Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean Sea off the eastern coast of Mexico. Situated roughly opposite the coastal resort of Playa del Carmen, it is part of the state of Quintana Roo. Known for its superb coral reef diving and scenic beaches, Cozumel is a popular vacation destination for many tourists – and cruise ships regularly dock here too. While parts of Mexico are known for their high crime rates, is the island of Cozumel a dangerous destination? In this article, we will explore this and answer the question “Is Cozumel safe to visit?“.
Getting to Cozumel is simple. It is twelve miles from mainland Mexico and if you don’t want to fly in, you can take a ferry from Playa del Carmen. The short crossing of around forty minutes means the island is a great spot to visit for a day trip or overnighter. If you are after a more relaxing time, then stay longer. The vibe here is more laid back than the mainland areas of Playa del Carmen and Cancun.
Even though the general atmosphere of Cozumel is one of chilled relaxation, you still need to make sure you are aware of any safety issues. Perhaps this becomes even more important when visiting tourist destinations such as this. Isn’t it easier to feel safer on a beautiful island than in a busy city resort? Safety shouldn’t rule any trip, but knowing the areas and heeding any travel warnings will help keep you safe when you visit Cozumel.
FUN FACT: Cozumel means “The Island of Swallows”.
Is Cozumel safe right now?
Cozumel in general is safer than many areas of mainland Mexico. Much of the crime in the country is drug-related and this tends to occur in bigger cities and near hubs of transport. This rules Cozumel out. According to the U.S. State Department right now, there is no travel warning in place for Cozumel meaning it is safe to travel to. It is certainly a destination that you should feel safe traveling to with your family. While the risk of falling victim to violent crime here is low, there is a risk of petty crime. Like all tourist destinations, visitors should be on the lookout for pickpockets and common tourist scams.
How to be sure
Before you travel to Cozumel, check for current travel warnings and sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program allows you to be alerted to any new travel warnings as they occur.
Is Cozumel safe for solo female travelers?
Taking into consideration the all-round low level of crime here, we would say that Cozumel is safe for solo female travelers.
That is not to say you should let your guard down. Many crimes are opportune. The pickpocket on the street looking for an easy target. The guy out at night looking for trouble. This is rare but we’d be remiss to suggest it never happens. One of the best tips for solo female travelers is to avoid making yourself a target. Keep valuables hidden and don’t wear expensive jewelry.
It is good practice at all times to ensure someone knows where you are. Let friends and family at home know of your plans, especially when leaving your hotel. At night, stick to well lit open areas populated with other tourists. Don’t wander down dark alleys or along the beach at night, and make sure you know how to get back to your hotel after.
Group tours and activities
If you want to leave the hotel during the day but prefer company then you can join group activities or tours, there are lots to get involved with. We recommend having a go at snorkeling, there is a wonderful world to be discovered under the water. Cozumel is considered one of the world’s best diving spots, only behind the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. You may end up meeting another solo traveler that you can spend some time with as well.
Everyone, but especially solo females, should familiarise themselves with the area before they go. Check to see if the State Department has issued a travel warning. Go equipped with the knowledge of how to seek help should you need it – emergency phone numbers for example. 911 will get you through to the police, ambulance, or fire brigade.
A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.
Is Cozumel safe to live in?
Cozumel is one of the safest places to live in Mexico. The island is a place that people go to chill and the crime level is low. As long as you don’t mind being inundated with regular visitors whenever a cruise ship docks here. But then if you choose to live here, you will know the places to avoid and probably won’t be hanging out around the tourist hotspots anyway.
Another reason Cozumel is safe to live in is that islands, in general, are known to be safer than mainland areas. Why? There is nowhere for criminals to run to. Their only way of escape is via an airport or ferry port, drastically cutting down the appeal of engaging in criminal activity. Unless they plan on making their getaway in a rowing boat.
Of course, burglaries happen. Your home could get broken into, your car may be stolen. As in any place. But the upsides of living in a beautiful chilled destination with white sand beaches and world-class diving at your feet far outweigh any risks.
Actually, the biggest danger could be running out of things to do, needing to embrace the “mañana, mañana” attitude, and having to spend the rest of your life relaxing by the sea.
Is Cozumel safe at night?
