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Beach Warning Flags

The easiest and most visible way to find out what’s happening at the beach is to look at the colored flag flying from the manned lifeguard tower.

green flag Low Hazard

Conditions are calm; normal care and caution should be exercised.

yellow flag Medium Hazard

Moderate surf and/or currents are present. Examples: shorebreak, along shore or rip current, baitfish, debris, drop off, rock

red flagHigh Hazard

Very hazardous rough surf and/or strong currents exist; swimming for experienced ocean swimmers only. Examples: rip currents, powerful shorebreak

double red flag Water Closed to Public

The water and/or beach are closed. Examples: severe currents and/or surf; water pollution, lightning, sharks, heavy machinery on beach

purple flagDangerous Marinelife

This flag may be flown with any of the other flags. Example: Man-of-war are present

Beach warning flags

Absence of flags does not assure safe waters. The ocean is a dynamic, ever changing entity with incredible power. Conditions change daily or even hourly! It is important for beachgoers to be aware of potentially hazardous conditions unique to that particular beach. There may be underwater rocks, holes, boats, jet skis, or surfers that could cause injury and should be avoided. To know what you might expect to encounter, please talk to the lifeguards. They are there to help you. County beaches have condition boards near the beach accesses. The water conditions, tides and hazards for that particular beach are listed daily along with the beach rules.

Boating and Inlet Safety 

Standard Safety Equipment
  • One USCG approved Type I, II, or III PFD for each person on board the vessel. 
    • ​Try on PFD and adjust to fit.
    • One throwable Type IV device.
  • Bell, whistle or airhorn – an efficient sound producing device.
  • Flares – flare gun, stick flare, flint light.
  • USCG approved Fire Extinguisher.
  • Display lights between sunset and sunrise.
  • Suggested equipment: anchor and sufficient amount of anchor line, bilge pump or bailing bucket, oar, paddle, VHF, GPS, and an auxiliary motor. 
Inlet Safety Tips & Facts
Before heading out the inlet: 
  • Drive to the inlet or ocean and look it over for at least 5 – 10 minutes. Remember, a beautiful windless day can carry a 6 – 12 ft. groundswell. 
  • Get the lay of the land from inside the inlet, to the extent that you can, by using a good pair of binoculars.
  • Look at the inlet webcams​. (Jupiter Inlet, Boy​nto​n Inlet, Boca Inlet)
  • Monitor and listen to your VHF CH 16 and WX weather channel for pertinent information before setting out.
  • If unfamiliar with the inlet, seek local knowledge from credible sources and watch local boaters run the inlet to gain knowledge for safe passage.
  • Wear a comfortable life vest when underway.
  • Rig and attach a lanyard engine kill switch to you and your boat. 
  • You should always remain under power while maneuvering in the inlets.
  • Keep your passengers and general weight located in the stern or mid ship area of your vessel so not to be bow heavy.
  • Never allow passengers to ride the bow pulpit, especially in an inlet.
  • Know how to recognize shallow sandbars, where wave height increases rapidly and where breakers form, indicating the location and to some extent the depth of water over the sandbars.
  • Be aware of the water both ahead and behind your craft. Keep your bow up and control your speed accordingly, matching it to that of the waves.
  • Always ride on the back of a wave, keeping the boat the same speed as the wave. The stern should be as perpendicular to the wave as possible.
  • Know the meaning and dynamics of your vessel in a surf, broach, and pitch pole situation.
  • If you see a large wave about to break on your stern, consider outrunning it or staying just beyond the break.
Did You Know?
  • The mouth of the inlet has the fastest current flow, both incoming and outgoing.
  • It is best to traverse an inlet on a slack or flood tide (incoming tide).
  • Scuba diving is prohibited in all inlets.
  • Surfing, fishing, and jet skiing are popular around inlet areas, therefore, all boaters should be aware and cautious of all activity while proceeding through the inlet.
  • “Standing” steep choppy waves are from the outgoing flow of current butting up to the incoming prevailing sea waves. This results in the doubling in size of the waves.
  • ​Inlets experience shoaling and local knowledge of all hazardous conditions is needed before passing through these inlets.

