Is Acapulco safe to visit in 2023? Safety is likely at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to Acapulco and the wider state of Guerrero.
After all, people are often concerned about the safety of traveling in Mexico as a whole, let alone when they are visiting somewhere that there are travel warnings out for, or that they have heard about on the news for all the wrong reasons. In recent years, Acapulco has not had the best reputation.
Once upon a time, Acapulco was the vacation destination of choice for Hollywood’s A list. The likes of John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, Rita Hayworth, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan all loved spending their free time in Acapulco.
Acapulco was Mexico’s own Cote d’Azur if you will. But as organized crime waves rocked Mexico, the glitterati stopped visiting Acapulco, and the city is no longer the desirable, chic tropical getaway destination it once was.
But is Acapulco safe? Or is it really a dangerous no-go zone?
The city still sees a lot of domestic Mexican tourists, and American, Canadian, and other international expats choose to live or retire here.
Like much of Mexico, Acapulco can be a safe travel destination provided that you use common sense and take precautions for your safety. But it’s more complex than that.
This article, written by a female expat in Mexico (me!) will explore how to keep safe in Acapulco. From there, you can decide whether or not it is somewhere that you want to visit.
Is Acapulco Safe to Visit in 2023?
Acapulco is a coastal city situated on Mexico’s Pacific coast, in the state of Guerrero. It is best known for its gorgeous tropical beaches that boast pristine soft white sands bordered by translucent aquamarine waters.
A trip to Acapulco is about days spent lounging by the ocean, eating fresh coconut doused in chamoy salsa, and sipping ice-cold piña coladas. By night, Acapulco really comes to life and the Malecon is filled with bars and restaurants serving up cuisine from all corners of the globe.
Government travel advice and safety statistics
World government travel advisories are a good way to get a general feel for whether a destination is safe or not. The USA and UK foreign travel advisories for Mexico are both good sources of information.
They break down safety in Mexico state by state, which is important as the safety situation can vary significantly in Mexico from state to state, and city to city. Both sources place the state of Guerrero and the city of Acapulco on their ¨do not travel¨ list.
Guerrero is on the Do Not Travel list
Guerrero state – Do Not Travel
Do not travel due to crime.
Crime and violence are widespread. Armed groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence toward travelers. U.S. citizens and LPRs have been victims of kidnapping in previous years.
Guerrero is one of six states that currently sit on the ¨do not travel¨ list for Mexico, in addition to the states of Sinaloa, Colima, Michoacan, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. Other states, fall into the categories of ¨reconsider travel¨, ¨exercise increased caution¨ and ¨exercise normal caution¨.
The fact that Guerrero and Acapulco have the strictest travel warnings can have you thinking that the entire area is a complete no-go zone. The reality is more nuanced than that.
There is a big difference between traveling to Guerrero specifically to visit Acapulco, and driving around rural Guerrero. If you fly to Acapulco and stay close to the beach and take common sense precautions, you should be fine
Safety measures for tourists in Acapulco
In 2021, tourism represented 7.1 percent of Mexico’s GDP and is growing year-on-year. It is in the country’s best interest to protect tourists and so, you will find that additional security measures are in place in areas frequented by them.
For instance, in October 2022, the Mexican government confirmed that more than 300 army personnel would be sent to Cancun to reduce crime and protect tourists, as well as a further 100 in Cozumel. In Acapulco, the Mexican federal police patrol the streets with rifles.
This can be intimidating, but they are there for everyone’s safety. (After all, following prior terrorist attacks, you also see armed guards on the streets of Paris, Tel Aviv, and London, right?)
Crime rates in Acapulco
Acapulco, along with Tijuana in Baja California, has some of the highest homicide rates in the world. Statistica, along with numerous other sources, cited it as being the world’s second most dangerous city with a murder rate of 110.5 per 100,000 inhabitants.
That is alarming. However, the important thing to note is that these are not random killings.
Most people that lose their lives or go missing in Mexico are involved with some form of a criminal organization. Yes, there is a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and being caught in the crossfire of shootouts or other attacks. But this is still a minuscule risk.
Disturbingly, there have also been instances of bodies washing up on beaches, or people being killed in broad daylight on Acapulco beaches. But these instances are few and far between.
Innocent bystanders are not the targets of the vast majority of homicides. There have been unintentional victims of cartel-related violence all over Mexico, including in tourist hotspots Cancun and Tulum.
Other crimes, both violent and petty, are not unheard of either. A lot of muggings and break-ins take place in Acapulco.
