When you think of Cozumel, you might picture sipping on margaritas and basking on white sand beaches.
And you’re not wrong.
But the Land of the Swallow offers unique geographical and cultural features too. It claims the title of being the third largest island in Mexico, and it has 24 ruins from when the Mayans settled there approximately 2,000 years ago.
Nevertheless, you might be surrounded by seemingly well-meaning family and friends reminding you that Cozumel is in Mexico as they whisper the word cartel.
So, is Cozumel safe? And is it safe enough to travel there alone?
From my experience and, more importantly, data from the U.S. Department of State, yes, Cozumel is safe to visit. I’ll break down Cozumel’s safety for you here.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I’ve visited Cozumel three times, twice of which were as a solo female traveler, and had a positive each time.
But the information I share here, except for statistics from linked sources, is my personal opinion based on my encounters.
Everyone has unique experiences that shape their perception of any given destination.
So, take what you want from this article and leave the rest. And above all, never let your guard down just because I or anyone else tells you that a destination is safe.
Trusting your gut and following basic safety practices are vital to improving your security in any destination.
An Overview of Mexico’s Safety
Before we talk about safety in Cozumel, 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)|
Safety in Cozumel: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) is my go-to when determining the safety of any given destination, and they rank Cozumel as a two out of four in terms of safety.
You can view the DOS’ most up-to-date recommendation on Cozumel’s safety here: Mexico Travel Advisory.
But to understand the DOS’ ranking, it’s important to know that Cozumel is an island that falls within Mexico’s Quintana Roo state. Other popular destinations that call Quintana Roo home include Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
The DOS’ ranking system is as follows, keeping in mind that Cozumel is a Level 2.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
Needless to say, if you thought “exercise increased caution” sounded scary, seeing the DOS’ labels for Levels 3 and 4 might put you at ease.
Furthermore, the DOS states that U.S. government employees can travel around Quintana Roo, including Cozumel, without restriction.
Keep in mind that the DOS’ recommendations can change. They’re constantly monitoring the safety of destinations around the world, so you should keep an eye on their travel advisory page before traveling, just in case.
Safety in Cozumel: What the Data Says
According to Numbeo, Cozumel has a crime index of 33.65, with 100 being the most dangerous and 0 being the safest.
For comparison, Baltimore has a crime index of 75.92. It ranks “high” or “very high” in all safety categories.
Cozumel ranks “low” for serious crimes, such as violent crime, assault, armed robbery, and more.
But I’d be remiss not to point out that Numbeo is currently listing Cozumel as “high” under the “Crime increasing in the past 3 years” category.
But overall, that data supports the DOS’ recommendations: Practice basic safety precautions and you should be fine.
What Parts of Cozumel Are the Safest?
Cozumel is a safe island, but the safest areas include:
- San Miguel de Cozumel
- Boardwalk by the ferry station
- San Gervasio ruins
- Beaches in the Zona Hotelera Norte
These places correspond to where there is the greatest number of people.
Cozumel is notorious for its paid beach clubs that offer access to beach chairs, umbrellas, lockers, and a slice of pristine Cozumel coastline. These beach clubs are also exceptionally safe options.
Is Taking the Ferry to Cozumel Safe?
Taking the ferry to Cozumel is very safe. There are two ferries that operate the 30 to 40-minute route between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel—Ultramar and Winjet.
Playa del Carmen is the only way to take a ferry to Cozumel. The Playa del Carmen port sits in the heart of the tourist center of Playa, so it’s a safe place to explore, shop, and grab a bite to eat while you wait for your ferry.
The ferry doesn’t have assigned seating, so you can stay inside the air-conditioned first floor or head upstairs to the open outdoor deck.
As a forewarning, the ferry ride can get bumpy. The waves tend to pick up in the afternoon, so I recommend aiming for a morning departure if you get seasick easily.
It’s also relatively common for the ferry staff to temporarily shut down departures during stormy weather for safety reasons. Storms tend to pass quickly in Cozumel, so you usually don’t have to wait for more than a couple of hours.
But if you decide to take the ferry to Cozumel, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility of getting stuck in either Playa del Carmen or Cozumel overnight.
To be fair, you can get stuck at an airport overnight too.
Psst! Check out my article on the best time to visit Cozumel to learn what to expect weather-wise.
Is Flying Into Cozumel Safe?
Yes, flying into Cozumel is very safe. The Cozumel International Airport has similar safety measures in place as the U.S.
But when flying anywhere, it’s always wise to lock your check-through bags. That discourages theft and people using your luggage to transfer illegal goods.
Visiting Cozumel as a Solo Female Traveler
If you’re wondering, “How safe is Cozumel for solo females?” I found it to be very safe.
Tourism is the main source of income for those living in Cozumel, and the locals value having a better safety rating than many other parts of Mexico. During my three visits to Cozumel, I felt comfortable exploring downtown San Miguel on my own.
I received comments about my supposed beauty passing by some men, especially vendors. But the comments and tone were status quo from my experience traveling around most of Latin America (unwanted, but harmless).
I also rented a bike during one of my visits and attempted to bike from San Miguel to Punta Sur Eco Park. Unless you’re with a group, I don’t recommend doing so regardless of your gender; the road became too desolate, and I ended up turning around.
