Don’t you love the feeling of sand slipping between your feet as you walk along a golden beach with nothing but inviting water and an ocean breeze? Of all the countries, I think it’s fair to say the USA has some of the best beaches in the world.
But it’s not all sunshine and tan lines in North America because there’s often an ominous predator lurking in the depths. Okay, that may be melodramatic, but if you’re wondering where the most shark attacks in the world occur, it’s the USA. So it is sensible to know the most shark infected beaches in the USA.
The theme song of Jaws may be playing in the back of your head right now, and I don’t blame you. So before you embark on an epic journey and start admiring the best sunsets in Florida and the like, let’s look at the beaches with the most sharks in the United States.
19 Most Shark-Infested Beaches in the USA
Table of Contents
- 19 Most Shark-Infested Beaches in the USA
- 1. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
- 2. Mākena Beach, Maui, Hawaii
- 3. Bolinas, California
- 4. Solana Beach, California
- 5. Surf Beach, California
- 6. Cocoa Beach, Florida
- 7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- 8. Topsail Island, North Carolina
- 9. Melbourne Beach, Florida
- 10. Fripp Island, South Carolina
- 11. Ormond Beach, Florida
- 12. Lyman Beach, Kona, Hawaii
- 13. Gulf Shores, Alabama
- 14. Jacksonville Beach, Florida
- 15. Ocean Beach (Long Island), New York
- 16. Isle of Palms, South Carolina
- 17. Daytona Beach, Florida
- 18. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- 19. Emerald Isle Beach, North Carolina
- FAQS About the Most Shark-Infested Waters in USA
- Where Are the Most Shark Attacks in the USA?
- Where Do Most Shark Attacks Happen?
- What State Has the Most Shark Attacks?
- What Should I Do if I See a Shark?
- What’s More Dangerous, a Great White Shark or Tiger Shark?
- Final Thoughts on Where Are Sharks Most Common in the USA
Florida may have some stunning coastal towns, but its number of shark attacks compared to other states is off the charts. So don’t be surprised to see loads of Florida beaches pop up on this list of the 19 most shark-infested waters in the USA.
1. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Image by Unseen Beaches on Unsplash
It may be the beach with the most shark attacks in Florida, but New Smyrna is much more than a scary shark-filled destination. With 27 km of pristine white sand and waves that seem to go on forever, this is a surfer’s paradise — and a shark’s playground.
The coastline is 40 minutes (19 km) south of Daytona and an hour (90 km) from Orlando City. When surfers aren’t hitting those gnarly waves and dodging the occasional shark, there are tons of fantastic restaurants to try out.
Cafe del Soul serves classic spreads, from fresh seafood to lighthearted salads. And if you want a drink to refresh your palette, pop into the Baci Beer and Wine Cellar.
When you’re not walking along this coastal oasis — away from the sharks — New Smyrna’s waterways are the perfect place to enjoy a kayaking tour.
You might enjoy reading my posts about the Warmest US States in Winter, Warm Places to visit in January in the USA, Warm Winter Getaways in the USA, Sunniest Places to visit in America, World Heritage Sites in the US, Most Visited Places in the United States and tourist attractions on the drive from New York to Florida.
2. Mākena Beach, Maui, Hawaii
Image by Joanna Kozik on Unsplash
It may be small at only 1.1 km in length, but Mākena Beach is still a sharky neighborhood, that’s for sure. Although it has fewer shark attack numbers than Kīhei’s beaches, shark sightings in these calm, shallow waters are frequent.
This stretch of beach sits within Mākena Beach State Park and is a popular spot for snorkeling, swimming, and surfing. Divers are the most likely to spot these ominous ocean dwellers, but it’s not uncommon to spot a dorsal fin wading through the shallow waters.
It’s separated into Big Beach and Little Beach, with the former being a very popular spot. Little Beach is a small cove with no lifeguard, so you must take extra precautions when swimming here.
3. Bolinas, California
Image by Ronan Furuta on Unsplash
Florida may top the list for the most shark attacks in the USA, but California’s Bolinas Beach is a particularly breathtaking destination. It rests at the heart of California’s Red Triangle, where 38% of all Great White Shark attacks occur.
That’s a scary stat, I know, but there is a reason for this. This region along California’s coastline has heaps of seal species, so swimmers’ and surfers’ silhouettes are often mistaken for prey.
It’s also only an hour’s drive (48 km) from San Francisco, so it’s super busy on weekends. The beach is the gateway into the Bolinas Lagoon, where several seal species reside. This is why the beach regularly sees Great White Sharks as they circle the lagoon waiting for their next prey.
