The most common question we’re asked here on the blog is if Cozumel is safe to visit, especially again lately, after some isolated incidents of serious crimes in the Fall and into early 2023. These news stories (which do reveal targeted incidents, FWIW), combined with the U.S. State Department’s recent annual update for 2023, have raised new fears about Mexico.
Rightly so, most of you are cautious and curious, and may even feel as if a trip to Mexico is not worth the worry.
If you read the specifics in the U.S. State Department guidelines on Mexico, however, along with the current statement from the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, you’ll be reminded that there are NO advisements against travel to Cozumel, itself.
Nor against travel to Cancun and the overall Riviera Maya region of Mexico, for that matter.
In the section of those travel advisories about Cozumel, Cancun, and other local hotspots, there is just an advisement to maintain awareness and caution, as you would anywhere.
In addition, anticipating Cozumel’s high tourist months in 2023, a renewed commitment to Cozumel’s security was announced, and quickly showed up in the form of several hundred additional security forces from the Mexican Navy and Marine units.
So is Cozumel safe? Yes, yes it is. Especially for visitors, divers, cruisers, and all tourists.
Cozumel is a very safe place to vacation in 2023, with a low historic crime rate, especially relative to other US and Mexican destinations. In the high-traffic tourist areas, crime is nearly zero and there are helpful and friendly people everywhere, including local information booths and municipal police officers. Everyone understands the value of the tourism industry, and the safety of visiting tourists is given the highest priority.
By following some pretty obvious safety precautions, you can feel confident traveling to this region in Mexico, and especially to the quiet and remote island of Cozumel.
As the U.S. State Department’s travel advisory page for the state of Quintana Roo advises: Travelers should maintain a high level of situational awareness, avoid areas where illicit activities occur, and promptly depart from potentially dangerous situations.
So, in other words, keep your wits about you, don’t wander around alone in areas you aren’t familiar with, don’t buy street drugs, etc.
Rest assured, Cozumel is a very safe and friendly tourism destination for adults, families, and solo female travelers.
And local stakeholders – including a very visible local, state and federal police presence in Cozumel – intend to keep it that way.
So with that out of the way, what ARE some of the common hazards you might face in Cozumel?
Perhaps not what you think…
UPDATE: COVID-19 is OVER 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 back in March 2020, and continue to monitor the situation, though like most places the current situation is low-risk and calm. That may change, but for now, Covid-19 concerns are quite low – non-existant.
Mexico does not require proof of vaccination nor testing before arrival (though it’s appreciated), and while it is no longer required to show a proof of a negative Covid-19 test before returning to the U.S., it is easy to get a 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.
Is Cozumel Safe to Visit in 2023?
The vast majority of visitors find Cozumel safety up to snuff, and would agree that it’s a fun and friendly place to vacation going into 2023.
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.
There are also serious incidents of crime, most often specific to drug-related trade and turf wars, often focused along the northern states of Mexico.
Most of this happens in areas closer to the northern U.S. border areas, the Baja and Sinoloa regions, and other known areas where tourism is definitely discouraged. Unfortunately, Cancun and Tulum have had isolated 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 happens now, but is still very rare and is usually tied to interpersonal disputes or drugs.
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 to figure out is Cozumel safe, check out this related post on the things Cozumel is best known for, here.
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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.
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. Which basically means use these common traveling safety tips to mitigate the vast majority of issues to safety while on vacation in Cozumel (or anywhere you travel):
General Travel & Cozumel Safety Tips
- Don’t carry around large amounts of cash or wear flashy jewelry
- Keep copies of your passport, ID, credit and debit cards, and other important documents in the cloud, and in your hotel safe
- At the Bar/Beach:
- Don’t leave mixed drinks unattended
- Get a fully waterproof pouch for your phone and wallet, so you don’t need to leave them for too long if you go swimming (and you should definitely go swimming!)
