When most of us think about beaches, we visualize pale sands, clear blue waters, and picturesque palm trees waving in the breeze. What we imagine are tropical paradises where we might soak up the sun’s golden rays, with tropical drinks in hand.
Unfortunately, there are beaches that don’t measure up to our fantasies. Some of the beaches on today’s list are unpleasant places. They get bad press for good reason.
10. Henderson Island, British Overseas Territories
If visiting a beach that’s polluted by a whopping 18 tons of plastic sounds good to you, you may want to plan an excursion to Henderson Island. This isolated island is uninhabited and it is home to sugar-sand beaches, which are unfortunately marred by the presence of plastics and other garbage from Japan, America, and a host of other nations.
So, how does all of this trash arrive at Henderson Island, which is part of the Pitcairn Islands Groups, which is a British Overseas Territory? Well, Henderson Island, which is a notable marine reserve, has ended up with trash on — and buried inches under — the sands due to a strong ocean current known as the South Pacific gyre.
This circular current sends debris from international seas directly onto Henderson Island’s shores. Every day 3,500 pieces of garbage end up on the shores.
This island is at the halfway point between Peru and New Zealand. Right now, experts estimate that 38 million pieces of plastic are present on the island’s beaches. The hermit crabs of Henderson Island have taken to living in plastic containers and birds and other wildlife are consuming plastics.
Back in the ’80s, the island was a pristine paradise, which earned a World Heritage Site designation, thanks to its unspoiled beauty.
9. Cabrillo Beach (Harbor-Facing Side), Los Angeles, USA
You’ll find Cabrillo Beach in Los Angeles. This beach should be an ideal place to frolic in the water and chill out on the sand, but pollution has made the harbor-facing side of this beach an unappealing destination for city residents and tourists. Cabrillo Beach’s harbor-facing side has the dubious distinction of being one of the USA’s dirtiest beaches.
The beaches of California are prone to pollution from urban runoff that lands in the ocean, plus rusted septic and sewer systems. Decomposing algae and kelp also contribute to pollution problems. The section of Cabrillo Beach that faces the harbor of San Pedro is subject to all of these issues, and it’s been ranked as one of the most polluted beaches in the Golden State.
Interestingly, the oceanside section of Cabrillo Beach, San Pedro, is in good shape, pollution-wise. This is because the two sides of the beach are separated by a seawall, as well as a long pier. Sadly, the side facing the harbor is anything but pristine, in part because of icky human bacteria that enters the waters through a source that is currently unknown.
If you want to go swimming at Cabrillo Beach, stick to the oceanside area. If you want to swim at a beach that’s known for being one of the cleanest in the region, consider heading for Las Tunas County Beach in Malibu.
8. Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, USA
This beach used to be stunning and relatively unspoiled. Now, Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach is saddled with two nicknames, “Plastic Beach” and “Trash Beach,” which speak volumes. This beach is off the beaten track and used to be a hidden gem for adventurous beach lovers, who were willing to take 4-wheel drive vehicles down an unpaved road to get there.
Now, people visit Kamilo Beach to gawk at the astounding amount of garbage that is mixed in with the sand. Some come to help clean it up. The trash on this Hawaii beach really piles up and this trash comes from the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” This patch is a collection of marine litter that’s situated in the North Pacific Ocean.
Kamilo Beach currents are unique and these currents push plenty of things onto the stores, including garbage, logs, and dead animals.
Logs aren’t so common on the shores these days, but an abundance of plastic arrives regularly. Ninety percent of the debris that washes up on the shores is composed of plastic.
At Kamilo Beach, the sand is dotted with small pieces of bright plastics, many of which have faded a bit because of exposure to the elements. There are also bigger pieces of garbage, such as plastic vats. A lot of the garbage comes from the fishing industry.
The beach looks terrible. It stands out for the wrong reasons. It’s beach that is a total downer.
7. Juhu Beach, Mumbai, India
Another extremely dirty beach is Juhu Beach in Mumbai, India. It’s mega-polluted.
This beach isn’t part of an uninhabited island or tucked away in some out-of-the-way location. It’s part of an upscale Mumbai neighborhood where many Bollywood stars choose to live. While people are making a serious effort to clean up Juhu Beach, with some success, the pollution problem is major.
