It’s not hard to see why beach vacations are usually top of the list for travelers who want to relax and enjoy a little fun in the sun - all that sparkling water, white sand, the sound of the waves, the gentle sea breeze… But not all beaches are created equal! Everyone might picture strolling along the white sand of the tropics and taking a dip in the ocean to cool off when they think of hitting the beach for a holiday, but there are plenty of beaches where you definitely don’t want to get in the water.
These beaches may look beautiful, but the lovely waves lapping against the shore hide some serious dangers; and highest among them are sharks and jellyfish. Unsurprisingly, Australia and South Africa are two places that pop up most on any list of dangerous beaches, where the water is teeming with creatures who can do unsuspecting bathers some real damage, but they are not the only beaches that travelers might want to avoid. If you wish to enjoy your beach holiday jellyfish sting and shark bite-free, choosing another destination might be the best idea - or heading to one of these beaches to sit on the sands and see if anyone is courageous (or stupid) enough to brave the water…
24 Volusia County Beach, Florida - High Number Of Jellyfish
Sharks aren’t the only thing that this area of the Florida coastline is known for (at New Smyrna Beach, especially), because the beaches of Volusia County are also known for their jellyfish. This stretch of waterfront made headlines this summer with thousands of people being treated for stings after heading to the seaside; three thousand nine hundred in fifteen days, to be exact.
The jellies are blown in on the tides from the Gulf Stream in swarms, explaining why so many get stung in such a short period of time -
but this is all too common for the area.
23 Fletcher Cove, California - Well Known For Shark Attacks
California is certainly another US hotspot for shark attacks, with one hundred and forty-two unprovoked attacks recorded off this coastline since 1900. This isn’t too surprising, as with many of the beaches where shark attacks are common, the California coast is famous for surfing, and surfers are at a high risk for being attacked. Fletcher Cove’s Solana Beach is particularly well known for this, especially after a man was fatally attacked by a Great White there in 2008, which led to the beach being temporarily shut down, and a warning sign posted nearby.
22 Whitsundays, Australia - rife with jellyfish
The Queensland coast of Australia is teeming with marine life, and a whole lot of these creatures don’t play too well with humans.
Whitsundays is known for being rife with jellyfish, especially Box Jellyfish and Irukandji Jellyfish.
Around two hundred people a year are treated for jellyfish stings from the Irukandji, and while they are not usually fatal, there have been deaths reported - and no matter what, they are certainly not comfortable to deal with! Thankfully, stinger suits are available, which help to protect divers and swimmers from these painful stings.
21 Gansbaai, South Africa (Shark Alley... Need We Say More?)
There are so many sharks in these South African waters that Gansbaai has become known as ‘Shark Alley’. Located about a two hour drive from Cape Town, the Gansbaai beach of Shark Bay is world famous as a breeding ground and home for Great White Sharks.
It’s so famous for the sheer number of sharks in the water that there are plenty of tourist-friendly cage-diving options should you wish to really get up close and personal with these giants of the ocean.
Or, for something a little less terrifying, you can stroll along the sandy beaches, or head to the nearby Walker Bay to do a little whale watching instead.
20 Claremont Beach, Ireland - A Large Number Of Lion’s Mane Jellyfish
Ireland may not be somewhere that you would expect to find white sandy beaches, let alone dangerous ones, but don’t let that fool you. At Claremont beach near Dublin, swimming was banned this summer when Lion’s Mane Jellyfish were found in the water in numbers that made it too dangerous to swim - and this wasn’t the only local beach dealing with the problem.
Sandycove Beach, South Dublin, had dozens of Lion’s Mane Jellyfish removed and was also shut down this year - and it’s not the first year that these beaches have become a hazard thanks to the stingers.
19 Kosi Bay, South Africa - Bull sharks Are Known To Swim In The Area
Not all beaches (or sharks) have to be oceanic - and Kosi Bay is proof of that. These beaches line a series of lakes on the Eastern coast of South Africa, and the lakes themselves are filled with marine life. Bull sharks, aka Zambezi sharks, are known to swim into the waters here, and are even more aggressive than Great Whites. However, Kosi Bay is still a popular area for snorkeling along the reef - definitely something for the truly brave, but with so much fascinating marine life under the lake surface, many believe it’s worth the risk.