Beach and Water Safety

Beach Safety Tips

  • No glass containers are allowed on the beach – broken glass and bare feet don’t mix.​
  • Drink plenty of fluids at the beach. Dehydration can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you are feeling dizzy, weak, faint, have nausea or a headache, it’s time to get out of the sun. Sit in an air conditioned car, or in the shade. Seek the help of a lifeguard.
  • Wear shoes in the summertime. The sand gets HOT! Even short walks can be painful and can cause blisters.
  • Look out for tar! Tar should be removed from feet - it is a known carcinogen. In your beach bag, have an old rag and use suntan lotion, baby oil, or vegetable oil to rub it off. When you get home, wash the affected area with a mild abrasive soap to remove the remaining stain or use an exfoliating scrub if necessary.

Water Safety Tips

  • Learn to swim.
  • Swim near a lifeguard.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Read the condition boards at the beach accesses. If you need help identifying the hazards, ask the lifeguard. 
  • Supervise children closely, even when lifeguards are present.
  • Don’t rely on floatation devices; you may lose them in the water.
  • If you are in trouble, call and/or wave an arm for HELP.
  • Don’t dive head first into unfamiliar waters or shallow breaking waves.
  • Swim parallel to shore if you wish to swim long distances.
  • If caught in a rip current swim parallel to shore. Then swim straight in to shore. If unable to do so, stay calm, float with the current, call for HELP and wave an arm to gain attention of lifeguards. Learn more about rip currents.
  • Keep your arms out in front of you when body surfing.
  • Boogie boarders should use a board leash.
  • Stay away from the big waves (shorebreak) that crash onto the shore.
  • Alcohol and drugs cloud your ability to make smart decisions.
  • Follow rules and lifeguard instructions.​​

Sea Turtles

Our Beaches Lead the Nation in Sea Turtle Nest Density
Palm Beach County's beaches are popular places for people to enjoy the sand and surf.  And they are also popular places for female sea turtles to visit every year from March through October to nest.  Our beaches have more sea turtle nests per mile than anywhere else in the United States producing approximately 2,000,000 hatchings each year!   ​

Before You Leave The Beach
  • Fill in holes dug in the sand
  • Knock down sand castles
  • Remove beach chairs, toys, & other equipment
Sea Turtle Nesting Season in Palm Beach County
  • March 1 - October 31



You don’t have to venture far to discover fabulous snorkeling from shore in Palm Beach County.

Some tips for a safe snorkeling adventure:

  • Before snorkeling gather all your equipment. Check your mask, snorkel and fins to be sure they work and are adjusted to fit you properly. Make sure the snorkel is attached firmly to the mask strap with a snorkel keeper.
  • Best time to snorkel is within 2 hours before or after high tide.
  • Decide where to snorkel. If you snorkel in an unguarded area you will need a diver’s flag which can be purchased at any dive shop. The flag is red with a white stripe from the upper left corner to the lower right corner. Attach the flag to a float; inner tubes, boogie boards, surfboards, or small inflatable boats make good surface floats. The flag should stand high above the float so that boater’s can see it. The float can be tied to an anchor or buoy or left to float along the snorkeler in calm water.
  • Check the ocean conditions from a viewpoint. Observe waves, currents, wind, water visibility and weather. If conditions are poor, have an alternate activity planned.
  • If unfamiliar with the area, ask a lifeguard or a local patron about the diving conditions.
  • Know your personal swimming limitations and snorkeling abilities and remain alert to them.
  • Beginners should practice clearing their snorkel in shallow water.
  • Decide on entry and exit points
  • Always snorkel with a buddy! It’s more fun to share awesome experiences and if something unpredictable happens, you have somebody to help you.
  • Stay relaxed in the water.
  • Be aware of changing conditions and your buddy at all times.
  • Exit at the decided exit point.

Snorkeling is available within the lifeguard protected swimming areas of the following Palm Beach County beaches:



Unless otherwise posted, surfing ​and skim boarding ​is permitted outside the guarded swimming areas of County beach parks.

Surfing Safety Tips

  • Check with lifeguards first about where to surf.
  • Always wear a leash.
  • Never surf around swimmers or fishermen.
  • Always surf with a buddy.
  • Obey lifeguard instructions.
  • Be aware of and avoid all fishing lines.
  • Stay away from schools of bait fish.
  • Stay with your board if you get caught in a rip current.
  • Novice surfers should stay well clear of intermediate and advanced surfers and packs of surfers.
  • Surf away from a pier.
  • Don’t surf through a pier.
  • Be aware of color of the condition flag being flown from the lifeguard tower. At Juno Beach, surf in the guarded area only when the orange and white checkered surfing flag is flying. 


Did you know that those clumps of seaweed have a name?