Pollution in the Arabian Sea is rising alarmingly, and an Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay report indicates that there may be more plastic than fish in the sea by the year 2050. According to the report, 50% of plastics that pollute the Arabian Sea have been generated in the past decade. Plastic usage is on the upswing and marine life (and beach-goers) are paying the price.
Hundreds of tons of trash have been removed from Juhu Beach, so it doesn’t look as bad as it used to, but the root issue that leads plastic and other garbage to wash up on the shores, which is rising pollution in the Arabian Sea, means that clean-up efforts will need to be aggressive and ongoing.
Although the beach can look picturesque sometimes, particularly, after clean-ups, the waters are always intensely polluted.
As of November 2019, the beach earns an overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 at TripAdvisor. In November 2018, a reviewer described the beach’s waters as “black” due to pollution. In August of 2019, another visitor characterized the beach as a “disgrace” due to its overcrowding and general dirtiness.
People are valiantly trying to make this beach better, but it’s a 24/7 job which is an epic undertaking. Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is now overseeing clean-up operations, and these operations are changing things for the better. Large machines are needed to get rid of the trash that collects on the beach in the morning.
People who visit the beach may not realize just how polluted the water is, since garbage that washes onto the beach is now being cleaned up faster than it once was. Visitors, and those considering visiting Juhu Beach in the future, do need to know the truth.
Of course, there are concerned citizens who understand. Some of them are activists who are trying to turn things around.
6. Fujiazhuang Beach, Dalian, China
Do you want to share a beach with 50,000 other people? Probably not, right? This is what you’ll need to do if you decide to spend time at Fujiazhuang Beach in Dalian, China.
Beaches may be nasty for an array of reasons, including crazy overcrowding. This beach is widely considered to be the most crowded stretch of sand in the world. Visitors are encouraged to avoid swimming if they have skin ailments, or eye diseases, or gastrointestinal problems. They are also supposed to avoid smoking, spitting, and littering.
Will several tens of thousands of visitors follow all of these instructions? You know the answer.
So, why do people keep flocking to this beach? What is the attraction? Well, it’s a scenic pebble beach. It’s a pretty place, really.
The overcrowding is worst in summer. During spring, there is a lot more space to move around and enjoy the pretty locale. Unfortunately, the beach is polluted year-round. Food packaging and plastic waste are generated by all of the beach-goers.
This beach also gets a 3.5/5 rating at TripAdvisor (as of November 2019). Some extroverts enjoy the fact that so many people visit the beach during the high season, because it’s a socially vibrant environment, but others hate the overcrowding. People who gave Fujiazhuang Beach poor reviews commented on the fact that the beach’s pebbles were painful to walk on, noted the unpleasant pollution, and remarked that it was hard to see the water because of all of the people.
5. Villa Angela State Park, Ohio, USA
Villa Angela State Park is home to Villa Angela beach, which is connected to Euclid Beach. These beaches are known for having high bacteria levels in their waters. Unfortunately, the bacteria levels tend to stay high, rather than plummeting sometimes. Villa Angela State Park beach and its adjacent Euclid Beach are often unsafe to swim at.
Some of us expect American beaches to be safer than some international beaches, thanks to the Clean Water Act, but this isn’t always the case. American beaches may be filled with human fecal matter, or other nasty contaminants, just like beaches in undeveloped nations, or beaches in other countries that are developed.
USA residents, and tourists who visit American destinations, need to understand that American beaches can be hazardous sometimes — or all of the time. Anyone who wants the inside scoop on a beach’s safety should look for official reports before visiting and, especially, before swimming or wading.
So, what’s in the water at Villa Angela State Park in Ohio? Well, this state park’s beach is often filled with fecal matter that contaminates the water and may trigger respiratory illnesses, ear infections, intestinal distress, eye infections, and skin rashes. The main beach at the park is 900 feet in length and it’s a pretty place to be, but the waters are dirty, which is actually the case with many Ohio state beaches.
4. Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia
Beaches situated near this Victoria, Australia bay are places where roughly 800 million pieces of garbage flow into the waters yearly, via a couple of rivers. The situation at Port Phillip Bay beaches highlights the damage that pollution is doing to Melbourne’s coastline. Most of the pollution is plastic garbage, which surges into the bay and threatens the survival of marine life.