Tourists may be the victim of opportunist crimes such as bag snatching or pickpocketing. But you can protect yourself by investing in a theft-proof backpack and never letting your valuables out of your sight.
Could you be the victim of a crime in Acapulco?
It is a controversial thing to say, as obviously no life/person is more important than another. But if you spend any amount of time in Mexico, you will note that crimes and scams are generally more likely to happen to other Mexicans than they are to western tourists.
Why? More than 20 million international travelers visit Mexico every year, despite the fact that the matter of safety in Mexico is a concern for many.
If tourists were getting attacked and kidnapped left right and center, it would be an international scandal, fewer tourists would return, and local businesses would be harmed. It is for this reason that tourist areas see such a high police presence.
Is Acapulco safe at night?
Acapulco is not safe at night in the sense that it is okay to be going on walks along empty beaches or wandering randomly into unknown neighborhoods. If you are going from your hotel on the main strip to the bars or restaurants on the main strip, you should be fine.
Make sure that the place that you are going to is a short distance from your hotel and only walk along well-lit, busy streets rather than side streets and passageways. Acapulco is known for its vibrant nightlife and there are always tons of people around the main strip in the evenings.
If you want to go to a bar or club that is a little further away, plan your return journey back to the hotel. You should never get into a random street taxi in Mexico, so you can ask the receptionist or concierge at your hotel to organize pick up for you at a certain time.
Don’t get intoxicated and never leave your drink unattended. Be wary of over-friendly strangers as you can never be really sure of who they are or what they are involved in, just like anywhere in the world.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip to Acapulco
It is prudent to purchase comprehensive travel insurance wherever in the world you travel and Acapulco is no different. Despite the best planning in the world, you never know what is around the corner.
Should you get into an accident or fall ill while traveling in Mexico, the cost of receiving healthcare abroad is often extortionate. Although healthcare in Mexico is not as expensive as that in the United States, it isn’t as cheap as you may think if something happens and you need assistance.
If you have an accident or need help, you will be asked for your insurance details first and foremost. It is a good idea to purchase a comprehensive plan that has at least $1 million dollars worth of coverage.
A good plan also comes with additional extras such as repatriation, coverage for theft/loss of luggage, and coverage for any activities. Always read the small print for any policies that you are considering.
Simple activities like snorkeling and jet skiing may be classed as sports and may not be covered by a regular policy. Once you have purchased your insurance, write down or print out your policy number and make sure that you always have it to hand during your travels.
Can I drink the water in Acapulco?
The water in Acapulco is not safe to drink. You cannot drink the water in Mexico on the whole. Although it is purified at the source, it is often contaminated en route to the tap and can make you sick.
It is not just the case that tourists cannot drink the water in Acapulco because it makes them sick. Mexicans do not drink it either.
You don’t have to worry about having ice in your drinks or drinking Mexican drinks like agua frescas because these are all made with bottled water. Most hotels and Airbnbs will provide you with a couple of bottles of water for each day of your stay.
You can buy more at any Oxxo, 7/11, convenience store, or supermarket. Some higher-end hotels in Acapulco do have taps for filtered, potable water.
If this is the case, you will see signs saying ¨agua potable¨. (Double-check whether or not your hotel has this when you check in).
Street food safety in Acapulco
Street food is a huge part of Mexican food culture and missing out on it while you are in Acapulco would be a real shame. A lot of people seem to assume that traveling to Mexico goes hand in hand with getting sick but not everyone that visits the country is destined to feel unwell.
In Acapulco, fresh harina and maize tortillas are prepared by hand daily and used to make mouthwatering tacos that you can enjoy for just $0.50 cents. You can find street vendors serving elotes, tamales, tacos, and burritos in Acapulcos mercados and on virtually every street corner.
Mexicans usually buy their street food and eat it there and then next to the cart. Some carts set up little tables and chairs beside them so that you can enjoy the fare.
To give yourself the best chance of avoiding getting sick, look out for street food carts that are busy. If there is a line of locals waiting to eat there, it probably has a good reputation.
Avoid anywhere where it looks like food has been sitting out or there are flies around. (These things aren’t appealing anyway!)
Food safety in Acapulco
Acapulco has an excellent dining scene that is sure to satisfy even the fussiest eaters. You can find a mixture of local and international eateries here, as well as everything from humble taquerias that have been in operation for decades, to ultra-chic high-end sushi bars.
