Traveling outside your own state can be a little unnerving, especially for newbie travelers. Traveling to Mexico can add one extra element of uncertainty, given the recent news stories regarding illnesses, assaults, and even deaths in Mexico resort towns. The scariest stories seem to rise to the top and get the most attention giving you pause to book that next trip to Mexico. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the facts so you can really know where the safest beaches in Mexico are?
Where are the safest beach towns in Mexico?
|1||Ciudad del Carmen|
|14||Playa del Carmen|
|15||Cabo San Lucas|
Mexico also has its share of problems in terms of crime but not every part of Mexico carries the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory Level 4 “do not travel” warning. There are high crime areas that should be avoided and areas that don’t have high crime.
In this article, we’ll set aside the news stories and take a look at the numbers to put some perspective around safety in Mexico so you can make your own educated decision about traveling to Mexico.
You’ll also learn how to stay informed about traveling to Mexico and how to practice safety while traveling to there if you decide to go.
In life, all things are relative. The list above is no exception. The Mexican towns included in the list above are the “safest” compared to the other towns in Mexico.
How did I determine which Mexican beach towns to include in the list?
Three data sources were used to rate the safety of the towns and arrive at the safest Mexican beach towns, including:
- U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory Level
- The National Travel & Tourism Office
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s Mexico Blackouts Investigation.
U.S. Department of State’s Travel Advisory Level
The DOS (U.S. Department of State) established four travel advisory levels to convey the safety of travel to a particular country or part of a country.
Only Mexican beach towns with level 2 assigned were considered for the list. (Level 2 is the lowest level assigned to any city in Mexico).
In some cases, one country can have several travel advisory levels assigned to different areas of the region. In fact, this is the case for Mexico.
Below is the Travel Advisory map from the DOS website, depicting the varying advisory levels for Mexico.
Level 1: Pale Yellow
Level 2: Bright Yellow
Level 3: Orange
Level 4: Red
Notice the varying travel advisory levels assigned across Mexico. In particular, the beach cities Puerto Vallarta (level 3), Acapulco & Mazatlan (level 4). These towns were not even considered for the Safest Beach Towns in Mexico list due to the higher advisory levels.
National Travel & Tourism Office U.S. Traveler Deaths
The NTTO (National Travel & Tourism Office) tracks and reports on the total number of U.S. travelers heading to Mexico each year along with how many of the travelers died while traveling there.
The table below summarizes the numbers for the years 2019, 2018, and 2017. I calculated the percentage of U.S. travelers who died while traveling to Mexico to help put the numbers in perspective.
|Travel Year||Outbound Travel from the US to Mexico||US Deaths in Mexico Beach Towns||Percentage US Deaths in Mexico Beach Towns|
Important information about the U.S. Travelers to Mexico numbers:
- The total outbound travel includes all travelers arriving via air, regardless of purpose (vacation, business, education, etc).
- The total outbound travel excludes the thousands that arrive via cruise ship.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Mexico Resorts Blackout Investigation
In recent years, headlines captured horrific crimes committed in popular Mexican resort towns. Reported crimes include sexual assaults, illnesses, blackouts, attacks, and other serious injuries.
In 2019, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s Mexico Resorts Blackout Investigation delved deep into this topic listing the victim’s name, details of the incident, city and even the resort where it occurred.
Many of the reports allege that people’s drinks were either drugged or contained tainted alcohol resulting in extreme illness and blackouts.
If you review the article you’ll learn that Mexico has had a long-standing problem with bootlegged liquor. In light of the recent incidents, the Mexican government has begun to take aggressive action toward shutting down these illegal operations.
Note: 2018 and 2017 Deaths reported by the Journal Sentinel were already included in the NTTO’s numbers.
The table below is a combined view of the NTTO’s death reporting and incidents included in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinal’s Mexico Resorts Blackout Investigation, by Mexican town for travel years 2019, 2018, and 2017.
