In Mexico, tourists take advantage of hotel and resort deals

Outside of the resorts, Playa del Carmen boasts a sophisticated nightlife scene, with swank Miami-style lounges, as well as the area's primary shopping district. The crowds along Quinta (Fifth) Avenue are decidedly slim, and even the most popular restaurants have empty tables.

Kanoena Cook and Jason Nazario of New York were among the few Americans sipping drinks at Hotel Deseo's rooftop pool bar. "We flew in Thursday and it felt like a ghost town," says Nazario, 40. "You feel bad. These people rely on tourism."

Still, the couple who booked in February were enjoying an uncrowded Playa so much that they are looking at returning in the fall, possibly in lieu of a cruise. "Because it's quiet, you get a chance to talk to the taxi drivers and bartenders," says Cook, 32. "For us, it's a better experience."

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