Is Cozumel Safe? Warnings and Tips for Traveling Safely

By Michele Samal Kinnon

People come from all over the world to enjoy Cozumel’s beautiful beaches, vibrant coral reefs, Mayan ruins and the variety of fun activities available on the island. Like any travel destination, it’s a good idea to exercise common sense, stay informed about local conditions, and take standard travel precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit. 

How Safe is Cozumel?

Cozumel is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and is safe for tourists from the United States and around the world. Is Cozumel safe? I have been traveling with my kids to Cozumel for 20 years and I can tell you without a doubt that it is a safe place to travel. 

Cruise ships at port on cozumel
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Since we moved to the Riviera Maya in 2004, I have taken many trips to the island, on my own, with friends and with my children. At no time did we ever feel unwelcome or unsafe. The only crime I have ever experienced on the island was an attempted (and failed) scam at a local Pemex filling station. Having lived here for over 20 years, I was on to the game and called it out immediately. An unwitting tourist might not be so lucky and I’ve detailed the precautions to take below.

Cozumel has a low crime rate statistically, especially when you compare it to other popular travel destinations in Mexico. User-generated data compiled by Numbeo indicates that Cozumel is relatively safe with a Crime Index of just 33.38 (2024). By comparison, Numbeo shows a Crime Index of 46.77 for Playa del Carmen and 55.16 for Cancun. Orlando, Florida, home of Disney World, has a Crime Index of 48.89.

Cozumel has a much lower crime rate than Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Cancun. Violent and drug-related crimes rarely happen here. It is safe to walk around at night and generally, the atmosphere on the island is peaceful. There are few reports of violent crime on the island, and those infrequent incidents seldom involve tourists. The crimes that do occur are generally common scams and petty theft such as pickpocketing and purse snatching. Breaks in and theft from cars and homes have also been reported.

The U.S. Department of State regularly issues statewide Travel Advisories for all U.S. citizens traveling or living in Mexico. Cozumel, the largest island in Mexico, is located in the state of Quintana Roo which is consistently at a Level 2 Travel Advisory. Only the states of Yucatan and Campeche are rated higher at Level 1.

Why is Cozumel so safe?

The Mexican Government is heavily invested in keeping tourism flowing into Mexico. The island of Cozumel is supported nearly 100% by tourism. The state and municipal governments coordinate with local police and local business owners on Cozumel to ensure that visitors to the island are safe and happy.

Tourist police officer overlooking a beach in mexico
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The island has efficient emergency services, strong laws, effective policing, and a culture of mutual respect and trust and cooperation between residents and law enforcement. There are special tourist police who patrol downtown San Miguel and the areas around the cruise port to make sure everyone is safe. They are always ready to help if visitors have any problems. Our family has been to Cozumel many times and never once have we felt unsafe or uncomfortable.

While, I can confidently say that families, couples and solo travelers will all be able to enjoy a fun and safe holiday on this beautiful island, no place is completely safe and without risks.

Common Safety Concerns on Cozumel

Cozumel’s safety record is pretty good, especially compared to other areas of Mexico and most international cities. Criminal activity on the island is minimal. The most common crimes are petty theft and fraud. By using common sense and taking a few basic precautions, you can be sure to have a safe and fun time on Cozumel.

While Cozumel is considered very safe for tourists, there are some legitimate safety concerns to be aware of. These are the most common safety risks to consider when visiting the island and how you can avoid them.

Petty Crime and Theft

In any popular tourist destination, especially when lots of people are in close proximity, the opportunity for petty crime and theft increases. In a country like Mexico where the disparity between the wealth of the locals and the wealth of the visitors is so great, the risk increases even further.

