From young families to thrill seekers, the beach is a popular destination for countless people, for a whole variety of reasons. Whether you’re hitting the coast for a spot of sunbathing or to take to the water and catch some waves, you may not always have safety as your biggest concern when you’re at the beach.
However, while the United States is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, it is also home to some beaches that can be dangerous for a number of different reasons.
As outdoor experts, we wanted to find out which beaches around the US are the most dangerous and where you need to take extra precautions when visiting.
The Most Dangerous Coasts
1. Venice Beach, CA
Danger Score: 7.19/10
One of LA’s most well-known beaches tops the list as the most dangerous beach in the USA. With historical ties to gang activity and a particularly large homeless population, there is a high rate of crimes in the local area, contributing largely to the high danger score.
2. Daytona Beach, FL
Danger Score: 7.18/10
Heading across the country to the East Coast is Florida’s Daytona Beach in second place. Again, this location has a high level of crime with 581 reported crimes in the local area during the time period of May-September 2021, although the vast majority of these crimes are non-violent. Daytona was also the location with by far the highest number of reported shark attacks, with 39.
3. Waikiki Beach, HI
Danger Score: 4.51/10
Waikiki Beach is famous for being a nearly entirely man-made beach, but it also features in our top three most dangerous beaches in the United States. While the beach has low levels of air and water pollution, it has a relatively high crime rate.
The Worst Beaches For:
Venice Beach, CA with 630 reported crimes
Looking at the time period of May-September 2021, there were 630 reported crimes in the area surrounding Venice Beach, making it the beach with the highest level of crime on our list. The beach also recorded the highest number of thefts and robbery as well as violent crimes which included assault, homicide, and sex crimes.
Venice, Malibu, Capistrano and Newport beaches, CA with 25 PM10
Air pollution in this case is measured by the PM10 score, a number that relates to the particulate matter concentration. Four California beaches tied for the unenviable top spot with a rate of 25 PM10 as they are all within or close to Los Angeles, so take their scores from this city.
Ocean View Beach, VA with 75/100 pollution rating
Virginia’s Norfolk County beach has an unfortunate claim as the beach with the most polluted water according to submissions from residents and visitors.
Surf Zone Fatalities
Daytona Beach, FL with 13 fatalities
From 2014-2021, Daytona Beach recorded the highest number of surf zone fatalities, with 13 people sadly dying after being caught in rip currents, high surfs, sneaker waves, and other dangerous waves.
Daytona, Siesta, Deerfield, and Belleair beaches, FL & Venice Beach, CA with 1 fatality each
Fatalities due to lightning strikes are uncommon, but they do happen and there are some beaches that have recorded deaths between 2007-2018. Daytona Beach, Venice Beach, Siesta Beach, Deerfield Beach, and Belleair Beach all recorded one fatality in this time period.
Reported Shark Attacks
Daytona Beach, FL with 39 reported attacks
The beach that had by far the highest number of reported shark attacks was Daytona, in Florida, with 39 in total. The majority of these are minor incidents and there have actually been no reported fatalities, although that’s still a very high number of attacks!
Miami Beach, FL with 90℉ summer average high
While many vacationers seek out beach destinations with high temperatures, they can be dangerous. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunstroke which can cause sickness and in the worst-case scenario can be fatal.
Miami Beach recorded the highest summer month highs, with the average of these highs for the months of June-September being 90℉ (32.22 °C).
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- A selection of the United State’s best-known beaches were looked at, however, with crime data being unavailable for many beaches due to lack of submissions from local authorities, the number of beaches with available data was limited.
- Crime reports – the total number of reported crimes as well as crimes relating to thefts and robberies and violent crimes was taken from CrimeMapping. The date range of 1st May – 30th September 2021 was applied and crimes taken from the local area. As this data was taken from a navigable map, results may differ depending on the area selected, however a search distance of ½ mile was applied.
- Air and water pollution – these scores are taken from Numbeo. While the air pollution figure is taken from WHO, the water pollution is an average of user-submitted scores so can be taken as an estimate only.
- Surf zone fatalities – these figures are taken from the National Weather Service and cover the years 2014-2021.
- Lightning fatalities – these figures are taken from the National Weather Service and cover the years 2007-2018.
- Shark attacks – the number of shark attacks logged in the Shark Research Institute’s Global Shark Attack File, which stretches back to the 19th century.
- Average summer temperature highs – temperature highs were taken from timeanddate.com for June-September and an average was taken of these.
- Ranking – In order to rank these beaches, we assigned a normalized score out of 10 for each factor before taking an average of all these scores to give a final danger score out of 10.
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