The 2019 Deaths were sorted, followed by 2018 Deaths and 2017 Deaths to arrive at the final list of the 16 Safest Beach Towns in Mexico 2020.
|Mexico Beach Town||2019 Deaths||2018 Deaths||2017 Deaths|
|Ciudad del Carmen||0||0||0|
|Playa del Carmen||1||3||4|
|Cabo San Lucas||3||7||4|
What do the numbers tell us about the safety of beaches in Mexico?
First, let me say anytime there is a death it is tragic and heart-wrenching for the family. This article is in no way intended to minimize these occurrences and certainly not to minimize the emotional effects to the surviving families. Rather, the intent of this article is to only inform and put everything in perspective.
Let’s take another look at the overview statistics:
|Travel Year||Outbound Travel from the US to Mexico||US Deaths in Mexico Beach Towns||Percentage of US Deaths in Mexico Beach Towns|
Here is what jumps out at me:
- The number of U.S. travelers to Mexico have increased each year for the past 3 years. In 2019, over ten million travelers visited. It bears repeating… over T E N M I L L I O N travelers. That’s a ton of people!
- U.S. travelers dying in Mexico’s most popular vacation state, Quintana Roo (home of Cancun, Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, and Riviera Maya) is a tiny portion of the total deaths and is an extremely small number.
- Less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of all U.S. travelers have died while in Mexico and a far fewer percentage have died in the popular beach areas of Cancun and Riviera Maya.
Crunch your own numbers
Safety tips before and while traveling to Mexico
Most of these tips are common sense and apply no matter where you’re traveling.
- Always be aware of your surroundings – especially at night. Stay where there are more people present.
- Stay in pairs (minimum) at night. If someone forgot something in the room or wants to run out for a quick snack, take a friend with.
- DO NOT go off with anyone you don’t know. This is just common sense no matter where you are.
- Don’t wander out on the beach at night. Even the resort staff warns of this. Frankly, it gets pretty darn dark, windy and chilly out there at night. Best to avoid it.
- Don’t leave your drunken friends alone. Ladies with suppressed common sense are particularly vulnerable. Don’t let these friends out of your sights!
- Don’t go off-resort at night. Your resort has security measures that significantly reduce the chances of unsavory characters lurking.
Get notifications about Mexico
The DOS provides a variety of ways to stay informed about safety alerts and advisories they put out. After all, things can change between when you book your trip and when you actually depart.
In case of an emergency while traveling in Mexico
Enrolling in their STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). It’s free, fast and easy. Essentially, your trip is registered with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the area you are traveling to so they’re aware that you’re traveling there and can reach out in case of emergency.
Know the U.S. Embassy or Consular in the area of Mexico you’re traveling to
Make note of the contact information for the U.S. Embassy or Consular you are traveling to. This is good advice regardless of the country you’re visiting. Here’s the link for Mexico: https://mx.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulates/consular-agencies/
Should we stay or should we go?
I’ve been to Mexico over a dozen times with the family and on girls getaways and no one ever felt unsafe or gotten sick. Who knows, maybe we’ve been lucky. I can tell you we always exercise caution when traveling – regardless of the city or country.
If you’ve ruled out Mexico due to the scary headlines, hopefully, the information I provided gives you pause to reconsider. Don’t just focus on the scary headlines and write off the country entirely. Consider the numbers as a whole to put it into perspective. Then travel to the areas that are safest.
The truth is, the Mexican beach climate is superb, the destination is absolutely gorgeous, clear blue waters and you can’t beat the cost of vacationing in Mexico.
To dismiss the opportunity to have a tropical beach vacation in a safe Mexican beach town robs you of a wonderful experience with your friends or family and robs the Mexican people of livelihood.
You need to decide for yourselves if the notion of traveling to Mexico feels unreasonably risky and if so, are you willing to accept that risk?
If the trip will be less relaxing due to overwhelming thoughts and concerns of danger, it’s not worth it. Go somewhere else. There are plenty of other beautiful Caribbean islands to visit.