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The 13 Most Dangerous Beaches in the World

If your plans for your beach vacation include reading, relaxing, and surviving, cross these destinations off your list.

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Hanakapiai Beach, one of the worlds most dangerous beaches at the Na Pali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii.

Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii

The stunning two-mile hike to Hanakapiai Beach on the island of Kauai proves that looks can be deceiving. While the destination may look like paradise, that water holds incredibly strong rip currents. The trail sign keeps an updated tally of the number of deaths stemming from visitors who chose to forego caution and swim anyway. According to The Outdoor Project, the rip currents are so strong because this coastal area isn’t protected by any reef. For safer options, head to the 12 best beaches in America.

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New Smyrna Beach, Florida Looking North Toward Castle Reef Condominiums
Pat McGinley/Shutterstock

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

It’s known as the shark attack capital of the world: New Smyrna Beach-goers are more at risk for shark attacks than anywhere else in the world. There have been over 80 bites recorded at this beach since 2009, and while you may think that number is small it is staggeringly higher than anywhere else. The frequency of shark attacks, in general, may be one of the 13 truths about shark attacks may surprise you.

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colony of Cape fur seal, Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus at Geyser Rock, on the Shark Alley, Gansbaai, South Africa, Atlantic Ocean
Alessandro De Maddalena/Shutterstock

Gansbaai, South Africa

Not far off the coast of this popular vacation destination lies a stretch of ocean called Shark Alley. Shark cage diving, which puts tourists in shark-proof cages to get them up-close-and-personal with the creatures, puts a somewhat safe spin on the area. However, the publication Digital Nomad points out that there’s an “inordinate amount of blood and chum being dumped along the South African shoreline every day” to lure the sharks close to the boats. For a more pleasant getaway, check out these gorgeous pink sand beaches around the world.

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Beach of Cape Tribulation, Australia
Marine Morelle/Shutterstock

Cape Tribulation, Australia

If you want to swim the waters of the aptly named Cape Tribulation, Cape-Trib.com suggests you wear a “stinger suit” as the area is home to a lot of stinging jellyfish. Saltwater crocodiles are also prevalent; the locals advise visitors stay away from swimming in the mouths of rivers. If that’s not enough to keep you out of the water, consider these obstacles: Cassowaries—big flightless birds—whose dagger-like claws “can disembowel you,” and stinging trees which, yes, can actually sting you quite painfully with their jagged-edged leaves.

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Puerto Escondido, Mexico, circa feb. 2017: Playa Zipolite, beach community in San Pedro Pochutla municipality on the southern coast of Oaxaca state in Mexico between Huatulco and Puerto Escondido.

Playa Zipolite, Mexico

When a place’s nickname is the “Beach of Death,” you’ll want to think twice about visiting. Playa Zipolite looks like a stunning oasis, but its waters boast strong and potentially fatal undercurrents. Thanks to the beach’s growing popularity a special lifeguard team has been put in place; still, you may want to choose a different destination. Check out these 10 beaches with the clearest water in the world.

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Morecambe bay in early Autumn Sunshine, Morecambe bay, Morecambe, Lancashire, UK
Sue Burton PhotographyLtd/Shutterstock

Morecambe Bay, Lancashire, UK

Described by The Guardian as “a treacherous place,” Morecambe Bay is dangerous because of all the freaky obstacles, such as quicksand, shifting channels, and river drainages. The locals have actually used horse-drawn carts and tractors with trailers to peruse the area, with the result that the machinery sinks into the quicksand never to be seen again.

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Sunset in Myrtle Beach South Carolina
Benz Travel Photography/Shutterstock

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

It may not have the same shark-infested waters or pollutants of other destinations on this list, but in 2017 Myrtle Beach was named the third most dangerous city in America, according to a SafeWise study based on crimes per capita. Residents refuted the ranking, however. “If you’ve visited Myrtle Beach, if you live here, it absolutely doesn’t make sense,” city spokesman Mark Kruea told ABC 15 News after the report was released. For other options, don’t miss these 20 amazing family beaches you could visit this summer.

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MUMBAI INDIA - NOVEMBER 12, 2017: Rubbish scattered in Chowpatty beach Mumbai.
TK Kurikawa/Shutterstock

Chowpatty Beach, Mumbai

Overwhelming pollution puts Chowpatty Beach in Mumbai on this list: Waste and debris cloud the waters and shoreline. To add insult to injury, a ship sank in the area in 2011 spilling 60,000 metric tons of coal. Not exactly the type of waters for beach fun. Similarly, find out the gross truth behind Hawaii’s white sand beaches.

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Fraser Island Australia

Fraser Island, Australia

Famous for its eco-tourism, Fraser Island attracts adventure-seekers from all over the world. But the beach conditions are unpredictable, and attacks by the island’s dingo population have resulted in deaths. Visitors are instructed to avoid running down sand dunes and diving into lakes. In fact, attacks and safety issues became such a problem that in mid-2019, the Queensland government was forced to take action to both manage the island’s dingo population, add ranger patrols, and impose an intensive educational program as well as massive fines for disturbing the dingos (over $7,000).

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Reflection of mangrove trees in Barra Velha beach, by the Amazon river mouth, in Soure, Marajo island, Brazil.
Mariano Villafane/Shutterstock

Amazon Beaches, South America

You’ll find plenty of animals that pose an issue for swimmers here, such as anacondas, electric eels, piranhas, and vampire fish (candiru). Unfortunately, the area is also home to quite a bit of gang-related crime, like drug trafficking and robberies. Hundreds of small rivers make it easier for criminals to make their escape, like modern-day pirates.

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The beach in Arnhem land of Northern Territory state of Australia.

Northern Territory, Australia

Australia’s poisonous wildlife isn’t limited to land species. In this far-flung corner of the continent, you’ll share the water with ravenous saltwater crocs, stonefish, jellyfish, and so much more. And the area is so isolated (most beaches don’t have names; the area is known as Arnhem Land) that any call for help may go unanswered for a long time. For more family-friendly options, these are the 20 best family beaches.

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Staithes, North Yorkshire, England, UK - September 07, 2016: View across the beach with some boats and people

Staithes Beach, UK

Surfers might be attracted to the giant waves at Yorkshire’s Staithes Beach, but they’ll be less keen on the contents of its water. The beach repeatedly makes the EU’s “swimming prohibited” list because of all the pollutants in the area. According to the BBC, the main reason for the high pollution levels is farm sewage draining into the harbor. “Breakwaters compound the issue by keeping the water within the harbor and limiting dilution from the sea,” said Dominic Shepherd, an environmental agency water quality manager.

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Hawaii volcano national park Kilauea crater caldera
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Kilauea, Hawaii

The black sand beaches of Kilauea look pretty cool, but the nearby active volcano has been erupting continuously for 35 years and spewing lava in the surrounding area. This means the water temperature here can rise to a whopping 110 degrees. Hot! Beyond beaches, learn which places landed on the world’s most dangerous tourist destinations.