Which Mexican beaches are the safest and best for families?

Are you ready for a vacation at a place that’s beautiful, promises great eats, cultural attractions, fantastic beaches and enough adventures for any adrenaline junkie?  It can be a bargain too.

Welcome to Mexico. According to Trivago, which tracks hotel prices around the world, rates in Mexican resort destinations like Puerto Vallarta, Cabo, and Playa del Carmen have been going down — while they’re going up on Caribbean islands like Jamaica and Barbados.  

At the same time, Expedia says that flight fares to destinations like Cabo and Cancun are also down from last year.

But is Mexico safe, you wonder?  I think so, especially in the resort areas. Consider that most cities in central Mexico have lower murder rates than Orlando.  The main tourist destinations for U.S. citizens are geographically far from areas that have been affected  by drug violence, which are primarily along the U.S.-Mexico border.  The distance between the U.S.-Mexico border, where the majority of violent acts occur, and Cancun, for example is more than 1,400 miles.

Experts hired by Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, to consider that question concur after interviewing everyone from police to tourism officials, visitors and local business owners.  Some people don’t even lock their doors.

Quintana Roo, the state where Cancun is located, is one of the safest states in Mexico, officials say. Those in Los Cabos note that their state has the fifth lowest crime rate of all Mexico states.  I certainly felt safe when I visited there.

Riviera Nayarit has an entire team of Tourism Police who patrol beaches, towns and highways and Punta Mita, where you’ll find resorts like The Four Seasons and St. Regis, is a gated community.

I know the temptation when you’re in Mexico is just stay at your all-inclusive resort and they certainly are getting ever more elaborate and luxurious.  But you should feel safe to venture out in the resort areas. And I know from experience you’re missing a lot if you don’t.  You’ll miss excellent scuba diving, exploring caves and Mayan ruins, swimming in an underground cenote (deep water-filled sinkholes), maybe learning to cook mole — or try a local specialty.   

How about a fried grasshopper?  I popped one right in my mouth in Oaxaca which is famous for its markets—that’s where the grasshoppers were being sold—its chocolate and its mole, along with its artisans.

It tastes kind of like bacon and is seasoned with chili and salt. Not bad!  We also spent a memorable day at Seasons of the Heart  cooking school.  There are ruins to explore, carvers to meet, bike rides on dirt roads past farmers on donkey carts. (here’s what I wrote about our experience.)

If you are in Cancun or along the Riviera Maya, you’ve got to visit Tulum where during Mayan times, those with the most knowledge — astronomers, priests, doctors — lived closest to the temples in the last cities inhabited by the Mayans just 75 miles south of Cancun.  Many people I met love staying in Tulum with its laid back vibe, gorgeous beaches and tiny hotels, some with just 15 or 20 rooms.   

If you want a little more action, consider Playa del Carmen. I loved its signature pedestrian area, the musicians, the beaches and the outdoor cafes.  Check out the new Hyatt Playa del Carmen in the heart of the town where room rates start at under $200 a night and you will feel totally safe wandering around.

I’m excited for my trip next month to Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit on the Pacific Coast.  I don’t know what I’ll want to do first — hit the beach or explore Puerto’s regional eats. There are the galleries at San Pancho, the cultural capital of the state of Nayarit and I’ve got to see the crocs and the birds in La Tovara National Park – home to 80 per cent of the Pacific migratory shore bird populations.

Maybe I better add a few more days….See you there!

Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new  Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando,  LA and Chicago. Coming  later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.

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