Most Dangerous Beaches
If your plans for a beach vacation include stress-free tanning, catching up on a good book and sipping a colorful beverage — don’t go to any of these beaches.
From Hawaii to Australia, India to Namibia, these destinations around the world are downright terrifying and sometimes even deadly, home to rampant shark attacks, eel-infested waters, deadly currents and toxic waste.
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.
Skeleton Coast - Namibia
This frighteningly named coastline is appropriately named. Not only does the lethal Benguela Current regularly cause ship wrecks, but the surrounding waters are home to 11 species of shark. Oh, and predators including lions and hyenas can be found patrolling the beach.
It’s little wonder that Portuguese navigators used to have another name for this coast as well: "The Gates of Hell.”
Cape Tribulation - Australia
You’ll find no shortage of misery at this beach that, like Skeleton Coast, holds true to its name. Located along the coast of Queensland, it touts alluring sandy stretches and palm-fringed aquamarine waters, but you’ve been warned: dozens of natural booby traps await.
First of all, if you're going to swim, the tourism site Cape-Trib.com recommends you wear a stinger suit, as the waters here are teeming with stinging jellyfish. That right there should be your first red flag.
If you do decide to don your best stinger suit, you might also be interested to know that saltwater crocodiles abound — and they don't make a suit to keep you away from those. On top of that, the cape is home to cassowaries, flightless birds the size of emus or ostriches, who have talons sharp enough to rip you from head to toe.
And finally, beware of the infamous stinging trees, featuring jagged leaves that can pick up where the cassowaries left off.
New Smyrna Beach - Florida
Surfers who flock to the Atlantic coast of Florida for the epic swells do so at their own risk. This beach is one of the world's most dangerous due to its shark-infested waters – Florida has an average of 29 shark bites per year, and in 2017, nine of those attacks occurred along this section of coast.
Shark attacks have been less frequent of late, but New Smyrna Beach still remains one of the scariest beaches in the world. If you’re really jonesing for a shark fix, stick to the Jaws ride at Universal Studios.
Fraser Island - Australia
The beaches of Fraser Island pose risks whether you're underwater or on land. In recent years, the island has become inundated with irukandji, one of the most venomous types of jellyfish in the world. People stung by these tiny sea creatures may experience symptoms including abdominal pain, vomiting, sweating, anxiety, hypertension, pulmonary edema and, in extreme cases, fatal cardiac arrest. Over the past few years, several irukandji attacks have been reported on the island.
The island is also home to 25-30 packs of dingoes, a type of dog native to Australia that has been known to attack humans.
Hanakapiai Beach - Hawaii
Hanakapiai Beach boasts golden sands, black cliffs and endless blue sea – but beware of succumbing to the temptation of this Kauai paradise. The alluring waters of this beach are home to incredibly strong rip tides, which have pulled many uninformed swimmers to their deaths. The cause of the danger? A lack of coral reef protecting the area.
Because of the perilous nature of this beach, there is no main access road, requiring thrill-seekers to navigate formidable boulders and switchbacks over streams and waterfalls.
The beach is on the other side of the Hanakapiai Stream – a river that is much better suited for swimming than the ocean.
Utakleiv Beach - Norway
Norway’s Lofoten Islands are striking, without a doubt. They are also some of the best spots from which to catch the Northern Lights. But while the beaches and shores might look inviting, it’s best to remain on dry, chilly land.
The islands, which lie north of the Arctic Circle, are surrounded by waters that are between 46 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit. In the summer. To put that in perspective, according to the National Center for Cold Water Safety, water below 60 degrees Fahrenheit is “extremely dangerous/immediately life-threatening.”
So while the coastline might look romantic, especially under the dance of the northern sky, this is one Polar Bear Plunge that you should definitely skip.
Boa Viagem Beach - Brazil
Brazil has more than 4,500 miles of coastline and some of the world's most inviting and photographed beaches. But if you're visiting Recife, a former favorite among surfers, there is one beach that is best left alone.
Boa Viagem Beach has one of the highest shark attack rates in the world – 56 in the last 20 years, with a death rate of about 37 percent. Sharks use the trench off the coast as a migratory route and do their hunting in the surrounding shallows. A development boom has worsened the situation, disrupting marine life and leaving sharks searching for new sources of food.
Bikini Atoll - U.S. Marshall Islands
This stunning South Pacific island in Micronesia has a seedy past. While it's free from sharks, swells and crime, the U.S. army used it for nuclear testing from 1946 to 1958.
Today, its beaches are technically open to tourists, but because of radiation contamination, locally grown coconuts and other fruits are considered unsafe to eat.