It is a good idea to check past reviews on Google to see what other tourists thought of the food quality, dining experience, etc. One spot to add to your radar is El Amigo Miguel (Av Costera Miguel Alemán s/n, Hornos).
This is one of the oldest continually operating seafood restaurants in town and it has been delighting locals and tourists alike for years. Dishes are prepared with seafood that is caught fresh earlier that same day.
If you want to enjoy their specialty, order the “drunken shrimp” or the lobster. Nearby, Los Ranchero (C. M.F. Maury 17, Fracc Costa Azul, Costa Azulis) another Acapulco institution that specializes in homely Mexican fare.
If you are looking for something a little more glamorous, add Thai-Mexican fusion restaurant Zibu Acapulco (Escénica S/N, Fracc. Gloma) to your radar, or Japanese restaurant Shu Acapulco (Blvd. de las Naciones 1813, Col Diamante).
Is Acapulco safe for solo female travelers?
Solo female travelers of any gender should be extra cautious in Acapulco. Since Acapulco is a popular tourist destination, western travelers are not an uncommon sight but solo female travelers may feel uncomfortable with looks and attention from men, particularly on the beach.
Solo female travelers should not walk alone at night and be careful about wandering into sketchy areas as unfortunately, assaults are not unheard of. For your peace of mind, it is worth paying extra for a more high-end hotel.
Keep your friends and family updated on your trip plans but don’t share your real-time updates or location on social media.
Is Acapulco safe to live in?
Safety is a very personal thing. Some people may feel perfectly comfortable in Acapulco whereas others feel anxious about the things that they read and hear about.
You could argue that the longer you stay in a place, the more likely you are to become a victim of a crime. (It’s just a maths game, right? Sticking around longer increases your probability of being caught up in something).
At the same time, you could argue that when you live in Acapulco for an extended period, you become accustomed to the safety concerns here. You know where to go and where not to go.
You adjust your schedule so that you do not walk in certain areas after a certain time of night, and you know where and how scammers operate. Plenty of international expats live in Acapulco and many enjoy their experience.
If you living in Acapulco is something that you are considering, it is a good idea to visit for an extended period first. Try renting a short-term apartment for a month or two to see how you would feel about basing yourself in Acapulco.
Connect with other expats via Acapulco and Mexico expat Facebook groups and get some insight from people who have lived in the city for a few years.
Tips for staying safe in Acapulco in 2023
You should follow the same common sense precautions in Acapulco as you would at home or anywhere else in the world. There are a few things that you can do to ensure that your trip to Acapulco is a trouble-free and safe one and some pointers for your consideration are outlined below.
Make mindful decisions about where to stay
Not all Acapulco neighborhoods are created equal. It is worth putting some thought into the best places to stay so that you are both safe, and a short distance away from the best beaches, bars, restaurants, etc.
The Zona Dorada (Golden zone) is a great place from a convenience perspective. Here, you have everything on your doorstep and you are right in the heart of the action. You can generally find midrange hotels here to suit every budget and travel style too.
Acapulco Diamante is one of the more high-end areas to base yourself and the area is filled with upscale hotels, resorts, and condominiums, as well as fine dining restaurants operated by globally renowned chefs. Revolcadero beach is a nice place for swimming and snorkeling, as is the nearby Puerto Marques Bay.
Read past reviews on platforms like Tripadvisor and Google before making your reservation. You may feel more comfortable paying a little more to pay in a four or five-star hotel with 24-hour security than a budget option that is away from the seafront or an Airbnb.
Try and learn a little Spanish before your trip
English is not widely spoken in Mexico, although a lot of people in tourist-facing businesses in Acapulco do speak a small amount. Still, a small effort to learn the language is always appreciated and it can make your life a lot easier too.
A handful of useful phrases is listed below.
- Yo tengo una reserva – I have a reservation
- Mi nombre es – My name is
- Lo siento, no entiendo – I’m sorry, I don’t understand
- Disculpe – Excuse me
- Yo quiero – I want (useful for ordering food)
- La cuenta por favor – The bill please
- Quanto es – How much is it?
- Buenos dias – Good morning!
- Buenos tardes – Good afternoon!
- Buenos noches – Good night
- Hasta luego – See you later
- Una mesa para uno/dos/tres – A table for one/two/three…
- Dónde está – Where is…
- Gracias! – Thank you
- Tienes wifi? – Do you have wifi?
- Necesito ayuda – I need help
- Habla Inglés?
