If you are planning a trip to the city of Cancun, you are in good company. Visitor numbers to this popular Mexican destination are rising by the year. In 2015 around 5 million tourists landed in Cancun and by 2019 that number had increased to 6.15 million. The majority of these visitors stayed in an area of Cancun known as the Hotel Zone and enjoyed a safe vacation. However, with Mexico’s history of drug-related crime, the natural question on a lot of tourist’s lips is “Is the Hotel Zone safe in Cancun?”.
2020 may not have been the best year for visitors to Cancun (or anywhere for that matter) but we’re sure that numbers will continue to rise when travel becomes “normal” again. For this reason, we thought we would look in detail at the Hotel Zone area and find out exactly how safe it is – or isn’t. We look at it from different perspectives, depending on the kind of traveler you are, and also give you some of our best tips for staying safe here.
Let’s get started…
Is the Hotel Zone in Cancun Safe?
There’s no getting away from it. Of all places, most people are aware that there is a high level of crime in Mexico. A lot of it is drug-related. The drug cartels are still booming despite the so-called crackdown on drugs that began in 2006. However, while a lot of crime can be attributed to the drug trade – and is usually the first thing people think of – it was domestic violence that actually accounted for the highest number of reported crimes in Mexico in April 2020, with a staggering 14,591 cases. That is just in one month. In comparison, there were 2,472 cases of homicide. That is still a lot of homicides in one month, but remember we are talking about the whole of Mexico here.
Regarding the safety of tourists in Cancun city, the Cancun Hotel Zone is one of the safest places to stay. Because it was developed specifically for the tourist industry there is not a large residential enclave in the Hotel Zone. The residential properties that are there command a high rental price – higher than downtown Cancun – and therefore a demographic that is less inclined to be criminally-minded. In fact, Cancun city as a whole is not even on the list of the fifty most dangerous cities in the world.
So you can assume Cancun is safe. Or can you? Not necessarily. The most common crimes in the Hotel Zone are just like any other tourist trap. Street crimes such as pickpocketing, petty theft, and credit card fraud are frequent. There is a lively drug trade catering to the tourists that come here to party and along with that come risks, but no more than any other destination where drugs are found. Actually, the drug cartels know that some tourists account for a good part of their trade so are unwilling, and unlikely to cause trouble in tourist spots.
So while crime is an issue in Cancun and even more so in other Mexican cities let’s put some perspective on it. In Summer 2020, the Department of State had Mexico at “level 3” advising that you reconsider travel there. It then went on to list hotspots of crime – of which Cancun was not one. At the same time, the United Kingdom also had a “level 3” travel warning in place. So you need to arm yourself with all of the information you can find. Only then are you well placed to make a judgment based on common sense.
The biggest cause of crime against tourists in the Cancun Hotel Zone is a lack of awareness. Excess alcohol consumption (and/or drug use) may lead to you finding yourself in dangerous situations. Or perhaps trusting people that you would not normally trust.
Every traveler must take responsibility for their own safety. Nowhere can be guaranteed 100% safe, and unfortunately, sometimes people find themselves a victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There are precautions, as well as common sense, that you can take to help protect yourself when traveling. So what exactly can you do to keep yourself as safe as possible? There are simple steps such as researching thoroughly before you book anything. Check out local crime stats, check the news, check the government sites, check out the dangerous animals you can encounter in Mexico, even check the weather. Though rare in Cancun you might not want to travel during hurricane season for example. We list nine top tips for staying safe at the end of this article, be sure to check those out.
The first piece of advice we can give you is to enroll in The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. This program is free to enroll in, do it before you leave home. It allows United States citizens to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy in their destination. Benefits of this program include being informed of new dangers when they occur. This could include imminent civil unrest and terrorist activity. It also allows you to be easily located by the Embassy in case of an emergency. The second piece of advice is to check the U.S. Department of State to see if it is safe to travel or if there are any travel advisories in place.
Is the Hotel Zone Safe for Families?
If you are a family traveling to Cancun Hotel Zone then, of course, you want to know that you will be as safe while on vacation. As stated above, the Hotel Zone is generally regarded as safe to travel to and vacation in, with due care and attention…
Areas to stay away from
While avoiding crime may be at the top of your list, also consider the more adult nature of parts of the Hotel Zone. Do your research before you go and decide on the most appropriate hotel to stay in. Some are particularly family-friendly, with children’s clubs and activities. Depending on the ages of your children it might be best to choose one of these hotels. You will want to stay away from some of the hotels that are geared towards adults who only want to party. One such place is Temptation Cancun Resort which is aimed at over-21’s and nicknames itself the “Playground for Adults”. So pick a family-oriented hotel in a good location and you’re off to a good start.
