When you're daydreaming about a far-flung beach, you're probably thinking more along the lines of umbrella-topped cocktails and perfectly translucent water than all the things that could go wrong. (And that's a good thing!) But consider that lethal riptides and ominous sea creatures are real... and you might want to keep that in mind, too, before you hit these beaches. Just keep your wits about you and you'll be fine. (Right?)
1. Virginia Beach
This Naval base is a popular Southern sunning vacation, with its convenient proximity to Washington D.C. and Baltimore, making it optional for a long weekend. But while the weather is warm and the seafood is fresh, travel agent Greg Antonelle warns against committing before considering this: An influx of foxes in the area have attacked beach-goers and their pets on multiple occasions. He adds that feral hogs, which can also be violent if provoked, have been spotted, too. The south has some of the most gorgeous beaches in the country, so why not head to the infamous Outer Banks in North Carolina, which is two hours away.
2. Cape Tribulation, Australia
When you visit the coasts of Australia, you’ll be captivated by the views, the beaches and the generous, kind people. And while you definitely have a plethora of beach options, you might want to skip Cape Tribulation, located in Northern Queensland. Why? It’s a hot spot for some pretty scary creatures: jellyfish, crocodiles, venomous snakes, and more. This is also where "cassowaries" call home; that's a flightless bird that can easily weigh 160 pounds and be aggressive. Another threat in this area is what’s called a "stinging tree," which offers deceiving heart-shaped leaves with jagged edges. These suckers have berries that you might feel compelled to touch, but if you do, you’ll get a painful sting that last several hours.
3. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
What happens when you mix together abundant schools of fish and some epic swells? An influx of both hungry sharks and brave surfers, which, when combined, create unfortunate under-the-water attacks. This is the situation at this well-known destination, each and every summer. “Oftentimes, the sharks are mistaking people's legs or arms for bait or larger fish,” Antonelle explains. Though you’re on the safe side if you stay on the beach, taking a swim can be a tricky adventure that you might not want to risk. With so many beaches to choose from in Florida, opt for a safer one, like Destin, Miami, or others.
You might want to hang 10 with the big ones, but even professional surfers know about the risks of Hanakapiai Beach in Hawaii. This admittedly beautiful destination boasts intense and life-threatening rip currents and waves that have swept many people out to sea. Because of its high threat to visitors, there is no road access to the area, making much of it unexplored and thus, even more risky. According to some reports, as many as 83 people have been carried out into the ocean here.
5. Kilauea, Hawaii
If you’re a beach connoisseur, you know not all shores are created equally for visitors' comfort: Some are soft white sand, while others are freckled with beautiful (and sharp!) shells. Others still are comprised of pebbles, and some rare beaches offer black sand, thanks to the influence of a nearby volcano. Though a beautiful site to witness, Antonelle warns against visiting for more than a quick glance or Instagram selfie. “Volcanic fumes and ash are often more of an irritant than anything else, but babies, young children, and older visitors in particular should be careful to protect their eyes and lungs from too much exposure. Additionally, if and when the hot lava enters the ocean, it is best to avoid swimming in that area,” he notes. But if you happen to be in Waikiki and want some beach time, consider San Souci, which is equally gorgeous and better for some snorkeling adventures.
6. Gansbaai, South Africa
If you live for Shark Week, then you should probably add this beachy hotspot to your bucket list — but proceed with caution. It’s nicknamed the "Great White Shark Capital of the World," and recent reports estimate that the local community of seals have attracted herds of these saltwater predators. Most of them can be found in so-called "Shark Alley." While it’s not recommended that you dip your toe in unsupervised, there are several reputable companies that bring you into the ocean to face off with a white shark, from the safety of a protected cage.
7. Playa Zipolite, Mexico
Located on the southern coast of Oaxaca state in Mexico, this less-trafficked beach might seem relaxing, but that’s only if you stay out of the water. Why? This destination is also known for another name — Playa de los Muertos — which means, "the beach of the dead." Here, tourists who wade in the water might put themselves in dangerous of a powerful riptide. Though there is now a large lifeguard crew at the site, people still get caught up in the riptide frequently, making it a place where you’d be better off throwing a volleyball or sipping a Corona, instead of snorkeling.
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