Is Costa Maya safe? Safety is likely to be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the beautiful Mexican coastal area of Costa Maya.
In general, people are often concerned about safety when visiting anywhere in Mexico. Unfortunately, the country doesn’t have the best reputation for safety on an international scale and often receives an unfair portrayal in the media.
Costa Maya sits on the Caribbean coast in the southern part of the state of Quintana Roo. It is a popular stopping point for cruise ships on their journey around the Caribbean and is home to several gorgeous beach towns, beautiful lakes, and ancient Mayan ruins.
Traveling to Costa Maya is one of the highlights of exploring Southern Mexico. The area is safe provided that you take the same precautions that you would when traveling anywhere.
It is arguably the safest region in the state of Quintana Roo and things are a lot calmer here than they are in places like Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer based in the Yucatan. I have explored the Costa Maya extensively and feel well poised to give comprehensive advice on the region.
Is Costa Maya safe?
Costa Maya is generally a safe area. Although places like Lake Bacalar and the village of Mahahual have started to attract a steady trickle of visitors in recent years, they see a fraction of the visitors seen by tourist favorites like Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox, etc.
This is nice because many of the beaches and coastal areas still have a very sleepy Caribbean fishing village vibe about them – especially if you travel out of season. The violent crime and cartel activity that has started to affect the Riviera Maya in recent years is not an issue in Costa Maya.
Safe places to visit in Costa Maya
If you are traveling to Costa Maya on a cruise, chances are you will arrive by the Costa Maya port close to Mahahual. If you are visiting the area as part of a wider Mexico trip, you can take buses to Lake Bacalar and Mahahual village from Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.
Several reputable local tool companies operate in the Costa Maya area. They offer private and small group excursions to places like the Chacchoben archaeological site.
Some of the best and safest areas to visit while you are in Costa Maya are detailed below.
Bacalar Lagoon is one of three pueblo magicos in Quintana Roo. The small village has been built along the banks of the spectacular shimmering lake that is 42km long and 2km wide.
It is known as the seven-color lagoon because the water glistens in different shades of blue and turquoise. It is home to an ancient marine life form known as stromatolites which only exist in a handful of places around the globe and are more than 6 million years old!
There are plenty of things to do in the town and on the water. You can take a guided tour of the sights and cenotes on along the lake (and ask your tour guide to take you to the abandoned narco hotel!)
You can enjoy water activities like kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding and there are plenty of gorgeous boutique and luxury hotels right on the waterfront.
Mahahual is a small fishing village on the Caribbean coast. Its main attraction is the paradisical Mahahual beach that offers a soft, powdery white-sand coastline and translucent turquoise waters.
For most people, taking a trip here is about relaxing, indulging in good Mexican food, and spending days lounging on the shore beneath a palm tree while sipping water right out of a coconut.
Mahahual beach itself is beautiful and is generally pretty quiet. But if you head even further south along the coastline towards the Belize border, you will find even better white-sand beaches.
For instance, Maya Chan beach is a private, all-inclusive beach club that allows you to experience the Caribbean in absolute luxury. Here, you can rent a shaded cabana for the day and enjoy waiter service as you are served Mezcal-infused cocktails and local delicacies.
La Bamba beach is 10 minutes south of Mahahual and has all the amenities that you need for a day at the beach. There are restaurants along the shore and places where you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas.
Chacchoben Mayan Ruins
There are several Mayan ruins and archaeological sites around the Costa Maya. The one that stands out among them is the Mayan city of Chacchoben.
The city is hidden away in the heart of the dense Yucatan jungle. exploring it makes you feel like a modern-day Indiana Jones.
this is especially true if you’re able to get here in the morning before the tour buses arrive and you have the site virtually all to yourself. The name Chacchoben means “the place of red corn” in Mayan.
Chacchoben thrived between the years of 600 AD and 900 AD and so, many of the structures that you can see today were built around this time.
Recommended Chacchoben Mayan ruins tours
A selection of excellent Chacchoben tours that you can book via Viator is detailed below for your consideration. Reserve your place online in advance to avoid disappointment!
- Chacchoben Mayan ruins tour from Costa Maya
- One-day tour to Chacchoben and Bacalar lagoon with a licensed guide
- Ancient Chacchoben ruins tour and traditional Mayan family visit from Costa Maya
- Chacchoben Mayan ruins and beach day at La Chilangaloense beach club
Things to Know About Safety in Costa Maya
Staying safe in Costa Maya largely comes down to taking the same precautions as you would at home or anywhere else in the world. Some safety tips for your trip a detailed below.
Hurricane season in Costa Maya
It is worth noting that hurricane season in Costa Maya and along with Caribbean coast of Mexico runs between June and early November each year. There haven’t been any fatal or seriously damaging hurricanes for several years now.
However, between August and October in particular, there are often a lot of heavy storms and constant rain showers. Sometimes the wind and rain can be so bad that the electricity or the internet in a certain area in the Yucatan Peninsula goes out for a day or two.
Although rain and storms occur pretty much daily during the hurricane season, it is still possible to enjoy your trip if you travel during this time. All of the photos in this article were taken in Costa Maya during the peak of the rainy season last year.
Rain usually falls for an hour or two before the sky is clear up and you can enjoy the beach, some sightseeing, some hiking, etc. Still, it is a good idea to check the weather reports prior to your trip and while you are traveling in Costa Maya.
The dry season in Quintana Roo runs between late November and May. While you get the best weather at this time of year, it is also the peak time to travel.
So, there are more crowds and prices are higher across the board.
Only you can weigh up the pros and cons and decide which time of year is preferable for you.
Taking cabs around Costa Maya
In many parts of Mexico, people prefer to use ride-sharing apps such as Uber and DD rather than getting into local cabs. This is quite different from other countries in the world where people often assume that Uber cars are less safe.