Is cozumel safe? Prevent petty crime like pickpocketing
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To reduce your risk of becoming a victim of petty crimes and theft in Cozumel, consider the following precautions:

  • Use hotel safes to store important documents, electronics, and other valuables.
  • When out, carry only essential items and a copy of your ID. Do not carry large amounts of cash.
  • Keep purses and bags closed. Hold them in a way that deters pickpockets (use front pockets, crossbody bags).
  • Avoid displaying expensive items like jewelry, cameras, or smartphones in public to avoid attracting attention.
  • Stay vigilant in crowded areas like the cruise port or ferry terminal where petty theft is more likely.
  • Do not leave any valuables in your vehicle, even in the trunk.
  • Be careful using ATMs. Keep your debit or credit cards close to you and do not let anyone see your pin.

Following these simple precautions can significantly decrease your risk of becoming a target for thieves.

Being Overcharged in Restaurants, Bars & Beachclubs

Whether it’s an honest mistake or on purpose, being overcharged in a tourist hotspot is not uncommon. Sometimes the waitstaff gets overwhelmed and errors on your bill can be made. Sometimes, a server might try to take advantage while you are relaxed and your guard is down. Regardless, this is certainly not unique to Cozumel.

Tropical drinks
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Here are a few things you can do to avoid being overcharged in restaurants and bars in Cozumel:

  • Always review the menu prices before ordering.
  • Inquire if specials or promotional items are priced differently.
  • Be aware of what you’ve ordered and double-check the bill for accuracy.
  • Although adding the gratuity to the bill is illegal, some places include a “service charge”. Ask about this to avoid double-tipping.
  • Know the daily exchange rate. Paying in the local currency (Mexican peso) can often be cheaper than using foreign currencies.
  • If paying by credit card, do not let the card out of your sight. Servers will bring the credit card terminal to you.
  • Always ask for a detailed receipt to ensure all charges are justified.
  • Choose an all-inclusive beach club to prevent surprise charges and add-on fees.

These strategies can help manage your spending and avoid potential overcharging while enjoying the wonderful restaurants and beach clubs in Cozumel.

Scams at the Gas Stations

Because Cozumel is the largest island destination in Mexico, many people choose to rent cars, Jeeps or scooters to get around and explore during their visit. As most of the rental companies require that you return a vehicle with a full tank of gas, unscrupulous gas station attendants have recognized a captive market in unsuspecting tourists.

Image of a man pumping gas into a car
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Here are the precautions to take to avoid the most common gas station scams:

  • Turn off the car when you pull up to the pump. Get out of the car and stand facing the pump.
  • If possible, ask for a specific amount of gas in pesos and the type of gas you want. “Doscientos pesos de Magna, por favor”.
  • Make sure the attendant “zeros out” the pump before beginning to pump your gas.
  • Do not get distracted from the pump. Decline offers to wash your windshield, check your oil or tire pressure. 
  • When the gas has been pumped, start your car and check the gas gauge to make sure it is full.
  • Count the money out loud as you hand the bills to the attendant.
  • Avoid paying with debit or credit cards if possible.
  • If you think you have been scammed, threaten to call the police and be prepared to stand by that threat.

SCUBA Diving Accidents

Cozumel is one of the top SCUBA destinations in the world with millions of divers coming every year to explore the wonders of the Mesoamerican reef. While the vast majority of divers have a wonderful and safe experience, SCUBA diving is inherently a risky activity. Accidents can and do happen.

A scuba diver looking at a starfish.
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Here are some tips for ensuring your safety while snorkeling and scuba diving in Cozumel:

  • Select tour providers with strong safety records and positive reviews.
  • Check weather conditions before diving. Avoid the water during rough sea conditions.
  • Ensure all equipment is functional and familiarize yourself with the gear before diving.
  • Dive and snorkel within the boundaries of your certification and experience level.
  • Always dive or snorkel with a partner for increased safety.
  • Assess your physical condition and avoid diving if feeling unwell or unfit.
  • Know the basic emergency procedures and location of the nearest hyperbaric/decompression chamber.
  • Avoid touching or disturbing marine life to protect both the environment and yourself.

Being Overcharged by Taxi Drivers

In our experience, the taxi drivers on Cozumel are much more honest and trustworthy than those in Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Tulum. I have no proof or explanation. This is just my anecdotal experience. However, taxi overcharging has been reported on the island, predominantly from visitors coming from the cruise ship port.

