Isla Mujeres is a short ferry ride from Cancun, making it a great day trip. And despite being less than 1.7 square miles, it packs an impressive number of beaches along its winding shores.
But since safety in Mexico varies according to the destination, it might get you wondering—is Isla Mujeres safe?
Isla Mujeres is a safe island. Yes, crime happens, and drugs are present. But as long as you keep your belongings close and don’t wander down desolate streets at night, there’s little chance you’ll run into trouble.
I’ll help you understand the ins and outs of safety in Isla Mujeres, including what you can expect if you’re a solo female traveler.
First Things First: A Disclaimer
I spent two weeks in Isla Mujeres as a solo female traveler and had a positive experience safety-wise.
But the information I share here, with the exception of 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. 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 Isla Mujeres, 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 Isla Mujeres: What the U.S. Department of State Says
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) ranks Quintana Roo state, which is home to Isla Mujeres, as a Level 2 for safety, which falls under their “exercise increased caution” category.
Other popular tourist destinations in the Yucatan that call Quintana Roo home include Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum.
To put Isla Mujeres’ Level 2 ranking into perspective, the chart below shows the DOS’ four safety categories.
|1||Exercise normal precautions|
|2||Exercise increased caution|
|4||Do not travel|
Working with only four categories creates room for discrepancies between the degree of safety among destinations; even though the DOS ranks Isla Mujeres and Cancun as Level 2, in my opinion, Isla Mujeres is much safer than Cancun.
That doesn’t mean you should let your guard down in Isla Mujeres, though.
On the contrary, the DOS recommends heeding the following advice when you’re in Isla Mujeres and elsewhere in Quintana Roo:
- Increase your situational awareness at night
- Stay within the tourist zones
- Stick to well-lit streets
I encourage you to follow these suggestions. The DOS states that rival gang shootings have injured tourist bystanders, and violent crime and kidnappings have occurred in Quintana Roo state.
The silver lining is that despite these grim realities, the chances of such events happening are slim as long as you practice basic safety precautions.
The DOS even states that they don’t have any travel restrictions for U.S. government employees wanting to visit any part of Quintana Roo, including Isla Mujeres.
Safety in Isla Mujeres: What the Statistics (Don’t) Say
Normally, I turn to Numbeo’s safety index for details on an area’s safety. But they don’t have data on Isla Mujeres, which I take as a good sign—if Isla Mujeres were super dangerous, it likely would have garnered their attention.
And since I believe Isla Mujeres is significantly safer than Cancun, I won’t compare it to Numebo’s Cancun numbers.
Psst! If you want details on Cancun’s safety, check out my article, Is Cancun safe?
Again, this is my personal opinion.
But I have two reasons for making this claim:
- I didn’t encounter shady-looking characters in Isla Mujeres that made my gut scream, “turn around,” as I have in Cancun.
- Isla Mujeres has a small-town vibe. The locals know each other, making it easier for them to keep tabs on bad apples.
That’s not to say that crime doesn’t happen in Isla Mujeres, though.
But it’s usually in the form of petty crime.
If you leave your wallet with your beach belongings while taking a swim, keep valuables in your pocket in crowded areas, or walk drunkenly down the street at night flashing your phone, opportunists may take advantage of the situation.
Luckily, though, violent gang activity and other serious crimes are less common in Isla Mujeres.
Visiting Isla Mujeres as a Solo Female Traveler
If you’re preparing to embark on a solo trip to Isla Mujeres, you might be wondering—is Isla Mujeres safe for women traveling alone?
I felt very safe visiting Isla Mujeres as a solo female traveler.
Spending two weeks on the island is a long time, given its small size. So, many of the locals grew to recognize and greet me on the street.
Unwanted attention from men was also mercifully minimal.
Yes, the vendors in Isla Mujeres can be persistent in trying to get you to buy things. And a time or two, some male vendors walked with me as I passed them, hoping to make a sale.
But from my experience, this was a nuisance rather than a threatening experience.
The vendors also did the same with groups of people walking past their shop, so I took comfort in knowing they weren’t singling me out as a solo female.
Because I was staying at Selina Isla Mujeres, which sits within popular Playa Norte, I felt comfortable walking alone in the early hours of the night. My favorite routine was walking to Playa Norte to watch the sunset after a day of working with ocean views from Selina’s cowork.
Is Isla Mujeres Safe at Night?
Isla Mujeres is very safe at night, although using common sense and a dose of caution is necessary to avoid issues.
Playa Norte is the hopping place on the island at night.
