Once a sleepy and little-known island, Cozumel is now recognized as one of the hottest destinations on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. Each year, tourists flock here to flip-flop on white sandy beaches and totally unwind to the slow rhythm of island life. But is Cozumel safe to visit?
You’ll be happy to hear that Cozumel is one of the safest destinations in all of Mexico. As a remote and relatively undeveloped island, Cozumel generally does not experience the levels of violence, or even petty crime, that’s prevalent in the rest of the country. The U.S Department of State ranks Cozumel’s threat level alongside the likes of Japan and the Netherlands – both destinations that are renowned for their low levels of crime.
That being said, no place is totally devoid of risks. It would be wrong to suggest that Cozumel is 100% safe for tourists. As with most places in the world, it’s important that visitors use common sense when it comes to their personal safety, from how they carry valuables to whether they drink the tap water. Read on for our breakdown of all you need to know to stay safe in Cozumel to learn more…
Is Cozumel safe right now?
Is Cozumel safe to visit in 2022? The general answer is yes, so long as you keep your wits about you and use some basic common sense. According to Numbeo.com, Cozumel has a low level of crime, scoring 34.38. For context, this is miles safer than Mexico City, which scores 79.61, and even New York, which has a score of 50.06!
Mexico as a whole has a bad reputation when it comes to personal safety, and perhaps rightly so. However, it’s worth pointing out that the vast majority of violent crimes that occur in the country don’t involve tourists. Even so, the gang-related violence that Mexico has become famous for doesn’t happen on Cozumel all that often at all. Tourists are much more likely to encounter danger from sunburn or crashing a moto scooter than they are from the locals. This is due to a number of factors. Firstly, its isolation as an island means that it attracts less opportunistic petty criminals that hop on buses from other parts of the country to prey on tourists. Secondly, it has a large navy presence which generally deters crime.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that general safety rules don’t apply in Cozumel. Just as you wouldn’t go out with huge amounts of cash on your person or flash your valuables around in any big city, you probably shouldn’t do that here. Same goes for steering clear of the dodgiest areas of the island and taking all the normal precautions against scams and other dangers.
Other safety risks in Cozumel come from the natural world. Tropical cyclones are a fact of life for Caribbean islanders, and Cozumel is no exception. Hurricane safety awareness is important for anyone planning to head here in August, September, or October – the storm season. You’ll find cheaper accommodation rates at this time, but you may end up spending your holiday battening down the hatches to stay safe in a typhoon!
Is Cozumel safe for solo female travelers?
If you’re traveling solo, you may be wondering if Cozumel is safe for solo travelers. Again, the answer is generally that it is, so long as you follow basic safety guidelines…
As we’ve already noted, this island has WAY better safety credentials than destinations just over the strait on the Mexican mainland, and it’s rated as safer than cities like New York. It’s usually okay to walk by yourself during the day and at night, make day trips on your own, and book hotel rooms as a solo female. The island is pretty used to seeing travelers from all walks of life, whether that’s LGBTQ+ folks or women coming on their own, and the locals really know the value of such tourism, so they work hard to make trips go off without a hitch.
We would say that there are ALWAYS added dangers when you travel alone as a female. Stats show that it makes you more likely to fall victim to common travel scams but also adds the risk of violent sexual crimes, which, sadly, nowhere is immune to. It’s certainly unlikely here, but it’s still a good idea to follow some precautions – never leave drinks unattended in bars, be wary of the advances of strangers, and always let someone know where you’re going.
Is Cozumel safe to live in?
Whether you’re a digital nomad looking to spend a few months in Cozumel or someone seeking a more permanent relocation, it’ll come as good news that Cozumel is probably one of the safest places to live in Mexico. According to Numbeo.com, incidences of attacks are low (the isle is rated as 27.0/100), there’s a low chance of cars being stolen (24.0/100), and muggings and robberies are at low levels too (34/100). However, crimes such as property theft and home break-ins are a bit more prevalent, respectively receiving a moderate and high threat level of 48.0 and 62.0, although that’s still less than many major US cities.
While it’s not totally devoid of crime, Cozumel is pretty safe compared to virtually any other destination in the world, so if you’re a sucker for the slow pace of island life, it’s definitely a destination to consider!
Is Cozumel safe for nightlife?
So you want to party in Cozumel? Well, you’ll be pleased to hear that not only does Cozumel have a buzzy little nightlife scene, but it’s all really rather safe. Almost all of Cozumel’s best bars and regions are in the main tourist street, Melgar Avenue. This is a well-lit and well-populated area of the island, so it’s perfectly fine to stroll down here at night, even on your own.
Of course, partying anywhere in the world comes with a few hazards. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t leave your drink unattended, and keep an eye on your possessions – drunk people can become the targets of petty crimes like pickpocketing more often than thier sober compadres. Always keep an eye out for people you went out with, and don’t hop on your rented moped while inebriated! Ever!
Is the tap water in Cozumel safe to drink?
Cozumel may be a safe place to live and visit, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drink tap water! As in other parts of Mexico, drinking the tap water won’t lead to serious harm, but it could make you feel fairly unwell. Trust us, you don’t want to spend large chunks of your holiday feeling queasy – there are too many coral reefs, dive sites, and cotton-colored beaches to get through!
Unless the place you’re staying at purifies their own tap water system, you’re better off drinking bottled water (even the locals often drink it). If you’re extra sensitive, it’s also probably a good idea to skip the ice in your drinks and to keep your mouth closed in the shower. You should remember to wash any fresh fruit and vegetables with filtered water, too.