Top Tip: If you decide to swim or surf out here, just take every precaution and stay within range of the lifeguards.
4. Solana Beach, California
Image by Joshua Brown on Unsplash
Although outside the Red Triangle, Solana Beach is an equally scary spot for shark sightings in California. It’s just a 30-minute drive (35 km) from San Diego and is famous for its lavish hotels and luxury resorts.
It’s glorious San Diego-inspired sunsets dazzle the sky in reds and oranges, while its epic waves make for a great surfing spot. Shark sightings are becoming increasingly frequent, as many juvenile sharks have migrated south to Solana Beach from Los Angeles.
This largely concerns them avoiding prey, such as Orcas and other Great Whites. Although seeing sharks at Solana Beach is becoming more common, this 2.7 km stretch of pristine coastline still has a reasonably low number of shark attacks.
You might enjoy reading Interesting Facts about Sharks
5. Surf Beach, California
Image by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
More or less in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’ll find the enigmatic Surf Beach. As its name suggests, its lengthy waves make it the ideal bodyboarding spot.
But nowadays, people are less eager to dive right into these azure blue waters as attacks have been recorded every two years, like clockwork. It’s a pretty scary thought and not something you want to worry about when swimming or diving just off the coast of California.
It’s unknown whether these attacks are coincidental or caused by a single shark regularly migrating to this beach. One thing is certain, though, even the beach itself suggests steering clear of bodyboarding and swimming. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy everything else at Vandenberg State Marine Reserve.
Note: The south and north regions of Surf Beach are closed to protect nesting Snowy Plovers from March to mid-September.
6. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Image by Sky Gallian on Unsplash
Cocoa Beach, a part of the Canaveral Bight, is just an hour’s drive (96 km) from Orlando and one of the prettiest beaches in the USA. While the beach itself isn’t the most unique thing in Florida, it certainly packs a mighty punch with regard to scenery and activities.
Many dolphin-watching tours are just off the coast of this glorious beach. But if you don’t plan on joining one of those, there are a few things you need to know.
Yes, you’re likely to see sharks along this beach, but the bigger danger is rip currents. This isn’t a huge issue for surfers, but swimmers can get in a real pickle if caught in one of these.
7. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Image by Walter Martin on Unsplash
Roughly an hour and a half drive (125 km) from Wilmington, Myrtle Beach actually has the second-highest number of shark attacks in America after New Smyrna. With a whopping 96 km of stunning coastline, it’s no surprise this beach ranks up there in shark sightings.
As a matter of fact, Myrtle Beach encompasses six different beaches, which all come together to form the Great Strand. It’s a fantastic deep-sea fishing area, while Cherry Grove in the north and Murrell’s Inlet to the south offer fantastic kayaking opportunities.
It’s also a region full of diving potential, with artificial reefs growing daily and some unique wrecks at the bottom of the ocean. Of course, it’s a good idea to take on these activities with a touch of caution, as it’s renowned for shark sightings.
8. Topsail Island, North Carolina
Image by Gene Gallin on Unsplash
This 41 km long island has some of the best soft sand in America, but it comes at a mighty price. Okay, it’s not a huge issue, but there are sharks aplenty in the cool waters of the Atlantic coastline.
Previously a missile testing station for the US Navy, this quaint island has seen somewhat of a renaissance since 1963. While the beaches are kept in tip-top shape and protected for several animal species, Topsail is now a popular holiday destination, and it’s easy to see why.
While sharks are tracked and regularly reside in Topsails coastal waters, it’s unlikely you’ll see them, though. They tend to stay well away from the shallow shores of the island. So you can swim in peace knowing you’ll probably not be their next meal.
9. Melbourne Beach, Florida
Image by Aral Tasher on Unsplash
Resting just south of Cocoa Beach on the Canaveral Bight, Melbourne Beach is just as susceptible to shark attacks as its northern neighbor. With six attacks since 2010, it has the third-highest number of incidents in the state in recent times.
Why do sharks attack people at Melbourne Beach? It largely has to do with how many people visit this stunning coastline. As it’s one of the sunniest places in the USA, tourism seldom stops, but the warm waters also attract prey for sharks.
The natural snorkelling spots along the beach are where you’re most likely to spot these toothy predators. So if you’re not keen on a heart-raising interaction, stick to the shoreline, where the sharks are less frequent.