18 Waikiki Beach, Hawaii - Pay Attention To The Jellyfish Warning Signs
Finding jellyfish on the Hawaiian beach is nothing too surprising - like the sharks that swim here, it’s an accepted risk of bathing in these stunning blue waters. However, Waikiki beach made headlines a few years ago when seven hundred Box Jellyfish washed up on shore, with dozens more appearing on other south shore beaches at the same time. Thankfully, it’s possible to plan to avoid these stingers, with the knowledge that swarms usually happen around a week after the full moon - and jellyfish warning signs are often posted, in case you aren’t paying attention to the lunar cycle.
17 New Smyrna Beach, Florida - The ‘Shark Attack Capital Of The World’
Shark attacks can happen closer to home, too - and New Smyrna Beach in Florida has so many shark attacks each year that it has become commonly known as the ‘shark attack capital of the world’. In 2017, more than ten percent of the world’s shark attacks occurred in this area, and that’s without any Great White or Bull sharks in the mix!
New Smyrna is home to tiger, blacktip and spinner sharks… but it is also home to gorgeous sands and some of the best surfing in the area,
which might be why people keep getting back in the water.
16 La Malagueta Beach, Spain - increasing numbers of ‘mauve stinger’ jellyfish
Along the Costa Del Sol, tourists flock to the beaches to sunbathe and cool off in the sea - but increasingly, that’s just not an option. While the beaches themselves are still open, increasing numbers of ‘mauve stinger’ jellyfish have been washing ashore in recent years, forcing the local government to ban swimming this year when eleven tons of jellyfish were cleared from the beach, and one hundred and fifty people were stung in one of the worst jellyfish weekends in this area since 2012, when over a thousand people were stung in the month of July.
15 Bolinas & Stinson Beach, California (The Red Triangle)
California’s ‘red triangle’ lives up to its name (which, if you weren’t sure, comes from the blood in the water there). These California beaches are where no-less than thirty eight percent of all Great White Shark attacks in the United States happen - an impressive number for a 200 mile stretch of coastline. A large part of the reason for this number of attacks, though, is the number of surfers who chase the waves into these shark-infested waters. Despite the terrifying name, though, these attacks are still relatively rare - and plenty of surfers will claim the ride is worth it.
14 Fraser Island, Australia - Large Numbers Of Both Sharks And Jellyfish
Jellyfish aren’t the only reason to be extra careful when visiting Fraser Island - the dangers here range from shark attacks in the ocean to dingo attacks on the shore, and then there are the jellyfish! A popular eco-tourism destination despite these dangers, Fraser Island is now dealing with increasing numbers of jellyfish, especially the irukandji which have been found on the Fraser Island beaches. Multiple people are hospitalized by the stingers each year, prompting the island to do daily ‘drags’ of the water by the beaches to try and find them - and when they do, warning people to stay out of the water.
13 Recife, Brazil - Risk Of Shark Attack
While Recife’s beaches aren’t known as the ‘shark attack capital of the world’, like those of New Symrna, this Brazilian coastline gets a different honor when it comes to shark attacks - the most fatal shark attacks in the world. There have been fifty-six attacks in the past twenty years here, but a whopping thirty-seven percent of those ended in death, more than twice the global average. The government even closed the beaches for a while, due to the attacks, but re-opened them in 2006… and the fatalities are mounting up again.
12 Darwin, Australia - Box Jellyfish
The beaches at Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, are well-used to dealing with a jellyfish problem, because these stingers return to the water here on an annual basis.
From October to May, getting in the water without a protective stinger suit is not recommended, due to swarms of the deadly Box Jellyfish.
Swimming probably isn’t the best idea from June to November either, though, as the crocodiles are a year-long threat to anyone getting in the water here.
11 Bondi Beach, Australia - Sharks Galore
World famous for its surfing and nightlife, Bondi Beach in New South Wales, Australia, is also known for its shark attacks. The high numbers of people in the water definitely contribute to the number of shark attacks - with one of the highest concentrations of attacks in the world. However, visitors to Bondi Beach can be reassured by the preventative measures that are in place here. Nets are used here to try and keep the toothy creatures from people in the water, and newer sonar detection systems have also been trialled here, in an attempt to keep the attack numbers low.
10 Cape Tribulation, Australia - swarms of Box Jellyfish
Another Australian beach where Jellyfish aren’t the only threat that visitors need to worry about is Cape Tribulation. Stinger season here is November to May, with swarms of Box Jellyfish waiting to sting anyone who dares enter their watery territory (although freshwater swimming holes are available as well). Above the warning sign, the beach does also provide vinegar to pour on stings, should anyone venture in. However, Cape Tribulation is also home to crocodiles, venomous snakes, and even trees that can sting you (yes, actual trees with poison tipped hairs on their leaves).
