Cabo. It’s a name that conjures up images of turquoise water lapping resort shorelines and palm tree-framed desert hills as a backdrop.
But before you pack your bags and get ready to sip tequila in this luxury Baja California region you might be wondering—is Cabo San Lucas safe?
It’s an understandable question, given that the news offers conflicting information. On one hand, you have celebs like George Clooney and Drew Barrymore who frequent Los Cabos. And on the flip side, stories about violence from cartels fighting for drug trafficking control abound.
So, is Los Cabos dangerous, and should you reconsider travel?
I’ll leave that up to you.
But what I’ll do to help with your decision is share my experience based on my one-month stay in Cabo San Lucas. I’ll also couple it with safety facts and figures so that you have a fuller sense of safety in Cabo.
Understanding the Two Cabos
Before we talk about safety in Cabo, it’s important to understand the various names people use for this region.
Here’s the vocab run-down:
Los Cabos: The entire tip of the southern Baja California region that encompasses two towns—Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo.
Cabo San Lucas: The touristy town that’s home to the marina and the greatest concentration of shops, restaurants, and nightlife.
San Jose del Cabo: A quieter, more local town about a 30-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas.
Cabo: A botched word English speakers use. Many use it when referring to Cabo San Lucas, but it can also refer to Los Cabos as a whole.
Psst! Are you still trying to understand the difference between the “two Cabos?” If so, check out my guide on San Jose del Cabo vs. Cabo San Lucas.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
We’ll dive into safety in Cabo San Lucas next. But first, the chart below offers insight into the health and safety of Mexico as a whole.
|Organization||Index score||Country ranking|
|Global Health Security Index||57.0||25 of 195 (good)|
|Global Peace Index||2.61||137 of 163 (bad)|
Is Cabo San Lucas Safe Right Now?
According to the U.S. Department of State, Baja California state is at a Level 3. This is the “Reconsider Travel” level, and only one below the highest level, “Do Not Travel.”
Their reasoning is that Baja California has crime and kidnapping at notable enough levels to instate this advisory.
That said, they go on to explain that Baja California Sur, which is the region of the Baja California peninsula where Los Cabos sits, is at a Level 2—”Exercise Increased Caution.”
Below is a chart to put these levels into perspective.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
According to the Department of State’s website, it appears that crime is the biggest issue in Baja California Sur, as they removed kidnapping from the list.
So, is it safe to go to Cabo San Lucas right now?
If you ask the U.S. Department of State, maybe not. But I’d argue that personal responsibility plays a role in the likelihood of crime happening, so we’ll continue to explore this.
My Personal Experience in Los Cabos
To give you some context for my experience, I’ve spent around a decade wandering the globe as a solo female traveler.
I’ve taken buses in Jordan knowing nothing but the Arabic words “Thank you” and “God willing.” I’ve dealt with the mandatory police station registration in Belarus. And I’ve crisscrossed Latin America, spending over five years of my life here, where I’m currently writing this article from Mexico.
And so, what I’m about to say holds the weight of my experiences, which is why I contemplated not saying it at all. As a travel blogger, I try to showcase destinations in the most positive way possible, given that everyone has different tastes and every tourist destination is a local’s home.
But I also believe that being positive can’t be at the expense of misleading readers with hard-to-swallow realities. So, here it goes…
Of the countless cities that I’ve visited across more than 50 countries, Los Cabos is the place where I felt the least comfortable.
Yes, that’s a big claim.
And, no, thankfully no one robbed or harmed me in any way.
But it doesn’t take away from the fact that as a solo female traveler, I felt uneasy in Cabo to the point where the first time in my travel career I considered flying back to the U.S. early.
For Women: Dealing With Men in Los Cabos
From my experience, Los Cabos has a street harassment culture towards women unlike any I’ve experienced elsewhere in the world, including other destinations in Mexico.
