Is Zihuatanejo safe to travel to? Yes, provided you take the same precautions as you would when traveling anywhere else. Many people consider Zihuatanejo as being one of the safest places to travel in Mexico which may come as a surprise when you consider the fact that it sits in Guerrero, which is a state on the ¨Do not travel¨ list for Mexico.
Zihuatanejo is a charming beach town on the Pacific coast of Mexico, in the northern part of Guerrero, close to the border with Michoacan. Once upon a time, Zihuatanejo was a sleepy, laid-back fishing village.
The town’s beauty and charm started attracting domestic and international tourists in the 1970s and the area has seen a steady trickle of travelers ever since. Several other charming beach towns are also located along this stretch of coastline – including the popular Ixtapa and Troncones.
Safety is a major concern for many people when they plan their trips to Mexico for the first time. After all, the country hasn’t historically always had the best reputation safety-wise.
The reality is, the safety situation varies dramatically here from state to state, city to city. Guerrero is marked as a no-go state, and today, Acapulco (also in Guerrero) is a place where you need to be careful.
However, crime doesn’t really affect tourists in Zihuatanejo – although it is still important to be aware of your surroundings and be careful if you choose to travel to other parts of the state during your trip.
I live in Mexico and have traveled extensively through the country during the past two years of being based here. In this article, we will take a look at the safety situation in Zihuatanejo and discuss how you can stay safe during your trip.
Is Zihuatanejo safe to travel to in 2023?
While there is some risk of crime in Zihuatanejo, it’s not any more dangerous than many other popular tourist destinations. The locals are welcoming, and the town has a relaxed beach vibe that makes it an ideal place to unwind.
Still, it’s always important to stay aware of your surroundings and take precautions such as not carrying large amounts of cash or valuables and avoiding walking alone at night in unlit areas. A large part of staying safe comes down to common sense.
The crime rate in Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo has a relatively low crime rate compared to other cities in Mexico. Numbeo offers various global cities a crime rating from 0 to 100 based on the results of surveying locals about how safe they feel.
(With 0 being the safest and 100 being very unsafe). Zihuatanejo has a crime rating of 28.68.
Although locals are somewhat concerned about crimes increasing over the last three years, the amount of instances remains low. The biggest concerns are corruption and bribery.
Violent crime is rare and typically does not affect tourists. Most incidents usually occur between criminal groups and drug cartels.
Survey participants reported that they feel very safe walking alone both during the day and at night. The crime rating in Zihuatanejo is not that different from the crime rating in Merida – Mexico’s safest city (25.25).
If we want to compare Zihuatanejo with US cities, Atlanta has a crime rating of 63.82. New York has a crime rating of 49.28.
Take the government travel advice for Zihuatanejo with a pinch of salt
It is prudent to check your government Travel advice before visiting any new country and the same rings true for Mexico. The U.S. State Department provides a state-by-state breakdown of the safety situation in Mexico.
Mexican states are broken down into four different categories based on their perceived safety. These categories are identified as:
- States where you should exercise normal precautions
- States where you should exercise increased precautions
- ¨Reconsider travel¨ states
- States with do not travel warnings
The Yucatan and Campeche are the safest Mexican states and the only two places in Mexico on the ¨exercise normal precautions¨ list. Zihuatanejo is located in the state of Guerrero which is on the ¨Do not travel¨ list for Mexico.
Seeing that is enough to put a lot of people off visiting the area completely.
However, the reality is that even do not travel states in Mexico have safe areas. For instance, Sinaloa is on the do not travel list, but plenty of people ride the El Chepe train through the copper canyon every year and visit Mazatlan.
Jalisco is marked as a state that you should reconsider traveling to, yet Puerto Vallarta is one of the most popular destinations in the country. While the US Department of State advice is worth checking, it is just a high-level overview that doesn’t consider how the situation can differ drastically from one part of a state to another.
While you don’t want to be driving around random rural areas in Guerrero, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa are mostly safe. Read the government advisory but don’t be terrified by it.
