Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular vacation destinations. In 2022, the city received a whopping 30 million passengers, a massive amount of visitors for any tourist destination.
The beaches and resorts are the primary draw for visitors to Cancun. The Zona Hotelera or Hotel Zone is where most people stay, and the string of resorts, clubs, and bars right along the beach host most of Cancun’s most famous nightlife.
For tourists who want a more authentic experience, head to downtown Cancun for local culture and great street food. Or, visit the Yucatan Peninsula to swim in the world-renowned cenotes and explore the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.
While this storied city is rich in history, culture, amazing beaches, and countless unique experiences and activities, is Cancun safe to visit? Here’s our expert take.
Is Cancun Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Cancun has long had a reputation for being one of the safest places in Mexico. Even though crime has been increasing recently, the city is still mostly safe for travelers.
However, you shouldn’t throw caution to the wind just because you’re on vacation, so make sure to take the right precautions to protect yourself from crime.
Cancun is in the southern Mexican state of Quintana Roo, which is one of the safest regions in Mexico. The U.S. government just tells its citizens to exercise some additional caution in Quintana Roo, the second lowest advisory level in the system.
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Other governments are more relaxed about telling people to travel to Cancun and surrounding areas.
For example, the UK government gives its citizens the green light to travel to Cancun and Quintana Roo, although it recommends that visitors read up on any necessary precautions they may have to take.
Crime does happen in Cancun. Common crimes include:
- Bag snatching
- Theft of unattended items
- Drink spiking
- Armed robbery
While most incidents that affect tourists tend to be petty property crimes, violent crimes have affected some visitors in the past. Often, other visitors are behind the criminal incidents, not just locals.
Violent crime rates are unfortunately high in Cancun and increasing due to the rise in cartel violence. While cartels rarely target tourists directly, there is a risk of getting caught in the crossfire.
While you shouldn’t cancel your trip to Cancun because of this, it is a good idea to read up on the threat just so you can prepare. Besides crime, it is a good idea to prepare for your trip to Cancun by learning more about potential natural disasters that could strike.
Hurricanes are the most common disasters in Cancun. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma damaged 80% of the city, affecting the tourist trade for years to come. Although most hurricanes are not nearly as strong, they are still unpleasant.
Hurricane season in Cancun runs from June to November and peaks between mid-August and October. Many people avoid Cancun during hurricane season.
However, after rebuilding post-Hurricane Wilma, most Cancun resorts are built to withstand strong hurricanes and have dedicated hurricane shelters, making it one of the safest places to vacation on the Caribbean Sea during hurricane season.
Crime in Cancun
Crime is the primary concern for visitors to Cancun, and with good reason. The city has a fairly high crime rate that has been increasing over the past few years.
According to a map of homicides in Mexico, the homicide rate for Benito Juarez, the municipality that is home to Cancun, is 44.5 incidents per 100,000 people.
This is a moderate value compared to other Mexican cities, but it still represents an increase compared to previous years in Cancun. Usually, homicides and other violent crimes occur in the outskirts of Cancun, away from prime tourist areas such as Zona Hotelera.
However, in early 2023, a series of shocking incidents shook that illusion. In April 2023, four bodies were found on the beach near Cancun’s major hotels.
The victims, none of whom were foreign visitors, were later linked to cartels, but the growing impunity is still shocking. Most residents of Cancun agree that crime is increasing.
According to Numbeo, Cancun scores 61.68 out of 100 on the crime index, a high value. The crimes that people are most concerned about are drug abuse and corruption and bribery, followed by muggings and petty theft.
The rise in crime in Cancun is linked to rising cartel violence all over Mexico. After anti-drug trafficking busts by the Mexican government, the major cartels splintered, and the remaining factions are fighting for control over the market and territory.
These conflicts are spilling into popular tourist areas such as Cancun’s beaches. Unfortunately, Cancun’s tourist success is putting it on the radar of these cartels.
Tourists in party zones like Cancun drive the demand for illegal drugs, making it a lucrative area for any narcotics cartel to control.
The Mexican government knows that it has to keep areas such as Cancun safe for tourists to continue coming, especially in areas such as Cancun when so much of the local economy relies on tourism.
Over the past few years, authorities have stepped up security in Cancun, including permanently deploying the National Guard. Thanks to the extra effort by the government, the touristy areas of Cancun are probably some of the safest parts of Mexico.
You should still take some precautions, as it is your responsibility to keep yourself safe, but if you don’t venture too far from the beaten path you should feel safe in Cancun.
Petty theft is the most common crime around Mexico’s popular tourist resorts, and Cancun is no different.
For criminals, tourists provide the perfect opportunity for pickpocketing, bag snatching, and other forms of theft because they often carry around less valuables than locals do and tend to be less cautious.
