I have been living in and traveling around Mexico for almost six years now. In my personal experience as well as that of all of the friends I have made here along the way, I have discovered some of the safest cities in Mexico.
I love this country and I write about it often, so safety is a common question I get. I understand the queries. There are unsafe cities in Mexico, just as there are unsafe cities in many countries.
There are places in Mexico that I avoid because I’ve read about it and talked to people who have been recently and I don’t want to put myself at risk. If you want to keep up to date in English, the best place to do that is on Mexico News Daily.
So I do understand why people ask for the safest cities in Mexico, I myself often do the same. The reality is that there are places, mostly rural and mostly close to the US border, where you should avoid because, well, they aren’t that safe.
After living in and traveling around Mexico for so many years, I have visited plenty of beautiful and safe cities and towns around Mexico. Let me share them with you.
NOTE: If you are reading this article looking for Mexico’s safest cities during the lockdown/quarantine, you may find better answers over on my YouTube Channel where I am regularly interviewing people from other parts of Mexico about what the situation looks like in that part of the country.
You can find those videos here.
Head to this article to keep up-to-date on the reopening of tourism in Mexico.
The Safest Cities in Mexico
This is perhaps my new favorite city in Mexico. It’s definitely one of the safest cities in Mexico not only for the main reasons that you think like being low in crime, but also because it’s outside of the earthquake zone.
After the 2017 earthquake in Mexico City, many of the city’s wealthier residents headed north to this smaller city for its cleaner air, safer neighborhoods, and sturdier ground.
It has cute cafes, great restaurants, interesting museums, and lots of nearby hiking. It has the great weather that you get from other areas in the central region like Guanajuato and Mexico City, but it sits somewhere in between population-wise.
Be sure to check out Alex of Backpacking Brunette both on her blog here and on her YouTube channel if you are interested in living in Queretaro.
Read: Things to Do in Queretaro
The country’s second-largest city has a level of safety that you don’t get in Mexico City while still offering the big city life that you may crave.
There is so much to do in Guadalajara. There are seriously great restaurants in Guadalajara. There are delicious craft beer bars in Guadalajara.
What more do you need?
There are also plenty of job opportunities here. It’s recently become the sort of Silicon Valley of Mexico with tons of tech jobs and startups flooding to the city’s low rent areas.
It has the added bonus of being the home of Mariachi and birria and tequila and the city is relatively close to Puerto Vallarta.
Check out some of my videos from Guadalajara here:
Here’s the thing. Many people are heading in droves to the nearby city of San Miguel de Allende, but I’m not putting it on this list because with the arrival of more money and more foreigners often comes a bit of trouble. Just look at Cancun.
I’m not saying that San Miguel de Allende isn’t safe, I’m just saying I don’t think it’s one of the safest cities in Mexico.
Guanajuato, however, is (in my humble opinion, I’m not a risk analyst).
Guanajuato is smaller and cheaper while still having the colonial charm and cute cafes that you find in San Miguel. That, and you’re still only an hour bus ride away from SMA.
Follow Tim of Cheapest Destinations Blog who lives most of the year in Guanajuato.
This is up there as one of my favorite cities in Mexico. Ensenada has everything I love: amazing craft beer, the beach, great weather for 9 months of the year, local wines, and seriously delicious seafood.
Ensenada is close enough to Tijuana that you can get around the country easily or fly into the US for a reasonable price. You can also hop in the car and head south to Baja California Sur on a road trip.
The Malecon is a great place to go for a walk. There’s a really excellent fish market where you not only can enjoy freshly cooked seafood, but you can buy some of your own to take home and cook.
Ensenada is far enough from the border that you really don’t have any safety concerns. The only thing that I don’t love about Ensenada is that it’s a cruise ship port, so every few days during the peak season, you are contending with quite a lot of visitors in a small city.
Read: The Best Things to do in Ensenada
5. La Paz
Another Baja city on this list is perhaps not one you would think of, La Paz.
You could easily put all of those cities on this list. San Jose del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, Todos Santos (ok, not exactly a city, but still a safe place to live in Mexico).
I’ve spent time living in both San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos and I fell in love with those two as well. Consider those two a bonus addition to the list of the safest cities in Mexico.
Baja California Sur, in general, is a wonderful place to live or visit. There are so many beautiful towns and beaches scattered around, but I love the capital.
La Paz has a bit of everything. It has a local domestic airport that allows you to cheaply and easily connect to Mexico City airport. It has nearby beaches that are some of the most beautiful in the world, and don’t even get me started on the food.
I also love this city because it’s cheaper than its more famous neighbors. Restaurants in La Paz are a fraction of the cost of those in Los Cabos, but just as good.
You can have access to great craft beers, beautiful sunsets, ice-cold Victorias in beachside bars, and seriously, the best seafood restaurant I’ve been to in Mexico.