- Lo siento no puedo hablar español – Im sorry I cannot speak Spanish
You may also find that Duolingo is a fun and easy way to learn some basic Spanish in a short amount of time (nobody expects you to become fluent ahead of your vacation). Meanwhile, Google Translate makes it easy to communicate if you find yourself unable to speak to someone.
(You can simply talk or type what you trying to say and it automatically translates it to Spanish). The translations are actually pretty good.
Know which neighborhoods to avoid
When it comes to exploring Mexican and Latin American cities, you will note that the vibe and safety situation can change dramatically as you walk just a few blocks. (The same is true in Guadalajara and Mexico City).
You are generally okay in Zona Dorada and Acapulco Diamante but you should exert increased caution in La Progreso. A lot of expats live in La Progreso but some of the most dangerous streets in the city can be found here.
Generally, it is better to avoid the districts of Tres Palos, Jardin Mangos, El Coloso, El Rena, Las Cruces, and La Sabana. These places don’t have anything of particular interest for you as a tourist anyway.
Purchase an alarmed doorstop for hotels
An alarmed door stop is a handy thing to include in your Mexico packing list. These can be purchased for just a few dollars and act as a wedge to stop anyone from entering or forcing their way into your room.
Should someone force entry, an alarm will sound that can be heard up to several thousand feet away. This may be enough to scare the person away.
Alternatively, it will wake you up and give you time to move to another room if someone is trying to break in. Obviously, that sounds unnerving but hotel break-ins in Acapulco are not common. This is just one more safety item that is useful to carry when you travel.
Don’t flash expensive items
Avoid wearing anything flashy or expensive in Acapulco. People don’t really show off labels in Mexico and doing so will draw unnecessary attention and potentially make you a target for petty theft, especially if you are alone.
Leave your brand-name clothing items, your expensive sunglasses, your designer bags, and your favorite jewelry at home. Most people in Mexico have smartphones but there is a lot of poverty in some areas so if you head out into the residential neighborhoods, it is better to just put your phone in your bag/pocket than have it randomly in your hand.
Be careful at ATMs
If you need to draw money out from an ATM, be mindful of who is around you. If you get a weird feeling from someone, trust your gut and wait until you see another ATM. There are plenty around, particularly in Zona Dorada and Acapulco Diamante.
Try to use ATMs in branches of banks rather than standalone ATMs. They are less likely to have been tampered with. It is better to use those contained within malls or in busy areas.
It is understandable that it probably makes sense to draw out several thousand pesos at once rather than making repeated trips to ATMs. Just be careful when taking your purse out of your bag to pay for things.
Travel where you feel most comfortable
Obviously, your risk of being harmed or witnessing something disturbing is one consideration when weighing up safety in Acapulco. However, the other thing is how comfortable you feel.
If Acapulco is somewhere that ranks high on your Mexico bucket list because you want to wander along the same beaches and promenades that Hollywood A-listers once did, or you are trying to visit every state in Mexico – go for it. If you want a relaxing beach break and you don’t want to feel as though you are constantly having to think about your safety and watch where you are going, it may not be for you.
There are plenty of other gorgeous coastal areas in Mexico where you don’t have to feel as though you are constantly on such high alert. Lesser known Yucatan beaches such as El Cuyo and San Bruno are such examples.
Purchase a Mexican sim card to stay connected
A lot of US and Canadian sim cards include Mexico in their calling and data plans. (Check with your provider before you travel).
But if yours doesn’t, or you are traveling from elsewhere in the world, it may be worth buying a Mexican sim card so that you are always connected. Most bars and restaurants in Acapulco do have complimentary wifi for their customers and you will always find wifi in hotels.
But there is no complimentary city wifi and if you are out and about and need to Google something, make a reservation, or contact someone, it pays to have a local plan. Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T are the main providers in Mexico, although Telcel often offers the most competitive packages.
You can pick up a sim card at any Oxxo convenience store, airport, or dedicated Telcel store. A sim card is usually around 80 pesos/$4.
Then you can get generous packages such as 1.3GB and unlimited social media for 15 days for 100 pesos, and 3GB and unlimited social media for 30 days for 200 pesos.
Is Acapulco safe to visit: final thoughts
Is Acapulco safe to visit? It can be, provided that you remain vigilant and take precautions, but whether or not this is the kind of atmosphere you want to put yourself into when you are on vacation is your call.
If you are planning a trip to Mexico for the first time, you might also be interested in this post on Mexican travel tips to know before you go. I live in Merida in the Yucatan and I am always happy to help with any questions that you may have.
Feel free to reach out if you need anything further. Safe travels! Xo