Cozumel is Very Safe, Just Avoid These 5 Common Hazards

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Potential visitors to Mexico, including Cozumel, are cautious and curious, so local business owners and residents get asked all the time if Cozumel is safe?

Cozumel is a very safe place to vacation with a low historic crime rate, especially relative to other US and Mexican destinations. In the high-traffic tourist areas, crime is nearly zero. Everyone understands the value of the tourism industry, and the safety of visiting tourists is given the highest priority. During Covid-19, Cozumel has a far lower case rate than any of its neighbors, and most venues are naturally “open air” environments, so it’s easy to dine out and have fun while still following social distancing and certain mask protocols.

Rest assured, Cozumel is a very safe and friendly tourism destination, and locals – including a visible local and state police presence – intend to keep it that way.

Extra: A Note on COVID-19 in Cozumel

COVID-19 added a layer of care and coordination in Cozumel, of course. The Federal and State health and tourism professionals quickly responded in March 2020, and continue to do so, though like most places the current situation is low-risk and calm.

Public buildings, hotels, restaurants, and recreational businesses had implemented capacity protocols, mask requirements, and frequent temperature checks, and plentiful hand sanitizing stations.

The state of Quintana Roo kept the virus levels relatively low, despite being a tourism hot spot. 

And on the island of Cozumel, Covid-19 case numbers edged up occasionally as new variants spread, but remained some of the lowest in the whole state, thanks to our relative isolation and safety protocols. 

Everyone would still like to keep it that way, while striking a balance to make sure travelers know that Cozumel has basically always stayed safe and open for business.

Mexico does not require proof of vaccination nor testing before arrival (though it’s appreciated), and it is easy to get your Covid-19 test before your departure back home, either through many hotels or at several easy testing locations.

Many visitors remark that they feel much safer here than they do back at home. 

This brings us back to the main point of this post. 

So…Is Cozumel Safe?

The majority of visitors to Cozumel would agree that it is a safe and friendly place to vacation.

Many of us even felt so safe time after time, that we decided to live here!   

Now, Mexico overall gets a bad safety rap, especially in the news. 

Some of this is sensationalized by things like Narcos on Netflix, or based on perceptions of the images coming from the border and U.S. detention centers in recent years.

But there are incidents of serious crime, most often specific to drug-related trade and turf.

Most of this is happens in areas closer to the northern US border areas, the Baja and Sinoloa regions, and other known areas where tourism is definitely discouraged. Unfortunately, Cancun and Tulum have had headline-making incidents, as well.

But Cozumel is not one of those places.

Reported crime in residential neighborhoods consists mainly of petty theft, interpersonal/domestic incidents, and small-scale drug use and sales. Violent crime in Cozumel is rare and is usually tied to interpersonal disputes.

Cozumel has a very low crime rate, especially when it comes to visiting tourists. Trust me, the local police and the local business community understand the importance of keeping our streets safe for locals and tourists, alike.

For some more information on area crime stats and travel advisory information, check out this related post on the things Cozumel is best known for, here.

Common Catastrophes in Cozumel

In fact, most dangers here on our pretty little island tend to be accidental or somewhat self-inflicted. Like, riding a moto in a new place after drinking?  Not smart – see more below… 

So maybe the better question might be, “Is Cozumel safe if I’m as careful as I am at home?”

As a single, middle-aged woman who moved to Cozumel in my late 40s, I have always walked around town quite confidently at all hours, and don’t feel nervous. But mind you, I’m also taking the same personal precautions I would take anywhere else.

I’m not a victim blamer, but I know very well that we can all find trouble if we want to – or at least tempt fate.  

I also know that sometimes it seems like a fun escape to take risks that you would only take on your ‘wild and crazy’ vacation. 

Bottle of Corona beer on sunny Caribbean beach in Mexico.

I’ve seen far more bad behavior by tourists here than I have shady deals by locals.  Just sayin’. 

You can’t guarantee nothing will go wrong, or you’ll never have a bad or scary encounter. 

But if you know to use logic and reasonable caution in your familiar home area, it makes the most sense to use the same – or a little more, even – in a foreign place that you are visiting. Right? 

So first off, use your head.  Second, have a fun vacation! 

And thirdly, review these 5 Cozumel-specific safety suggestions to help yourself stay safe from some of our more typical holiday hazards.  

Think Twice Before Renting a Moto Scooter in Cozumel

Whether it’s involving seasoned residents or gung-ho vacationers, I see at least two moto accidents a week.  Maybe two or more per day, at times during high season.

And while getting a little older has not diminished my romantic love of the open road with the wind in my hair, it has definitely modified my risk-reward analysis when it comes to visions of split-second skid outs and hot, bloody road burn. 

And that’s if you’re lucky. 

There are so many people that come here and rent motos without the faintest clue of how and where to drive them!  And – though it is most definitely NOT permitted here –  many more that do so after they’ve been drinking.  

From property damage to scrapes and cuts, broken bones, and much much worse…it’s just not worth it.

