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Beach Flag Meanings – Learn these warnings for your safety

If it comes to planning a beach vacation, the safety aspect should always come first. Not only big waves and strong currents, but several other dangerous conditions can occur by the sea from stinging marine life or passing watercraft. To indicate the possible dangers, a warning program adopted by the International Lifesaving Federation is used by many coastal communities. Although there can be regional variations, the majority of signs are universal, so it is worth the know what do the different colors mean. Improve your safety, study this beach flag meanings summary!

Anett Victoria - Author of SeaSpiration

Written by Anett Victoria

When it comes to a beach vacation, Anett is the person who certainly has tips on where to go and what to do no matter it is a luxury tropical holiday, a romantic seaside getaway, or a fun family trip to the ocean. As a world traveler with years of experience in exploring tropical countries and a water sports fan, she creates this inspiring site where she writes travel guides, reviews and recommends beach gear, and gives travel tips to make planning your trip quicker and easier! Are you curious about where She wanders now? Follow her adventures on IG too!


This is the flag we all want to see when heading to the beach! A green beach safety flag indicates there is no known beach hazard and the conditions are safe for swimming.

Green beach flag - Miami - Florida
Green beach flag at Miami Beach – This is a nice day for beach activities!

Although it is still important to exercise caution and keeping the main beach safety rules in mind like protecting yourself from UV radiation and drinking plenty of water, but if there is a green flag at the beach, it means that you can safely enjoy yourself.


Medium hazard is what a yellow beach flag means and can include several conditions including rip current, bigger waves, or the chance of quickly changing weather conditions.

Yellow beach safety flag
Yellow beach flag – Taking precautions is required!

This is a common beach safety flag that indicates you should take precautions when going for a swim and it is recommended that weak-swimmer wear a life vest.

Red over yellow

Although normally red and yellow beach flags mean some kind of hazard, but a red over yellow flag represents lifeguard supervised areas, therefore these flags are used in pairs placed apart indicating where the recommended swimming zone starts and ends.

Red over yellow beach warning flags
Red flag over yellow – this area is supervised by lifeguard

We believe that this is one of those beach flag meanings that you should definitely teach to your kids to enhance their safety so when you let them go for a beach vacation alone and even if they don’t remember all the warning signs, they will know what area is monitored by lifeguards.


The most often asked question when it comes to beach flag meaning is that what does a red flag mean at the beach? To answer it quickly, a red beach flag indicates high hazard with strong current, high surf, or another severe hazard.

Red beach safety flag
When a red flag is placed, it means swimming is dangerous, stay on the shore!

In such conditions, you can swim at your own risk only but shouldn’t enter the water only if you absolutely have to go.

Red over red

Probably this is one of the most important beach flag meanings that you should take very seriously. Red flag over another red flag means there is an extremely high hazard with dangerous surf and current and the water is closed to public use, swimming is prohibited.

Double red flag
Water is closed to public – this is what the double red flag means

Red and white

When lifeguards put out the red and white quartered flag that means evacuating the water immediately. This could happen due to a variety of reasons such as sudden strong surf, current, hurricane conditions, or even sharks around, so if you see this flag, go to the shore as soon as possible.

Yellow flag with black dot

At beaches where surfing is typical, yellow flags with black circle in the middle are often used. These suggest that in that area the use of watercraft and surfing is prohibited ensuring that swimmers can swim there without worrying about surfboards and other watercraft passing around.

White-black flag

Black and white, or white-black quartered flags are used in pairs and indicate watercraft areas where non-powered watercraft like surfboards can be used. Swimmers should stay away from such areas for their own safety if there is a black flag at the beach.


This is that beach warning flag that not many people know but for your own safety, it is essential to learn what a purple flag means at the beach. It indicates that marine pest can be present in the water that can cause beach injuries. It can be not only purple but dark blue as well.

Green beach flag - Miami - Florida
Green and purple beach flag at Miami Beach – the water is calm, although stinging marine animals can be present

Usually, people think when seeing this safety flag that there may be sharks around the beach, but in such cases red or even double red flags are placed out. If there is purple flag, it notifies beachgoers that stinging marine life such as jellyfish, stingrays or algae can be around.

To decide if it’s safe to go swimming or not if there is purple flag, we recommend asking the lifeguard what type of danger the flag indicates.


Not exactly a flag, but still an important beach warning sign is the orange windsock that means there is strong offshore wind, and inflatable beach items or floats shouldn’t be used.

Orange windsock near the beach
A windsock is a simple wind strength and direction indicator

Thanks to its cone-shape, it indicates the direction of the wind too.

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