You can also find the Canadian government travel advice for Mexico here. The UK government travel advisory for Mexico is here.
Safety Tips for Visiting Zihuatanejo in 2023
Some useful safety tips for visiting Zihuatanejo in 2023 and beyond are detailed below. A lot of this is common sense, and is good to practice wherever you go!
Try not to be paranoid. Enjoy your trip!
It is easy to worry about safety in Mexico because this is somewhere that is often in the media for all the wrong reasons. But the reality is that more than 40 million people travel to Mexico every single year.
Mexico is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world! Most visits to the country are trouble-free. It helps to have a heightened sense of awareness in this part of the world, but try to focus your energy on enjoying your vacation!
There are some gorgeous beaches in Zihuatanejo, each with its own distinct charm. Playa Principal is the main beach, although it is also often the most crowded.
Playa La Madera, Playa Las Gatas, Playa Contramar, and Playa La Ropa are some of the most beautiful spots to have on your radar. The city’s boardwalk, Paseo del Pescador is a great place to take an evening stroll, watch the sunset, and treat yourself to traditional Mexican food and mezcal-infused cocktails overlooking the ocean.
If you happen to be in Zihuatanejo on a Thursday, you can participate in the town’s fun and quirky tradition of ¨pozole Thursdays¨. There are some local restaurants in town that are only open on Thursdays for the express purpose of serving pozole – a Mexican meat soup made with hominy with pork.
People literally queue down the street to eat at their favorite pozolerias and it’s a fun tradition to join in with.
Natural disasters in Zihuatanejo
Zihuatanejo is located in a region that is prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes, and earthquakes. The hurricane season falls between May and October, with August and September being the highest-risk months.
While a lot of people are often apprehensive about traveling somewhere during the hurricane season, the reality is that Zihuatanejo hasn’t had a serious hurricane since Hurricane Tara hit in 1961.
That’s more than 60 years ago! Most of the time, hurricane season in the Pacific just means heavy rain and storms.
The rainfall doesn’t last all day either. Showers are usually brief, and when they subside, the sky clears up so that you can enjoy the rest of your day sightseeing or at the beach.
Sometimes, when the storms are particularly bad, they can knock the power/internet out in residential areas for a day or two. If you are traveling during hurricane season, it is a good idea to monitor the local weather reports but there is no need to be deterred from traveling at this time.
Can you drink the water in Zihuatanejo?
You cannot drink the water anywhere in Mexico, including in Zihuatanejo and the wider state of Guerrero. Although the water is purified at the source, it can get contaminated en route to your tap.
You can get seriously ill from all of the bacteria and germs in the tap water so even locals don’t drink it. Most hotels and Airbnb will provide you with complimentary bottles of water when you check-in.
Then, you can buy larger, multi-liter bottles from convenience stores like Oxxo and 7/11. You don’t have to worry about having ice in your drinks, or drinking things made with water like horchata and agua fresas as these will always be made with bottled water. (Restaurants buy pre-packaged ice made with filtered water).
Is Zihuatanejo safe at night?
Most residents and travelers have reported that they have felt just as safe in Zihuatanejo at night as they have during the day. However, it is important to have a heightened sense of awareness at night.
Most crimes are likely to happen in dimly lit areas after dark. Opt to stay in a central area so that you can easily walk back to your hotel from restaurants in the evening.
Stick to main roads and don’t venture down any dimly lit side streets. Zihuatanejo has a vibrant and varied nightlife scene that offers something for everyone.
The Paseo del Pescador is a great place to go for dinner and drinks. Bandidos (Av 5 de Mayo 8) is a Mexican bar and restaurant where you can indulge in traditional local cuisine and see live music, dancing, and mariachi on certain nights.
A little further south, Loot (La Ropa 55, Playa la Ropa) is a chic lounge and cocktail bar that serves a variety of drinks created by expert mixologists. Wherever you go, watch your alcohol intake, never leave your drink unattended, and don’t walk home intoxicated.
