The Hot Spots Cancun (Quintana Roo state) Pristine beaches and a crystal-clear, turquoise sea are among the virtues of an area once home to the ancient Maya and a refuge for pirates. Cancun (a Mayan word meaning "four serpents") was for many years a fishing village inhabited by 100 people. But, in the early 1970s, it was selected by computer as the ideal Caribbean resort, and its subsequent, master-planned development has been swift.

Cancun consists of "Ciudad Cancun" (downtown Cancun) on the mainland and the "Zona Hotelera" (hotel zone) on a 13-mile, elbow-shaped island.

For conventions, meetings, and incentives, most activities center around the row of hotels along Bulevar Kukulcan, which extends the length of the island. Here, you'll find luxury hotels as well as restaurants and shops.

For a meeting planner, Cancun is a "no-brainer." It has more than 21,000 guest rooms in 122 deluxe hotels, most of them built within the last decade. Some 4,000 rooms are within a short walk of the Cancun Convention Center. It is the Caribbean with a Latin flavor and extraordinary Mayan sites.

Los Cabos (Baja California Sur) At the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, the area between two small fishing villages has recently become one of the hottest destinations for incentives and small meetings. Pristine, white-sand beaches, radiant blue water, and a stark mountain and desert backdrop set the scene.

Right now, Los Cabos is the "in" spot. It is considered Mexico's foremost sports fishing and golf resort capital, with four designer courses--and more under construction.

Cabo San Lucas sits between the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean. Fronting a small harbor on the gulf side, this former cannery village has emerged as an international resort renowned for its sport fishing. Impressive hotels, boutiques, and restaurants line the hillsides and waterfront. The town's bay, a pirate hideout in the 16th and 17th centuries, now accommodates fishing boats and private yachts.

Twenty miles north, the tropical San Jose del Cabo is still more of a town than a resort, but things are changing fast. Most development lies just south of town where golf courses and hotels lead down to several beautiful beaches.

It is estimated that by the year 2010, Los Cabos will have 10,000 rooms.

Meeting Needs, at a Glance Convention Centers: The Cancun Convention Center includes convention, exposition, and office space as well as shops, theaters, and restaurants. This state-of-the-art facility has four levels, including two ballrooms, one of which is 29,000 square feet. It offers a total of 26 meeting rooms, a press room, and simultaneous interpretation facilities.

Attractions: Cancun is an excellent base for exploring the Yucatan Peninsula's Mayan ruins: Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Xel-Ha.

Cancun's beaches are themselves a prime attraction with all manner of water sports. Coral reefs provide excellent opportunities for scuba and skin diving, and you can swim with the dolphins in Xcaret park.

Meeting Needs, at a Glance Attractions: In addition to its striking location, Los Cabos offers all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and moped rides in the desert, and horseback riding on the beach. Cabo San Lucas has hosted the PGA Senior Slam golf tournament since 1995. Other events include annual deep-sea fishing tournaments.

Case Studies Please the Customer 1) Place: Cancun Company: Harvey Industries ] Attendees: 400 Hotel: Marriott Casa Magna

2) Place: Los Cabos Attendees: 400 Hotel: Presidente Inter-Continental

Glen Frederick, senior vice president, marketing, Harvey Industries, Waltham, Mass., used Docherty Incentives, Inc., to set up two incentives trips.

"We sell building materials and our customers are home developers, roofers, siders, and construction workers. Last year, we took 400 of our best customers (in back-to-back groups of 200) to Cancun. We chose Cancun because it has good water sports, decent golf, and lots of nighttime activity. Also, we thought builders would be interested in seeing Mayan ruins --some of the first, truly impressive construction sites!

"This year, we're going to Los Cabos basically because it's the 'in' spot. The weather is beautiful, the place has a real Tex-Mex feel, and there are plenty of outdoor activities. Besides great golf and fishing, the ATV rides in the sand dunes are out of this world."