That’s not to say that serious street harassment doesn’t occur elsewhere, of course; my comments are based on the destinations I’ve visited and the experiences I’ve had up to this point in my life. In fact, I spoke with other female travelers in Los Cabos who’ve said that the street harassment they experienced there was on par or less than where they’ve been elsewhere.
So, the information here is subjective.
I’ll spare you the details of the one-way conversations that men in Los Cabos had with me. But I will tell you this—you don’t have to understand Spanish to get the gist of it, for plenty of them speak English.
After the initial shock of near-constant verbal street harassment wore off, and after deciding that I’d stick out my one-month stay, I learned to cope by compartmentalizing what the men said to me.
What I discovered is that 95% of it was immensely annoying but non-threatening.
As for the other 5%, I only walked by myself on main streets in broad daylight, so they stood essentially no chance of harming me.
The Vendor Conundrum
During my time in Cabo San Lucas, I realized that most of the street harassment started with standard tourist harassment of vendors trying to sell me things. When I’d decline—or worse, ignore them—that’s when the sexual harassment would start.
And that leads me to this point: From my experience, I found that street harassment significantly declined when I’d look a male vendor in the eye and say a firm “No, gracias” versus ignoring their presence altogether.
Of course, that only works with vendors.
I experienced many unsolicited comments when walking by men on the sidewalk, restaurant workers, etc. And while it’s unacceptable, I coped with it by reminding myself that this was the environment they were raised in. Maybe they’d even believe it would be rude if they didn’t make a comment.
As a final note, my experience did a 180-turn when walking around Los Cabos with a male friend or a group of friends. So, had I not taken a solo female trip to Cabo, I likely wouldn’t have anything to write about here since my experience with sexual harassment was non-existent when I was with others.
For Men: Dealing With Vendors in Los Cabos
I’m not about to claim that I know what it’s like being a man exploring Los Cabos.
However, from talking with other men and observing their interactions with locals, it appears that this might be true: Vendors appear to approach men and women similarly when they first try to sell them something.
And I can say from firsthand experience that the constant influx of vendors trying to sell you things feels like its own form of harassment, regardless of your gender.
But then the situation diverges.
When a man says “no” or ignores a vendor and walks by, the person typically does one of two things: They leave him alone or offer him drugs.
Don’t let this fool you, though—I had plenty of drug offers during my time in Los Cabos, with one man even attempting to shove an alleged box of cocaine into my bag to get me to buy it. That was a one-off situation, though, and sadly more pleasant than the unsolicited comments I received.
Is Downtown San Jose del Cabo Safe?
Of the two towns in Los Cabos—San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas—I felt much safer in downtown San Jose del Cabo.
San Jose del Cabo is an adorable, colorful town with old buildings and a haven for locals to escape the tourist crowds. It’s also a refuge for in-the-know tourists wanting to escape the crowds.
Admittedly, I only visited San Jose del Cabo once, as it was a 30-minute drive from where I was staying in Cabo San Lucas.
However, it was a breath of fresh air, with me exploring the main streets and side streets of San Jose del Cabo without a single incident of street harassment or feeling uneasy about the safety of my belongings.
That’s not to say that San Jose del Cabo isn’t free of crime, of course (what city isn’t?). So, practice basic safety precautions, which I’ll talk more about shortly.
Is Downtown Cabo San Lucas Safe?
Statistically, Cabo San Lucas is quite safe. There are lots of people around day and night, and police officers monitor the area.
However, I never felt completely safe in Cabo San Lucas, even during the day.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe that’s because I was traveling by myself as a woman. Had I been with a man or a group of friends, I think I’d have a less jaded view of safety in downtown San Lucas.
When weighing Cabo San Lucas travel safety, it’s important to note that you’ll be in a heavy traffic tourist area. The Marina is the place to see, but it’s also where vendor/sexual harassment, pickpocketing, and drug selling are rampant.
I lived a couple of blocks back from the Marina, and while I never felt unsafe in the sense of my life being threatened, I never walked around with more money than I needed, and I always braced for street harassment.
