Is Cozumel safe to travel to in 2024? Safety is likely to be at the forefront of your mind if you are planning a trip to the Mexican Caribbean island of Cozumel.
Mexico, on the whole, does not always have the best reputation for safety. It often seems like Mexico is in the media for all the wrong reasons.
However, the reality is that this is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Over 66 million international travelers visit Mexico every year, a significant portion of whom are American and Canadian.
Most visits to Mexico are trouble-free and memorable for all the right reasons. The country definitely doesn’t deserve the negative portrayal it often receives.
In this guide, written by an expat Travel Writer based in nearby Merida, we will look at why Cozumel is a safe and wonderful place to visit and run through some things to consider before your trip.
Is Cozumel Safe to Travel to in 2024?
Cozumel is a very safe place to travel to provided that you take the same common sense precautions as you would in your home country or when traveling anywhere else in the world. The gorgeous island, known for its translucent turquoise waters and its soft, powdery white sands, is one of the most popular travel destinations in the state of Quintana Roo.
Tourism is a major source of income in the Mexican Caribbean and the local authorities prioritize keeping tourists safe. Violent things that happen in other parts of Mexico simply don’t happen in this sleepy island idyll.
Review your government travel advice for Mexico
It is a good idea to check your government travel advice when traveling anywhere for the first time and that includes traveling to Mexico. The US Department of State provides a state-by-state safety breakdown for each of the 32 states in Mexico.
It can appear a little sternly worded, but it’s worth checking it before traveling anywhere because it is updated periodically in line with any recent developments and activities.
Mexican states are divided into four different safety categories. They are recognized as places where you should practice normal precautions (The Yucatan state and Campeche state are considered the safest states in Mexico), places where you should practice increased precautions, places you should reconsider traveling to, and places you should avoid traveling to completely.
Cozumel sits in the state of Quintana Roo in the country’s Yucatan peninsula. This is recognized as a place that you should have increased caution when traveling to, but that is largely because of some criminal activity that happens around Cancun, rather than anything directly related to Cozumel itself.
Review your government advice so that you can get an idea of the current situation, but take it with a pinch of salt. The UK and Canadian government travel advisories are less detailed but are also useful sources of information.
Crime ratings in Cozumel Mexico
The Numbeo safety index provides various global destinations with a safety rating from 0-100 based on how safe the local residents feel there. (Where 0 is ultra-safe and 100 is very unsafe).
Cozumel has a safety rating of 65.62. Survey respondents have indicated that they feel very safe when walking alone both during the day and the night, and they are not overly concerned about being a victim of crime – be it petty theft or something more serious.
Some parts of Mexico have seen an increase in crime over the last three years whereas Cozumel has not.
To get a better understanding of the Numbeo rating, we can compare Cozumel’s crime and safety index to other cities in Mexico and the United States. The Yucatan capital of Merida is widely regarded as being not only the safest city in Mexico but one of the safest cities in North America on the whole.
According to Numbeo, Merida has a safety rating of 74.84. Looking at other Mexican cities, Guadalajara has a safety rating of 37.61 and Cancun has a safety rating of 44.15.
Looking at the US, Los Angeles has a safety rating of 47.37 and New York has a safety rating of 50.56.
Safety Tips for Visiting Cozumel in 2024
A lot of staying safe in Cozumel comes down to common sense. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home or elsewhere and you ought to be fine.
Some practical safety tips for visiting Cozumel are detailed below.
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings at all times. Walk with your backpack in front of you in crowded areas and marketplaces like the Mercado Municipal, rather than slung over one shoulder or behind you where opportunists can easily reach inside.
Never leave your things unattended on a public beach while you go off swimming, and consider making use of your hotel safe so that you can easily store your passport, a spare credit/debit card, some cash, and other valuables inside. If you travel frequently, you might want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack or money belt.
