Blue Flag: How Clean is That Beach?

by  Jill K. Robinson | Jun 5, 2013
Chairs by the beach
Chairs by the beach / aceshot/iStock

You've saved your money, packed your bags and are ready to embark on a new adventure. Through all the planning, the same image came to mind: the perfect beach. Whether rocky, sandy, tropical, or wild, beaches conjure up images of vacation and relaxation. But how do you know if your perfect beach is clean?

I'm not just talking about cigarette butts and beer bottles. Water quality and environmental management factor into clean standards as well, and countries may evaluate all these things differently – or not at all. You don't have to be a clean freak to care about this stuff.

Luckily, The Blue Flag Programme has established criteria for beaches and marinas, working towards their sustainable development. What does it take for a beach to be awarded with a Blug Flag? Each season, a beach needs to meet 32 criteria covering environmental education and information, water quality, safety and services, and environmental management. If conditions change, the Blue Flag is withdrawn.

The organization has been around for more than 25 years, and is the largest global eco-label for beaches and marinas. Better yet, there's a national administration center in each participating country. The non-governmental, non-profit, independent program is recognized and supported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

More than 3,850 beaches and marinas in 46 countries across Europe, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, the Caribbean, and Brazil have Blue Flags.

Luquillo Beach Puerto Rico /

In Puerto Rico, Luquillo Beach is great not only for swimmers, but also stand-up paddling (SUP), and lures families from around the island.

Lakeside Cherry Beach, considered Toronto's cleanest beach, allows swimmers to enjoy the water during the warmer summer months.

Picturesque Cayacoa Bahie Principe Beach, on the Dominican Republic's Samana Peninsula, is a resort beach with plenty of activities for the adventurous and lounger alike.

Is your perfect beach on the list?

Cenote Samula, Mexico
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