Understanding the Tourist’s Role in Safety
As The Guardian points out, many safety-related issues in Mexico arise from tourists purchasing drugs. According to their article, Mexican state officials blame the rising violence in Mexico on drug dealing issues, with tourists at the heart of it.
Mexican state officials say that foreign tourists are the biggest buyers of drugs. So, the implication is that if tourists stop buying drugs, demand would plummet.
Therefore, in theory, a dramatic drop in drug demand from tourists would result in fewer disputes between cartels and increased safety around the country.
As a foreigner who’s spent well over a year on various trips across Mexico, I can attest to how frequently I’ve been offered drugs. I haven’t felt unsafe when offered them. But it’s something that always makes my stomach flip-flop nonetheless.
The bottom line?
If you decide to visit Cabo or any other part of beautiful Mexico, say no to drugs.
Is It Safe to Fly to Cabo Right Now?
Yes, Cabo is a safe place to fly to. The Los Cabos International Airport serves approximately 4 – 5 million visitors per year. They offer over 1,300 flight routes across seven countries and more than 100 cities.
If you’re wondering, “How safe is it in Cabo San Lucas in terms of airport safety?” you can expect a somewhat similar experience as the U.S.
However, you can leave your shoes on and liquids in your water bottle when you pass through security.
As with anywhere, it’s smart to put a TSA-approved lock on your checked bags, given that airport workers in cahoots with traffickers can use unlocked bags to transport drugs and other illegal items.
Is Cabo San Lucas Safe at Night?
Cabo San Lucas is decently safe at night as long as you practice basic precautions. These include having at least one person in your group who isn’t inebriated, taking taxis between destinations, and not flashing expensive jewelry or electronics.
The bottom line is that you should treat safety in Cabo at night as you would any other unfamiliar destination.
Is It Safe to Travel to Cabo With Kids?
I saw many families traveling in Cabo with kids and having a great time.
If you’re traveling with young children, I recommend staying at a resort away from the Marina, given that it can turn rowdy with nightlife into the wee hours of the morning.
And if you’re traveling with teenagers who like to test their boundaries, opting for a resort that’s a car ride away from the Marina isn’t a bad idea either. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, and ID checking isn’t common practice in Cabo.
As a final note, the ocean in Los Cabos isn’t swimming-friendly. Yes, you can visit a few places where the waves are calmer. But overall, you should keep young children away from the shore, as massive waves and rip currents are common.
All About Transportation
As we delve deeper into the question, “Is travel to Cabo San Lucas safe?” let’s explore the safety of your transportation options in Los Cabos.
Is It Safe to Take a Taxi in Los Cabos?
Taking a taxi in Los Cabos is a safe way to get around. That’s a good thing, given that you can’t get away without using a vehicle at least a couple of times during your stay; the airport is a 30 – 40 minute drive away from the beach towns.
Many registered taxis operate in Los Cabos, and your hotel can arrange one for you. I recommend calling a taxi instead of taking one off the street; even seemingly well-marked vehicles can be pirate taxis.
Uber is another excellent (and often cheaper) option in Los Cabos. Unfortunately, Uber’s availability is extremely limited. However, it’s worth a shot, especially if you’ll be traveling from the airport, where you can save dozens of dollars compared to an airport cab.
Is It Safe to Drive in Los Cabos?
Renting a car and driving around Los Cabos is another excellent and popular option.
Unlike many other places I’ve visited in Mexico, I never encountered police checkpoints in Cabo, which can be intimidating to come across as a foreigner.
Like everything in Cabo, car rentals aren’t cheap, but they can save you lots of money compared to a taxi. Plus, the flexibility you’ll have is unmatched.
Is It Safe to Take a Bus in Los Cabos?
Bus travel was my go-to choice during my time in Los Cabos. I always felt safe on the bus, and harassment was essentially non-existent.
You can take the purple Ruta del Desierto buses between Cabos San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, and the Los Cabos International Airport for a few dollars.
Is Cabo San Lucas Safer Than Other Parts of Mexico?
