Because you definitely didn’t go to the beach to die.
Shark attacks. Stinging jellyfish. Crocodiles. Rip tides. Drug cartels. Snakes. Sometimes the beach isn’t safe—and far from dreamy or relaxing. Yet a dangerous beach does not have to be deadly or a place you opt not to visit. But you should pay attention to your surroundings and not do anything that risks your life.
Here are ten beaches around the world that, pretty as they may be, are also ones where you could potentially get injured or, worse, die. These sandy shorelines are just that dangerous.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: U.S. Marshall Islands
Why it’s dangerous: radiation levels
Because the U.S. Army used this coral island—which, yes, given the name “bikini,” could be mistaken for playful and fun—for nuclear testing during the 1940s and 1950s, radiation levels are documented to still exist. Walking on the beach or swimming in the water is considered safe, but please do not put anything grown here (like fruits) in your mouth. Just like pesticides, if it’s on the food, and you eat it, you’ve just—surprise!—ingested a chemical.
Cancun’s Hotel Zone
Why it’s dangerous: drug cartels
Riviera Maya’s turquoise waters and white-sand beaches recently welcomed a new color to the landscape: armed guards in camouflage fatigues. They’re ready to step in if violence between rival drug cartels erupts, as it did in November of 2021 at Hyatt Ziva Riviera Cancun when shooters zoomed onto the beach by boat. While it’s an obvious move to keep people safe, seeing armed guards roaming among a sea of half-naked people on vacation is far from relaxing.
WHERE: Dominican Republic
Why it’s dangerous: lead poisoning and toxic waste
Whenever industry creeps this close to a beach, proper precautions ought to be taken so as not to infect the water. In one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful islands for beaches, a recycling center for acid batteries did the wrong thing by dumping them on the beach, essentially giving the beach (and the surrounding community) lead poisoning. The good news is that levels have dropped significantly due to four months of clean-up by the Blacksmith Institute (now called Pure Earth) in 2008-2009, and the recycling center found a new site. But you should still exercise caution.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Why it’s dangerous: snakes
This is one of those Southern California beaches—in addition to others in Oxnard and San Clemente Beach, along with Newport Beach—where you definitely don’t want to lose yourself in a book. Caught up in a mystery or romance novel, you might miss a yellow-bellied snake (Pelamis platura) sneaking up. Because these snakes also swim underwater, definitely be on the lookout. They are considered venomous.
Why it’s dangerous: quicksand
This beach spans 120 square miles in northwest England and is a huge tourism epicenter with hotels, shopping, and restaurants. But it’s also the country’s largest expanse of sand and intertidal mudflats. If you find yourself here, be very careful when walking in the water near Chapel or Piel Islands, as quicksand can arise after fast tides. Maybe don’t walk there at all? In fact, in 2004, 23 Chinese immigrants died in this quicksand while picking cockles, also known as mollusks.
WHERE: Praia Do Norte, Portugal
Why it’s dangerous: high waves
Waves crest so high here—averaging about 50 feet but documented up to 101 feet—they’ve landed in the Guinness Book of World Records. NASA dubs them “monster waves.” As gorgeous as this view is, you definitely don’t want to creep too close to the edge—or consider surfing. Although the height and danger didn’t stop pro surfer Garrett McNamara from summitting a 78-foot wave, and Rodrigo Kaza with an 80-foot wave in 2017. Thankfully, both lived to tell the tale.
WHERE: South Africa
Why it’s dangerous: sharks
When a beach is called Shark Alley, this is a clear sign to not go in the water. There’s a high chance you’ll make (deadly) contact with a great white shark. If you really, really want to see the sharks, a handy attraction is nearby: shark-cage diving with Marine Dynamics, a tour operator. Why are there so many great white sharks here? It’s because of the 60,000 seals, considered food for the sharks.
WHERE: Kauai, Hawaii
Why it’s dangerous: rip currents
Hawaii is a haven for surfers and beach lovers. Yet this beach, on Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, consistently ranks as the most dangerous. Many swimmers and surfers are swept out to sea and die. It’s best to stay on the sand and not enter the water—still enjoying the view, but from a safe distance. Between 1970 and 2012, geoscientist Chuck Blay found that 41 people drowned on this beach.
WHERE: Northern Queensland, Australia
Why it’s dangerous: crocodiles and stinging jellyfish
You know a beach is dangerous if a sign warns you to wear a “stinger suit.” For reference, this is a full-body rash-guard suit designed to protect against deadly stings by box jellyfish during their high season, which is roughly October through June. Another thing to watch out for at this beach (which offers boat trips to the Great Barrier Reef)? Crocodiles. Enough said. But it may be comforting to know that being stung by a box jellyfish is rare. But if you are, the sting is venomous: in extreme cases, death can occur in five minutes or less, or you may only walk away with a headache, vomiting, difficulty breathing, or bodily pain.
Why it’s dangerous: paranormal activity
Hugging the Arabian Sea in the Indian state of Gujarat, this black-sand beach’s claim to fame is being haunted. We’ll let you decide on the presence of spirits—although the fact that this was once a Hindu cremation site lends credence—but in the meantime, know that many have cited paranormal activity here, particularly at night.
Adding Cancun to this line-up is a ridiculous exagerration. Just because of one event?
Millions come there or to the other locations that are regularly patrolled by the millitary.