Should You Go to the Beach During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Mariana Suchodolski

Published on

Summer is fast approaching even though it may not feel that way because of everything that’s going on. Our summer plans are looking a lot different this year. Safety concerns, travel bans, canceled flights, and financial strain are just some of the things we’re grappling with. One place where people often find refuge is at the beach.

The ocean breeze, sounds of crashing waves, and a refreshing dive in the water can soothe the spirit when nothing else seems to help. If you’ve been itching to go to the beach you’ve got to make sure you’re planning ahead. Long are the days where sharks or skin cancer were the biggest threats to a reinvigorating beach day. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a lot more to consider when leaving the house. So what are the best practices to make sure you’re staying safe? Before you make any decisions, let’s think it through so that you’re prepared and fully aware of the risk. 

Costa Rica Santa Teresa beach

Beaches in your area may or may not be open. Photo by 

Are beaches open?

It depends. Each state has had a distinct measure against the coronavirus. And within the state, there may be differing guidelines for counties or towns. Some beaches are open for all activities with no limitations, others are closed or partially closed. Public-facing facilities like restrooms or drinking fountains may be closed. And there may be a restriction on what items you can take to the beach like umbrellas or chairs. So before you plan your beach day make sure you’re allowed to be there. Visit the official government website to check in with the current measures in place and respect the guidelines. 

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Is there a risk of getting COVID-19 at the beach?

Perhaps. Experts are still unsure about the potential of waterborne transmission or via sand for the new coronavirus. One possibility is that saliva or mucus from an infected person might end up in the area where you’re swimming or tanning. Charles Gerba, professor of virology and environmental science at University of Arizona says, “The virus could then get into the eyes, nose, or mouth of another swimmer.” Despite the unlikelihood of that happening, it is unknown how dangerous that may be. 

What beach should I go to?

After checking what beaches are open, consider which ones are of easy access to you. A drive, walk, or bike ride to your destination is safer than taking public transportation to get there. You should stay away from a crowded beach. Avoid large groups of people even if you’re outdoors. This might mean that you’re safer hitting the beach earlier in the day than you’d like. 

CostaRica Santa Teresa beach with backpack

Pack your backpack with everything you might need. Photo by 

What should I bring to the beach?

Your common sense. Besides the usual sunscreen, sunglasses, and a towel you should bring your newfound safety supplies too. A face mask and hand sanitizer are must-haves. You might want to pack a pair of gloves and a plastic bag just in case. You never know if the beach will get crowded throughout the day or if you’ll have to use shared facilities, so be prepared. Here are a few things to consider. 

Mask: It’s important to wear a mask even if you’re social distancing. You might be contagious yet asymptomatic, so wearing a mask will help prevent the spread when coughing, sneezing, or exhaling. And masks may even be required in some cases.

Hand sanitizer: You might share sunscreen, exchange money, use a public restroom, or sit in someone else’s folding chair. Make sure to sanitize your hands and anything you touch that’s shared with others outside of your household.

BYOBeach items: What you can do at the beach will vary by location, but if you’re allowed to partake in activities, make sure you bring your own equipment. Umbrellas, folding chairs, towels, goggles, snorkels, toys, etc. Try not to touch anything that’s not yours. 

Water bottle: Pack your own water bottle—preferably a reusable one. Avoid having to make an extra stop to purchase one at the beach or on your way there. Definitely don’t share it with anyone outside your household. And if you’re the kind of person who needs to nibble on something throughout the day, pack a snack too.

Plastic bag: It’s common courtesy to keep beaches clean. Keep a plastic bag with you in case you need to dispose of anything and save yourself a socially distant quest for a trashcan in case beaches fill up. 

Shallow water in Costa Rica in Santa Teresa

Take the necessary measures to stay safe. Photo by 

Are there other precautions I should take?


Social distance: You’re tired of hearing this, but maintaining a distance of least 6 feet from others outside your household will help protect you and those around you. 

‘Go’ at home: This might be out of your control, but avoiding shared spaces like public restrooms will help protect you. So ‘go’ at home if possible, or last case scenario—only if you’re healthy and need to pee, go in the ocean. Don’t worry—we’ve all done it before. The American Chemical Society says peeing in the ocean is fine (away from coral reefs), and may actually be healthy to marine life. 

Danger zone: Keep in mind that lifeguards and service staff might not be working as usual, so don’t go too wild. Make sure you have someone watching you if you’re swimming around or stay put and enjoy shallow waters.

Sanitized SPF: Make sure hands are clean before you rub your whole body and face with sunscreen. 

Pause parties: Don’t attend any large beach parties where you’ll be tempted to be in close contact with people and even share food or drinks. 

No photo ops: You might be tempted to humblebrag about your self-care moment at the beach with a new pic on Instagram. If you ask a stranger to take a photo of you, make sure you sanitize your phone afterward. Or better yet, just stick to selfie mode. 

Mariana Suchodolski
Lisbon, Portugal
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