10. Fripp Island, South Carolina
Image by Dennis Derringer on Unsplash
South Carolina also has its fair share of shark-infested beaches, like most of America’s East Coast. But what makes Fripp Island unique is the type of shark you’re more likely to spot out here.
The Skull Inlet and Fripp Inlet create the perfect conditions for the infamous Tiger Shark. As these sharks feed off prey near river mouths, the fact there are two such inlets on either side of the island makes the coastline a shark’s jungle gym.
While attacks are fairly rare, you’ll often see a bobbing fin as it meanders through the water. All in all, even if you see a shark in the water, there’s still 5.6 km of soft sand beach to spread your legs at.
11. Ormond Beach, Florida
Image by Galen Anderson on Unsplash
Just north of Daytona, you’ll find the picture-perfect beach of Ormond. While shark sightings are all too common along this stretch of the East Coast, you’re actually more likely to get into a stiff situation while surfing. This is largely thanks to its rough seas.
There haven’t been any shark attacks, but there are up to five tracked sharks in its waters at any given time. While sharks frequent the beach, the city does its utmost to make everyone feel welcome.
You can happily spend the day walking along Granada Boulevard, admiring the city and its glorious coastline. And when you’ve had enough beach for one day, you can always pop over to the west side and enjoy some water activities at Tomoka River.
Aside from the sharks, what’s not to love?
12. Lyman Beach, Kona, Hawaii
Image by Ingrid Martinussen on Unsplash
With a tropical climate that makes it one of the best US January destinations, it’s understandable that Kona has its fair share of shark sightings. Lyman Beach is the most common place to spot sharks, as it’s also a popular surfing spot.
Surfers look far too similar to a seal for sharks, so it’s not surprising that there have been a couple of incidents in recent years. Luckily the waters are extremely clear, so it’s not hard to spot cloudy black silhouettes circling the depths.
It’s also a small beach with a naturally arched shape and a rocky outcrop protecting most of the swimming area from heavy-hitting waves.
Top Tip: If you’re interested, several Manta Ray snorkel experiences leave from Lyman’s neighboring beach.
13. Gulf Shores, Alabama
Image by Yansi Keim on Unsplash
Gulf Shores is the only entry from Alabama with 51 km of tropical coastline. It offers the perfect experience of the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s not all glitz and glam on its white sand beach fronts.
Since 2010, there have been three recorded shark attacks, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Black Tips, Spinner’s, and the Atlantic Sharpnose are the most common sightings along these shores.
Seeing these creatures swim about the ocean you’re trying to enjoy may be intimidating, but it’s essential you remember this is their habitat. The more sharks you see, the healthier the Gulf Shores ecosystem is, so spotting them is good.
14. Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Image by Josh Moore on Unsplash
If it’s the expansive beachfront you seek, then Jacksonville Beach has all 35 km to enjoy. Before diving right into these sandy shores, it’s important to note there have been three fatalities from shark attacks since 2010.
Most attacks are made by Black Tips and Snippers, which are also the most seen on these shores. But it’s not uncommon to see a Great White occasionally.
A lot of the incidents occur to fishermen and surfers, so if you just intend to swim, then Jacksonville Beach is still a great destination. And with its downtown redevelopment project underway, new and exciting dining options are constantly popping up.
Top Tip: You can enjoy an Airboat tour through Saint John’s River system, just west of the city.
15. Ocean Beach (Long Island), New York
Image by Dasang Bista on Unsplash
Just 20 miles out of Long Island, you’ll find the chilly waters of Ocean Beach. It’s technically on the thin and long Fire Island, but it’s often just seen as part of Long Island.
As it’s slightly further north than most entries, this is more of a seasonal beach for swimmers, surfers, and sharks alike. Sharks tend to migrate south from the northern Atlantic waters with their prey, but Great Whites still occupy New York’s waters throughout the year.
In the summer of 2022, Ocean Beach registered a staggering five shark attacks. This is well over the norm and has to do with the conservation efforts in the region.
This means shark numbers are rising in the region, with most sightings being juveniles. So if you go to Ocean Beach, just be mindful of this increase in shark activity.
16. Isle of Palms, South Carolina
Image by KaLisa Veer on Unsplash
Isle of Palms will always be remembered for its 11 km of pristine, expansive beachfront and its ever-present shark population. Despite its fair share of sharks, this really is a welcoming space where you can have the time of your life.
