Cozumel 2022 is Very Safe, Just Avoid These 5 Common Hazards

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The most common question we’re asked here on the blog is if Cozumel is safe to visit, especially lately, after two isolated incidents of serious crimes in the Fall of 2022. Rightly, most of you are cautious and curious, and combined with the U.S. State Department’s recent annual update for 2022, it may feel as if a trip to Mexico is not worth the worry.

But if you read the specifics in the guidelines, and the current statement from the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, you’ll be reminded that there are NO advisements against travel to Cozumel – nor to Cancun and the overall Riviera Maya region of Mexico, for that matter. 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 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.

Cozumel Welcome Checklist
Cozumel Welcome Checklist

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…

Extra: An UPDATED 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 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.

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.

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 has been successful at keeping 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 will surely 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 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 2022?

The vast 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.

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.

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.’ 

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! 

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. 

EVEN MORE Cozumel Safety Tips – Additional Reading:

And attention thrifty travelers! To get even more bang for your buck, read this related article on high-impact budget tips for Cozumel, next.

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 sandals or 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!)