Theft-proof backpacks like those offered by Pacsafe are a little pricier than regular backpacks but they often come with lifelong warranties as well as a ton of useful safety features. For instance, they are waterproof, slash-proof, and come with TSA-approved mesh locking systems.
Consider booking an organized day trip if you’re nervous
If you are nervous about visiting Cozumel Island, particularly if it is your first trip overseas or you are traveling alone for the first time, you might want to consider booking an organized excursion. A ton of reputable local companies operate in Cozumel, Cancun, and the Riviera Maya.
They include round-trip transportation from Cancun to Cozumel, as well as a bunch of different cultural/nature activities like swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, and ATV buggy tours. This can take a lot of the stress out of managing the logistics of your trip and usually doesn’t work out any more expensive than if you were to organize your ferries and transfers, etc independently.
Recommended Cozumel tours
A selection of recommended Cozumel tours is detailed below for your consideration. Book your place online in advance to secure your spot!
- Cozumel private buggy tour with lunch and snorkeling
- El Cielo, Palancar Reef and Cozumel beach party with food
- Cozumel: VIP glass bottom boat and snorkeling 3 reefs tour
- Atlantis submarine experience in Cozumel
- Cozumel ATV adventure to Jade Cavern
Relax and enjoy your trip. Don’t be paranoid!
Although it’s natural to worry about traveling to Mexico, try and focus your energy on all of the fun things that you are going to do during your time on the island, rather than stress and be anxious about what could happen in the absolute worst-case scenario.
You could visit Cozumel on a day trip from Cancun but it would be a long day and you would barely scratch the surface of all the natural wonders and gorgeous beaches that the island has to offer. If you can, try to dedicate at least 3-4 days to lovely Cozumel.
There are dozens of beaches on the island, and there is something here to suit every taste. I.e. whether you are looking for an organized beach with all the amenities or a more quiet and secluded spot where you feel like you’re on your own tropical island getaway.
If you are looking for somewhere peaceful and more off the beaten path away from the crowds, you might like the eastern part of the island. Punta Morena, El Mirador, Playa de San Martin, and Playa Chen Rio are gorgeous, lesser-known spots.
Paradise Beach on the island’s west coast is one of the most popular beaches on the island, home to an all-inclusive beach club. Playa Mia and Playa San Francisco are also very popular.
Cozumel is also great for snorkeling as it is part of the Mesoamerican barrier reef. (The second-largest reef system in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.) Paradise Reef and Palancar Reef are two of the most popular spots, and there are a bunch of diving companies on the island that can take you out on a dive.
You can spot some spectacular marine wildlife here – from barracudas and moray eels, to nurse sharks, turtles, and stingrays.
Can you drink the water in Cozumel?
No. You cannot drink the water in Cozumel (or anywhere else in Mexico for that matter).
Although the water in Mexico is purified at the source, it often gets contaminated en route to your tap. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t have any way of knowing whether it was likely to make you sick or not until you try it – which is likely an experiment that you don’t want to try!
Even locals don’t drink the water here so it’s best to stick to bottled water. Most hotels and Airbnbs will provide you with a couple of complimentary bottles for each day of your stay.
Some of the more luxurious or all-inclusive resorts often have purified water sources on site. If they do, they will have signs that read ¨agua potable¨.
You don’t have to worry about having ice in your drinks as restaurants, food trucks, hotels, etc will purchase store-bought ice made with bottled water rather than make ice cubes from tap water. You might also want to consider purchasing a reusable water bottle like a Lifestraw.
Is Cozumel safe at night?
Cozumel is quite a laid-back island, but while it doesn’t have the same raucous nightlife and club scene as Cancun and Tulum, it does have plenty of places where you can grab a drink at the end of the day.
The general consensus is that Cozumel is pretty safe at night, particularly if you stick to Avenida Rafael E. Melgar (the main strip lined with bars and restaurants), and you don’t go wandering off down dimly-lit, sketchy-looking side streets or walk home back to your hotel intoxicated.