When to go
If trying to relax by the pool while your kids play a friendly game of ball is going to be ruined by being surrounded by tequila-chugging, scantily-clad young bodies twerking in your cocktail, then try not to travel during spring break. Not that this doesn’t happen at other times of the year, but there is a higher chance of you being surrounded by this wild debauchery (slash fun) if you are traveling during spring break. So you might want to double-check those dates. The first three weeks of March are a no-no – unless you are one of the aforementioned young bodies – avoid them like the plague.
If you can only travel during these times, then look for hotels that ban spring breakers or go for a more expensive resort that students cannot typically afford. Some of the hotels raise their lower age limit to twenty-five during this period too.
Staying safe in the Hotel Zone
So you’re staying in a lovely family-friendly resort and you’re avoiding those pesky young college folk. What else can you do to stay safe? Don’t be flashy, it is best to leave your expensive jewelry at home, and don’t wave your phone or wallet around too much. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and visit areas with other tourists. Avoid walking around at night in secluded areas and stay together.
There are lots of safe family-friendly activities to get involved with including water parks, mini-golf courses, and an interactive aquarium where you can swim with dolphins. The bus system makes it easy and inexpensive to travel around the area. If you want a slower-paced day then relax by the pool or on the white sand beaches while the kids play (or are entertained by the hotel).
A Travel Safety Belt is an effective and affordable way of protecting your notes, cards, and cash.
Leaving the Hotel Zone
All travelers should feel safe to travel out of the Hotel Zone to see other areas of Cancun. There are many attractions to enjoy. If you want to visit the streets of downtown Cancun you will have a great time, just know the areas to avoid. Or how about a visit to the island of Isla Mujeres? There is a ferry that runs regularly from just outside the downtown area. There are many different excursions you can take in the Cancun area. It is best to always go with a reputable and authorized tour company, so check reviews first.
If you prefer to stay in the Hotel Zone area you can still introduce the kids to some culture because there are a couple of Mayan ruins to be found there too!
Lots of families enjoy vacations to the Cancun Hotel Zone every year without incident. Choose a good hotel, read up on which areas to avoid in Cancun, and check for advisories before you set off. The hotel pool area, spa, and beaches are safe, and you will have a fun-packed family vacation if you stick to the touristy areas and use your common sense.
Is the Hotel Zone Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Cancun Hotel Zone is safe for solo female travelers but you do need to exercise increased caution. It is a sad fact of today’s society that being a lone female can increase your chances of being a target of unwanted attention. But there is no reason that you shouldn’t stay safe and have an enjoyable trip. By using common sense and being alert you reduce the chances of trouble.
What to do in the Hotel Zone
There are lots of things you can safely enjoy here as a solo female traveler. The beaches and hotel pools are generally safe places to be and you would be really unlucky to run into problems here. If you want a day out exploring, there is plenty to keep you occupied within the Hotel Zone itself. You can go shopping in one of several shopping malls (keep your wallet and bags close by). Check out Cancun’s version of Madame Tussauds in the wax museum, and enjoy lunch in one of the many international restaurants. There is an aquarium here and several water parks. And don’t forget the watersports you can enjoy on the beach or at the lagoon.
Take a visit downtown and beyond
You might want to explore what lies outside the Hotel Zone. There are so many things to do and enjoy in this area of Mexico, though your safety must always come first. It is best to join group tours rather than trying to explore by yourself. There are plenty of tour companies that run regular excursions from Cancun.
Visit the Riviera Maya
Puerto Morelos in the Riviera Maya area is only thirty-six kilometers from Cancun city. It is an old fishing town and gives you a glimpse of a slower pace of life in Mexico. If you fancy a change from the atmosphere of the Hotel Zone, you could sign up for a group tour here to explore the town or go reef snorkeling in the safety of experienced guides and the company of other tourists.
You should try to visit Chichen Itza or other Maya ruins if history is your thing.
Or, if you like to stay closer to the Hotel Zone but get a taste of the real Mexico, go and spend some time in downtown Cancun – it is perfectly safe if you are sensible and the buses from the Hotel Zone go to the downtown area.