Microplastics in the water are a huge issue. These types of plastics are smaller in size than a typical fingernail. Plastic bags also end up in Port Phillip Bay waters. Feces contamination is also sometimes a problem at Port Phillip Bay beaches. Usually, flash flooding is the cause of high contamination from feces.
Port Phillip is home to a lot of beaches, which are generally long, flat, and shallow. These beaches are quite popular with tourists, because they offer gentle conditions for swimming. These beaches aren’t surfing beaches with big, rough waves.
Unfortunately, some tourists don’t know about all of the pollution in Port Phillip Bay. Popular beaches in this region include Dromana Beach, Sandringham Beach, St. Kilda Beach and Brighton Beach. Some of these beaches fail water quality tests on the regular.
3. Guanabara Bay Beaches, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Guanabara Bay Beaches in Rio land on most lists of the world’s most polluted beaches, including this list. The problem is the untreated human waste that pollutes the water.
When it comes to swimming in the waters of Guanabara Bay Beaches, strongly reconsider, as local neighborhoods are very short on sanitation, which means that water conditions are terrible, and that nasty microorganisms, and raw sewage, are rife within the water.
Some people who do swim at Guanabara Bay Beaches live to regret it, because they experience skin irritations and stomach problems afterwards. Athletes, including Olympic rowers, take pains to avoid splashing the bay’s waters on themselves or others. They also disinfect with sanitizing products while they are in their boats.
A beach shouldn’t make you sick. This beach very well might.
Exposure to pathogens from raw sewage from millions of Rio residents is just the beginning. At this beach, the water is also polluted by industrial waste. There are tons of refineries, pharmaceutical factories and oil and gas operations in the region. A huge amount of industrial wastewater ends up in the bay daily.
These beaches may look beautiful, but they have a dark side that local residents and tourists need to be aware of. If you’re going to hang out at these beaches, maybe don’t go in the water. Stick to a little people-watching and sun-bathing on the sand.
2. Freedom Island, Manila, Philippines
You may not want to load a beach tote or knapsack with towels, sunscreen, the latest juicy, best-selling novel, and drinks, and then head out for a day at the beach at Freedom Island, Manila, Philippines. Freedom Island’s sands are basically buried under piles of trash.
The Philippines is known for being a big generator of ocean plastic pollution and the garbage dump that Freedom Island has become is testament to the fact that the Philippines needs to reduce ocean plastic pollution as soon as possible.
The buildup of plastic waste is linked with the development of the sachet packaging craze in the Philippines. Sachets are plastic pouches which are fortified with aluminum layers that provide durability and shape. If you’ve opened a package of ketchup and squeezed the contents onto your french fries, you’ve used a sachet.
Sachets make life easier for Philippines residents, but this ease and convenience comes with a very heavy environmental price.
This Metro Manila beach is covered in plastic pollution. It’s really pretty horrible.
When waves are vomiting refuse onto the shores, and beaches turn into landfills, we should all be alarmed. It’s happening all over the world, including on Freedom Island.
1. El Gringo Beach, Bajos de Haina, Dominican Republic
When a beach earns the unofficial title, “Dominican Chernobyl,” it’s a clear sign that the condition of the beach isn’t exactly safe or inspiring. El Gringo Beach in DR is remarkably filthy and some of its pollution is dangerous, hence its worrisome nickname.
People who visit El Gringo Beach need to worry about plastic pollution, as well as toxic levels of lead in the soil and sand. The lead comes from an illegal car battery recycling smelter. The car batteries recycled contained lead-acid. That smelter is now abandoned, but activities there caused significant environmental damage.
Those who go to this beach also have to be concerned with other forms of industrial waste that land in the waters and on the shores. Examples of toxins found the Bajos de Haina beach include the aforementioned lead, plus ammonium, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid. These toxins are generated by oil refineries, manufacturing plants, and power plants in the region.
A non-profit organization called the Blacksmith Institute considers Bajos de Haina, which is home to El Gringo Beach, to be one of the most polluted areas of the planet. Toxins in the area are present in sand, soil, and water, and some of these toxins are also airborne.
Suffice is to say that El Gringo Beach isn’t the ideal location for a leisurely family beach picnic. It’s not the nicest place to go for a dip, either.