Downtown San Miguel (¨centro¨) is the hub of most of Cozumel’s nightlife and the night fountains by the central plaza (Parque Benito Juárez) are a popular rendezvous point for tourists and locals when the sun goes down.
Hemingway (Casita Publica Casita, Rafael E Melgar S/N between BLVD Aeropuerto and Playa Publica, Zona Hotelera Nte) is a chic spot that acts as a restaurant and coffee bar by day, and a cocktail lounge and club by night. Live DJs from across the world are often hosted here at weekends and the setting is gorgeous.
If you want to grab drinks somewhere that gives off tropical desert island vibes, stop by Welcome to Miami (Av Rafael E. Melgar Calle 7 Sur y Avenida, Andrés). This fun beach bar is set out like a little thatched beach shack.
Classic and craft cocktails are made fresh in front of you, with tropical fruits squeezed before your very eyes and mortar and pestles used to grind herbs and spices. Yum!
There’s also Rasta’s Freedom Bar, where you can hang out in hammocks and palapa huts while sipping mai tais and listening to reggae, but do note that it’s about 30 minutes out of the town center.
Street Vendors and food safety in Cozumel
People often assume that getting sick is unavoidable when traveling to Mexico and it really doesn’t have to be. I have lived here for close to two years and I have only been unfortunate enough to fall ill a couple of times.
If you pass up the chance to try authentic Mexican food and eat at street food stands, you are missing out on a big part of the Mexico travel experience. When it comes to restaurants, check past reviews on Google and TripAdvisor so you can see what you are letting yourself in for.
There are a few ways that you can check if a street food stand is a safe place to eat. First of all, if there’s a queue of people there, it’s usually a good indication that the food is good.
If somewhere is empty with no customers, or you can see fruit or meat that has been sitting out, it is best avoided. (Such places probably don’t look that appealing anyway!)
Is Cozumel safe for solo travelers?
Cozumel is safe for solo travelers of all ages and genders. While in some Latin American destinations, you might stand out or become more of a target if you are traveling by yourself, Cozumel is such a popular tourist place that there are always plenty of backpackers around and you can easily blend in.
Arguably you need to have a higher level of situational awareness when you are alone, as you would anywhere in the world, but the island isn’t any less safe for solo travelers. (This entire website was written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico!)
Taking taxis in Cozumel
There is no Uber, Didi, Indrive, or other ride-sharing apps in Cozumel. (Although Uber exists in Cancun and ride-sharing apps can be used in other parts of Mexico).
If you have spent any amount of time in Mexico, you will probably know that most locals prefer to use apps like Uber rather than take local cabs because there is more accountability and they are considered safer. Unfortunately in Cozumel, you are at the mercy of local cab drivers.
Sometimes, it can feel like taxi drivers are a law unto themselves the world over. Cozumel taxi drivers are likely to try and charge you inflated fares because they assume that as a tourist, you do not know what the correct going rate should be.
They may take you on a roundabout route around town or they might not turn on the meter. Where possible, have your hotel receptionist/concierge organize a trusted taxi driver for you.
If you are flying into Cozumel international airport, it is worth reserving an airport transfer online in advance.
Natural disasters in Cozumel
Hurricane season in Cozumel and the Yucatan peninsula runs from June to October/November every year. However, most of the time, this just means frequent showers and heavy thunderstorms.
The best time to travel to Cozumel is perhaps in late November – after the hurricane season but before the peak season crowds, or in March/April. Still, if it works out more convenient for you to travel over the summer months, you should not let the risk of a hurricane put you off. Just be sure to keep checking the weather prior to and during your trip.
The last serious hurricane to affect the area was Category 3 Hurricane Grace in 2021. Prior to that, it was Hurricane Wilma back in 2005.