Had I been riding a scooter by myself, I may have pressed on. But even then, certain roads in Cozumel have such little traffic that, for me personally, I probably wouldn’t go at it on my own.
Is Cozumel Safe at Night?
Cozumel is safe at night in the downtown San Miguel tourist center. Bars and clubs come alive at night, and the area is well lit.
Many beach clubs also have great nightlife and are safe.
But it’s crucial you arrange a taxi to take you to and from your accommodation at night. Cozumel is a massive island, and it has large areas of desolate spaces.
Even though crime is relatively low on the island, it does happen. And thieves often look for the easiest targets (drunk tourists thinking it’s safe to walk home).
Is Cozumel Safer Than Cancun?
Cozumel is significantly safer than Cancun. Whereas Cozumel has a crime index of 33.65, Cancun has a crime index of 56.25.
I’m all about statistics for establishing the foundation of safety in a destination, but I think gut feelings also have value. Based on the many times I’ve visited Cancun, my gut has always felt more at ease in Cozumel.
Transportation in Cozumel
Let’s explore what safety is like in Cozumel transportation-wise.
Is it safe to take an Uber in Cozumel?
Uber doesn’t operate in Cozumel. Moving on!
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Cozumel?
Normally I’d tell you never to flag a taxi off the street. But the taxis in Cozumel are regulated, including the fares. Many taxi drivers in Cozumel speak English and serve as tour guides.
Nevertheless, the safest way to take a taxi in Cozumel is to have your hotel or restaurant call one for you. But if you get in a bind, I’d be much more willing to take a taxi off the street in Cozumel than in other parts of Latin America.
Is it safe to drive in Cozumel?
It’s very safe to drive in Cozumel. The main roads are mostly well maintained, but you’ll encounter potholes on side roads.
Cozumel offers several car rental places, and renting a scooter is another popular way to explore the island. Because of Cozumel’s size, you’ll need a vehicle to see it well.
Is it safe to take a bus in Cozumel?
It’s safe to take buses in Cozumel, but you probably won’t need to do so. Local buses in Cozumel stay strictly within the island’s urban area. So, you can’t arrive at Cozumel’s beaches, parks, or other attractions by taking the bus.
Beach Safety in Cozumel
When exploring the question “Is Cozumel safe?” beach safety probably wasn’t the first thing that came to mind. But safety at the beaches in Cozumel has two aspects—water safety and your physical safety.
The sad reality is that Cozumel can have strong waves and dangerous rip currents. These most commonly happen on the eastern part of the island, which faces the open ocean.
But any beach is subject to poor swimming conditions.
For this reason, it’s crucial to check the flag on the beach before you enter the water; a green flag means it’s safe for most swimmers. Most tourist beaches have lifeguards.
As for your physical safety, I learned a valuable tip from the vendor who rented me my bike—never walk along a desolate beach in Cozumel. I could tell from the earnestness in his tone that he wasn’t exaggerating.
According to this man, a local born and raised in Cozumel, there’s some bad blood that can lurk in the brush, waiting for tourists to explore Cozumel’s many people-free beaches (see the photo above, which I snapped while biking without stopping. It was shortly after then that I decided to hightail it back to town, feeling the area was too desolate for comfort).
I know having an entire beach to yourself on a Mexican island sounds enticing. But paying to enter a park or beach club practically ensures you depart with the same belongings you arrived with.
A Note on Hurricane Season
Hurricane season in Cozumel runs from June 1st to November 30th.
It isn’t common for Cozumel to take a direct hurricane hit. But even so, a hurricane passing through the Caribbean region can bring strong wind, waves, and rain to the island.
Plenty of people travel to Cozumel during hurricane season, myself included.
But if you can’t bear to part with your hard-earned vacation money or afford to pay extra expenses should a hurricane disrupt your trip, purchasing travel insurance is best.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Cozumel?
Cozumel’s water is technically chlorinated enough were you might be able to drink it and not get sick.
But I don’t recommend trying it.
Drinking bottled water is the safest approach during your time in Cozumel.
The cheapest places to buy bottled water are at tiendas (convenience stores). If you’re in San Miguel, try walking a couple of blocks outside of the tourist center to get an even better price.
How To Stay Safe in Cozumel
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Cozumel. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of wherever you travel in the world.
- Take a taxi at night
- 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 locals for advice
- Don’t leave an unopened drink unattended
- If you’re going to get inebriated, do so with a trustworthy sober companion
Finally, trust your instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Other Safe Destinations in Mexico
I’ve explored much of Mexico (all as a solo female traveler) and have felt safe in several other destinations.
Below are the top places where I felt the safest in Mexico:
Should you be considering a trip to Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
The Bottom Line: Is Cozumel Safe?
Most tourists leave Cozumel with smiles on their faces, suitcases packed with souvenirs, and photos full of positive memories.
As long as you practice basic safety precautions in Cozumel, you should be fine.
If you have a question about safety in Cozumel, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to help. Please also share your experience in Cozumel after you travel—I’m sure future readers will appreciate someone else’s perspective on Cozumel’s safety.
P.S.—If you’re wavering between which Mexican island to visit, check out my article on Isla Mujeres vs Cozumel.
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 solo female travel and wheelchair accessibility, with the support of her brother-in-law and sister.