Post Updated 7/27/2021

Is Cozumel safe in the time of COVID-19?

If you’re like me, you need a vacation – I mean like a serious, leave the state / country kind of vacation, not one of those “staycations”.

For those of us in the US, that leaves only a few logical choices and Mexico is just about at the top of the list.

My family and I have traveled to and from Mexico in the “era of COVID” three times, with our most recent visit coming in early 2021. Granted, we traveled right before COVID testing and vaccinations became the norm for travel.

The bottom line is that traveling anywhere right now comes with an element of risk. But wasn’t there risk in traveling even before COVID-19 was on everyone’s mind?

My point is that we’ve traveled multiple times, without vaccines and without incident. Have we gotten lucky? Perhaps. But I think it’s okay for adults to make their own informed decisions about their personal health and travel choices.

Post Update 8/23/2018

Violence in nearby Cancun has visitors on edge.

It was recently reported that eight bodies were found just a few days ago in the Cancun, Mexico. Cancun is another resort town just north and west of Cozumel, both in the state of Quintana Roo.

The US State Department has advised extra caution for US citizens visiting Mexico, but has not specifically issued any travel advisories for Cozumel nor for Cancun.

As violence seems to be creeping closer to the areas frequented by visitors and tourists, it’s definitely a good idea to not let your guard down and stay in more secure areas if you visit these two cities.

Is Cozumel Safe for Tourists in 2021?

Yes, but be sure to read our top tips for visiting Cozumel before you go!

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Post Update 3/2/2018

New information regarding Cozumel ferries has been added.

The US Embassy in Mexico City recently issued a security alert warning for travelers headed to Cozumel. The content of this alert is posted below for convenience. The alert is due to recent incidents involving an explosion aboard a ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen. Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Princess cruise lines have all canceled shore excursions recently that involve travel via ferry boats, although I’m unable to locate any official press releases from any of the cruise lines about these cancelations. The bottom line here is that travel to Cozumel is likely still safe overall, however, extreme caution should be exercised in all ports in Mexico.

US Embassy Security Alert Detail

Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Event: On March 1, undetonated explosive devices were found by Mexican law enforcement on a tourist ferry that operates between Cozumel-Playa del Carmen, Mexico.   On February 21, an explosive device detonated on a tourist ferry in Playa del Carmen resulting in injuries, including to U.S. citizens.  U.S. Government employees are prohibited from using all tourist ferries on this route until further notice.  Mexican and U.S. law enforcement continue to investigate.

Actions to Take:

  •  Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution.
  •  Purchase travel insurance that specifically covers you in Mexico and includes medical evacuation insurance.
  •  Contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate if you need assistance.
Family Travel - Tips for Roaming Cozumel

Our personal Cozumel experience – January, 2018

My family and I have visited Cozumel, Mexico a number of times. In fact, we were just there in January of 2018. Like many, we visited the island via a cruise ship vacation.

My wife and son and I explored the area in and around the port on foot for a while and then I ventured off into town on my own, walking all the way from the port to the Cozumel International Airport. My walking route is displayed on the map I’ve created here. I’ve also added a number of photos I took during this walking tour as well. You can see those in the gallery below.

I walked nearly 10 miles the day we visited Cozumel on our last trip. This allowed me to see more of the town than most visitors typically see. While I stayed mostly in the high-traffic areas around the town just south of the Cozumel International Airport, I did venture out into streets and neighborhoods that were less trafficked by tourists and met a few locals and expats as well.

We decided to explore Cozumel outside the cruise port area.

When it comes to family travel, one of our biggest responsibilities as parents is to help ensure the safety of our family. We love going to new places and exploring foreign lands, but in this day and age, that can be a somewhat risky proposition for American tourists. We didn’t really feel like doing the super touristy things most people usually do. The beaches are wonderful in Cozumel, but we were looking for something different. Something different in Cozumel means that it may be off the beaten path and that means there may be risk involved. My walking exploration of the city beyond the typical tourist district in Cozumel helped me learn a few things along the way. I’d like to pass along some tips to visitors to the area.
Royal Caribbean Cozumel Cruise - My Wife and Son Walking Outside the Port

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Cozumel safety tip #1: Hide your valuables.

This tip really applies to anywhere, not just because we were exploring a town in Mexico. I’d recommend if you’re a visitor to an area, you try to conceal your valuables as much as possible.

I sometimes feel like I have a target on me when I’m walking around with my “fancy” camera equipment. That’s not a good feeling at all, and it sometimes makes me not able to enjoy my experience.

