The Getaway
Beautiful Places You Should Never Ever Swim

Some locales on the planet seem to have been created as on-Earth replicas of the heavens. The most inviting spots also provide tempting bodies of water that beg visitors to jump in and enjoy them. But just because these places look inviting doesn't mean they're safe to swim in despite their idyllic settings. While a few have obvious issues, others have dangers lurking below their surfaces, and swimmers should avoid the temptation to try them out.


01 New Smyrna Beach, Florida

While its white, sandy beaches may look inviting, check advisories before dipping your toes into the waters along New Smyrna Beach. The Florida Department of Health has issued swim advisories due to an increased risk of infectious disease for those who come into contact with the water. Workers regularly monitor the water's bacteria levels, and officials remove the advisories once the levels have subsided. There's also an average of nine shark attacks upon swimmers each year, though most are not severe.

Top view of New Smyrna Beach, Florida Javier_Art_Photography / Getty Images

02 Potomac River, U.S.

Flowing through the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., the Potomac River looks like a scenic, majestic, and inviting waterway. Yet, the river's waters are treacherous and deceiving, with the areas around the Potomac River Gorge and the Great Falls of the Potomac being the most dangerous. Rescues are a daunting task, even for trained emergency responders, due to the terrain along the banks, the perilous undercurrents, and swift waters. Several people drown in the Potomac each year.

Great Falls of the Potomac drnadig / Getty Images

03 Hoover Dam, Nevada

This monumental example of human ingenuity that borders the states of Nevada and Arizona is also a dangerous place to go for a swim. Between 2007 and 2017, 275 people drowned in the deep reservoir beneath the massive concrete dam, which is even more shocking when you consider it's not only unsafe but illegal to swim here. The dam's intakes produce strong currents that have the strength of pulling anything on its surface down into the murky depths of the water. If you don't die while attempting a swim, you'll most certainly end up behind bars.

Hoover Dam Nirian / Getty Images

04 Jacob's Well, Texas

Cooling off in local swimming holes is a favorite pastime of Texans, but if you happen upon Jacob's Well, it's best to find another one. This spring sits within the Jacob's Well Natural Area in Hays County, near the city of Wimberly and about an hour-and-a-half drive from Austin. At least eight or nine people have died at Jacob's Well over the years, but locals believe there have been thousands of close calls for those who dared to dive in. Four caves lie deep within the spring, with openings so narrow that divers must remove their tanks to get through them.

Jacob's Well in Texas, USA Wells / Getty Images

05 Horseshoe Lake, California

When travelers plan a trip to California, they most likely plan to spend some time at one of the state's many beaches or lakes. But, one place that should never be added to the list as an outing for a nice swim is Horseshoe Lake, about four miles from the city of Chico. Between 1989 and 1990, several small earthquakes occurred in the area, and soon after, trees started dying, puzzling the environmental communities. They realized that the earthquakes had created a pathway for CO2 to escape into the soil and in the area around Horseshoe Lake. Testing also showed a lethal combination of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide in the water.

Horseshoe Lake, California Frostka / Shutterstock

06 Hanakapi’ai Beach, Hawaii

Mother Nature can be a real tease sometimes. Hanakapi'ai Beach provides an awe-inspiring beach of golden sand along with magnificent views, but don't let its tropical beauty fool you. The ocean along the beach is deadly due to its nasty shore break, cross currents, and rip tides. Many drownings have occurred here. Some people are pushed off of the lava rock shelves that sit at each end of the beach by large waves, pushing them far out to sea. Most people, however, meet their fate within a stream that lies near the beach. They're swept away trying to cross it when the water is waist high and moving too fast.

Hanakapi’ai Beach, Hawaii emson / Getty Images

07 Condado Beach, Puerto Rico

Large waves, strong underflow, and rip currents make this otherwise idyllic beach a hazardous place to swim. Big rocks frame both sides of the beach, which are fine for taking scenic photos while catching some rays, but they can also cause severe injury or drowning if the forceful waves push you into their jagged surfaces. 

Condado Beach, Puerto Rico HaizhanZheng / Getty Images

08 West End, Bahamas

If you decide to go for a swim in the West End of the Bahamas, you'll likely have a perilous, up-close-and-personal run-in with a shark. Scores of tiger sharks — some reaching lengths of up to 16 feet — peruse the waters along the shore, making it one of the most shark-infested beaches in the world. The entire marine habitat surrounding the Bahamas is a shark sanctuary, and all species in the Bahamas are well-protected.

Tiger shark swims over a shallow reef in the Bahamas. Stephen Frink / Getty Images

09 Boiling Lake, Dominica

While bubbling waters may be a sign of therapeutic hot springs in some natural areas, the Boiling Lake in Dominica is a dangerous spot for an array of reasons. Beneath that boiling water is volcanic magma. Not only does the water reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but it also emits gases that are harmful to breathe in. You could poach an egg in the lake in less than 10 seconds, so it's pretty clear what it would do to human skin.

Boiling Lake, Dominica Joseph Thomas Photography / Getty Images

10 Queensland, Australia

Sharks may be a threat in many of the most beautiful beaches and coastlines around the world, but so are jellyfish. In the waters surrounding Queensland, sharks are an ongoing threat. But box jellyfish and the Irukandji jellyfish also pose lethal dangers to swimmers, especially in shallow waters. Their venom is among the most deadly in the world, with toxins that attack a victim's nervous system, skin cells, and heart. Yet, people who have been stung may not realize it immediately. If caught in time and medically treated, the sting's symptoms may continue for up to 20 days, along with side effects, including scarring, that can continue much longer.