See some of my videos from La Paz, Todos Santos, and San Jose del Cabo here:
- Living in San Jose del Cabo
- San Jose del Cabo Vs Cabo San Lucas
- Living in Todos Santos
- Apartment Tour in La Paz
- What to Do in La Paz
6. Puerto Vallarta
This is one of the most well-known destinations on this list for expats and snow-birds.
Puerto Vallarta consistently tops the list of the safest cities in Mexico. Jalisco, in general, is a state that continues to stay out of trouble with those that cause trouble.
I think of all of the cities that sit along Mexico’s coast, Puerto Vallarta is the most liveable. It has tons of coastline with different areas. You can easily avoid the masses of resort tourists by getting a place in the Romantic Zone instead.
You can head up for a road trip to Sayulita and San Pancho. You have all of the big stores like Costco and Walmart, but also the small-town feel of the Romantic Zone.
It’s well connected by bus and air to the rest of the country and there are relatively affordable flights to and from the US and Canada.
There are great international schools, a few different job opportunities if you are still needing to work within Mexico, and a nice mixture of expats and locals.
Head south along the coast for some of the most beautiful and deserted beaches in the country all as a day trip from Puerto Vallarta.
Read: Best Restaurants in Puerto Vallarta
7. San Cristobal de Las Casas
This little expat haven doesn’t seem to make the headlines even though it is full of retirees, young families, and everyone in between.
While sitting in a wine bar in San Cristobal de las Casas, I heard French, Italian, English, and Spanish being spoken.
It is perhaps more of a large town than a city, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the safest in Mexico. It has great cafes, seriously good street food, tons of natural beauty a day trip away and so much culture to immerse yourself in.
Chiapas is one of the most fascinating states in Mexico. It’s a huge coffee producer, where much of the produce is grown, and is home to several different indigenous groups who still speak their native language.
Whether you are simply looking for a base to use to explore Chiapas or you want a laid back, small-town place to live in Mexico, I highly recommend this little slice of jungle paradise.
Read: 10 Day Chiapas Itinerary
If I could choose any city to live in Mexico, it would be Oaxaca.
Oaxaca is, without a doubt, one of the safest cities in Mexico.
It is also one of the most beautiful cities in Mexico and one of the best foodie cities in Mexico.
Oaxaca has tons of nearby ruins and amazing history to explore, but the reason so many people return to this city over and over again is for the food. It is the birthplace of so much of Mexico’s cuisine that is now being exported to Mexican restaurants around the world.
The city center is walkable and full of different things to do, but there are also cool neighborhoods to explore, too (like #17 on this list).
Only two hours outside of Mexico City, Puebla is a safer, cleaner, and more affordable option.
Puebla has the cool nearby Pueblo Magico of Cholula (home to the second-largest pyramid in the world!). You can hike Iztaccihuatl as well as a few other local volcanos on the weekends.
It has amazing museums and the oldest library in the world. And just like Oaxaca, Puebla is home to many traditional Mexican foods that have become famous around the country.
Puebla has a cosmopolitan feel that I haven’t found anywhere else besides Mexico City. There are high-end restaurants and great local taco spots. There are stylish cocktail spots and dive bars with cheap cold bottles of caguamos.
It’s also incredibly close to nature. If you want to get out and hike around the volcanos, you’re less than an hour from the base trails. If you want to visit Mexico City, you’re a day trip away. If you want to go to the beach, you’re a short drive to Veracruz. It has its own airport, but you can also easily get a bus from Puebla straight to the Mexico City airport which connects you to anywhere else you want to go.
Read: Things to do in Puebla
The city that is often touted as the safest city in Mexico, Merida is a true haven for both tourists and expats.
Merida is beautiful. It’s clean. It’s packed with museums. It’s close to the beach. It’s great for families, for digital nomads, for single people and couples. There are expats of all ages who, in recent years, have fallen in love with this city and are calling it home.
It’s as hot as the earth’s core (which is why I can’t live there). But that doesn’t stop it from being a seriously cool place to base yourself or even to live.
If you want to follow along with someone who lives there, be sure to read Mexico Cassie’s blog. She shares all of the ups and downs of moving to Mexico with kids and more not only on her blog but in her book Moving to Merida.
There is a solid expat community in the city if that’s something you’re looking for. However, it’s still a city that has tons of Maya culture and great Mexican food.
Read: Things to do in Merida
Campeche is a stunning city in the state of the same name. It is one of the smallest states in Mexico and is definitely one of the safest cities in Mexico as well.
Close to the Maya history of Yucatan and the beaches of the Riviera Maya, Campeche allows you to have a little bit of everything at your fingertips while allowing you to come home to a quiet safe place each evening.
The city of Campeche was a fortified city with walls that were built in the 17th century. Many of the walls still remain and you can explore the colonial architecture and discover history from this time period all over the place.