Take basic precautions to protect yourself from pickpocketing and other forms of theft, especially when you venture out of the resort areas and into surrounding streets of Cancun.
Avoid any actions that might single you out as a potentially lucrative target, such as wearing expensive jewelry or watches, and flashing lots of cash.
Unless you are headed straight to a nice night out, leave jewelry in your hotel safe (or better yet, at home). Make sure that your valuables are never accessible to a potential thief. Never leave your things unattended.
Tourists often leave their bags on the beach, and then are surprised when they come back from swimming and find that their phone and wallet are gone. Don’t hang your bag off the back of a chair in a restaurant or leave your luggage unattended in a hotel lobby while checking in.
Thieves can be lurking anywhere. There have been some thefts from hotels and resorts in Cancun. Always put your valuables in your room safe and never leave them lying out in the open.
If you don’t have a room safe, ask your hotel about alternatives.
Some hotels have lobby safes where they can store valuables for guests. Just make sure that you get a receipt if you leave an item in the lobby safe so you can prove that it was the hotel’s responsibility if it goes missing.
In recent years, cartel violence has become more and more of a problem in normally safe Cancun. The Australian government warns in its travel advisory for Mexico that there have even been shoot-outs in popular tourist areas, including Cancun.
During shootouts, cartel members rarely directly target tourists. Instead, their focus is on settling scores with members of rival cartels. However, it is really easy to get caught in the crossfire.
If you notice a tense situation, leave the area immediately before it can escalate. Follow the lead of locals — if you see locals packing up and making for the exit, join them as soon as possible.
The Canadian government also warns about the rise in other violent crimes accompanying the rise in cartel violence in the Mayan Riviera, including Cancun. Tourists have been victims of kidnappings, carjacking, and assault in Cancun.
Sometimes the criminals conducting these violent crimes are associated with cartels. Most of these incidents occur at night, so limit your movements after dark.
If you want to explore the town, stick to popular tourist areas where law enforcement tends to patrol. Avoid any dark alleyways or dark stretches of the beach where robbers might lurk.
Try not to drive after dark or take taxis on excursions outside of Cancun at night. You want your senses to be on alert so you can get out of a situation if it feels dangerous.
For that reason, it’s a good idea not to overdo it with alcohol while in Cancun. Although many people come to Cancun to party, excessive inebriation makes it more likely for you to be targeted by criminals or wind up in a sticky situation.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Crime in Cancun is usually confined to certain dangerous areas. Staying away from them is key to helping yourself stay safe. The downtown area of Cancun is a popular destination for people wanting to learn a bit more about the local culture than they can by sticking to their resort.
However, it does get a bit sketchy at night, so only explore if you are sure that you are sticking to safe streets and are with a larger group.
Cancun has some more dangerous neighborhoods.
- Valle Verde
- Santa Cecilia
- Tres Reyes
These neighborhoods have a very high crime rate and are best avoided. Luckily, most are located far from tourist areas so it is unlikely that you will get caught in them accidentally.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for Cancun:
- Don’t use illegal drugs. Despite the reputation of Cancun as an anything-goes party zone, drug use is actually strictly punished in Mexico. Plus, you don’t want to give any more money to the notorious cartels than they already have or wind up on their radar.
- Always watch your drink in Cancun’s nightclubs. This is especially important if you are a woman, as female travelers have been assaulted before.
- Be safe when exploring the nightlife. Criminals often target intoxicated tourists in Cancun’s clubs, and you don’t want to be on the receiving end. Always go with a group of trusted people. Go to the bathroom in pairs as you never want to be alone.
- Be careful when swimming. Make sure that you don’t go past your own limits and swim in depths that you are not prepared for. Obey any posted warnings and lifeguard advice. Don’t swim while intoxicated.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions that people ask about visiting Cancun:
Is Cancun safe to travel to right now?
Thanks to the heightened efforts of Cancun law enforcement, the city is safe to travel to right now. However, monitor local news before your trip to see if anything changes.
Are there any travel warnings for Cancun Mexico?
The United States issued a Level Two travel warning for Quintana Roo, the state in which Cancun is located. It states that travelers should exercise increased caution, including in Cancun, due to high crime rates, but can still visit.
Is Cancun safe for female travelers?
Many female travelers visit Cancun each year. However, you do need to take additional precautions that men may not need to take, such as not walking alone at night and being very careful in the bars and clubs.
When should I avoid traveling to Cancun?
It’s a good idea to avoid traveling to Cancun between August and October. That is the peak of hurricane season, and Cancun sometimes gets hit with very powerful storms.
So, Is Cancun Safe to Visit?
Cancun is not as safe as it used to be due to a rise in cartel-related crime. However, law enforcement patrols have also increased, and most tourists have safe experiences there as long as they take the right precautions.
So, with so much to see and do and an overall safe environment (given you stay on the resorts), what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Cancun has to offer. Happy travels!