In Mexico, the perception is that there is more accountability on the apps. For instance, you have all the information of your driver, their license plate number, their vehicle info, and details of how long they have been on the app and what their customer rating is.
You simply do not have that when you get into a random street cap. Unfortunately, with the exception of Cancun, ride-sharing apps are banned in the state of Quintana Roo.
This includes the Costa Maya. you will find taxis parked around the popular cruise port and in Lake Bacalar. Taxis in both areas are generally pretty safe.
However, for an extra level of safety and to avoid getting overcharged by your driver, it is worth asking your hotel to order a trusted driver for you. Taxi drivers are often a law unto themselves the world over.
They may try and charge tourists and cruise passengers more and assume you do not know the correct going rate.
Costa Maya by night
The Mahahual malecon and downtown Bacalar are safe to explore at night. Both areas are filled with an abundance of bars and restaurants and there are always plenty of people around.
Violent crime is pretty much non-existent here and even petty crime is uncommon. Just be sure to watch your alcohol intake, particularly if you are traveling alone, and don’t go wandering off down any random side streets.
It is better to avoid driving between towns and villages at night. This is not because the roads are particularly unsafe but because they have poor street lighting.
This makes it difficult to see hazards, particularly wild animals and stray dogs.
Solo travel in Costa Maya
Solo travelers, including solo female travelers, can feel very safe in Costa Maya. this region attracts all types of travelers and has an emerging Backpacker scene.
Although Mahahual is a little more upscale and expensive, Bacalar is home to several hostels. If you are traveling alone here, you will find it easy to meet other travelers to hang out with if that’s what you are looking for.
Safety is a very personal thing. However, this entire guide and indeed this whole website has been written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico.
Having traveled extensively around the country, Costa Maya is not a place where you will stand out or feel uncomfortable being alone.
People are very accustomed to seeing tourists. Rest assured you will not stand out or attract weird looks.
Both local and tourist women often wear shorts and summer dresses here. (The Costa Maya has a tropical climate after all!) Travelers of all genders can feel comfortable wearing whatever they like.
Dont flash your valuables
In the unlikely event that you are a victim of a crime in Costa Maya, it is likely to be an opportunistic one. For example, someone grabs your phone out of your back pocket or snatches your bag from you in a crowded marketplace.
These things can be easily avoided. in busy areas, try and always walk with your backpack in front of you. Never leave anything in your pockets or in places where it can easily be accessed.
Theft-proof bags are a worthwhile investment.
This is particularly true if you travel regularly or you spend a lot of time in Latin America. They come with additional safety features such as integrated mesh locking systems.
Plus, they are slash-proof and waterproof. You could also consider buying a fanny pack so that your money is concealed.
Don’t walk around with an expensive camera around your neck or with designer sunglasses on your head. It is better not to show obvious signs of wealth as otherwise, you can make yourself a target.
Take care of your cash
The local currency in Mexico and the Costa Maya is the Mexican peso. It is better to avoid carrying large wads of cash with you.
You don’t really want to have any more than around 4,000 or 5,000 pesos in cash with you at any given time. It is worth noting that many of the ATM machines in Mahahual and close to the Costa Maya cruise port only release US dollars.
So, you may have to shop around to find ATMs that allow you to withdraw pesos. While it may seem convenient that some businesses allow you to pay in American dollars, it often means that they will overcharge you and give you a poor exchange rate.
It is a good idea to open a borderless bank account prior to your trip if you can. Using these cards means that you do not incur foreign transaction fees and expensive conversion fees when you use your card abroad.
Being charged a few dollars here and a few dollars there can quickly accumulate. Not only does this save you money, it means that you can go to ATMs and withdraw smaller amounts of money so that you don’t have to stress about carrying a lot of cash.
Be careful when using ATMs in Costa Maya. official ATMs in bank branches are less likely to have been tampered with.
Opt to use them rather than standalone ATMs and always check the ATM usage fee. Some are just 40 pesos while others are as high as 170 pesos!
Check your surroundings and avoid withdrawing cash at night if you can help it.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
It is prudent to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before going on a trip anywhere and the same rings true of traveling to Costa Maya. Unfortunately, today’s health is not promised tomorrow.
With the best will in the world, you can never really predict if you will fall sick overseas or be involved in some kind of accident. Most trips to Costa Maya are trouble-free and hopefully, yours will be too.
However, is it important to prepare yourself for every eventuality. If you have an annual travel Insurance plan or you get travel insurance through your credit card, check the small print and make sure that Mexico is included in the destinations covered.
If you buy a new policy, choose comprehensive coverage that offers a minimum of 100,000 worth of coverage per person. A good policy will also include things like repatriation, cancellation, and loss/theft of luggage.
You may have to purchase extra coverage for shore excursions like scuba diving in the nearby coral reefs, renting ATVs, or hiking. These are not usually covered in a standard plan.
You cannot drink the water
You cannot drink the water anywhere in Mexico including in Costa Maya. This is not because your body is not used to it but because it is simply unclean.
Even the local people do not drink it. Fortunately, you will be given complimentary bottled water during each day of your stay at your hotel or Airbnb.
You can also buy large bottles very cheaply from the various convenience stores and stores along the main street in Mahahual and Bacalar.
Is Costa Maya safe? Final thoughts
Do you have any further questions about safety in the Costa Maya or the tourist areas of Southern Quintana Roo? This is a safe place for the most part and with common sense, you will be perfectly fine.
This is one of the best places that you can visit in Southern Mexico and for the time being, it is still a little untapped. If you are traveling to Mexico for the first time, you may also be interested in this Yucatan itinerary or this post on the best time to visit the Yucatan.
Have a great time in Mexico! Safe travels, Melissa xo