Fortunately, there are more than 600 islands in Micronesia, so if the destination is on your travel bucket list, you can opt for an island that is more like a Tahitian paradise and less like Chernobyl.
Gansbaai - South Africa
What’s not to love about a beach where crystalline water meets sugary sand? Plenty, it turns out.
While Gansbaai Beach is an aquatic playground, it is also home to what is known as Shark Alley. Enough said. (Why so many sharks? Every April-September, the waters welcome some 60,000 sea lions to feast on.)
There is one way to still enjoy the waters of Gansbaai though: by partaking in a shark-cage diving expedition to get up-close-and-personal with these sea creatures from the safety of an iron cage.
Playa Zipolite - Mexico
The west coast of Mexico has an untamed beauty that is difficult to find anywhere else in the country. Nowhere is that more true than in the southern beach town of Zipolite, where travelers flock to explore rocky hillsides and rugged coast. Also a draw: the fact that Zipolite is one of Mexico’s only nude beaches.
But don’t get too comfortable – you won’t want to swim here. Powerful riptides have earned Zipolite the nickname “Playa de Los Muertos,” or “Beach of the Dead.” Skip the skinny-dip and instead work on that full-body tan.
Reunion Island - France
Off the coast of Madagascar, this tropical escape used to be a haven for surfers. But since 2011, when there were six reported shark attacks, it has slowly turned into a ghost town. Over the years, the problem has only worsened; just last winter, a surfer was killed by a shark.
The fear of shark attacks has taken a toll on local tourism, helping to preserve the natural beauty of the island but, sadly, stifling the local economy.
Kilauea Beaches - Hawaii
Beaches near the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island are quintessentially stunning, their stark black sand meeting crystal-clear sea. But Kilaueau has spent the better part of 35 years erupting nearly continuously, spewing lava into the ocean and raising the water temperature up past 100 degrees.
This is the same volcano that explosively erupted in May 2018, destroying homes and prompting the closure of part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Staithes Beach - U.K.
While many of the world’s most dangerous beaches are also among the most beautiful, we feel confident you’ll have no problem giving up Staithes Beach. Frequently on the EU's "swimming prohibited" list, this beach is known for its garbage. Farm sewage drains into the harbor, raising the water pollution levels to an unsafe level. Swimming in said waters can cause diarrhea, E. coli, meningitis, typhoid and hepatitis A.
And you thought bringing sand home in your shoes was the worst of your beach woes.
Chowpatty Beach - India
There are so many things to see and do in Mumbai; this beach is not one of them.
Chowpatty, which oddly enough is popular among tourists, is dangerously polluted, with an ungodly combination of untreated sewage, garbage and sunken coal seeped into its water and sand. This is one of the most toxic beaches not just in India, but in the entire world.
Amazon River Beaches - Brazil
Plunging the depths of the Amazon jungle is a bucket-list opportunity for any adventurist – just don’t try to hop in the Amazon River for a refreshing dip to beat the humidity and heat.
These murky waters are a breeding ground for electric eels, anacondas, pirañas and the candiru, a parasitic fish that can invade the human body from any opening (yes, any opening).
Dumas Beach - India
Dumas Beach in the state of Gujarat, along the Arabian Sea, is considered to be one of the most haunted beaches in the world. Originally a cremation ground, it is reportedly home to spirits that continue to roam its shores.
But it’s not just ghoulish rumors that add to the mystery of this beach — it also has a reputation for people disappearing, and is home to a group of deadly king cobras, making it one of the world’s deadliest beaches as well.
One thing is for certain: Ghosts and poisonous snakes do not make for a relaxing beach getaway.
Second Beach - South Africa
This beach in Port St. John’s is one of the world’s most notorious for shark attacks, most of which are caused by bull sharks. In the last five years alone, these sea predators have claimed the lives of eight people.
If that doesn’t make you steer clear, we don’t know what will.
North Sentinel Island Beach - India
While it might look like it’s straight out of “Robinson Crusoe,” do not be fooled by this seemingly idyllic tropical locale.
The densely forested island is home to a group of indigenous people who are among the last to resist contact with the outside world. The Sentinelese are inhospitable to strangers and are known to kill any invaders who come to their shores.
Schitovaya Bukhta Beach - Russia
This beach is rumored to be among the best surf spots in the world, but few actually attempt to ride its legendary barrels to shore. The surrounding area is peppered with military facilities, though that's not what makes these waters dangerous.
The danger lies under the waves, where old nuclear submarines lay on the bottom, slowly leaking radiation.
Darwin - Australia
Australians love their sun and surf, but one destination in the country has a shoreline that’s largely empty. Darwin, along the northern coast, is one of the most dangerous swimming areas on the continent.