Ia cozumel safe? Cozumel taxis
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To avoid taxi overcharges in Cozumel, consider these tips:

  • Only use properly marked and licensed taxis.
  • Always discuss and agree on the taxi fare before starting your journey to avoid surprises.
  • Request the driver to use the meter if available. This ensures the fare is regulated and fair.
  • Make sure you have the correct change in pesos or USD.
  • Before traveling, look up standard taxi rates in Cozumel for common routes, such as from the airport to major hotels or tourist spots.
  • Opt for taxis from reputable companies or those recommended by your accommodation.
  • Ask for a receipt as proof of the agreed fare and for tracking your expenses.

Rental Car and Scooter Accidents

Cozumel is a big island and one of the the best ways to get around and see it is by renting a car, Jeep or scooter. Sometimes people drive well and responsibly on vacation. Sometimes, they lose their common sense and don’t. In either case, accidents can and do happen.

Scooter and buggy rentals on cozumel
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Here are the ways you can minimize the risk of vehicular and moped accidents in Cozumel:

  • Before renting, ensure the car or scooter is in good working condition, checking brakes and lights. Record any existing damage before you depart. 
  • Avoid renting scooters or mopeds if you are inexperienced with such vehicles.
  • Pay for comprehensive insurance that covers all potential damages and liabilities.
  • If renting a scooter, always use a helmet. It’s the law and is crucial for protecting against head injuries.
  • Be alert and cautious, anticipating the actions of other drivers and avoiding risky maneuvers. Never drink and drive.
  • Familiarize yourself with and obey local driving regulations to avoid fines and accidents.
  • Watch for road conditions that could increase accident risks, such as sandy patches, potholes or puddles due to heavy rain.
  • Reduce the risk of an accident by not riding at night, especially on poorly illuminated streets.
  • If possible, mopeds should ride in a group to increase visibility and safety.
  • Use GPS when possible to avoid getting lost and to stay on safer, well-traveled routes.
  • Keep local emergency numbers and rental service contacts handy in case of an accident.

Water Contamination and Foodborne Illness

As a foodie, I simply cannot imagine visiting a place and not trying all the wonderful local food and drinks. I am also lucky to have a cast iron constitution. While I have never been sick from eating the food in Mexico, illnesses attributed to dodgy food are common among tourists.

Pozole and beer
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To minimize risks from contaminated water and foodborne illness in Cozumel follow the following good practices:

  • Do not drink the tap water on Cozumel. Always opt for bottled water, and use it for drinking and brushing your teeth.
  • Eat at well-known and reputable restaurants that are more likely to follow proper food safety protocols.
  • Opt for establishments where you can see food being prepared cleanly and freshly.
  • Be cautious with raw fruits, vegetables, and seafood which might not be washed with purified water.
  • Use purified water and Microdyn when preparing fresh vegetables, fruits and greens in your condo or vacation villa.
  • Always wash your hands before eating to reduce the risk of transmitting pathogens.
  • Be extra cautious if consuming street food, which may not adhere to the same hygiene standards as established restaurants. The locals know best. Choose street carts with lots of local customers.

The Bottom Line… Is Cozumel Safe?

Yes, in general, Cozumel is a very safe place for tourists. All different types of travelers can enjoy the island without being worried about their safety. While no destination can ever be 100% safe, using good common sense can help you mitigate most of the potential risks you might face while visiting this beautiful and peaceful island.

Arrecifes de cozumel marine park, snorkeling with rays in the shallow ocean.
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If this is your first time on the island, following the advice and tips in this article will ensure an enjoyable experience. Being prepared and taking just a few simple precautions will keep you safe while still enjoying all that Cozumel has to offer.

Did you find this article helpful? You might also like to read:

What NOT to do in Cozumel

Cozumel Safety: Frequently Asked Questions

Is Cozumel safe for cruise passengers?