Beach in Queensland, Australia DarrenTierney / Getty Images

11 The Great Blue Hole, Belize

Just off the coast of Belize, a circular sinkhole lies in the center of Lighthouse Reef and is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Great Blue Hole is around 410 feet deep and 1000 feet across, making it the largest in the world. This is not a prime spot for curious vacationing swimmers or inexperienced divers. There are no colorful reefs or marine life inside the hole, albeit a few hammerhead sharks. Yet, the Great Blue Hole is known to have the highest number of fatalities in the world, with nearly 200 estimated diver deaths in recent years.

The Great Blue Hole in Belize Enrique Aguirre Aves / Getty Images

12 Citarum River, Indonesia

The longest river in Indonesia is also one of the most dangerous, primarily due to the massive amounts of trash and wastewater dumped into it every day. There are an estimated 2000 industrial sites responsible for this devastating environmental impact. The water flowing in the Citraum is full of lead, arsenic, and mercury, creating a long list of dangers to the humans who come into contact with it.

A man fishing in Citarum River, Indonesia Ed Wray / Stringer / Getty Images

13 Beqa Lagoon, Fiji

Few would argue that Fiji is a tropical paradise. And, while sharks aren't usually swimming around looking for humans to munch on, the situation in Beqa Lagoon is different. Hundreds of sharks compete for food in the lagoon, and they will attack anything that moves, including travelers who just want a quick dip in the water to cool off.

Silver tip shark under boat in Fiji Aquarius Traveller / Shutterstock

14 The Strid, England

It's been called the "Deadliest Stretch of Water in the World," yet you'll find it in one of the most dazzling landscapes on the globe, England's Yorkshire Dales. The Strid is a six-foot-wide strip of water between Barden Tower and Bolton Abbey. Its narrowness is an illusion, say locals. Beneath this unassuming, narrow river is a network of caves and tunnels and a powerful undercurrent. Fall in, and there's a 100% chance you'll die.

River Wharfe and The Strid Tom Reville / Getty Images

15 Victoria Falls, Zambia

It should be no surprise that the largest waterfall in the world is also a dangerous place to swim. Without a guide, swimming in the pool beneath the falls or in the Zambezi River can be treacherous. Not only will you need to be ready to deal with crocodiles or hippos in the area, but the rocks around the falls and river banks are slippery, and the currents are super fast. More than one million people visit the falls each year, and an unknown number have died during attempts to take a quick dip or grab the perfect selfie.

Victoria Falls, Zambia timstarkey / Getty Images

16 Lake Victoria, Tanzania, and Uganda

The serene surroundings around Lake Victoria hide a sinister reputation. This is one of the most dangerous bodies of water in the world, where around 5000 people die each year. The lake has its own climate, one that can experience extreme weather changes within a short time. Lake Victoria is also between 262 and 274 feet deep, and its waters are hazardously rough. Boats often become stranded or capsize in the lake. Passengers who try to swim back to shore often tire and drown before reaching land.

Sunset over Lake Victoria Joel Pama / Getty Images

17 The Nile River, Africa

When it comes to this massive river, it's either the pollutants or wildlife that could destroy your day. Crocodiles, along with deadly snakes and spiders, live here and hide beneath the murky waters or along the shore. Millions of different types of pollutants end up in the Nile each year, making it a toxic mess that no human should come near, let alone swim in.

Young Man staring at the Source of the River Nile wilpunt / Getty Images

18 The Ganges River, India

Though sacred, the Ganges has become a risk for those who seek to bathe in its waters or go for a swim. Environmental experts say more than 300 million liters of domestic sewage end up here, along with industrial waste. The people who reside along the Ganges also dispose of their loved ones' bodies in the river. And, as a result, it is a breeding ground for dysentery, hepatitis, typhoid, and cholera.

Ganga Ghat, Varanasi Vinod Khapekar / Getty Images


19 Reunion Island, Indian Ocean

You'll find this French territory in the middle of the Indian Ocean, not far from British Seychelles and about 500 miles east of Madagascar. While it's the perfect place to find some R and R, it's not a great option if you're seeking a serene, peaceful swim. The waters surrounding the island are teeming with both bull and tiger sharks. Water sports are prohibited within a 300-meter perimeter around the coastline due to shark attacks that have occurred through the years. If you're intent on swimming, nearby Mauritius is a safer spot.

Drone shot of the coral reef at Boucan Canot, Reunion Island 35007 / Getty Images

20 Futaleufu River, Chile

This river, which flows through Patagonia and Chile, is one of the highest-ranked whitewater kayaking locales in the world. The most dangerous and challenging part of the river is the Upper Section, suitable only for very experienced kayakers. The area has been developing rapidly, however. Construction and deep graveling have led to incidents of wastewater overflow that has contaminated the waters. Government agencies have been inconsistent in monitoring the water quality, making it difficult to know what level of toxins are in the river. Swimming could be harmful.

Kayakers at Futaleufu River Alexis Gonzalez / Getty Images

Scroll Down

for the Next Article

The Getaway Badge
Sign up to receive insider info and deals that will help you travel smarter.