Venomous box-jellyfish packs are prevalent between October and May, and crocodiles are an issue year-round. As if that weren't enough, sharks are also a massive problem in this part of the country. Those who do want to swim in Darwin are cautioned to do so only at patrolled beaches.
Copacabana - Brazil
Iconic imagery isn't enough to save the reputation of one of Brazil's most beautiful beaches. The dangers at Copacabana don't exist in the water but on the beach’s sandy shores.
Petty crime is one of the biggest problems in this part of the city, so if you are going to head that way it's best to leave the selfie stick at home, and the camera for that matter, as well.
Red Triangle - California
California may be the surf capital of America, but hitting the waves is definitely ill-advised along the Red Triangle in California. This 200-mile stretch, from Today Bay to Big Sur, is home to approximately 40 percent of all great-white shark attacks in the United States.
Not only that, but this is where 11 percent of all the shark attacks in the world take place.
Cairns - Australia
Cairns, in North Queensland, might be the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, but its waters hold much more than that. The time between November and June is notoriously called "stinger season" because of the jellyfish that infest the area’s waters.
The stings of some of the varieties of jellyfish, like the Irukandji and Chironex fleckeri, can be fatal to humans.
Mindanao Island - The Philippines
The islands of the Philippines are home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and stunning islands like Palawan continue to rise in popularity. But one island in particular, however beautiful, ought to be avoided.
In recent years, Mindanao has been the site of a war between Muslim militants and government troops, and tourists have been known to be kidnapped.
Cable Beach - Australia
Western Australia is home to some seriously serious creatures, and Cable Beach in Broome has a particularly large concentration of scary animals. On land there are poisonous snakes and spiders, and in the water, deadly box jellyfish and white pointer sharks roam. There are also saltwater crocodiles that lurk beneath the waves.
There have been many fatal encounters between swimmers and box jellyfish, especially between November to March, though it's best to stay out of the water without a stinger suit year-round.
Manaus Beaches - Brazil
The dangers of the beaches in Manaus don't lurk in the water. Rather, these beaches are notorious for high crime rates.
If you are going to explore the beaches in Manaus, it is best to leave everything unnecessary at home. Carry only the minimum cash needed, plus an amount to hand over to thieves, should you come into contact with them. And it is best to leave the beach far before it gets dark. Skipping Manaus altogether might be the more sensible plan.
Lamu Island Beach - Kenya
Though it is one of Kenya's most beautiful beaches, Lamu Island Beach is also home to Somalian pirates.
In the past, the pirates have been known to capture visitors, with al-Shabab, a terrorist group, claiming responsibility.
Tamarama Beach - Australia
The beaches along Sydney's south side are some of its most famous and beautiful, but one in particular is best enjoyed with maximum caution.
Tamarama Beach is wedged between two sandstone headlands, and the high-intensity waves ensure that two rips are present on the beach. As a result, there are about 150 rescues each year, the highest number in Sydney's southern beaches. It is said to be the most dangerous patrolled beach in all of Australia.
West End Beach - Bahamas
The Bahamas has some of the Caribbean's most spectacular, idyllic beaches. But West End Beach, while beautiful, has a deadly secret. This beach contains the largest concentration of tiger sharks in the world, and ranks as one of the planet’s top 10 most shark-infested beaches.
In addition to tiger sharks, be on the lookout for hammerheads, blacktips and bull sharks.
Costa del Sol - Spain
The Costa del Sol region in southern Spain, within Andalusia, is a truly stunning stretch of European coast (Malaga, anyone?).
But a rising occurrence of jellyfish attacks (there is more than 1 ton’s worth of jellyfish here!) means its beaches are best enjoyed from a distance.
Bolsa Chica State Beach - California
"Snakes on a Beach" would be the title of a movie set in this California beach, where yellow-bellied snakes sometimes wash ashore. These sea snakes are venomous, swim with ease and can easily last underwater for hours.
So, if the prospect of running into one as you take a stroll down the beach doesn't terrify you, the idea of seeing one while swimming should.
Virginia Beach - Virginia
There are many animals we usually fear when we go to the beach — but foxes aren't necessarily one of them. However, popular Virginia Beach has been struggling with wild fox attacks for years.
The foxes tend to sneak up on people resting in the sand, especially if they have food. Most concerning, they have a tendency to attack beachgoers' pets.
Shenzhen Beach - China
Shenzhen Beach is another spot rendered dangerous by humans. In its case, the problem is that the absurd number of people that visit it in high season make it prone to accidents and tragedies.
