The 5 Biggest Dangers in Cabo and How to Avoid Them

Is Cabo Dangerous?

In the wake of the media coverage for the last year or so, a lot of people ask me - Is Cabo dangerous?  To me, the answer is a bit complicated. 

I've been to Cabo (and many other Mexico tourist destinations in the last year) and I've never had a concern for my personal safety. But that's not to say that I don't know of people (both personally and through stories) that have had dangerous and even fatal situations. The good news is that most of these were completely preventable. 

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce 19.5 million US tourists visited Mexico in 2009. And 259 US tourists experienced non-natural deaths in Mexico (according to the US Department of State). That means that of those almost 20 million people, only .0013% experienced a non-natural death.

That's not to say that there are not things that pose danger in Cabo. 

But the truth is, don't think that just because you are on vacation in Cabo (or anywhere for that matter) that you can drop your guard. If you would feel unsafe or uncomfortable doing something at home, don't do it in Cabo. Don't abandon common safety rules you follow at home. 

Here are the 5 biggest dangers I've come across in Cabo San Lucas and how to (hopefully) avoid them.  

The Sun

The Danger:

While Cabo's 360 days of sunshine may sound amazing, it can cause negative effects on your vacation if you are not prepared for it.

Especially if you are from a colder climate or a place that doesn't see much sun, it's easy to get a a sun burn or even sun stroke from the strong sun in Cabo. A painful sunburn can make your vacation uncomfortable, especially if it's in the start. 

The long term effects of repeated sunburn and excessive sun exposure can be life threatening; it can cause cancer. 

Spending time in the sun can result in dehydration and even heat stroke: one of the most severe form of heat illness which can be a life-threatening emergency. Common heat stroke symptoms include headache, dizziness, disorientation, fatigue and a high body temperature.

None of these are very much fun. 

How to Avoid It

  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration and heat stroke. Avoid tea, coffee, soda and alcohol as these can increase dehydration.

  • Bring a hat, wear a shirt when you can and try to sit in the shade.

  • Make sure to wear waterproof sunscreen and apply often. Apply the sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into the sun.

  • If you are planning rigorous activities, try to schedule them when the sun is not at it's hottest. Avoid 12 p.m to 4 p.m.

Alcohol Abuse

The Danger

It can be tempting at an all inclusive resort to "drink your money's worth" or to spend all night get wasted at the Happy Ending Cantina and Squid Roe. But alcohol poisoning isn't something you should take lightly.

Alcohol abuse on vacation also tends to lead questionable decisions that can have negative consequences.

Not to mention you probably won't feel good the next day. Anyone who has tried to go whale watching or ziplining with a hangover knows how little fun that can be.

According to the US Department of State, "alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break." Yah, we're not surprised!

How to Avoid It

  • Make sure to eat and drink non-alcoholic liquids (mostly water).  Know your limits and stick to them.

  • Know the symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning. If a person you are with has altered consciousness, slowed respiration, repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, or cool, pale skin, this is an emergency and you should seek medical help.

  • Get some sleep. Sleeping well is important to enjoying your vacation and keeping your immune system up. Try to stop drinking a few hours before going to sleep. This is should help you rest better after a night of drinking.

  • Follow the buddy system when going out drinking. This will help guarantee both your safety and your friends. Leave with a friend and go home with a friend. No one who has been drinking should be unattended.

Swimming

The Danger

This one is very serious as all 3 US non-natural deaths in Cabo San Lucas from June 2009 to June 2010 were from drowning according to the US Department of State.

Not all of Cabo's beaches are safe for swimming. Strong undertow and rough surf are common along beaches especially on the Pacific coast. It may seem appealing to swim in the water with large waves, but the cost is definitely not worth it.

Please don't let that be you. 

How to Avoid It

  • Make sure to take warning flags on beaches very seriously. If black or red flags are up, do not enter the water. Look around as well; if no one else is in the water, you probably should not get in.

  • If the weather is stormy (rare but it does happen - including hurricanes), don't get in the water.

  • Do not swim in pools without lifeguards and do not dive into unknown bodies of water (you do not know if there is a rock or something you can't see).

  • A tip I learned from a surf instructor in Cabo - If the waves break on the beach, they are far more likely to cause a dangerous undertow

  • Watch all children on the beach - even if it's a safe swimming area like Medano Beach - and never leave them unsupervised in the water.

  • If you do go swimming in Cabo, make sure that someone else knows where you are. Avoid swimming alone. Always exercise extreme caution and never swim under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Driving

The Danger:

Aproximately 40,000 people a year in the US die from motor vehicle accidents according to National Center for Health Statistics, making it one of the leading causes of non-natural deaths. Mexico is no different; over 30% of US non natural deaths in Mexico occurred from car and other motor vehicle accidents.

Driving in Mexico can be dangerous if you don't pay attention or you don't take the time to learn about some of the differences between driving in Mexico and driving back home.

Alcohol can also play a factor just like at home. Many drivers are "enjoying their vacation" and might get behind the wheel after a few drinks downtown. 

It might seem tempting to rent that motorcycle But if you are not used to driving one, that just might be a fatal decision. 

How to Avoid It

  • To avoid a car accident, pay attention to your surroundings and the road. Most car accidents occur when some one is not paying attention. Don't talk on a cell phone. Be on the look out for things in the road (pot holes, people, livestock, etc). Pay attention to the other drivers.

  • Try not to drive at night as it can be harder to see the road and other drivers may be intoxicated.

  • If you are intoxicated or plan on getting intoxicated- don't drive. Just don't do it. There are plenty of taxis and private drivers in Cabo. You can arrange safe transportation with them.

  • In Cabo, stop signs seem to be considered as “a suggestion." This doesn't mean that you shouldn't stop, just be aware that others may not stop. Also, rights on red are not usually legal unless posted that it is.

  • Also, make sure that you have the correct insurance for driving in Mexico, especially third-party collision insurance. They are very strict on this and if you do not have Mexican insurance, chances are you may end up in jail. No fun. 

Turista/Montezuma's Revenge/Travelers' Diarrhea

The Danger

While the water in most hotels and restaurants in Cabo is very safe and filtered, Montezuma's revenge or Travelers' Diarrhea (TD) is the most common illness affecting travelers.  Between 20%-50% of international travelers experience this ailment worldwide. It is commonly caused by eating food or drinking water with bacteria that your body is not used to. 

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, bloating, fever, urgency, and malaise among others. 

Most cases are not very serious and resolve in a few days with no treatment. Severe or extended cases may result in extensive fluid loss and/or dangerous electrolytic imbalance. If you do not treat TD, it can become a severe medical risk and may even be fatal. Again, not fun.

How to Avoid It

  • If you feel like you have to ask about the water, be safe and just order bottled water. Remember that ice most likely made from the same water so go for a bottled coke, tea etc. Ask for agua purificada.

  • If you venture "off the beaten path," be careful with dairy, raw fruits and vegetables, under cooked meat and seafood. 

  • People with lowered immune systems are more likely to develop TD. 

  • If you do get sick, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and sports drinks like Powerade or Gatorade. Get lots of rest.

  • If symptoms last longer than 5 days, seek medical treatment.

I hope this helps everyone stay safe in Cabo. Cabo can be a very fun vacation spot if you are responsible and don't ask for danger. Do you have any other tips for fellow Cabo travelers?

About the Author: Cara Gourley

Cara Gourley is the Director of Web Strategy for All About Mexico as well as an All About Girl. She's a certified Los Cabos Expert and has been to Cabo many times.

If you have any questions on restaurants, hotels or activities, Cara would love to help you! You can head to the forum to ask a question or you can email her directly.

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