Cozumel is generally safe for cruise passengers. The island is a popular stop for cruise ships, and local authorities and businesses prioritize tourist safety. Typical precautions should be taken to avoid petty theft, especially in crowded tourist areas and at the beach. Cruise passengers are encouraged to remain aware of their surroundings, keep personal belongings secure, and stick to well-traveled areas. It’s advisable to book excursions through reputable operators, often available directly through cruise lines, which can enhance safety and reliability during visits.

What are the risks of petty theft or scams in Cozumel?

In Cozumel, the primary risks for tourists concerning petty theft and scams include pickpocketing, purse snatching, and deceptive offers, particularly in tourist-heavy areas. Tourists should be vigilant with their belongings, use safe storage options like hotel safes, and remain cautious when dealing with street vendors or unofficial tour operators. Avoid flashing valuables in public and always negotiate prices and terms of services upfront to minimize the risk of getting overcharged or scammed.

How safe is it to travel around Cozumel at night?

Traveling around Cozumel at night is relatively safe, especially in areas frequented by tourists. However, it’s prudent for visitors to stay in well-lit and populated areas. Using reputable taxi services or transportation recommended by hotels or restaurants can further enhance safety. As with any tourist destination, maintaining awareness of your surroundings and avoiding isolated areas can help minimize risks.

Are there any specific areas in Cozumel to avoid?

Cozumel is generally safe for tourists, but like any tourist hotspot, it’s wise to exercise caution. While no specific areas in Cozumel are widely recognized as unsafe, visitors should be more cautious in less populated or poorly lit areas, especially at night. Sticking to tourist-friendly areas, particularly those close to the main attractions and along the waterfront, can help ensure a safer experience. Always remain alert and secure personal belongings, regardless of location.

Is Cozumel safer than Cancun?

Cozumel is generally considered safer than Cancun, mainly due to its smaller size and lower crime rates. Cozumel tends to have fewer incidents of violent crime compared to Cancun, which is a larger city. However, both locations require tourists to take standard safety precautions. Stay informed about the area and follow travel advisories from the US Department of State and other authorities.

Is Cozumel safe from drug cartels?

Cozumel is generally considered safe from drug cartel activity, especially compared to other regions in Mexico. Local authorities and businesses prioritize maintaining a secure environment to ensure visitors have a positive experience. While no place is entirely without risk, Cozumel is not a focal point for the drug-related violence seen in some other parts of Mexico. Visitors are encouraged to practice usual safety precautions.

What should I know about water safety in Cozumel?

In Cozumel, water safety is paramount due to the popularity of water activities such as snorkeling and scuba diving. Visitors should only swim in designated areas and heed the local warning flags on beaches, which indicate current water conditions. It’s essential to use reputable tour operators for water-based activities and ensure proper safety gear is provided. Be cautious of strong currents and riptides when swimming or snorkeling, especially off of less populated beaches.

How are medical services in Cozumel in case of an emergency?

Cozumel is equipped with adequate medical services for emergencies. Pharmacies are well-stocked and typically staffed by English-speaking personnel, providing accessibility to necessary medications. The island has several clinics, hyperbaric chambers and a hospital that caters to both locals and tourists. These facilities are capable of handling common medical issues and emergencies. For more severe cases, patients may be transported to larger hospitals in Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Travelers are advised to have travel insurance that covers medical emergencies. 

What should I do in case of a hurricane or other natural disaster on Cozumel?

In case of a hurricane or other natural disaster in Cozumel, it’s crucial to follow local authority directives and emergency procedures. Stay informed through local media and weather updates.  If you are staying at a hotel, follow the staff’s instructions, as they will have protocols in place for such events. Secure shelter in a safe location, preferably an interior room away from windows. Have an emergency kit ready with essentials such as water, food, medications, and important documents.

About the author

Michele Samal Kinnon

Despite the strong reservations of family and friends, in 2004 I moved from the United States to Mexico with my young family. Since then, I have made the Riviera Maya my home. I have raised two remarkable children here. I have celebrated amazing successes, made countless mistakes, and in the process, fallen in love with this beautiful country.


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