Acapulco is a long-time favorite destination for beach bums and the jet set. Thousands of people each year flock to its miles of pristine beaches on the Pacific Ocean and the water activities you can do there, such as swimming, snorkeling, and diving.
On land, there is also plenty to do in this vibrant beach town. Check out the historic colonial architecture and street food stalls that dot the streets.
The party scene is also famous in Acapulco, and many people come here to let their hair down. Before traveling to any new destination, you want to know if there will be any unpleasant surprises waiting for you once you arrive.
However, safety is just as important to know about as the best attractions and fabulous food waiting for you at your destination.
But don’t worry — our travel experts did the hard work for you. Read on to see whether Acapulco is safe to visit, how to avoid common safety pitfalls, and more. Let us be your guide!
Is Acapulco Safe to Visit?
No, Acapulco is not the safest destination to visit right now. It has a very high crime rate, and criminals often target foreigners.
Many foreign governments advise their citizens to avoid Acapulco at all costs, or at least exercise a lot of caution. While some foreigners ignore the advice of their governments and still visit, the risks are very high.
Most foreign governments are leery about advising their citizens to visit Acapulco. The United States has one of the strictest travel advisories in place.
It tells citizens to avoid all travel to the state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located. It bans government employees from visiting Acapulco altogether. Other governments are a bit less dramatic in their travel advice.
For example, Canada tells its citizens to avoid nonessential travel to the state of Guerrero, including Acapulco. The UK government bans all travel to Guerrero with the exception of Acapulco and the narrow coastal strip surrounding it.
While these travel advisories are a step below the complete ban of the United States, they hardly make you feel confident about traveling to this city.
Acapulco is a beautiful place, but the problem is where it’s located — in the state of Guerrero. The southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero is home to some of the worst violence in the country.
Analysts conclude that the government maintains very little control over the state and that a lot of power is actually divided between different cartels and organized crime syndicates. Guerrero is home to some of Mexico’s worst organized crime rates.
These groups are behind crimes that often affect Acapulco, including:
- Armed robbery
- Drug trafficking
There are a few reasons why the state of Guerrero, and, by extension, the city of Acapulco, is the victim of so much violence. One reason is the lucrative drug trade, fueled by the poppy fields and by the demand of foreigners who come to visit Acapulco.
Another reason is widespread corruption and clashes between the small, wealthy elite and the rest of the population, who are mostly poor, rural, and indigenous.
These social tensions have been going on for decades. Sometimes people express their discontent through protests and other forms of civil disobedience — other times through guerrilla groups.
Much of the conflict is confined to rural areas of Guerrero, where extreme poverty and gang violence have emptied many of the villages. However, the presence of organized crime has greatly affected Acapulco, which is no longer the fancy Hollywood resort it used to be.
Organized crime groups affect the lives of everyone there through extortion rackets, street violence, and even gun violence. After the government tried to break up the drug trade, the biggest syndicate fractured into smaller groups that now constantly fight for control.
All of these factors create a dangerous, sad situation for residents of the state of Guerrero, including the city of Acapulco. While some foreigners decide to brave the city anyway, many others decide it isn’t worth the risk.
Crime in Acapulco
The primary reason why most governments warn their citizens not to travel to Acapulco is the very high levels of crime. While violent crime used to be confined to other areas of Guerrero, it now affects the world-famous resort town as well.
Acapulco’s crime rate is very high, especially its violent crime rate. According to Statista, the murder rate for 2022 was 110.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
That made Acapulco the second most dangerous city in the world, only following its fellow Mexican city Tijuana.
For about a decade, Acapulco has been one of Mexico’s murder capitals, a far cry from the 1960s when it was a honeymoon destination for stars like the Kennedys. A 2017 report in the Washington Post examined why the murder rate was so high.
As mentioned before, most of the violence comes back to the approximately 20 cartels fighting for power throughout the city and the government’s indifference to addressing the problem.
Most of the victims of Acapulco’s murders are locals (taxi drivers are targeted the most), either people who won’t pay high extortion fees that affect all residents, targets of the cartels, or people who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Foreigners are rarely killed or assaulted in Acapulco, although there have been deaths in the rest of Guerrero. Foreigners have witnessed violence, such as the 2022 beachside shooting, but they are rarely the targets.
That’s small comfort if you are worried about stray bullets. Besides murder, all other types of crime are prevalent in Acapulco. According to the survey aggregator Cost of Living, the overall crime index is a whopping 61.63.
About 80% of respondents believe crime is a serious problem. The most common crimes people worry about are corruption and bribery, mugging, armed robbery, and drug usage.
One of the most prevalent crimes in Acapulco is theft in all forms. This is expected in most tourist destinations, especially where the financial gulf between visitors and foreigners is wide.
As the all-important tourism industry in Acapulco falls apart, people become more desperate. Many criminal syndicates are also behind theft and robbery attempts. Thefts of opportunity are common.
Pickpockets and bag snatchers operate throughout Acapulco, especially in the touristic zone around the beach. They take advantage of distracted tourists to relieve them of their valuables.