Rent a car, if you must, or take advantage of Cozumel’s huge number of taxis to get where you need to go.  

An even better suggestion? Rent an electric bike in Cozumel.  (I swear, it’s really fun!)  So much more fun than I anticipated, and a heck of a lot safer. 

Getting out there on your own, or with a guided tour from Beach Bum Bikes, feels free-spirited and like you’re one with your adventurous side…but just easier. And lighter. And quieter. And a more eco-friendly Cozumel adventure.

And you won’t end up in the hospital (with no insurance, no pesos, and likely no clue how to get by in Spanish, depending on where you end up).  

Cheers Cozumel! But Don’t Drink Like an Amateur

For reals, guys. It’s embarrassing.  

Between travel, jet lag, sun, adrenaline, or maybe just sheer drunken dumbassery, the number of people here trying to prove they can get their drink on – and failing miserably – Is. Just. Embarrassing.  

Yes, you can go to free tequila tastings where you learn about the tequila process, and then try a peanut butter tequila shot…with a mango tequila chaser.   

And yes, you can get a margarita as big as your head at some of the (legitimately) fun and cool places downtown.  

Don’t make them regret it! 

There’s nothing cute about drunk, sweaty, and sunburned. 

6-pack of Duff brand beer on Cozumel grocery store shelf.
D’oh! I drank too much

Plus, you don’t want to lose your _____________. (phone, bag, wallet, hotel key, fill in the blank)

Cozumel Divers: Be Safe and Take Your Refresher Class

Rule #1 – Be sure to have your DAN Divers’ Insurance membership up to date and activated. And if you don’t carry DAN insurance, use this link and do so now. It is a no-brainer, and the best money you’ll ever spend as a diver. Period.

Go ahead, I’ll wait…

Rule #2 – If it’s been at least a year since your last SCUBA dive, or you’re kinda new, or you just feel a little rusty, just take the darn refresher session! 

It’s short. It’s easy. It’ll make you feel better. It’s the right thing to do.

Or at least admit that you might need a little warm-up time or a quick shore dive first when you sign up for your day(s) of diving! 

We all needed to learn, right?  And we all know that diving is not to be trifled with, at the end of the day.  And we all get rusty after some time away from the water.  Just take the tiny amount of time (one hour, give or take), and do the open water diving refresher skills course. 

There is no shame in that!!

But there is some shame in inflating your current skill level and putting your dive guides and fellow divers in a less than ideal situation. 

As a divemaster intern here in Cozumel a few years back,  at least once a week – and definitely more during high season – a new boat full of divers would excitedly get on board.

As we made our way out to the first dive site, at least one person would not be as familiar with how to set up his tank, or a little hesitant when doing fairly common setup tasks. 

No biggie. Makes sense. No problem…yet.

When approached, usually that person would explain how many dives he had, whether it’s been a while, if he felt a little nervous or not, etc.  Fine. Great. Let’s make a little plan, anticipate a few potential issues, and nip them in the bud. Right? 

Right. IF you open up and admit it. 

For some reason, many others seemed to be embarrassed to share that kind of information.  Or sometimes, even downright stubborn about how much experience he had, or how many c-cards were in the ol’ wallet.  

Well, sorry.  But 9 times out of 10, that was the guy who dropped (or forgot) his weights, had a fogged-up mask, poor buoyancy, didn’t remember how to work his own computer, and about 5 excuses for why ‘my tank must’ve been light.’ 

Cozumel Welcome Checklist
Cozumel Welcome Checklist

Not to mention one of the dive guides needing to pay more attention than anticipated, so potentially leaving the rest of the group with a little less support, temporarily.  

Really?  We’re all in this together, to have fun. 

Please take the time to refresh your skills! The diving in Cozumel is awesome, but this is a fun, cool, AND potentially risky sport.  Please respect the ocean and your fellow divers – and your own health – and do the right thing. 

And again: please please please make sure your DAN diving insurance and travel insurance is active and up to date, or use this link to join up now. Every dive instructor (and good diver) I’ve ever met agrees that it’s the most important piece of equipment in your dive bag.

Do Venture out in Cozumel; Don’t Be an Obnoxious Jerk

Lots of Tripadvisor reviews or cruise-centric advice on Cozumel will tell you not to venture off the main drag in town, Rafaél Melgar Avenue.  

Melgar (or “the malecón) runs the length of Cozumel’s town areas and is a great place for shopping, strolling, people watching, and finding your way around town.  

Cozumel’s malecón stretches right along the waterfront, too, so whether you’re there to catch the Ferry to Playa del Carmen, go to one of many great bars and restaurants, or to shop ’til you drop, it’s a lovely place to be and to check out the heart of Cozumel. 

But that means it’s also the most touristy street in town, where you might be badgered into buying souvenirs – and paying more for the pleasure.  Cozumel has loads of cool stores and boutiques and restaurants just a few blocks further in from the waterfront, without the hassle and the high prices. 