Taking cabs in Zihuatanejo
If you spend any amount of time traveling in Mexico, you will note that most locals prefer to use ridesharing apps like Uber or Didi rather than take cabs. They are considered safer here, and arguably there is more accountability when you get into a car ordered via Uber than a random street cab.
(After all, you can see the driver’s name, license plate and vehicle info, past reviews, etc). Unfortunately, there is no Uber (or a similar alternative) in the entire state of Guerrero.
Taxis operate in Zihuatanejo, and the nearby areas of Ixtapa, Barra de Potosí, and Troncones. You will find plenty of taxi ranks scattered around and you can also hail cabs on the street as you would in other major cities.
Still, scams exist and as a tourist, you are more likely to be overcharged or taken on a roundabout route through town by taxi drivers who assume you don’t know the correct rate/route. It is better to ask your Airbnb host or hotel receptionist/concierge to call you a trusted cab driver where you can.
Once you find a driver you trust, take their business card/contact number so you can reach out to them when you need a ride.
Always watch your personal belongings
Always keep an eye on your personal belongings in Mexico, particularly in crowded marketplaces and on public transportation. The Mercado Municipal Campesino, the Zihuatanejo Artisanal market, and the Mercado de los Mariscos are all great places to explore and see scenes of local life.
But in such crowded marketplaces, you should consider walking with your backpack in front of you, and never keep anything in your back pocket where someone can easily grab it. If you travel frequently, you might want to consider investing in a theft-proof backpack or money belt like those offered by Pacsafe.
Is Zihuatanejo safe for solo travelers?
Zihuatanejo is generally safe for solo travelers, including solo female travelers but it is important to take precautions. Since this is a tourist area, people are accustomed to seeing plenty of travelers, including people traveling alone.
Rest assured, you won’t get any weird looks or comments for being by yourself. This entire blog has been written by a solo female traveler based in Mexico.
If you are traveling alone as a woman, you might find that you sometimes get looks, comments, or attention. This is usually nothing sinister and is best ignored.
Since Zihuatanejo is a beach town, you can feel comfortable wearing shorts, t-shirts, and sun dresses here. Local women and other tourists wear these types of clothes. You don’t need to worry about dressing modestly or following a particular dress code.
Purchase comprehensive travel insurance
You should always purchase comprehensive travel insurance when you travel. Unfortunately, despite our best planning and efforts, you can really know what is around the corner.
If you fall ill or get into an accident overseas, medical care can be expensive without insurance. Fortunately, most insurance plans don’t break the bank.
Try to opt for one that includes at least $250,000 worth of medical coverage. A good plan will cover you for extras like hiking, repatriation, loss/theft of luggage and electronics, etc.
Write down your reference number or print out the first page of your policy. If you need assistance overseas, this will be the first thing that you are asked for.
If you have a worldwide travel insurance policy or you have travel insurance via your credit card, check the small print to make sure that Mexico is covered.
FAQs about Safety in Zihuatanejo
Do you have any further questions or concerns about staying safe in Zihuatanejo? The answers to some frequently asked questions on the topic are detailed below.
Hopefully, you find them useful. If you’re still worried, you are more than welcome to reach out to me!
Is there danger in Zihuatanejo?
Zihuatanejo is a safe place, despite being located in one of Mexico’s most dangerous states. You are safe in tourist areas but you don’t want to go driving off into random parts of Guerrero state.
Generally speaking, if you don’t go looking for trouble in Mexico, trouble won’t look for you.
Is Zihuatanejo safe to travel to in 2023? Final thoughts
Zihuatanejo is a safe place to travel to with precautions. A lot of first-time visitors to Mexico are often anxious about how safe they are in the country as Mexico is often painted negatively and unfairly (especially in the US media).
When you arrive, you will realize how unwarranted most of your concerns are. Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do anywhere else in the world and your trip is likely to be a safe and enjoyable one.
Have a wonderful time and enjoy Mexico! Buen Viaje! Xo