It’s located on the Gulf of Mexico, so you won’t get the turquoise waters that you might find in Playa del Carmen or Tulum (but you won’t get the cartel violence either). However, there are beaches along the edges of the city and you can easily get there by bus or simply by booking a hotel close to the beaches so you can walk to them.
Huatulco is quite a small city, but it is packed with incredible beaches and a vibrant downtown. It is one of the safest cities in Mexico for both living and for vacation.
Located in the state of Oaxaca, the city is home to some stunning resorts that sit amongst nine different bays. These bays are home to over 30 different beaches. That’s a lot of beach time!
The downtown is small and centered around the main plaza. In the evenings, everyone comes out to the plaza. It’s a hot place, so the evenings are when you want to come out and enjoy slightly cooler air temperatures.
I enjoyed so many evenings in the central plaza of Huatulco where you can sit outside at one of the restaurants in Huatulco or you can enjoy some live music and dancing which happens most nights of the week, but especially on the weekends.
Besides beaches, there are actually quite a lot of things to do in Huatulco including checking out historical sites and taking boat trips to different areas of the Oaxaca coast.
Located in the central region of Mexico in the state of Michoacan, Morelia is one of the safest places in Mexico to enjoy year-round spring weather, colonial architecture, and incredible Mexican food.
It really is one of the most stunning cities in Mexico but doesn’t seem to get quite as much attention as places like San Miguel de Allende or Guanajuato.
Watch a video of Morelia to see for yourself.
Morelia has all of the amenities you might want from a bigger city like great markets, decent healthcare, and an airport. But it’s also not too far to hop on a flight to Mexico City which can connect you to the rest of the country or you can hop on a bus to the coast.
The city also has plenty to do in its own right and will keep you busy for weeks if you plan to add it to your Mexico itinerary or are considering it as a place to retire.
What About Mexico City or Cancun?
One of my favorite cities in the country and one that I called home for nearly five years. Is Mexico City one of the safest cities in Mexico?
I suppose it depends on where in the city you choose to live or visit.
It’s kind of like New York, or LA, or Chicago. There are neighborhoods where you don’t want to go. Similarly, there are places that, especially after dark, you probably don’t want to find yourself alone.
If you come to Mexico City and spend your time in the Centro Historico, in Polanco, Las Lomas, Roma, Condesa, or Coyoacan, you will truly have almost zero problems with safety.
The same goes for Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum and many other popular cities in Mexico. They are not completely unsafe, but I certainly would not list them as the safest cities in Mexico, because they aren’t.
Be sure to check the news both in Mexico and in the US. Read the government advisories (and then take them with a pinch of salt). And travel to places that YOU feel comfortable traveling to and that interest you most.
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
Thank you for sharing this information!! I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico but didn’t know where to start or what was safe. I had some questions that perhaps you could answer. Do you have a post or information on driving through Mexico? Is it safe? What should I be aware of? What should I avoid, etc.
Saturday 15th of October 2022
Thanks, this is super helpful! We (myself, my wife, and 3 kids) are planning on moving to GDL sometime around the first of the year - still debating whether to spend the holidays here in the States with family or in PVR enjoying the beach for a couple weeks before returning to regular life. Question though, how has work been for you down there? Are there any restrictions on expats earning money through online sources (i.e. US-based remote jobs or blogging) like there would be for, say, a regular wage job at a local business? I don't want to create a tax nightmare!
Tuesday 5th of October 2021
I’ve been looking at Querétaro, but I’m seeing the flooding and that’s scary! Ugh! This is a great listing. Always need to know the logistics!
Saturday 30th of January 2021
Hello this was very helpful we will be moving to mexico within 2 years I know it's far off but I was thinking mountains or a place secluded to build our home .we were thinking chiapas but we want the prettiest mountains and close to some sort of town can you refer me to or give your opinion on places please.
Monday 15th of February 2021
There's San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas. In the central mountains of Mexico, you also have areas around Queretaro, Guanajuato, Puebla/Cholula. There's also stunning mountains near the sea in Baja California Sur. Hope that helps a little bit!
Sunday 15th of November 2020
My family is looking to move to the Puerto Vallarta area in the next 6 months (fingers crossed). My husband and I are 50 and we have a 10 year old daughter. We are looking for a safe area and a great place and education for our daughter. We also have to be concerned about our budget. My husband will need a job but is having trouble finding one. Any suggestions on job hunting, education, and locations? Also, any other information you would like to offer would be great!!!!!! Thank you so much.
Monday 29th of March 2021
Thanks a lot for this article! So helpful, hopefully this info is still current. I am in Queretaro but looking for the next city to head to and your list really helped! BTW: CDMX was great! I stayed in Zona Rosa by Insurgentes which I found to be decently safe but would recommend avoiding Genova at night. I wouldn't put CDMX on the safe list either but is definitely worth a visit!