Water Hazards: America's Most Dangerous Beaches

Venice Beach

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Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach by Lechhansl (CC BY-SA)

Proceed With Caution

Beach season has arrived and people everywhere are planning beach vacations. But before you grab your towel and umbrella and throw on your swimsuit, you might want to check in on the safety conditions of your destination. The outdoors-oriented website Outforia conducted a study to pinpoint the most dangerous beaches in the U.S. focusing on metrics including crime reports, air and water pollution, surf zone fatalities, lightning fatalities, shark attacks, and average summer temperature. Add to those hazards a potential "pathogen storm" from a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom headed toward Florida this year. Cheapism is highlighting the 15 most dangerous to help you plan the safest beach trip this summer.   

Ocean View Beach
Ocean View Beach by Ac dc 82 (CC BY-SA)

15. Ocean View Beach

Location: Norfolk, Virginia 

The name of this beach might make it sound inviting and idyllic, but according to submissions from both residents and visitors, it’s anything but. Ocean View Beach holds the not-so-coveted title as the beach with the most polluted water. The water also has a history of harmful algae blooms.  

North Palm Beach
North Palm Beach by SunnyGunn (CC BY-SA)

14. North Palm Beach

Location: Palm Beach County, Florida

North Palm Beach is one of the hottest beaches with an average temperature of 89.8 degrees. But that’s not the only thing compromising the safety of beachgoers. Between May and September 2021, there were 156 reported crimes.  

Sunsetting over the Atlantic Ocean
Ruth Peterkin/istockphoto

13. Atlantic Beach

Location: Atlantic Beach, Florida

Despite a reasonably low crime rate, Atlantic Beach’s waters are not the safest. The beach scores 66.2 on a 100-point scale for water pollution. If you’re going to the beach to enjoy the sun, the average temperature is 88 degrees, but you’ll want to be careful going into the water to cool off.

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Miami Beach
Miami Beach by James Willamor (CC BY-SA)

12. Miami Beach

Location: Miami 

As one of the most popular beaches in the country, many people don’t realize just how dangerous Miami Beach is — and it’s not because of high crime rates. Miami Beach is actually the hottest beach in the U.S. with an average summer high of 90 degrees. While many beachgoers enjoy hotter weather, the temperatures at Miami Beach can reach dangerous levels.

Related: What You Need to Know About Heat Exhaustion Before It Kills

Capistrano Beach
Capistrano Beach by D Ramey Logan (CC BY-SA)

11. Capistrano Beach

Location: Dana Point, California

When you think of danger at the beach, you probably imagine shark attacks or polluted waters, but the water isn’t the only variable to consider when assessing the safety of a beach. Capistrano Beach’s safety is compromised by air pollution — tying with three other nearby Los Angeles-area beaches as having the highest air pollution levels. 

Hollywood Beach
Hollywood Beach by Rick Shu (CC BY-SA)

10. Hollywood Beach

Location: Hollywood, Florida

From the outside looking in, Hollywood Beach is the ideal vacation spot. It’s got beautiful ocean scenery and is surrounded by shops and restaurants. But don’t be quick to get entranced by the allure — Hollywood Beach reports high crime rates plus a total of four shark attacks over the years and an elevated water pollution score of 47.37 out of 100. 

Malibu Beach
Malibu Beach by Rod Waddington (CC BY-SA)

9. Malibu Beach

Location: Malibu, California

Malibu has a reputation for being glamorous, but if you’re visiting Malibu Beach, you might discover a hidden truth. Like Capistrano Beach, Malibu Beach also ties for having the highest air pollution levels and that’s not the only pollution present. The beach has a water pollution level of 61.30 out of 100. 

Belleair Beach
Belleair Beach by Belleair Beach (CC BY)

8. Belleair Beach

Location: Belleair Beach, Florida

This Gulf Coast beach might boast low crime rates, but it’s still dangerous — and the reasons why might surprise you. Sure, the beach has elevated water pollution levels, but it’s also recorded a lightning strike fatality — yikes.  

Deerfield Beach
Wikimedia Commons

7. Deerfield Beach

Location: Deerfield Beach, Florida

Deerfield Beach earned the coveted Blue Wave title from the Clean Beach Council for “excellent water quality, beach conditions, safety services, public information, and habitat conservation policies.” But just because it’s clean doesn’t mean it’s safe. The average summer temperature at Deerfield Beach is a blistering 89.8 degrees and like Belleair Beach, Deerfield has also recorded one lightning strike fatality, which occured in July 2007. 

Emerald Isle
Emerald Isle by Vahurzpu (CC BY-SA)

6. Emerald Isle

Location: Jacksonville, North Carolina

Emerald Isle’s reputation as a dangerous beach is mostly attributable to crime rates. Between May and September 2021, there were a reported 181 crimes at the beach. Plus, the water pollution scores a 50 out of 100. 

Carlsbad Beach
Carlsbad Beach by Tuxyso (CC BY-SA)

5. Carlsbad Beach

Location: Carlsbad, California

If you’re looking for a beach where you can kick back and relax and leave your belongings out while you take a dip in the water, you might want to stay away from Carlsbad Beach. Between May and September 2021, a staggering 517 crimes were reported at the beach. 

Siesta Beach
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4. Siesta Beach

Location: Siesta Key, Florida

With gorgeous white sand and bright blue waters, Siesta Beach is certainly inviting. But vacationers might be inclined to go elsewhere upon learning about the five reported shark attacks and one lightning strike fatality. Not to mention, it’s one of the hottest beaches with an average summer high of 89.5 degrees. 

Waikiki Beach
Waikiki Beach by Lechhansl (CC BY-SA)

3. Waikiki Beach

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

We know what you’re thinking: Hawaii is one of the dreamiest vacation destinations in the U.S. But just because it’s tropical and breathtaking doesn’t mean it’s exempt from safety issues at the beach. This almost entirely man-made beach is a hot spot for crime. Between May and September 2021, there were a whopping 440 crimes reported along with 198 theft situations.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget 

Ormond and Daytona Beaches From Above
Art Wager/istockphoto

2. Daytona Beach

Location: Daytona, Florida

It might be “The World’s Most Famous Beach,” but it’s also the second-most dangerous beach in the U.S. Let the “Jaws” song pop into your mind and take this in: Daytona Beach has the highest number of shark attacks by a landslide with 39 reported incidents. There were also 581 crimes reported between May and September 2021 even though most of them were classified as non-violent.

Related: The Truth About Shark Attacks

Venice Beach
Wikimedia Commons

1. Venice Beach

Location: Los Angeles 

With a mind-blowing 630 crimes reported in the area between May and September 2021, Venice Beach snags the title as the most dangerous beach in the U.S. It also recorded the highest numbers for thefts and robberies at 223 along with 102 violent crimes.

Related: The Most Beautiful Beaches in America

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