If You See a Purple Flag at the Beach, This Is What It Means

The meaning may surprise you!

Everyone’s favorite season is quickly approaching—beach season! Soon, sunshine, ocean waves and sandy beach days will be the norm. Among our favorite beach activities? Swimming in the ocean, of course.

Before you jump into any beach water though, you may want to take the water’s safety into account. In fact, have you ever noticed different flag colors at the beach? There are several different flag colors that you may notice during any beach trip, which indicate various ocean safety levels.

When it comes to colors like green and red, you can probably take a guess at what those colors may indicate about ocean safety at the beach. But have you ever noticed a purple flag on the beach? A purple flag actually has a specific meaning that may not be so obvious.

What does a purple flag at the beach mean?

If you see a purple flag at the beach, it’s an indication that there are marine pests present in the water. These pests include jellyfish, stingrays and various other dangerous fish.

While a purple flag does not stop beachgoers from swimming in the ocean, it does indicate that anyone entering the water needs to exercise caution and keep an eye out for any dangerous sea critters.

What do other beach flag colors mean?

Beach Warning Signs And Flags, Jacksonville Beach, Duval County, FloridaNorm Lane/Getty Images

Beyond purple flags at the beach, there are other beach flag colors to keep in mind during any beach day. The other beach flag colors may not indicate the presence of marine pests, but they do indicate the hazard levels of the ocean.

This is what each beach flag color means:

  • Green: Low hazard and calm conditions.
  • Yellow: Medium hazard level, with a light surf and/or currents.
  • Red: A high hazard level. Rough conditions such as strong surf and/or currents are present.
  • Double Red: The water is closed off to the public.

These flag meanings are used around the world to help beachgoers determine water safety globally. In fact, the International Life Saving Federation put international guidelines in place regarding beach flags in 2004. All of these flags and guidelines help beachgoers determine how to maneuver within the water.

Now that you know these flag rules and meanings, take a look at more of the beach safety rules that can save your life—in and out of the water. And, after reading up on any and all beach rules, you may be interested in visiting some of the best beaches to visit around the world.


  • Seas the Day: “Safety Beach Flags”
  • USLA: “USLA Approved Beach Warning Flags”

Jessica Kaplan
Jessica Kaplan is an assistant editor who has written lifestyle content for Reader’s Digest, Family Handyman and The Healthy. Her expertise includes travel and restaurant news. These days, she creates timely trend content for Taste of Home. When she’s not writing, Jessica is bound to be planning out her next trip, trying out a new coffee spot or listening to a podcast.