9 Reunion Island - Shark Problems
The shark problem on this beautiful little island in the Indian Ocean has become so bad in recent years that not only will you not want to go in the water - on most of the beaches, it is actually illegal to! After shark attacks (mostly Great White, Bull Sharks and Tiger Sharks) started to increase in frequency around 2011, the government shut down the beaches to try and protect tourists and locals, allowing them to swim only in carefully managed lagoons and a couple of experimental areas where nets are used to try and keep the water users safe.
8 Casco Bay, Maine - Increasing Number Of Jellyfish
In 2014, many beachgoers in Maine were surprised to see a whole lot of jellyfish in the water -
while there are often a few floating around in the summer months when the water gets warmer, the sheer numbers are increasing.
In 2015, a similar phenomenon was reported, with large swarms of jellies appearing off the coast. Swimming at Casco Bay is still nowhere near as dangerous as many of the beaches on this list, of course, but the increasing numbers of stingers there are concerning scientists, who are looking for explanations into the jellyfish boom.
7 West End, Grand Bahamas - Tiger Beach (as in Tiger Sharks)
This beach is so well known for the incredible number of sharks that live here, especially Tiger Sharks, that it is also known as ‘Tiger Beach’ - and tourists flock here to see them. Plenty of other shark species can also be found here, and the Bahamas enjoys a huge cage diving industry, fueled by adventurous visitors who want to get as close as they can to the sharks that live here. It’s even possible to go shark-diving without a cage at Tiger Beach, and even feed some of them (although ideally, not with your own body parts).
6 Cable Beach, Australia - Too Many Irukandji Jellyfish Stings
Broome’s Cable Beach on the coast of Western Australia is known, like most of the beaches around this continent, for having a stinger season - and for the risks of swimming at any time in an ocean where jellyfish aren’t the only thing waiting in the depths. However, Cable Beach made headlines this year after the beach had to be closed twice within a period of a few days due to irukandji jellyfish stings. When the beach is closed, the water is dragged to try and find the stingers, but this story proves just how ineffective that can be.
5 Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa - Lots Of Great White and Bull Sharks
This South African beach is one of many that has a net installed to try and minimize the attacks from Great White and Bull Sharks, although it definitely hasn’t eliminated them! The net itself was installed in the fifties, when five swimmers lost their lives in only one hundred days. Since then, the local Sharks board has even created a ‘Shark POD’, an electronic device designed to be used by swimmers and surfers to deter shark attacks - and that same technology has been improved upon since (becoming the ‘Shark Shield’).
4 Okinawa Beach, Japan - the numbers of jellyfish stings each year is rising
Stinger season isn’t limited to Australia, and on the beaches of Okinawa, Box Jellyfish are a risk between May and October, and are especially prevalent at the artificial beaches in the area. And, as with most of the more dangerous spots for stingers around the world,
the numbers of jellyfish stings each year is rising - in 2015, there were 131 cases reported, despite the creation of areas protected by nets.
In addition, several other poisonous marine creatures are found here, including the crown of thorns starfish, the lionfish and the Erabu black-banded sea krait.
3 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - Tiger sharks and Bull sharks are some of the most common offenders
In 2017, the number of shark attacks off the coast of South Carolina doubled, and now the Myrtle Beach area is quickly catching up to some of Florida’s beaches when it comes to shark attack numbers. Last year, South Carolina had ten shark attacks to Florida’s thirty-one - still far more than anyone headed to these beaches would like! Tiger sharks and Bull sharks are some of the most common offenders here, making up most of the fifty-ish attacks recorded since 1900. However, none of them have been fatal, which should be somewhat reassuring.
2 Velzyland Beach, Hawaii - known for harboring Bull sharks, Great Whites and Tiger sharks
Hawaii is another spot known for great surfing and pristine beaches… and shark attacks. There have been shark attacks in multiple beaches around Hawaii’s islands, although they are usually not fatal. Oahu’s Velzyland Beach is one of the areas that is most known for harboring Bull sharks, Great Whites and Tiger sharks, although dozens of species of shark can be found in these waters. Surfers and SUP boarders are some of the highest risk groups here, although swimmers can also get attacked - thankfully, there’s more than enough to do on the shore!
1 Jellyfish Lake, Palau
This final destination is famous (and a great place to wrap things up), because for years it has been known as somewhere that tourists can swim with jellyfish - and not worry about getting stung! The lake is filled with the harmless, stingless Golden Jellyfish, and tour operators offer dives for those wishing to float among them. However, the lake was closed in 2016 when the Jellyfish population started rapidly declining - however, there is hope that the lake will recover, so keep this one on your travel lists for the next few years!