- Confirm that your mobile phone plan allows for international calls/texts – if it doesn’t, add the texting app WhatsApp to your phone before you take off (especially in Cozumel WhatsApp is used heavily)
- Have good trip/travel insurance, in case of any injuries or trip interruptions (see our pick down below)
- Make sure your insurance covers the whole family, especially if traveling to another country
- Review our list of the best Cozumel hospitals, just in case, so you are reassured if anything arises
- Bring copies of any prescriptions you and your family take, in case you need to inform a doctor or you need to refill something while away
- Group Travel:
- When traveling with others, especially children, go places in groups of two or more
- Stay in the main tourist areas of town – if you don’t know the area, avoid wandering around
By following these basic tips you’ll solve most potential travel snags, and ensure a safe and enjoyable travel experience.
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 Cozumel International hospital (with no insurance, no pesos, and likely no clue how to get by in Spanish, depending on where you end up).
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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.
Plus, you don’t want to lose your _____________. (phone, bag, wallet, hotel key, fill in the blank)
Stick to a few cold frosty Mexican beers, drink tons of water, and just…don’t lose your shit. lol. You’ll thank me in the morning.
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.
The most important piece of dive gear in your kit.
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 to do 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.’
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 safety equipment in your dive bag.
For more on DAN and other dive safety gear you should pack, read this post next.
Do Venture out in Cozumel; Don’t Be an Obnoxious Jerk
Lots of Tripadvisor reviews or cruise-centric advice on Cozumel safety 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!
- If you’re new here, read more about things to do in Cozumel on our other posts, like this A-Z Guide to Kid-Friendly Cozumel, or maybe our Cozumel Best Restaurants Guide.
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.
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!
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).
I pack a shirt like this on every dive trip, and stash one in my bag or car everyday when I’m in Cozumel.
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 sunscreens, hair, and body products, and you’ll be using and supporting the current industry leader in reef-safe products for beachgoers, scuba divers, and surfers – and anyone who needs protection from the sun’s damaging rays.
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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.
Keep Yourself Dry and Your Belongings Safe with Some Rain Gear
It rains here in the tropics, but usually only once in a while. The showers come in quickly, and leave just as fast.
Rain won’t ruin your vacation, but getting caught in a soaking rain could put your cell phone and other valuables at some risk.
Plus, if you spend a day out on a boat for scuba diving or snorkeling, you’re going to want the right bags and gear to keep you and your stuff nice and dry. When you’re not in that beautiful water swimming, that is.
We have a whole post on recommended rainy day gear to pack for Cozumel right here – check it out if you need Cozumel packing tips.
But for starters, at least pack one of these essential rain jackets with you to stay protected from Cozumel’s occasional strong rains. And go read the full rainy-day packing list if you don’t already own some waterproof bags and footwear.
You never know!
- One size fits all (adults)
- Wear over any outfit
- Double duty as tarp or rainfly; versatile
- Easy to pack
Travel Insurance for True Cozumel 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.
I’m a diver, so my DAN Insurance for travel and diving is one of my essential annual expenses (though very economical, hovering around $100/year, maybe less.
However, DAN dive insurance won’t typically cover things like flight cancellations, illness disruptions, etc.
Be sure to consider getting the flight insurance from your airline, or better yet, buy an individual trip insurance policy from an independent company, like Travelex.
Travelex is one of Consumer Affairs top-3 travel insurance companies, and provides comprehensive trip insurance for things like trip delays, lost baggage, and medical emergencies while away from home. Read all their terms via the link below. If not them, find another very highly rated insurance company to protect your investment.
Consumer Affairs' Top-3 Travel Insurance program.
- Free quotes
- Accredited by Better Business Bureau (US)
- Various levels of coverage, per need
- Not for Diving!
- For SCUBA diving coverage, read more about DAN insurance
EVEN MORE Cozumel Safety Tips – Additional Reading:
- 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 on a common-sense way to stay just that much safer when scuba diving.
- And finally to get the real info on whether or not you can safely drink the water in Cozumel.
And attention thrifty travelers! To get even more bang for your buck, read this related article on high-impact budget tips for Cozumel, next.
CozInfo’s Cozumel Packing Essentials: