Safe Places in Mexico to Visit in 2020 | Top 10 Cities and States
Mexico's Bad Reputation
I want to start by explaining why Mexico has gained such a bad reputation over the years, the notoriously bad reputation is thanks to US politics and mainstream media, for the better half of a decade US politics have been highly influential in the destruction of this beautiful country's image.
Only two years ago, the US put out a level four warning in the travel advisory for five Mexican states. To give you an idea of how bad that really is, that level four warning is the same level as war-torn countries like Yemen, Iraq or Afghanistan.
Statistics Don't Lie
If you look at the statistics your more likely to run into trouble in the US than in Mexico, the fact is that all of the places on this list have lower rates of crime in comparative with most cities across the USA! Take a look at this graph I have put together.
A lot can be said about both these countries regarding crime, but the simple truth is that there isn't a single country in the world that is entirely safe!
Instead, I'm going to focus on the safest places for tourists, some of which can provide you with opportunities to witness some amazing natural beauty and experience some fantastic local culture and heritage.
So without further ado let's dive right in!
The safest place in Mexico earning the top spot on this list is Cozumel. This is a hotspot for tourists and locals alike; this beautiful island has some of the most amazing diving spots in not only Mexico but the world! It's often referred to as a Divers Paradise.
Have you ever dreamed of swimming with dolphins in crystal clear water? Or sipping down Margaritas on one of the most amazing beaches in the world? Or how about visiting some of the oldest ancient ruins and temples that date back to more than 2000 years old? You can do all of that in Cozumel!
Cozumel has a vibrant and colourful history that dates as far back as 2000 years ago when the Yucatec Maya settled on the island. If you choose to visit your guaranteed to experience some of the most amazing traditions and culture that the Mexican people have to offer.
You can visit some of the many Nature Reserves or Adventure Parks that Cozumel is home too! Throughout the island, you will find the ruins of ancient Maya temples and archaeological sites, nothing quite on the scale of Chichen Itza but it's some incredible history that should be witnessed if the opportunity presents itself.
Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park is usually the go-to place for tourists just arriving on cruise ships, and this is an excellent choice if you only have a few hours on this beautiful island.
This Adventure park is located inside the Cozumel National Reef Marine Park which is only a 10-minute drive from the cruise ship port.
In the park you have a plethora of activities to choose from, you can do everything from scuba diving, swimming with dolphins or zip lining across this beautiful park with everything else in between!
Or you could sip down cocktails on the most beautiful beach on the island, eat tacos and enjoy traditional Mexican food while taking in the weather on this sun-kissed island.
The top spot isn't easily earned, Cozumel has ranked number one on this list for being safe thanks to its size and remote location. Most of the population here lives in the city of San Miguel, where the hustle and bustle of everyday life are not quite the same as cities spread throughout mainland Mexico. Not much precaution is needed when visiting this hugely popular tourist destination.
How to Get There
If your looking to experience the fantastic things on Cozumel and join the thousands of tourists that arrive every day, the island is located in the western Caribbean just 12 miles of the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula and is easily accessible by ferry which operates between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen on the hour.
Also in the Yucatan is Campeche, this city earns the second spot in my list for the safest places in Mexico and is beloved by locals, tourists and expats alike!
Campeche is a wonderfully charming city. I promise you from the moment you step through those giant surrounding walls you'll be instantly amazed by how unique and quirky this city is. I rarely have many expectations for visiting cities throughout Mexico, but each and every time I do, I manage to find myself surprised and Campeche was no exception.
A giant 2-mile wall surrounds the entire city of Campeche. The city was fortified in the 1600s due to the constant attacks the town suffered at the hands of pirates; this feat took the city 50 years to build and most of which remarkable still stands today.
It's not often you find cities surrounded by giant walls and fortifications that are more than 200 years old, because of this Campeche is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site and you get a very unique experience when visiting this beautiful city.
Take in some of the famous town histories, and after go for some delicious local food. It is a fisherman's city after all! Every day the local fishermen return in the late afternoon to sell their catch in the markets, you can visit the markets by walking to the north end of the Malecon, If you walk a little further on down you will find tons of seafood restaurants.
Prepare yourself to eat some of the best fish in your life!
One of the highlights of visiting this vibrant city was exploring, seeing and getting to experience so much colour, quirkiness and culture, make sure to wander these amazing streets, and keep a lookout for the main square, this where the city comes alive at night!
Visit the 8 bastions that make up the cities fortification, 7 of the strongholds are still in their original state. In each one you will find something different, in one exists a botanical garden, another the city museum, but the one I found to be most interesting is the bastion with a museum of Maya culture and history.
You also have the opportunity to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets in all of Mexico, because Campeche is on the west side of the Yucatan Peninsula, you a guaranteed to see a sunset that takes your breath away. The perfect spot is along the boardwalk, you'll find hundreds of tourists and locals in this area for the same reason you are.
Statistics say this is one of the safest places in all Mexico, and I absolutely believe it to be true. I felt completely safe exploring these streets and not once did I feel uneasy or felt the need to look over my shoulder. Most of the exploring was done during the day, but when It came going out at night, I visited multiple bars and restaurants around the main square and continuously felt entirely safe.
How to Get There
Campeche is quite the distance from Cancun and an even larger one from Mexico City, the drive to this place is relatively safe with minimal reports of criminal activity happening in Campeche state. Whether you choose to arrive by bus or car, either option is fine, just prepare yourself for some really long driving times if you decide to take this method of travel, there is also an International airport in Campeche for those looking to arrive by plane.
3. San Cristóbal de las Casas
Okay so this picture isn't exactly of the town San Cristobal, but the photo taken in Sumidero Canyon is definitely the highlight of the trip!
San Cristobal provides quite a different experience in comparison with the last two places mentioned, firstly it's not situated anywhere near sky blue waters or beautiful beaches, and secondly, it's a lot smaller!
San Cristobal de las Casas is a small colonial town that is often referred to as a magical place, the former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderónv had this to say "The most magical of the Pueblos Mágicos" he wasn't lying! This small cosy town is just something that has to be experienced and seen by everyone to fully understand what people mean when they say it is magic!
When visiting and exploring San Cristobal you'll find beautiful vibrant streets, fantastic culture, amazing people and delicious food! Even thinking about the food and culture makes me want to go back!
One of the best things about this city is to wander its beautiful streets and enjoy the local cuisine. There so many beautiful and unique cafes/restaurants around the town serving traditional food and coffee.
The culture and heritage can be quite different from what you may experience elsewhere in Mexico, as the general population consists mostly of the Tzotzil and the Tzatzal people. San Cristobal de las Casas is home to one of the largest indigenous Mayan communities in all of Mexico.
This town, albeit relatively small, has a lot to offer and is generally busy all year round satisfying tourists and visitors alike with its unique atmosphere and welcoming people.
Just a short trip away is Sumidero Canyon, and I can't recommend enough on why you should visit and take a boat tour of this magnificent canyon, it's an absolute must do if you're staying in San Cristobal! It's an inexpensive excursion that is sure to be the highlight of your visit.
So I was kind of conflicted about putting this town so high on the list, if I was to follow just the statistics for crime rate per capita, San Cristobal de las Casas is without question the third safest place in all of Mexico! But the problem with this is that it is located in the beautiful southern state of Chiapas, and in Chiapas it is known that some of the driving routes can be dangerous, because of criminals looking to extort or steal from you.
I will leave it here at the third spot in my list, but if you are looking to visit, I recommend you travel by coach or group tour, if you are driving here for the first time the risk is that you lose your way and or take a route prone to criminal attacks.
The city itself is safe but if you are looking to do day excursions outside of the city, travel with caution and always keep your wits about you.
How to Get There
The city of San Cristobal is located far into the mountainous range of Chiapas, and the route for arrival really sets the mood. It's a long journey ascending through mountains that provides endless opportunities to witness some stunning scenery of the Chiapas nature and wildlife.
As previously mentioned, the route for arrival can prove dangerous sometimes, so with this in mind, I can't recommend that you drive to this place if you have never been before. You should be absolutely sure of the roads and routes for arrival and if not, you should arrive by coach, it's a much more convenient and safer option.
Tuxtla Gutierrez is the closest airport to San Cristobal, located only an hour away, with multiple choices for arrival most commonly the shuttle transfer.
4. Puerto Vallarta
One of my favourite places in all of Mexico! I absolutely love this city, and I'm delighted to say that the crime rate is extremely low giving it the fourth spot in my list of safest places in the country.
This city has some insane beauty as it's perfectly situated in the Sierra Madre mountain range, which sits next to the ocean. Puerto Vallarta has some incredible landscapes, nature and wildlife with the added benefit of having some fantastic beaches! There are not too many places that can compare with a city that's on a mountain next to the ocean. It's not too often something makes me speechless, but that's how I felt on multiple occasions throughout my stay here.
This place has it all there really is something for everyone! Whatever it is that one hopes to see or experience when visiting a city, you can probably do it here. When planning your visit be careful to choose your location as the city is split up into different zones to aid tourists and locals distinguish between different sections of the city, each and every one of the zones can cater to different types of people depending on what you would like to see, do or experience.
I might seem like a broken record, I've mentioned multiple times throughout this article about watching sunsets, and I will continue to recommend that you do so as one of the best things to do in Puerto Vallarta is to visit Conchas Chinas beach, sit down, relax and enjoy some cocktails while you wait for the sun to set, it's spectacular sight to behold and one of the most amazing experiences to be had when visiting.
I also found the Romantic Zone to be quite the interesting hot spot, full of trendy bars, courtyard restaurants and boutique hotels, this area has a lot to offer it's visitors and attracts quite the crowd.
Upon arrival too whichever zone you have chosen to stay, you will realise fast that crime is not so much an issue in this beautiful place. Not to say that crime is non-existent, but for the general visitor, there should be no reason whatsoever for you to not visit over safety concerns!
This is one of the many cities throughout Mexico that you can ramble it's street's during the night without any issues. It's also surprisingly one of the most popular places to visit amongst international visitors.
How to Get There
The most popular chosen route for arrival to Puerto Vallarta is by air, the city has it's own international airport that is very conveniently located only 15 minutes outside of the main town. Apart from flying here, another highly popular way to arrive is by coach, you can also drive if you wish to do so as there have been no reported dangerous along any of the highways for arrival.
Some of the different zones in the city are listed just below:
Hotel Zone – A short drive from the airport, this zone caters to most of the tourists and visitors with a vast selection of hotels, restaurants, bars and shopping centres.
Marina – A similar zone to the hotel zone only this area caters more so to the wealthy or upper middle class, with a finer selection of classier more reputable hotels.
Centro (Romantic Zone) – One of my favourite zones to stay, you'll find a huge selection of bars, cafes, restaurants and the beautiful Playa Los Muertos Beach. This zone is relatively cheap to stay, you can find anything from budget to high-end accommodation.
Centro (Old PV) – generally a residential area, but with quite a few nice options for cheap accommodation, there's also a nice selection of properties listed on Airbnb with great value. This area is situated along Malecon, which has many great restaurants and bars to choose from.
Conchas Chinas – Named after the mollusk shells you can find along the beach and not China! This area is located just a few minutes from the romantic zone and is usually a favourite of the locals. This particular zone stands out for one apparent reason, the geographical highlight of the wild jungle Sierra Madre meeting the crystalline coasts of the Pacific Ocean, this is one of the most beautiful sights to behold when visiting.
If you would like a map of the zones and more information about Puerto Vallarta, you can visit this site here https://www.puertovallarta.net/
5. Puebla de los Ángeles
Thanks to publications by The National Geographic, New York Times and Lonely Planet, this city has garnered a lot more attention by international visitors in recent times.
Famed for its culinary heritage, and colonial history this city is a must visit for food lovers and adventurers alike. While exploring this city, you can't help but notice the baroque colonial architecture and the beautiful vibrant streets, it's something that really stands out from the moment you arrive.
For those explorers and adventurers at heart, why don't you visit a Volcano? That's right, there are multiple active volcanoes in Puebla!
Two of the most famous volcanoes in Mexico are Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatepetl. These volcanoes are situated next to each other and provide the perfect opportunity to take some fantastic photographs! There is a legend in Mexico that says these volcanoes are named from a Princess (Iztaccíhuatl) and Warrior (Popocatepetl) that were to be married upon the return of the warrior from battle, but the princess died believing in lies that her beloved had been killed in battle. Visit an experience this legend for yourself!
Some of the best highlights of visiting are exploring it's unique streets and admirin