Don’t misunderstand me, here.  I’m not against Melgar, at all. It’s fun, and some of our absolute favorite places are on Melgar Avenue!  Like the Museum of the Island, and Le Chef’s famous lobster sandwich

Sometimes, though, the implication in those guide books and tourism forums is that if you go any further off the main drag and into town, you’ll be taking a big, scary risk. 

Not true! 

Instead, you’ll be following the paths of many, many residents and repeat customers to our other favorite services, awesome local restaurants, galleries, and shops that Cozumel has to offer

Just don’t be a jerk and assume someone’s out to get you. Be friendly and open, and you’ll likely come home with charming memories and new friends – not just that cool t-shirt! 

Maybe cram some Spanish vocab?

Porfa and mucho gusto go a long way, but having a little basic Spanish will make your Cozumel vacation that much easier and safer.

Skillshare is free for 7-days and has a bunch of online lessons to get a quick hit of frequently used words and polite expressions.

Cozumel Commands the Right Reef-Safe Sun Protection

Take it from me, the sun here is strong.  

You don’t have to look for the sun in Cozumel. Don’t worry, it will find you. 

Ideally, you will always have a hat, polarized sunglasses, and some type of physical cover – like my favorite: this light camp shirt that dries fast and keeps you cool and sunburn-free (and can also serve double-duty as a great warmer layer on the plane or in a chilly air-conditioned restaurant). 

Help Cozumel by Using Reef-Safe Sunscreen

Sunscreen is a tricky topic these days, but it doesn’t have to be if you understand a couple of basics on what makes sunscreen safe for the coral reefs that we’re so proud of (and reliant on). 

Mainly, you should shop for a sun lotion that uses physical (mineral) sunblock elements. 

Look for non-aerosol lotions that use non-nano zinc oxide and/or non-nano titanium oxide as the sun-blocking agents.  (the “non-nano” means that the particles are not too small, which could be too easily absorbed, and detrimental to your body) 

As opposed to “chemical” blocks, such as Oxybenzone and Octinoxate.  These are bad for the coral, the other marine life, and your body. 

Some of this information is still being developed and can seem to change. 

Don’t give up, don’t get mad, just try to keep an eye out and use the zinc or titanium versions.  But most importantly, really try to use physical blocks first – like fabric, hats, polarized sunglasses, actual shade, and avoiding the strongest sun rays whenever you can, to begin with.  

To make it really easy, use this affiliate link for the Stream2Sea family of sunscreen and other hair and body products, and you’ll be using and supporting the current industry leader in reef-safe products for beachgoers, divers, and anyone who needs protection from the sun’s rays.  

Their website, found at the link just above, also provides a lot of helpful information about reef-safe standards, and their study and commitment to the issues.  

They even have this great new reef-safe hand-sanitizer, for post-Covid 19 travel needs

Please note: If you’re going diving, the Cozumel National Marine Park does not allow sunscreens while actively diving.  So please use your camp shirts, hats, shades, etc. to the extent possible.  Then, when finished diving or hanging out at the beach or in town, use the reef-safe products to keep yourself safe, and the reef safe from more bleaching and stony coral disease. 

Read THIS POST next, if you need some tips on staying safe while snorkeling in Cozumel.

Then check out THIS POST for some additional tips on the easiest way to get around the island safely.

Then read THIS POST on a common-sense way to stay just that much safer when scuba diving.

And finally THIS POST to get the real info on whether or not you can drink the tap water in Cozumel.

Take advantage of our promo deal with Stream2Sea and save on quality reef-safe sunscreens, the absolute best mask de-fog gel, hand sanitizer, leave-in conditioner, and more. Click on the image below and use promo code “COZINFO” at checkout:

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Travel Insurance for True Safety

Cozumel is a really safe vacation destination, but these mishaps sometimes get us in trouble.

To truly stay safe, the best thing you can do is invest in travel insurance for this trip, and any other trip you take.

Arch RoamRight travel insurance

Keep Yourself Dry and Your Belongings Safe with Some Rain Gear

Cozumel Packing Advice: Rainy Any-Day Gear

These are top water-friendly things to pack for your trip to Cozumel (or anywhere!): 

Light, high-quality rain jacket with a hood.  (this is an Amazon link to my favorite one, but any good waterproof jacket will do).

These jackets don’t take up much room in your bag, but provide great protection from sudden showers, sun (especially on a dive boat), and can even serve as a warm layer on the airplane.  

Truly waterproof dry bag(s) for your phones, wallets, and important papers. 

All-terrain tennis shoes that pack easily, and can take you from walking around town to snorkeling in the water, and then back to lunch at a cool cafe. 

Water-tight dry box for your phone, keys, and wallet, especially if you’re diving and might find yourself on a small fast boat, without tons of protected space on board.  Look for a crush-proof box that will withstand immersion – that’s of course the worst-case scenario, but then you’ll know it’ll be absolutely fine with some rain. 

(I think of it as a pretty cheap insurance policy for my iPhone…and all the information that’s on my iPhone!)