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Dario Lopez-mills  /  AP
A view of the beach in Cancun, Mexico. Cancun's new beach, built by pumping 96 million cubic feet (27 million cubic meters) of sand from the ocean floor, is the highlight of an extreme makeover the resort has gone through since it was savaged by Hurricane Wilma on Oct. 21, 2005.
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Special to msnbc.com
updated 3/27/2007 3:10:37 PM ET 2007-03-27T19:10:37

To those who say big government has never accomplished anything of value, let’s shout out the word “Cancun”. A sleepy little dot of a fishing village in 1974, Cancun was plucked from obscurity by a cadre of Mexican government computer analysts. Their job was to scour the coastline, remotely of course, and pick a location with the ideal ratio of sun to sand to magnificent vistas. They made their pick, millions of dollars flowed in, and the rest is Spring Break history. See if you think these government computer geeks made the right choice on the following itinerary:

8 a.m. - 9 a.m.: Milky café con leche, warm soft biscuits and huevos rancheros are the ideal way to start the day in Cancun, and the ideal place to get them is at Los Bisquets de Obregon . Located in downtown Cancun, it’s a favorite among the locals and though it’s an off-shoot of a Mexico City chain, this is no South of the Border Mickey D’s—the service is muy kindly and the food super fresh.

9 a.m. - 1 p.m.: Explore underwater Cancun, famed for its neon and sherbert-hued fish, its shallow reefs (great for beginning divers) and the boats that crashed on those reefs, making the scuba diving here even more multi-faceted. Calm waters, and those close to the surface reefs, make many spots perfect for snorkeling , too.

Morning Alternative
Saddle up for a morning’s horsebackride through the mangrove swamps south of Cancun to a deserted white sand beach where both you and your mount can take a dip. Along the way, you’ll likely spot wild peacocks and other exotic birds, turtles, squirrels and possibly foxes, wild pigs and white tail deer.

1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.: Learn more about tequila—why not, you’re on vacation!—with lunch at La Distileria , a restaurant/bar that cooks much of the food in this liquid gold and serves up 150 varieties of the stuff for those who prefer it neat, in a glass. The food is Mexican and quite tasty and adventurous (we dare you to try the escamoles aka fried ant eggs), and the margaritas here are the best in the hotel zone.

2:30 p.m. - 6 p.m.: Laze at the beach . What more is there to say?

Afternoon Alternative
Power shop
. No, you won’t find crafts made in the immediate vicinity of Cancun, or any real buys (compared with the rest of the Mexico), but the sheer number of visitors to the city has made Cancun’s shopping scene one of the most varied and vibrant, well, anywhere.

6 p.m. - 8 p.m.: Select your victim, er, lobster from the live lobster tank at Lorenzillos , gaze out at the sunset and settle back to enjoy the wait, while your lobster is grilled, stuffed or steamed. Set under a giant palapa roof and over the water, Lorenzillos is just the type of restaurant most visitors hope to find when they get to Cancun: scenic, with just-plucked-from-the-ocean fish and a casual, fun vibe.

8 p.m. on: Head to The City and stay there. A day to night experience—by day, partiers frolic in the on-site pool; in the evening, it becomes a groovy bar/lounge; and after 10 p.m., everyone boogies down—The City attracts some of the top DJ’s and performers in the world. Criss Angel, 50 Cent, DJAm and Fight Club have all performed in this massive 26,000-plus square-foot dance hall.

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommerguides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

Los Bisquets de Obregon, Nader Avenue 9, Centro Comercial Forum by the Sea, phone 998-887-6876.

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The most popular dives are El Garafon and Cave of the Sleeping Sharks. Ask about them when looking at tours. Some companies you may wish to contact include Scuba Cancún(Bulevar Kukulkán Km 5, phone 998/849-7508; http://www.scubacancun.com.mx/) or Aquaworld (Bulevar Kukulkán Km 15.2, phone 998/848-8300; www.aquaworld.com.mx).

Nearby Puerto Morales (about 23 km away) offers ideal conditions for snorkeling. To do it just, book a tour with Cancun Mermaid(998/843-6517; http://www.cancunmermaid.com/), which will take you “drift snorkeling”—they take you out by boat, drop you off, and follow as you drift along the reef. A mornings snorkeling with the company, including a snack, equipment and all transportation runs $35.

To reach Rancho Loma Benitaand learn more about their horseback riding tours, call 998/887-5465 or go to http://www.rancholomabonita.com/

La Distileria, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 12.65, across from Plaza Kukulcan, phone 998/885-1086, 998/885-1087; http://www.orraca.com/

Since all of Mexico’s beaches are public by law, you can use even those attached to the large hotels. If you’re interested in swimming, the waters on the north end of the island, at the Bahia de Mujeres (Mujeres Bay) tend to be much calmer than those elsewhere on the island.

Cancun is a premier shopping destination. Among the many options, consider Plaza Kukulcan (http://www.kukulcanplaza.com/) which boasts more than 300 shops on site; or the open air La Isla Shopping Village (http://www.laislacancun.com.mx/), which has numerous entertainment and dining options as well.

Lorenzillos, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 10.5, phone 998/883-1254; http://www.lorenzillos.com.mx/.

The City, Bulevar Kukulkán Km 9.5, phone 998/848-8380; www.thecitycancun.com

Pauline Frommer is the creator of the new Pauline Frommer guides in bookstores now. Her book, Pauline Frommer's New York, was named Best Guidebook of the Year by the North American Travel Journalists Association.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

Photos: Cancún caliente

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  1. Mexican magic

    An aerial view of Cancun Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula’s Caribbean coast at sunset. Cancun was purposely built as an ideal tourist spot by the Mexican government. (Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Postcard perfect

    Lounge chairs wait for tenants on the beach at Club Med. There's more to do in Cancun than one person can in one vacation - water sports, fine dining, nightlife, culture and more. (Macduff Everton / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Dance the night away

    Visitors and locals dance at the discotheque in Cancun. (Demetrio Carrasco / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Authentic arts

    Hanging puppets are for sale at one of the many shops in Cancun. (Bob Krist / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Water world

    Snorkelers explore the warm, clear waters of the Xel-Ha Lagoon near Cancun Quintana Roo, Mexico. (Dave G. Houser / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Mango Tango

    The facade of the popular Mango Tango Restaurant - famous for its seafood and entertainment - is seen in Quintana Roo, Cancun. After dark, the restaurant turns into one of Cancun's hottest nightspots. (Carl Purcell / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Otherworldly discoveries

    A scuba diver discovers shipwreck debris. (Joe Mcbride / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Pretty in pink

    A town scene on Isla Mujeres in Quintana Roo, Cancun, Mexico. (Nik Wheeler / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Sail away

    Sailboats sit on the waters of Isla Mujeres in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. (Nik Wheeler / Corbis) Back to slideshow navigation
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