People in Cozumel are known to be a friendly and helpful bunch. Being out at night should pose you no danger as long as you exercise some common sense rules.
Stay in an area that other tourists frequent and be careful with your alcohol consumption. Drinks may be spiked at night, more so than during the day, so never leave a drink unguarded.
Don’t get lost and always know how you will get back to your hotel at the end of the night. If you find yourself in an unfamiliar area then instead of walking around hoping for the best, head for a busy bar or restaurant to ask for assistance.
Be aware of what is going on around you at all times and you should have no problems at all.
Is the tap water in Cozumel safe to drink?
Tourists in Cozumel should avoid drinking from the tap or consuming unpeeled fruit and vegetables that might have been washed in tap water, even in the more swanky Cozumel hotels. It may sound silly, or over-cautious, but be careful when showering and brushing your teeth.
The water in Cozumel is purified, to a certain extent. Hotels should all use purified water but this doesn’t always mean that your stomach can handle it.
Some people have tougher constitutions than others so you could find that consuming tap water causes you no problems. On the other hand, you may find yourself sick and wasting your precious beach time. It is probably best not to risk it unless you know you have the stomach lining of an ox.
Bottom line? Stick to bottled water and check the seal is intact before drinking.
A filter water bottle is an effective way of purifying water to remove any impurities or contaminants.
Are taxis in Cozumel safe?
Tourists getting scammed by dishonest taxi drivers are becoming all too common in certain parts of the world and the country of Mexico is no exception to this. Wherever you find tourists you are going to find people trying to scam them. However, the registered taxis in Cozumel are considered safe and reliable. They are required to display their rates (the rates are set by the taxi union) so you know what you will be paying upfront and no haggling is required.
Rates are based on the number of passengers, increasing when there are more than four. Problems with taxis occur when you use illegal ones. So make sure you ring a well-known company or hire a cab from a taxi stand – called a “sitio”. Never hail a cab from the street.
It is best to pay in Pesos. You may with dollars, but the exchange rate may not be very good. Keep some change on you for taxis.
Top 9 Cozumel safety tips
As we have seen, the island of Cozumel in Mexico is safe to travel to, providing you keep your eyes open, use your common sense and heed any travel warning that may be in place. Here are our top nine safety tips summarised to ensure a safe trip:
- Take out adequate travel insurance that covers Mexico, and know how you can contact the insurance company should you need help. It is a good idea to store the number in your phone.
- Check the U.S. State Department site just before you leave. The threat level of a country or destination can change overnight.
- Only take legally registered taxis that display the rates clearly for you to see. They can be found for hire in taxi ranks known as “sitios”, this is much safer than trying to flag one down on the street. When you find a taxi driver you trust, keep the number handy.
- Don’t swim in the sea when there are tide warnings in place – check the flags. Red flags mean no swimming is allowed. Although Cozumel is known for diving, remember there is a lot of coral reef off the beaches, not to mention an abundance of cruise ships so pay particular attention to the areas you are allowed to safely swim in.
- Avoid tap water. Drinking out of a bottle is the best way to go – but do check it is sealed first. Some places have been known to refill bottles and pass them off as new. Even being careful while showering and keeping a bottle by the sink for brushing your teeth will go a long way to ensure you don’t end up bedridden with a nasty bug. Most of the hotels will provide bottled water in the rooms and you can just ask for more if you run out.
- Stick with groups of people when you can, even during the day. Don’t go to unpopulated areas on your own and be especially careful at night. If you worry about being unsafe, then join tours to do and see things you might not otherwise experience.
- Guard your valuables – visitors to Cozumel should consider the use of a money belt. Another top tip is to keep your mobile phone hidden at all times. Don’t take out unnecessary amounts of cash. Go shopping with what you think you need and leave the rest locked in the hotel safe.
- Warning: think twice before hiring a moped. Many tourists in Cozumel are involved in traffic accidents every year while riding one. Walking and taxis are the best ways for traveling around the island.
- Blend in. If you look and act like a local then you are less likely to become a target for petty thieves and other low-level crime. For example, if you are planning on walking somewhere then know the route before you go to avoid meandering along with your nose in your phone looking lost. Standing on the street trying to work out which way up the map goes is another big sign that you are a tourist. If you do get lost, pop into a café or shop to reorient yourself.