In this sea of humans, people easily get injured and fall victim to savvy pickpockets. Most tragically, there are also several drownings reported every year.
Praia Do Norte - Portugal
Praia Do Norte's claim to fame is also the reason why it's included here. With giant waves that have broken Guinness World Records, it is very easy for people to drown and for boats to capsize here, even when they're near the shore.
This doesn't stop pro surfers from coming here to try to make history by riding waves that are sometimes more than 70-feet high.
Acapulco - Mexico
Years ago, Acapulco was the Saint Tropez of Latin America, with lavish beach resorts attracting people from all over the world.
Overtourism, high prices and polluted beaches marred its reputation, but the final blow came in the form of cartel wars in the region, which have made Acapulco "the murder capital of Mexico."
Morecambe Bay - U.K.
Movies make you think that quicksand is something you needed to worry about only in the jungle, but it's a big problem at this U.K. beach. Carts and other machinery have been known to get stuck and sink into the sand — if they couldn't make it, your chances of escaping are also slim.
Our recommendation? Skip this beach altogether.
Northern Territory - Australia
Northern Territory may be one of the most interesting regions of Australia, but it seems like wild danger lurks everywhere. As you have seen, there are already several beaches along the island's northern coast on this list.
If you're thinking of heading into the water to relax or snorkel, be on the lookout for box jellyfish, which can produce a venom so potent it has proven deadly for some unlucky victims.
El Tayrona - Colombia
Though Tayrona National Natural Park is one of the most popular destinations for national and international visitors, the ruggedness that makes it charming also makes it dangerous. The strong currents at many of the park's beaches are responsible for a number of people drowning each year, and the warning signs posted around don't seem to deter tourists from going into the water.
Another danger comes from the wildlife that is protected at the national park, especially the deadly cayman and jaguar.
Magnolia Lane Beach - Texas
Magnolia Lane Beach can sometimes be a decent place to visit. If you go in the wrong moment, however, you could be exposed to hazardous levels of pollution and sanitary overflow. Not only is this gross, but it's also dangerous for your health.
Local authorities suggest that you check the state of the beach on government websites before heading there, which makes Magnolia Lane Beach really not worth the trouble.
Monastery Beach - California
While technically part of California's Red Triangle, Monastery Beach deserves its own mention, given that it is often considered the region's most dangerous beach.
Strong waves, rip currents and a strong undercurrent result in numerous yearly drownings, giving it the nickname, "Mortuary Beach."
Cabo San Lucas Beaches - Mexico
Famous for its parties, whale-watching opportunities and dramatic sea arches, Cabos has all the makings of a dream beach town. That is, as long as you're not too keen on actually going to the beach.
The Pacific waters in Cabo are notoriously feisty, with rip currents and undercurrents frequently causing tragedies. The current can be so strong in most of the town's beaches, that even putting your feet in can be dangerous.
Most Beaches - Chile
With a long coastline along the Pacific, Chile has more than 909 beaches. However, only 99 are safe for swimmers due to extremely strong currents along the country's coast. The remaining 810 beaches are often designated "solaneras," which implies they are only apt to be used for sunbathing in the sand.
Most beaches come with warning signs that let would-be swimmers know the water isn't safe. When in doubt, however, it's safe to assume Chilean beaches aren't safe.
Kosi Bay - South Africa
Pretty as it may be, this bay in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa has plenty of sharks. And not just any sharks, but bull sharks, the most aggressive in the world.
Any shark is usually terrifying enough, but sharks that earn a name for being aggressive and for making a habit of also going into lakes and rivers are the stuff of nightmares.
Rockaway Beach - Oregon
In all fairness, Rockaway Beach is dangerous because humans have rendered it so by building jetties on it. Though built in order to protect the shoreline, jetties can be dangerous, especially when people walk or climb them in order to get good Instagram pics.
Every year sees incidents of people slipping from jetties or being swept away by the strong Oregon waves that hit them.
Recife - Brazil
While Recife may not have the most shark attacks in the world, it does have some of the deadliest ones. Since the early 1990s, one in three shark attacks has resulted in death, making this otherwise gorgeous beach somewhat menacing.
The reason for the high shark attack mortality are the bull sharks that lurk in the Recife water. (Yes, you'll see them a few times on this list.)
Lake Nicaragua - Nicaragua
While not technically a beach, Lake Nicaragua has been included here thanks to the tenacity of bull sharks, which have somehow managed to make a few guest appearances in the largest lake in Central America.
Seriously, what is it with these bull sharks?
Plage Central, Lacanau - France
The Atlantic coast of France is notorious for its chilly waters and strong currents. Officials in Lacanau warn swimmers to be mindful of baines, long but narrow pools that form parallel to the ocean.
