Originally, the state department said a security threat was so credible it shut down the USA consular agency and stopped government employees from traveling to the area.
The flag of Mexico changes in front of a large US flag in front of the New York Stock Exchange September 4, 2015. There are four levels of caution-exercise normal precautions, exercise increased caution, reconsider travel, and do not travel-and the red-alert stage four gets reviewed at least every six months.
A "security alert" is a short-term warning-the equivalent, in many ways, of what a travel alert would have been in the State Department's old system.
The U.S. Embassy did not mention a specific plot targeting Americans, but Olson believes issuing the security alert was the right call.
In an emergency message posted to the embassy's website, the agency said it had received "information about a security threat in Playa del Carmen", and that it is barring government employees from traveling to the resort town.
With recent attacks like the ferry explosion and a shootout in Playa del Carmen night club, some travelers say, it's not worth the risk. However, the embassy did not provide any further details about the security threat. The incident occurred on a ferry that runs between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel, and a week later another "apparent explosive device" was discovered on another ferry in Cozumel.
Over the past year, there has been a dramatic increase in violence in and around Playa del Carmen, according to Eric Olson, an expert on security issues in Mexico at the Wilson Center's Latin American Program. "We encourage travelers to be aware of surroundings and exercise caution". The explosion took place while passengers were disembarking the ferry.
And while USA citizens aren't explicitly forbidden to visit Playa del Carmen, if the consulate and embassy services are unavailable in a place you're planning to be, it's generally a good idea to head somewhere else. Why?
Following the explosion, Mexican authorities found undetonated explosive devices aboard a different ferry on March 1.
They are asking people to check travel.state.gov before heading out of the country.