It has everything with boardwalks, lifeguards, food carts, and a sand volleyball court, I can go on, but I think you get the picture. The most important thing to remember is that sharks love their summer waters. So always keep an eye out on the lifeguard, and if they tell you to get out of the water, listen!
17. Daytona Beach, Florida
Image by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash
Much like New Smyrna and Ormond, Daytona Beach is a hotspot for these nibbly fish. And with 37 km of inviting sand and baby blue water, it’s also a hub for the avid vacationer.
But sharks only really become an issue when you swim far out into the ocean, so try to stick closer to the shoreline. That said, it’s not always that easy, as Daytona is well known for its strong currents. It’s actually one of the highest surfer fatalities in the USA, with 16 since 2010.
And if you want a safe way to explore the coastline, consider joining this standup paddling tour.
18. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Image by Jake Johnson on Unsplash
Hilton Head Island is a luxurious resort town roughly an hour’s drive (56 km) from Savannah and has around 19 km of untouched soft sand beach. That said, spotting a frightening shark is also a regular occurrence thanks to its tributaries on either side that pump out food for the predators.
You will most likely see Black Tips, Lemon Sharks, and Tiger Sharks. But don’t be surprised to know Great Whites are lurking further into the Atlantic Ocean.
To add to its shark-infested waters, Hilton Head also supports the turtle species. Every year from May to October, loggerhead turtles create over 400 nests, which are protected by volunteer organisations like Turtle Tracker.
19. Emerald Isle Beach, North Carolina
Image by James Hose Jr on Unsplash
Lastly, there’s Emerald Isle Beach, where the Bogue Inlet meets the Atlantic Ocean. It may have 19 km of stunning coastline, but it’s also the beach with the highest number of shark attacks in North Carolina since 1971.
The incidents have increased since the town became a popular holiday destination, but at least none of the attacks were fatal. Most of the sharks spotted along its shores are Tiger Sharks and Black Tip Sharks as they hunt in and around the Bogue Inlet.
FAQS About the Most Shark-Infested Waters in USA
Before you catch your breath after learning about all the stunning but scary beaches, here are a few answers to your questions.
Where Are the Most Shark Attacks in the USA?
Florida features countless times, so it’s no surprise to see New Smyrna Beach top the list for the most shark attacks in Florida and the USA. With 32 unprovoked incidents since 2010, its far ahead of the second-highest incident-prone region of Cocoa Beach with seven attacks.
Where Do Most Shark Attacks Happen?
This isn’t a straightforward answer, as it varies. Most shark attacks in the USA occur to divers, swimmers, and surfers.
Shark encounters for divers are most likely to occur where water levels are roughly 9 and 12 meters in depth. On the other hand, swimmers and surfers endure shark attacks at 1.8 and 3-meter depths.
The majority of the incidents occur in nearshore waters by sandbars, as their prey generally congregates here at high tide. Shark attacks are also common close to steep-drop offs in the sandbed.
What State Has the Most Shark Attacks?
Without a shadow of a doubt, the deadliest beaches are in Florida. Not only does it have the most shark attacks by state, but it also accounts for more than half of the incidents in the entire country.
What Should I Do if I See a Shark?
First of all, if sharks happen to be close by and spot them, don’t panic. I know it’s easier said than done, but panicking and flailing your arms around in the water is sure to draw their attention.
You want to slowly swim away and toward the shoreline, but make sure you can always see the shark. If a shark becomes aggressive, hitting its nose, gill openings, or eyes is best.
But the most important thing is to keep eye contact with the shark. They are naturally ambush predators. So keeping eye contact with them can reduce the potentiality of them attacking you, as it may not be worth the risk on their end.
What’s More Dangerous, a Great White Shark or Tiger Shark?
According to the Florida Museum records, Great Whites are the most dangerous sharks, with 351 attacks since 1837. Tiger sharks are the second highest, with a total of 142 attacks.
Fatal encounters also sway in favour of Great Whites, with 59 fatal encounters compared to Tiger sharks 39. Either way, I wouldn’t want to have a meet-up with either one of these magnificently scary creatures.
Final Thoughts on Where Are Sharks Most Common in the USA
So there you have it, 19 of the most shark-infested beaches in the USA. Just remember that the chances of you getting attacked by a shark are very low, so even though these beaches have their fair share of sharks, you should be safe. Just practise caution when at these beaches.
And if you want to be even safer during your travels, read about the most dangerous cities in the USA.
Melodie Michelle Wood
Wednesday 3rd of May 2023
I won't put myself in the sharks domain to be able to be eaten by a shark!
Thank you for this article!