It’s called beach wrack, and it’s “a pivotal part of the beach ecosystem,” says the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It drifts near the Gulf Stream and provides vital food for young sea turtles. While maintenance staff regularly removes litter and hazardous debris that wash ashore, beach wrack is typically left behind and serves as fodder for crabs, beetles, and other small creatures, which in turn are food for shorebirds. It is also important for collecting wind-blown sand and encouraging plants, which help hold dunes in place to protect property.

Seaweed is constantly present in the Atlantic Ocean and is washed ashore more frequently during sustained onshore winds combined with seasonal shifts in the Gulf Stream, particularly when the Gulf Stream nudges closer to the coast in the summer. While it may give off an odor as it dries, beach wrack does not create a health risk to beachgoers.

Occasionally, weather conditions exist in which an unusual amount of beach wrack is washed ashore continuously over a period of time. Check our beach conditions page for locations where concentrations may be heavy. Learn more about beach wrack and how it's an important part of the coastal ecosystem in this video​ [external link] from Audubon Florida.

Shoreline Enhancement Program

Palm Beach County’s 45-mile coastline is a playground for millions of residents and tourists every year. Our beaches serve as one of the best defenses against wave damage caused by winter storms and hurricanes. However, the constant erosion of our beaches is an undeniable reality.

Help Preserver Your Palm Beach Couty Beaches

Dunes are accumulations of wind-blown sand behind the beach. They are stabilized by salt tolerant native plants that have deeply-penetrating, extensive root systems. As the plants become buried, new roots develop on the recently buried stems while new stems emerge from the sand.

Palm Beach County’s Solutions

The Palm Beach County Department of Environmental Resources Management, through its Shoreline Enhancement and Restoration Program, builds environmentally-sensitive, cost effective projects to protect and restore the natural function of beaches and dunes. The Department encourages improved sand management practices at inlets and promotes the removal of non-native vegetation from sand dunes.

Since 1989, Palm Beach County has participated in or constructed over 22 miles of beach and dune restoration projects for the benefit of tourists, residents and coastal property owners.

How Beach Nourishment Works

Beach nourishment - pumping or trucking sand onto the beach to rebuild an eroding shoreline - is the most natural beach restoration solution. In addition to the aesthetic enhancements, wider beaches enhance recreation, provide storm protection for roads and buildings, and potentially improve sea turtle nesting habitats.

Although beach quality sand is occasionally obtained from inland sources like sand mines, the sand used for nourishment projects typically comes from offshore sand deposits or inlet shoals.

Inlet Management

Sand along our coastline moves north or south depending on the wave climate, but the predominant movement is to the south. This natural movement is disrupted by inlets which may trap the sand on their north sides.

Lake worth Inlet and Boynton Inlet have sand transfer plants that bypass sand from the north to south across the inlets. PBC strongly encourages the development and implementation of inlet management plans that promote more natural sand movement.

Jupiter Inlet and Boca Inlet were natural inlets that have been altered over the years primarily to serve boaters. Both are routinely dredged to maintain navigable depths, and the sand is placed on adjacent beaches.

Beach Ecology

What is Beach Erosion?

Dunes are accumulations of wind-blown sand behind the beach. They are stabilized by salt tolerant native plants that have deeply-penetrating, extensive root systems. As the plants become buried, new roots develop on the recently buried stems while new stems emerge from the sand.

The grassy sea oat is one of several plants in the dune that help beautify Florida's beaches. The attractive flowers of the sea oats become seeds in the fall that provide more plants to help protect the dunes. Because of its importance, the sea oat plant is a protected species. State laws prohibit the picking of sea oat flowers or seeds.

Sea grapes, which grow on the back dune and have large ping-pong paddle-shaped leaves, act as a highly efficient barrier to blowing sand. They also block light on the street from shining on the beach where it could otherwise interfere with sea turtle nesting and disorient emerging hatchlings.

A dense stand of sea oats and sea grapes can greatly minimize erosion during high tides and storms. People often forget the importance of sand dunes and its vegetation.

Here's how you can help:

  • Use the designated boardwalks.

    A few extra steps may be all it takes to protect the plants that hold the dune in place. Pedestrian traffic or dragged objects across the dune makes weak points in the dune line, which can be rapidly eroded by storm waters.

  • Pick up your trash.

    Dispose of all trash properly, particularly plastic objects, fish netting, and other materials that may entangle sea turtles and water fowl. Remember: runaway balloons can end up in the ocean, and to a sea turtle they look like food.

  • Leave seaweed in place. It's a natural fertilizer. 

    Seaweed is important in the beach building cycle, and it helps beach and dune plants to grow.​