The Hotel Zone has a regular twenty-four-hour bus service which is the best way to travel up and down the Hotel Zone, during the day. One way tickets are around 60c or 10.5 Mexican Pesos. For your safety, try to avoid being out at night, but if you are then stick to well-lit areas with other tourists. When it is time to get back to your hotel, try to use official taxi cabs rather than public transport. Let someone else know where you are and where you are heading – someone at home or someone you met on vacation that you can trust.
Note: While you can use U.S. dollars for most things in the Cancun Hotel Zone, bus tickets cannot be paid for with U.S. coins (and drivers won’t like you paying in bills) so keep some Pesos on you.
You won’t be the only female traveler in Cancun so you may be able to buddy up with a new friend or two and look out for each other.
Cancun is safe for solo female travelers if you are sensible. Don’t put yourself in any dangerous situations and be careful with alcohol intake when traveling in areas you are not used to.
Hotel Zone Cancun: Top 9 Safety Tips
Make sure that your Mexico vacation to the Cancun Hotel Zone is safe by following our top nine best safety tips. These tips apply to any kind of traveler.
1. Before you leave – check travel advisories and research, research, research
Before traveling to Cancun, read up on the Department of State website to see if there are any safety alerts for Mexico that you need to be aware of before you depart. There is often a travel warning in place for many places, but it doesn’t always mean you shouldn’t go. Check the alert level along with government advice.
Know ahead of time which areas are safe to travel to and which areas you need to avoid in Cancun. Have a plan worked out for your arrival. How will you get to your hotel from the airport? What can you do if you are traveling during the night and arriving when it might be harder to find safe transport?
2. Know emergency numbers
Keep a list handy for emergency numbers should you need them. The local police, ambulance services, fire department, and the U.S. Embassy. Put them in your phone, and in your bag or pocket too in case your phone is stolen. Here’s your first useful phone number (911 also works in Mexico, since 2017):
Cancun Hotel Zone Tourist Police: 01 (998) 885 2277
3. Drink safely
We all know this but it is worth repeating. It’s all too easy to let our guard down when we are drinking. One drink turns into two, turns into three, and before you know it everyone is your friend. Only sometimes they are not. Never leave your drink unattended, especially if you are a solo traveler. If you are in a group of people then ask your friends/family to look after your drink while you nip to the bathroom. Don’t ever accept a drink from a stranger. The drugging of drinks is common in all tourist hotspots.
4. Do not make yourself a target
If you own anything you would be upset to lose then don’t take it on vacation. Leave valuables at home, in a safe. You can always buy a cheap watch, and wear costume jewelry instead of Granny’s antique diamond earrings. Don’t flash cash around and keep your wallet close to your body and out of sight at all times. Basically, don’t do anything that will catch the eye of a would-be thief.
5. Driving tips
If you are driving a rental car, keep your doors locked, and if you start to feel unsafe close your windows too. Know your route before you set off. When driving at night, stick to well-lit main roads. If you are pulled over by the police, do not get out of the car. If you receive a fine they can pass it through the window and you can pay it later. Don’t hand over cash on the side of the road.
6. Keep an eye on your cards
To avoid being scammed by card cloners, don’t let anyone take your card away for payment. Insist they bring the card payment machine to you, or take the card yourself to the machine.
If you need to take cash out at an ATM, only take out what you need and make sure you are inside an official bank. Some street ATMs are actually fake and will either take your card or steal the details from it. Avoid visiting ATMs at night, withdraw what you need during the day. When you get home it might be worth changing your PIN, just in case.
7. Stay safe at night
If you are out and about at night, stick to touristy areas. Don’t be tempted to wander along the beach alone, as lovely as it may seem. And it may be a cliché but don’t walk down any deserted streets or alleys at night. If you find yourself lost or you need to get back to your hotel after dinner then call a reputable taxi firm or find a taxi rank. Never hail a random taxi cab from the street. We don’t want to be party poopers, but try not to drink so much that you lose judgment.
8. Broadcast your plans
Share your itinerary with friends and family back home. If you are going into downtown Cancun or off to see the sights somewhere, tell someone. Let them know when you expect to be back. Stay in touch with people – if something was to happen they could be the first to raise the alarm.
9. Be aware of your surroundings and trust your gut
Above all, be alert. Enjoy your trip, you’re on vacation! Relax, but not to the point that you don’t see what is going on around you. Exercise increased caution when out of the resort area. If you are part of a group make sure you all stay together. Just as at home, if something feels wrong then it probably is. Do not go off with someone you just met, no matter how nice they seem. Trust your instinct. If you feel unsafe in an area or in the company of someone then leave or seek help.