Bars stay open on and around the beach into the early morning hours, and the main streets in that area have lots of lighting.
As with most places, the later you stay out and the more inebriated you become, the higher the chances of crime happening to you.
So, if you decide to spend the night partying, be sure to do so with a group of trustworthy people and ensure someone in your group remains sober.
Does the Cartel Operate in Isla Mujeres?
The cartel—or perhaps better put, cartels—operate in Isla Mujeres. However, their presence is naturally smaller than places like Cancun, given Isla Mujeres’ small size.
Furthermore, as long as you’re not buying drugs or doing other illegal activities, you shouldn’t have to worry about a run-in with them.
At the end of the day, cartels are a business. If you’re not doing business with them (like buying drugs), the chances of you having an encounter with them are low.
Transportation in Isla Mujeres
If you’re wondering about transportation safety in Isla Mujeres, read on.
Is it safe to take a street taxi in Isla Mujeres?
Taking a street taxi in Isla Mujeres is very safe. However, the safest way to take a taxi is by calling a taxi company and having them send you a ride. Otherwise, you risk getting into a vehicle that poses as a legitimate taxi (though such situations are more common in Cancun).
Is it safe to take an Uber in Isla Mujeres?
Uber doesn’t operate in Isla Mujeres or anywhere in Quintana Roo. Moving on!
Is it safe to drive in Isla Mujeres?
It’s very safe to drive in Isla Mujeres. That said, parking can be tricky, particularly at the Playa Norte end of the island. For this reason, renting a golf cart is a popular way to get around the island.
Is it safe to take a bus in Isla Mujeres?
Yes, it’s safe to take the local bus in Isla Mujeres. The bus can get crowded, so be prepared to stand and keep a hand on your belongings to prevent pickpocketing.
Beach Safety in Isla Mujeres
When exploring the question “Is Isla Mujeres safe?” it’s worth discussing the island’s beach safety.
Playa Norte is the most popular place for visitors, given that the water is clear, calm, and shallow. Unless a hurricane is sweeping across Quintana Roo, you’re pretty much guaranteed a safe swimming experience there.
The west side of Isla Mujeres is also typically safe for swimming.
But the swimming experience is a different story when you’re on the island’s east side.
The east portion of Isla Mujeres (referred to as the Caribbean side) is rocky and has strong waves, making it dangerous for swimming.
Another safety situation to be aware of in Isla Mujeres is petty theft. If you plan on swimming, leave your valuables at your hotel, not with your beach towel.
Psst! If you’re on the fence about where in the Yucatan to pitch your beach umbrella, read my guide on the best Yucatan beaches. There’s a bonus in there you won’t expect.
A Note on Hurricane Season
Hurricane season in Isla Mujeres is from June 1st to November 30th.
That said, there’s a greater chance of hurricanes affecting your trip if you travel in September or October.
Luckily, it’s uncommon for a hurricane to hit Isla Mujeres directly. But heavy rain and strong wind are common when other hurricanes pass nearby.
Category 5 Hurricane Wilma, which impacted the entire Yucatan Peninsula, even destroyed a Mayan temple on the southernmost part of Isla Mujeres.
So, should you choose to visit Isla Mujeres during hurricane season, it’s worth buying travel insurance to protect your trip from hurricane-related disruptions or cancellations.
Is the Water Safe to Drink in Isla Mujeres?
The water isn’t safe to drink in Isla Mujeres, but it’s safe for bathing. I even used it to brush my teeth.
But beyond that, you’ll want to load up on water bottles, which are cheap and abundant at local tiendas.
How To Stay Safe in Isla Mujeres
Below are some basic safety precautions to take in Isla Mujeres. As you’ll see, there’s nothing unique about them—it’s wise to practice these tips regardless of where you travel.
- 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 as a solo female traveler and have felt safer in several destinations other than Isla Mujeres.
Below are the top places where I’ve felt the safest:
Should you be considering Cabo, learn why I don’t recommend it for solo female travelers.
The Bottom Line: Is Isla Mujeres Safe?
Isla Mujeres is one of the safest destinations in Mexico, from my experience. It teems with friendly locals, well-lit streets in the Playa Norte area, and tourist police.
That said, it’s always wise to revisit the DOS’ website before you travel in case their safety recommendations change.
Do you have questions about visiting Isla Mujeres?
Leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to help. I’d also love to hear about your experience with safety in Isla Mujeres after your trip. I’m sure other readers will appreciate insights other than mine 🙂
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.