Beach Safety and Warning Flags in Mexico

Mexico Beach Safety

Red flag on beach
••• A red flag on the beach means danger. Paolo Curto / Getty Images

Enjoying the beach can be one of the highlights of your Mexican vacation, but it's important to keep safety in mind should you choose to swim in the ocean. Although many people express concern about their personal security when considering travel to Mexico, they tend to neglect some of the aspects that they have the most control over. It's a sad reality that every year there are drownings that could be prevented if people took the proper caution when choosing whether or not to go for a swim in the ocean.

Mexican authorities make it easy for you: there are flags on the beach to let you know the current conditions of the water and whether it is safe to swim or not.

Exercise caution when swimming in the ocean

Strong undertow and rough surf are common on many of Mexico's beaches. Dangerous rip currents may be present even though there may be no visible indication from the shore. Before entering the water you should check the surf conditions and see if a warning flag is up. Be particularly cautious if you are not a strong swimmer or if you have been drinking alcoholic beverages.

Most beaches in Mexico do not have lifeguards. Remember that you are responsible for your personal safety and if you decide to enter the ocean, you do so at your own risk. A beach warning flag system is in use in many of the more popular beach areas. The colors of the beach flags have the following meanings:

Green Flag: Water conditions are safe for swimming.


Yellow Flag: Use caution while swimming.
Red Flag: Dangerous conditions.
Black Flag: This is the highest warning level. Do not swim.

Warning flags on beaches should always be taken seriously. Always swim with a buddy and never leave children unsupervised near water. Even in shallow water, small children can drown even in shallow water

If you get caught in a rip tide

Should you happen to get caught in a rip current or undertow, try to stay calm, float or tread water to conserve energy. It can be terrifying to be pulled out to sea, but the rip current will not pull you under water, so stay Call for help if you can, and swim parallel to the shore. Trying to swim straight back to the beach against the current can tire you out quickly; your chances are better if you swim parallel to the shore to an area where the current is not so strong and then approach the beach at an angle. 

Select your beach

You can choose to stay at a beach that is known to be calm for a better chance of being able to enjoy the ocean fully. There are some beaches where swimming is inadvisable at any time, but if you do a bit of research and select your beach, you will have a good chance of finding one where you can safely enjoy swimming and water sports. For example, in Cancun, select a north-facing beaches along the northern side of the guide to the beaches of Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

Read more about beach safety and spring break safety tips.