Moped and ATV safety in Cozumel
An increasingly popular way for tourists to get around Cozumel is to do so by renting an ATV or a moped. However, with the increase in demand for these vehicles has come an increase in the number of accidents and injuries.
There are no requirements for renting one of these vehicles aside from being in possession of a full driving license. That means that a lot of people are renting these for the first time in Cozumel and thinking that they can speed off along coastal roads on them while having no idea how to correctly drive and maneuver them.
There are also a number of vehicles that are dated and not well-maintained. Be careful, adhere to speed limits, and take some time getting to grips with operating the vehicle before whizzing off with it.
Be sure to purchase comprehensive travel insurance before your trip
It is prudent to travel comprehensive travel insurance before traveling anywhere, including Cozumel and Mexico. Today’s health is not promised tomorrow and unfortunately, despite our best planning, we can never know what is around the corner.
Healthcare and medical treatments may be cheaper in Mexico than they are in the US and Canada but they are not free, and costs can quickly add up.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you for at least $250,000 USD worth of medical coverage. It will also include additional extras such as repatriation, loss/theft of luggage and electronics, ATV/scooter rentals, and adventure sports.
Enrol in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)
If you are a US citizen, it may give you peace of mind to enroll in the STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) during your time in Mexico. This is a free service provided to all US citizens that allows them to register their travels with the nearest US Embassy/Consulate.
To enroll, visit the official website of the program here. You will need to provide a basic itinerary and your contact details.
You can then opt into real-time updates and alerts from the US government about the safety situation in Mexico, as well as any updates to the US travel advisory.
Is Cozumel Safe to Travel to in 2024? FAQs
Do you have any further questions or concerns about safety in Cozumel or planning a trip to the island in general? A handful of frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below for your consideration.
Hopefully, you will find the information you are looking for there. If not, please do not hesitate to reach out!
Is Cozumel safer than Cancun?
Yes. Cozumel is considered much safer than Cancun.
According to the statistics site Numbeo, Cozumel has a safety rating of 65.62 and Cancun has a safety rating of 44.15. You often hear of violent things happening in and around Cancun, including clashes between different crime groups and cartels, but this does not affect Cozumel.
How safe is Cozumel right now?
Cozumel is a safe and enjoyable travel destination to visit in 2024 and beyond. This is one of the safest and most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and the local authorities take protecting visitors seriously.
Is it safe to walk in Cozumel at night?
Cozumel is considered a safe place to walk at night, even if you are traveling solo or as a solo female traveler. Still, nowhere is completely safe and devoid of incidents so you should still use your common sense.
Stick to main streets and promenades that are lined with bars and restaurants. Don’t go wandering off by yourself down sketchy-looking alleys or dimly lit streets and never walk anywhere in the world alone intoxicated.
Can you swim in the ocean in Cozumel?
You need to be careful when swimming and snorkeling in Cozumel. The beaches on the western part of the island are surrounded by calm, warm waters and are perfect for swimming in.
The eastern side of the island has strong undercurrents flowing toward the open ocean and can be fairly dangerous. Here, you should stick to swimming in beach clubs and avoid going out of your depth.
What cartel runs Cozumel?
Cartel presence in Cozumel cannot be completely ruled out but there is little to no narco crime-related activity on the island. Chances of being caught up in a cartel conflict or shootout are extremely unlikely to happen to tourists anywhere in Mexico, and the risks of this are basically non-existent in Cozumel.
Is San Miguel de Cozumel Safe? Final thoughts
As long as you take basic safety precautions and you are aware of your surroundings, you should be completely fine in Cozumel. (If you are concerned, your worries will probably be immediately alleviated once you arrive on the island and see how safe and chill it is!)
The island has a low crime rate and although there is sometimes a heightened police presence in the main town, this is in the interest of everyone’s safety and is there to protect visitors. If you are visiting Mexico for the first time, you might also enjoy reading these Mexico travel tips.
Safe travels and enjoy Cozumel! Buen Viaje! Xo