However, you can minimize your chances of being the victim of pickpocketing while out and about in Acapulco by adjusting your habits. Make sure you are not flashing valuables such as jewelry, watches, and designer clothing.
That singles you out compared to much poorer locals. Avoid using your phone a lot in public — take a photo or two, then slip it back in your bag. Follow your instincts and stay alert when in crowds.
Tourists report that the famous nightlife in Acapulco is a hotspot for robberies. TripAdvisor reviews for many bars and restaurants say they experienced theft, whether in the form of fraud by the owners or in the form of pickpocketing by criminals.
When you go out, be careful not to get too inebriated. Always keep a close eye on your food or drink to avoid spiking. Besides petty theft, more dangerous forms of robbery do happen in Acapulco. Organized criminal groups are behind muggings, break-ins, and armed robberies.
There were even reports in 2022 of criminals setting up roadblocks on major roads going in and out of Acapulco to commit highway robbery. To stay safe in Acapulco, you need excellent security awareness.
Make sure that you stay in a resort with good security and only use reputable transportation. Avoid walking around at night except maybe in the busiest tourist zones. However, not even this is a complete guarantee that you won’t be the victim of a robbery.
Besides theft, more violent forms of crime are common in Acapulco. Besides homicide, which we discussed already, another common crime is kidnapping.
Although kidnapping attempts are more common in the rural areas of Guerrero, they also happen in Acapulco. While things have luckily calmed down since the time armed criminals kidnapped 22 Mexican tourists in 2010, kidnapping is still a prevalent crime.
It is hard to find accurate statistics for kidnapping in Acapulco. Locals say that the government purposefully understates the danger to avoid scaring off the few tourists who still come to town.
Others don’t bother reporting the disappearances of their relatives, not trusting the government at all to bring perpetrators to justice. Kidnapping, like homicide, is a crime that mostly targets locals, not foreigners.
However, tourists sometimes get caught in the crossfire. Other times, tourists are deliberately targeted because they promise bigger ransoms.
Sometimes, criminals conduct express kidnappings when they take a tourist and force them to empty their ATM. While kidnapping is not the most common crime foreigners have to worry about in Acapulco, you should still be aware of the risks as you move around town.
Avoid sketchy areas (more on those later). Be careful when you are taking taxis or public transportation. Some taxi drivers work with organized gangs and help them scout potential victims.
Avoiding Bad Areas
To minimize the chances of being the victim of a crime in Acapulco, make sure that you stick to safe areas such as the tourist zone and avoid bad areas.
Most people recommend avoiding the slums around the edge of the city. These areas are poor and somewhat desperate, making them the perfect breeding ground for crime.
Avoid the El Coloso neighborhood after dark, as the area is so dangerous even policemen avoid going there at night. La Progreso is also an area to avoid because it has some of the most violent streets in the city.
This part is closer to the beach than most of Acapulco’s other dangerous neighborhoods, so you don’t want to wander here accidentally. Other neighborhoods to avoid include La Sabana, Las Cruces, and Tres Palos.
Avoid traveling outside of Acapulco by road, as the rest of Guerrero is very dangerous, especially for tourists.
Things to Consider
If you decide to venture to Acapulco anyway, here are some other things to consider to keep yourself safe:
- Acapulco has a strong police presence, including designated tourist police on the beach. If they stop you and ask to search you, follow their orders.
- Many foreign governments don’t allow their employees to venture into Acapulco, so help may be limited if you get in trouble.
- Protests are frequent in Acapulco and can turn violent at a moment’s notice. If you notice a crowd gathering, get away as soon as you can.
- Don’t buy drugs while in Acapulco, even if you use them regularly at home. Not only are they illegal in Mexico, but the purchase might land you on the radar of the cartels.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions travelers to Acapulco have asked before:
Is it worthwhile to visit Acapulco?
Acapulco definitely has beautiful beaches and fun attractions, such as the famous cliff divers. However, until the security situation improves drastically, it isn’t worth risking your life when there are other, safer beach towns in Mexico.
Is Acapulco safe for female travelers?
Acapulco is not much more dangerous for female travelers than it is for their male counterparts. Although sexual assault happens, this crime often targets local women. Women should take the same precautions they do at home, such as not venturing out alone at night.
What happened to Acapulco?
In the mid-20th century, Acapulco was a site of international glamour. However, the rise of drug cartels throughout Mexico hit Acapulco particularly hard due to the city’s location near production centers as well as local government corruption. The situation grew worse when, in the early 2000s, the government broke up the main cartel controlling the town, creating a power vacuum.
When did Acapulco become dangerous?
Although Acapulco had fallen slightly in esteem since its heyday in the 1950s, it didn’t truly become dangerous until the 2000s. That is when cartel violence escalated.
Is it safe to travel to Acapulco right now?
No, it is not safe to travel to Acapulco right now. Although the situation has calmed down slightly since the worst violence in the 2010s, the city still has an exceptionally high crime rate.
So Is Acapulco Safe to Visit?
Acapulco is no longer Mexico’s murder capital, but it is still perched in second place. For this reason and many others, Acapulco is not safe to visit. Unless you are a seasoned adventure traveler, you probably won’t want to visit anyway.