CANCUN, Mexico – Tourists camped like refugees outside five-star hotels Monday in this seaside resort, scrounging for shelter and food or desperately trying to get back home after Hurricane Emily (search).
All along the coast — from the backpacker huts of Tulum to the glitzy, towering hotels of Cancun — tourists kicked out of improvised storm shelters after the hurricane passed Monday tried to return to their hotels or find a flight home.
Many of the thousands who came to the Mayan Riviera (search) for its white sand beaches, emerald surf and all-inclusive resorts were forced to wait on rain-soaked, manicured lawns as hotels reopened and slowly began rechecking guests.
Most restaurants and stores were still boarded up, leaving little to eat or drink. Services like power and water were knocked out by the storm.
As officials emptied a gymnasium-turned-shelter in downtown Cancun (search), several men pointed to dirty T-shirts they had been wearing for days and asked where they could get a shower.
Leaning into a stiff wind, people carried bottles of water and stepped over downed trees on their way back to their hotels.
Jose Marino, a tourist from Mexico City, sat in the darkened lobby of the Xbalanque Hotel and said he planned to stay for the rest of his vacation.
"The hotels should have their own generators," he said. "But in general, I think the response to the storm has been excellent."
Some ignored overcast skies and a light drizzle, jumping into hotel pools to escape the sweltering heat. Kids played video games until their batteries ran out.
In the beach town of Playa del Carmen, Andre Dominicus, 32, sat on a bench with two other Dutch tourists, waiting to hear news from their travel agent.
"The local people have been very upbeat, very generous. They've been a lot better than our travel agent," Dominicus said.
Nearby, a group of European tourists grabbed maps and squeegees and helped clean up a hotel whose ground floor had suffered minor flooding.
Alberto Moron, a tourist from El Salvador, sat watching the waves with his 5-month-old daughter and wife.
"We've survived earthquakes and wars," he said, referring to disasters that have plagued El Salvador. "But this is our first hurricane."
Farther south, in Puerto Aventuras, where the eye of the storm hit land, a poor, Mexican family of 10 people waded among the ruins of their five shacks and wondered where they would get the $5,600 — the price of most tourists' vacations — needed to rebuild.
"We just want a roof over our heads again," said 21-year-old Remigio Kamul.
At the Cancun airport, people thronged ticket counters, desperate to leave.
Jesus Pena, a tourist from Andalucia, Spain, who was waiting to hear whether he could leave Cancun later Monday, said his hotel had packed six people to a room during the storm, and still charged each person $300 a night.
Mikel Rudolph, 25, sat with his new wife, Katie, on a pillow with the two small carry-on bags they managed to salvage from their hotel, which was damaged in the storm.
"We're on standby for any flight to the continental United States," said Mikel Rudolph, of East Grand Forks, Minn. "We'll go anywhere, as long as it's the United States."
He said the all-inclusive resort where they stayed wanted to charge them for the night after the evacuation: "People were getting very greedy."