You may want to leave the bulky camera at home and just bring your small point-and-shoot camera (or smartphone camera) that you can easily put in your pocket as you explore.

I sometimes feel like I have a target on me when I’m walking around Cozumel with my “fancy” camera equipment.

Cozumel safety tip #2: Learn some of the language.

Again, this tip really applies to anywhere you travel, if you’re headed outside of the U.S. Learning at least the basics of the language will make you less of a target to would-be threats.

I spent a summer in Germany one year. The more familiar I became with the language, the less I stood out. The more you stand out, the more of a target you become.

Being able to ask for simple things like directions, asking about the weather that day or ordering a beer can make you “fit in” just enough to make you less noticeable.

We really are a traveling family, and after having visited dozens of countries together, we all decided to take languages more seriously. Rather than fumble around with a translator or ask everyone if they speak English, we decided to learn Spanish with some help from Rosetta Stone (af). Learning a bit more Spanish has us a lot more comfortable for our next trip to Cozumel. Not only will we be able to communicate with more people, I think we’re demonstrating our interest in the people and the culture by learning their language.
Cozumel is a very hot city, and even in the spring, it can be much warmer than many of us are accustomed to in the US.

Cozumel safety tip #3: Don’t overdo it.

I mean this tip in a few different contexts. First, Cozumel and Mexico in general are known for their Tequila. Gold, silver and blue may sound like Olympic medals, but it’s really just the different types of Tequila you may encounter in Cozumel.

Don’t overdo your liquor intake, because not only will your guard be lowered but you’ll likely draw more attention and make yourself an easier target, too. Neither of these are positive when it comes to safety while you’re traveling.

Also, when I talk about not overdoing it, I mean physically speaking as well. Cozumel is a very hot city, and even in the spring, it can be much warmer than many of us are accustomed to.

Yeah, I get it – you want to see the sights while you’re there and that means you’ll be pushing it, walking a lot, in a hurry and constantly on the move. Just be sure to take it easy walking around out there, be sure to bring sunscreen and plenty of fluids to keep you hydrated!

Cozumel safety tip #4: Set a budget and stick to it.

One of my favorite things about wandering off the beaten path in Cozumel was the markets we came across.

Many of them we encountered had the same types of goods, so it would benefit you from shopping around a bit and not purchasing from the first vendor you see.

My favorites are the hand-made and hand-carved woodworking items, especially. I could have easily spent hundreds of dollars or more. We agreed to set a budget before we left and not go over our budget. We still had a lot more travel to do!

One quick tip we learned was to use a specialized travel wallet – here’s a great choice for ladies (af), and here’s a great option for men.

What’s so important about using this type of specialized wallet? Well, first and foremost are the RFID blocking capabilities. What does that mean?

You may not know this, but criminals can steal your credit card information without even stealing your card. In fact, they don’t even have to touch you! All they have to do is get close enough and they can copy your credit card information! Don’t believe me? Check out this article for more info.

This specialized wallet protects you from thieves trying to steal your hard-earned money.

Cozumel Mexico Edited in Luminar Neptune

Cozumel Safety Tip #5: Don’t carry too much cash.

Cash is king in Cozumel, but I’d advise against carrying too much on-hand at one time. Whipping out a wad of “Benjamins” will definitely draw attention to you and make you a target.

Carry some cash for the open-air markets and for negotiating, but carry the balance in traveler’s checks or use your (more secure) credit card at larger stores and on bigger purchases.

Just be sure to check with your bank before you leave so they don’t think your card has been stolen!

Short trip or have a sensitive stomach? Stick with bottled water while in Cozumel.

Cozumel safety tip #6: Be careful with the water.

Probably the first question anyone asks me about traveling to Mexico, starts like this: “Is it safe to drink the water in Cozumel?

The primary misunderstanding about the water in Mexico has less to do about water quality and more to do about the unique micro-organisms that are present in the water compared to what your body is accustomed to. That doesn’t mean that contamination doesn’t occur, because it does.

Friendly reminder: water contamination happens in the USA, too.

In other words, the water in Cozumel isn’t necessarily unsafe – it just may contain things your body isn’t used to.

If you’re traveling to Cozumel for a short amount of time, or if you have a sensitive digestive system, I strongly recommend you stick with bottled water during your stay. That will reduce the likelihood you’ll be exposed to something your body can’t handle.

However, if you’re going to be in Mexico for a longer stay, it may be okay to drink the local water – assuming your body will have to go through an “adjustment” as it gets used to the water.

What do you think? Is Cozumel Safe?

Join the discussion on social media and share your thoughts or tips on traveling safely to Mexico!

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