Shark-Infested Spots in the United States.

Top 5 Shark Infested Spots in the U.S.

Written by Kim Kavin
January 10, 2023

Precious few people ever want to find themselves swimming with sharks. The good news is there’s not much reason to worry about; according to the International Shark Attack File, the number of annual shark bites in the United States has remained pretty steady since at least 2012— the vast majority resulting in injuries, but no deaths.

Sharks fascinate and frighten us. Whether you are trying to avoid them or come close to one, our post on our top 5 shark spots in the United States will help you fulfill your bucket list or clear your anxiety.

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1. Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida.

According to the International Shark Attack File, swimmers in Florida have seen between 16 and 36 shark bites yearly, going back to 2012. None of those bites have been fatal, but the sheer quantity of encounters is larger than in any other state.

While shark bites have been recorded along nearly all parts of the Florida coastline, the greatest number of incidents have taken place in Volusia County, which has earned the unfortunate nickname “Shark Bite Capital of the World.” Volusia County is home to popular tourist spots such as Daytona Beach, which averages more than 9 million visitors annually.

Just to Volusia County’s south is the county with the next-highest total of shark bites: Brevard County. It’s where you’ll find Melbourne, Cape Canaveral, and Merritt Island, all places with lots of activity along the waterfront.

After those two counties, all other locations in Florida have recorded far fewer shark-bite incidents, with more than a dozen counties having incidents in the single digits going back a decade.

Also worth noting is that the vast majority of Florida shark-bite incidents occurred when people were doing certain activities. The top activity was “surface recreation,” such as boogie boarding or surfing; the second most common was people swimming or wading. Divers experienced precious few incidents.

The data from Florida also shows that comparatively few shark-bite incidents happen in Florida during the months of December, January, and February—when water temperatures tend to be in the 70s, a good 15 degrees cooler than during the summer months.

2. Hawaii

Ho’okipa Beach, Maui, Hawaii.

Hawaii, with a total of 76 shark-bite incidents since 2012, has the second most incidents in the United States (which equates to only about 30% as many shark-bite incidents as Florida). According to the International Shark Attack File, most of Hawaii’s incidents have happened around Maui, which has the second-largest population in the Hawaiian islands. Maui is also an island that draws a lot of beginner surfers at spots such as Ho’okipa Beach, the Lahaina Reefs, and Honolua Bay.

The second-highest number of shark attacks reported in Hawaii were around Oahu, which is home to more than two-thirds of Hawaiians and the state capital of Honolulu. Its north shore draws many of the best surfers in the world.

3. South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

After Florida and Hawaii, South Carolina has the most recorded shark-bite incidents in the United States. There have been 45 incidents recorded since 2012, with 10 in 2017 alone. For all other years with available data, South Carolina has seen less than ten shark-bite incidents each year along its whole coast.

Shark-bite incidents can happen anywhere along South Carolina’s coastline. Horry County, far to the north, and Charleston County, in the state’s middle, are nearly identical in their number of recorded bites. Both are popular tourist destinations, with Horry County being home to Myrtle Beach and Charleston County housing the port city of Charleston and the popular tourist destination Kiawah Island.

4. California

La Jolla Shores, San Diego, California.

After South Carolina, California ranks number four among U.S. states with the most shark-bite incidents. There have only been 29 of them recorded since 2012, but three of those 29 have been fatal, which is about 10 percent. That ratio adds to the scare factor in news stories about the incidents.

San Diego County, far to California’s south, has seen the most activity and has reported shark encounters and bites in the news for generations. The incidents have involved surfers, swimmers, kayakers, and others.

Up in the state’s north, Humboldt County has the second-highest number of recorded shark bites. That county is home to Eureka, the largest coastal city between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon.

5. North Carolina

Outer Banks, North Carolina.

The fifth-highest number of shark-bite incidents in the United States is in North Carolina. Notably, the county in North Carolina with the highest number of incidents is Brunswick—which is considered part of the Myrtle Beach metropolitan area, along with South Carolina’s Horry County, one of the most active locations for incidents in that state.

The good news for North Carolinians is that none of its recorded shark-bite incidents since 2012 have been fatal.

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