The problem with baines is that people often don't realize they are connected to the sea and can have strong currents that have resulted in people being pulled into the ocean.
Umhlanga Rocks - South Africa
Close to Kosi Bay, Umhlanga Rocks deserves its own mention for the lengths to which locals have gone to try to prevent shark attacks. Fishing nets installed in the 1950s continue to guard the shores against bull and great white sharks getting too close to swimmers.
Local scientists have gone as far as creating a "shark repellent" gadget that they encourage all swimmers and surfers to wear.
Gulf of Eilat - Israel
Located on the Red Sea, this pretty resort town usually enjoys calm waters and relaxed vibes. However, the Israeli government warns beachgoers to exercise caution, as the area's occasional strong winds can result in people being swept out into the Gulf of Eilat.
Swimmers are also often surprised by the sudden change from shallow to deep waters, which can cause unexpected incidents.
Port Moresby - Papua New Guinea
While Port Moresby is an interesting and rarely visited city, you may want to think twice before getting into the sea here.
Sadly, the capital of Papua New Guinea has a 50 percent mortality rate when it comes to shark attacks. The high numbers of fatalities may have to do with a lack of inadequate healthcare, which is an issue many islands grapple with — even one as large as New Guinea.
Top Sail Island - North Carolina
Many places in the world are known for shark attacks, but Top Sail Island differentiates itself for having relatively frequent shallow-water attacks.
The whole point of staying in shallow water is to avoid all the dangerous animals of the wide blue ocean, so this is certainly terrifying.
Dubai Beaches - U.A.E.
Dubai has become synonymous with luxury and lavishness. But while the city's beaches may add to this image, what hides within is not as glamorous.
The city's beaches have been reported to have high levels of mercury, which is toxic to most living beings. The tides can also be rough, and while the authorities try to erect red flags when conditions are dangerous, people often ignore these warnings and need to be rescued.
West Coast - Barbados
It's not often that the tourism board of a country — especially an island — tells tourists to avoid an entire coast. That should tell you everything about the dangers of Barbados' West Coast. Infamous for the strong currents and rip tides that have often proven fatal, even locals stay clear of swimming in these beaches.
Luckily, the rest of Barbados has seemingly endless coastlines where you can happily play in the water.
Cannon Beach - Oregon
"The Goonies" put this beach on the radar for every child of the 1980s and '90s. But unlike the classic film's heroes, you probably won't get to swim in the water. (And you definitely won't find a hidden pirate treasure).
The water tends to be cold enough that it requires a wetsuit in order to go in. The danger of ignoring this suggestion? Hypothermia. Overcast skies and furious currents are also features of the beach, which is honestly best appreciated from land and with a jacket on.
Haina Beaches - Dominican Republic
A lead-battery recycling center left the community of Haina exposed to toxic waste and lead poisoning. Sadly, this includes its once-beautiful beaches, which have been rendered hazardous from the large amounts of industrial waste dumped into them.
Given that Haina is nicknamed "Dominican Chernobyl," we advise you to stay away from the area as a whole.
Kamilo Beach - Hawaii
Though sharks are usually what makes Hawaiian beaches dangerous, this Big Island beach is hazardous because of plastic.
Nicknamed "Trash Beach," its mountains of trash come not only from locals but from all over the world, as some of the plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washes up here.
Henderson Island - U.K.
Located on the extremely remote Pitcairn Islands in the Pacific, Henderson Island is uninhabited and extremely hard to reach. This hasn't kept it safe from the waves of plastic pollution, with scientists and researchers discovering the island's sandy shores chock full of plastic.
In fact, the island has the highest density of plastic waste in the world.
Jamestown Beach - Ghana
Jamestown is a historic neighborhood in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, which supplies much of the fish for the city. Perhaps before modern times, it would've been a beautiful beach, with the rows of fishing boats lining the shores.
Tragically, the beach is choking in plastic waste that comes both from the ocean and from land. This is worrisome given that it means the fish that feed the city are probably consuming plastic. Because of the amount of pollution, tourism companies advise people wanting to see the historic point not to wear open-toed shoes.
Gris Gris Beach - Mauritius
As beautiful as it is dangerous, Gris Gris Beach is considered one of the most dangerous beaches in the island nation of Mauritius.
Unlike many of the country's beaches, Gris Gris Beach is not protected by coral reefs, which often serve to lessen the force of waves. Because of this, the beach is notorious for its large waves that break against the rocks with powerful force. The beach is wonderful to see from a safe distance, but authorities discourage swimmers from trying their luck here.