Personally, I didn’t feel safer in Cabo San Lucas compared to other parts of Mexico. San Jose del Cabo was a different story, though—I felt extremely safe there.
That said, below are the destinations that I’ve felt the safest in during my Mexico travels:
From an objective standpoint, the Cabo San Lucas drug cartel situation is problematic for Los Cabos’ safety record. Ever since drug lord El Chapo’s incarceration, rival cartels have attempted to move into the Baja California peninsula to gain control over the drug traffic route.
To be fair, Los Cabos isn’t the only area that’s seen issues in cartel rival-related crime in Mexico, and the violence primarily remains between cartel members.
So, as long as you’re being smart (i.e. not buying or selling drugs), the chances of you having a run-in with a Cabo cartel are slim.
Tips for Staying Safe in Cabo San Lucas
When considering the question, “Is Cabo safe?” a lot of it comes down to whether you practice basic safety precautions. Below are some safety tips I recommend regardless of where you travel in the world:
- Take a taxi at night (use an app or call a taxi; never take one off the street)
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
- Don’t walk around showcasing expensive electronics
- Only take out money from ATMs inside a bank
- Never carry around all your credit cards and cash
- Use a money belt
- Don’t wear flashy jewelry
- Ask a local for advice
Finally, trust your instincts. Safety in Cabo doesn’t involve secret best practices—if something doesn’t feel right, do your best to get yourself out of that situation ASAP.
A Special Note on Beach Safety
You may have come here with the question “Is Cabo safe?” with concerns about getting robbed. However, there’s another safety issue that Cabo tourists-to-be often don’t think about: beach safety.
The waves and rip tides along most of Cabos’ coast are nothing short of a death trap.
Furthermore, the beach drops off steeply, thanks to the San Andreas fault line that runs through the Sea of Cortez. In fact, it’s this fault line moving at a speed of two inches per year that’s causing the Baja California Penninsula to break away from mainland Mexico.
Needless to say, Los Cabos isn’t an ideal place for swimming (not to mention how chilly the water is). But if you’re keen on taking a dip in the ocean, the safest places to swim in Cabo are Playa Medano and Playa Chileno.
Other Cabo Safety Questions
To wrap up this article on safety in Cabo, below are some health-related safety questions that might be on your mind.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Los Cabos?
No, the water typically isn’t safe to drink in Los Cabos. That said, unlike in certain other parts of Mexico, drinking the water might not leave you spending days in the baño.
That’s because Cabo’s water comes from the Sierra de La Laguna mountain range, which offers relatively sanitary water. Nevertheless, the unkempt pipes that the tap water passes through often cause the biggest stomach issues.
The bottom line is that drinking bottled or filtered tap water is your best option.
Will I Get Food Poisoning in Los Cabos?
Yes, you might get food poisoning in Los Cabos. You also might get food poisoning at your favorite restaurant in your hometown that you visit every week.
But I’d be remiss to ignore that Mexico has a rep for giving foreigners the “traveler’s stomach.”
While avoiding food poisoning in Los Cabos is impossible, you can reduce your chances of it happening by avoiding eating raw vegetables and fruit without peelable skins and ensuring you eat well-cooked meat.
So, How Safe Is Los Cabos?
Safety in Cabo is as safe as you make it, with a dose of luck mixed in.
Personally, I’m not chomping at the bit to return to Los Cabos on my own again as a solo female traveler. However, I think it’s plenty safe if you’re traveling with others or as a solo male.
With all that said, this much is true: Los Cabos is chock-full of natural beauty, so I can see why it’s become such a big attraction for locals and foreigners alike.
If you have questions about safety in Cabo or want to share your experience, leave a comment and let’s start a conversation.
Laura has been wandering the globe for over a decade. She’s an early bird and backpacker at heart and can often be spotted with a dog or ten that she’s befriended along the way. Much of the content Laura writes on A Piece of Travel includes details on wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister. You can learn about their accessibility endeavors here.