated 3/3/2006 6:57:36 PM ET 2006-03-03T23:57:36

For better or worse, Cancun is often the first destination that comes to mind when travelers think of spring break. Whether it's because of the beaches, the vacation packages, the wet T-shirt contests, or the bars and restaurants, Cancun has long been among the most popular of all spring break destinations. Since Cancun was hit by Hurricane Wilma in late October 2005, the recovery effort has been in full swing in an effort to restore the city to its former glory. But the foremost question on the mind of travelers remains -- will Cancun be ready for spring break?

The answer is yes -- with some caveats. If you decide to travel to Cancun, you'll encounter rebuilding efforts in nearly every facet of tourism. Travelers can be confident, however, that as the rebuilding continues, the area is safe with all necessities like running water and road access operating normally.

The white sand beaches that Cancun is known for suffered some erosion as a result of Hurricane Wilma. However, there is still ample sand for relaxing and sunbathing while the efforts to restore the beaches to their previous state take place. A government-sponsored project that will dredge sand from the ocean floor to the shore is expected to be completed by the end of April 2006, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. "Our aggressive beach restoration efforts are consistent with the proactive response to the opportunity afforded by Wilma by federal and local government and private entities. Our efforts ensure that Cancun will soon be even better than before," said Rodolfo Elizondo, the Mexico Tourism Secretary.

Cancun's hotel zone, a 15-mile stretch of properties that is at the heart of tourism for the city, was alive with workers during our visit in mid-January. Though it was not unusual to see boarded-up windows and piles of debris at many of the hotels, what was far more copious was the near-frantic pace at which the debris was being removed and repairs were taking place. Palm trees whose tops had been blown off, leaving only tree trunks behind, were being replaced at every turn.

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Nearly every hotel was impacted to some degree by the storm. Many are using the opportunity to upgrade their properties, and are choosing to stay closed or partially closed -- making the damage look more severe than it really is.

Slideshow: Spring destinations

Many of the shops, restaurants and tour operators that we passed on a drive down the hotel zone's main drag proudly declared with signs out front, "We Are Open!" A glance inside several restaurants showed that indeed, they were open -- tables were set and servers were waiting -- but the diners were nowhere to be seen. Among the open activities were dolphin encounters, scuba diving operators, dinner cruises, nearby water parks and shopping malls. The status of the rebuilding process changes constantly; for the most up-to-date information, check out http://www.cancun.info/.

Though it seems like the natural response from Cancun tour operators and business owners would be to slash prices in an effort to lure tourists back to the area, some fear that going down that path could be more detrimental to tourism to Cancun in the long run if people associate the city with rock-bottom prices. That said, travelers can find some great deals to Cancun right now. Specifically, keep an eye out for value-added hotel and vacation packages -- a night at no extra cost, free room upgrades, a free spa treatment or vouchers for nearby attractions are all likely add-ons.

Funjet Vacations is offering an all-inclusive package from Chicago to Cancun from just $899 per person. Funjet Vacations has also launched a travel blog where you can view recent photos of beaches, hotels and restaurants in Cancun.

Travelocity is offering $100 off vacations booked to select destinations in Mexico, including Cancun, for travel through June 30. Vacations must be booked by March 31, 2006. Most of the vacation packages to Cancun from Travelocity include one or more of the value add-ons mentioned above.

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at www.independenttraveler.com, or at www.bargainbox.com.

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