The island;s reliance on bottled water is, of course, terrible in terms of plastic pollution. As such, it’s worth considering buying some sort of portable water filtration system. For example, the SteriPen water purifier is a great on-the-go solution to ensure that you have access to filtered, drinkable water wherever you go. Or there’s the LifeStraw bottle, which filters out bacteria, parasites, chemicals, and microplastics as you drink.
Is Cozumel safe at night?
Cozumel is generally safe at night. In fact, Numbeo.com finds that it is highly safe to walk alone in Cozumel at night, scoring 68. This does, however, contrast to a very high safety score of 88 when walking alone during the day – so it’s worth being mindful that safety levels in Cozumel do drop a fair bit once the sun goes away.
While there is a low chance of muggings and assaults in Cozumel, tourists would do well to stick to the busy and well-lit streets of the main drag-way, Melgar Avenue. There can be a temptation to venture onto beaches after dark, and 9 out of 10 times it’s perfectly safe to do so. However, as these areas do tend to be secluded and unlit, you probably shouldn’t hang out there too long, particularly if you’re by yourself.
Renting mopeds on Cozumel
Be ready to be greeted by touts offering moped rentals and car hires the moment you step off the ferry from Playa del Carmen. They swarm new arrivals and many folks take them up on the offer. Why not? Cozumel measures just 26 miles from tip to tail and just under 10 miles across. It’s just about perfect for exploring on your own bike.
Not so fast. We’d say mopeds are arguably the number one cause of accidents among travelers on the island. Forget violent cartel crime, it’s bike-on-bike action or bike-on-tarmac action that is the leading culprit when it comes to ruined holidays.
The issue is that so many of the people who rent here either have zero knowledge of how to ride bikes (Mexico is a touch laxer in who they’ll rent to than the USA), let alone hold necessary licenses and documents.
The better option is to go for an e-bike. Yes, it might require a little bit more effort but it’s a whole load more fun, means you get rewarding exercise as you move from cove to cove, costs less, and has a way lower incidence rate when it comes to serious accidents.
If you simply must hire a moped, never settle on the initial price and always make a point of saying you’re not a cruise ship visitor. Many touts start the bidding at around $40 for the day but they often happy to rent a bike for $15-25.
The weather in Cozumel
Cozumel is blessed with fine weather for much of the year. Temperatures hover in the 70s and 80s, there’s oodles and oodles of sun, and the Trade Winds come in at a steady pace to offer breezes on the beaches. The top time to travel is generally thought to be between December and March, which should come as music to the ears of US snowbirds looking to escape the cold winter months.
When it comes to safety, the only time of year you might want to be wary of is the hurricane season. It starts in the mid-to-late summer and ends in the late fall – the months from July to November are really the peak of it. During this time, there’s a chance that big tropical storm systems will drift over from the Caribbean and wreak havoc with high winds and heavy rain, which has been known to cause flooding and property damage.
The good news is that Cozumel has only seen two proper hurricanes in the last three decades. So, the risk is low but it’s not non-existent. We should also note that Cozumel’s most popular beaches are west-facing, meaning they don’t attract the same seaweed blooms as the Riviera Maya in the summer months, though there is more sargassum on the east coast and more in the water, so the diving won’t be as good.
Top 7 Cozumel safety tips
In summary, Cozumel is a perfectly safe place to visit, so long as you use a bit of common sense and take some fairly obvious precautions. Here’s a list of seven useful tips to make sure you have a safe and worry-free trip to Cozumel.
- Keep your valuables out of sight. This one is fairly obvious, but it’s so important that it’s worth repeating: Don’t draw attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry (even if it’s not expensive jewelry), using smartphones, tablets, or expensive-looking cameras in plain view of others, or by carrying large amounts of cash. Be conscious of the way you carry your possessions, too. For example, don’t walk around with your smartphone in your back pocket, or use a bag without a secure zip.
- If you’re mugged, don’t resist. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: Incidences of muggings and robberies are very low in Cozumel – so don’t worry too much. However, it’s worth knowing that, should you be mugged, it’s not wise to struggle. While no one wants to hand over their possessions, it’s always the safer option than risking angering a potentially-armed criminal.
- Never head out without sunscreen and water. Without meaning to sound like your mother, you should always arm yourself with sun protection and water in Mexico. There’s no hiding from the sun in Cozumel, and sun-induced illnesses, such as sun stroke, are among the biggest safety threats you’ll encounter here.
- Take caution on mopeds. It’s quite common for tourists to rent mopeds to zip around Cozumel. While a fun way to get around, this can be dangerous. Locals report seeing at least two accidents per week. If you do choose to rent a moped, always ensure that you’re driving responsibly – that means not driving while drunk, sticking to the right hand-side of the road, and not exceeding two people per moped.
- Don’t lurk in unlit and isolated areas at night. While it can be tempting to take a dip by moonlight, the beach isn’t always safe in the dark. The same goes for quieter, unlit and isolated areas of the island. It’s likely that nothing will happen, but wouldn’t you rather be safe than sorry?
So, is Cozumel safe? Our conclusion
Cozumel actually reigns as one the safest places in the whole of Mexico. In fact, we’d say it’s a fantastic choice of destination for anyone who wants a hit of seafood tacos and mariachi but is concerned about the soaring crime rates of places like Cancun, Acapulco, and Cabo. Yes, there’s cartel violence in the region, but Cozumel itself continues to dodge almost all of it and incidents of petty crime and whatnot actually compare favourably to many cities in the USA. The real main worries are from the sun, which can get very hot, and moped accidents, probably the number one cause of accident among travelers to Cozumel.