Beach Ethics – The Unwritten Rules of the Sand

Rules of the beach

I wrote this story back in 2011 but thought it needed to be brought back to life. Castaway Crystal and I this past Sunday on Lovers Key here in Southwest Florida and experience a total lack of beach ethics. I’d like to tell you about the situation and then refresh the list of the unwritten rules of the beach.

There we were, sitting on the white sand on the Big Carlos Pass side of Lovers Key. It wasn’t the nicest of days; the wind was blowing hard and gray clouds filled the skies. We were two of only 4 people on the entire beach. After awhile we noticed a large group made up of only a couple adults and 15 kids. They walked down the beach passing behind us. We cheersed our rum punches and thanked the Lord they didn’t sit next to us.

About 15 minutes later the group walks back and builds a camp not 10 feet from us. Hello! The entire beach is empty and you choose to sit on top of us and start playing volleyball! Crystal and I both look at eachother with a dumbfounded look and couldn’t believe the lack of class and beach ethics this strange group possessed. We shook our heads, picked up our things and moved 50 yards down the beach.

I told Crystal we should have just moved and sat right in the middle of them. How do you like that people! It was the strangest group too, two older guys, two older women and 15 pre-teen girls. The guys didn’t even talk to the older women and were just playing games with the young girls. Can you say creepy!!!

Anyways, I just wanted to get that off my chest and bring back to life the topic of beach ethics. There are unwritten rules of the beach and they should be kept in mind when enjoying the sand.

Rules of the Beach

I see the big signs in most beach parking lots. They usually state things like no pets, no fire arms, no alcohol, no feeding of the sea life…things like that. Those are pretty universal and well understood, but there is another set of rules for the beach that isn’t written down. These rules should sit in the common sense part of the brain, but you’d be surprised by the lack of social class that some people tend to have when on the beach.

It never fails though, I’m sitting there on an uncrowded section of sand and guess what happens, a family of 5 with 3 kids sets up a small city right in front of me. Gulf view gone, peace destroyed.  They unfold their chairs and place them in a neat row, creating an impenetrable wall of canvas and overweight bodies. The kids scream in pitches I didn’t think possible and kick sand on all nearby.

There’s only one thing you can really do…move.

This frustration brings me to the unwritten rules of the beach. I’m going to list a few of the most common rules, then you guys can list rules you have below in the comment section. Hopefully the oblivious offenders read this and learn the social laws of the sand.

The Unwritten Rules of the Beach

1. Space

Like I mentioned above, if there is plenty of open space on the beach, do not set up your campsite next to another party. It’s called personal space, people like to have it. Fill the empty parts of the beach and try not to sit directly in front of another person’s view.

2. Kids

Kids are great, I love kids, but they are wild crazy animals. They yell, scream, kick sand and cry. They are destroyers of peace. When heading to the beach with kids, seek out a place on the sand close to another family with kids. This will hopefully keep the chaos contained to local areas and give the kids some other terrorists to play with and entertain themselves.

 3. Banana Hammocks

I’m writing this from the perspective of a Floridian. This is the United States, not the south of France. Men in speedos is not acceptable. This is a huge violation of the unwritten rules. No one wants to look at your man parts being held back by a small tight piece of material. If you’re visiting America you should follow the local customs. Board shorts and swimming trunks are the normal custom for the states.

4. Smoking

The sand on the beach is not your personal ashtray. I can’t stand smoking period, but to have it blow across your face at a place as tranquil as the beach is just offensive. If you just have to have a cancer stick on the beach, make sure you’re not close to other beach goers. You could even take a walk to the parking lot and do your business there. Also please put your cigarette butts in the trash when you’re done, not in the sand.

 5. Music

I love music at the beach…my music. There’s nothing better than staring out at the waves with some Buffett, Chesney, Mishka or Marley playing to set the mood. If you bring a radio to the beach make sure it’s loud enough for only you to hear. If you want it louder, ask the people close by if it is okay.

Those are 5 unwritten rules of the beach. If you have others you’d like to add, please do so in the comment section below.


(Lead photo from


By |2017-03-06T07:52:38+00:00October 5th, 2015|RSR Stories, Southwest Florida, Travel Tips|33 Comments

About the Author:

Just a salty pirate looking to explore and document the wonders of the Caribbean. Professional blogger, rum judge, consultant, marketer, and consumer of blue water beauty.


  1. leslie smith August 23, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Soooo loving your beach rules..hahahah… I would add the trash, food, slinging cellulite, pets, diapers, cellphone talking.. aaahhh so much. Keep it coming, add some video to this blog too…smile. I was raised in St. Thomas and I do remember days of the evil eye on the beach when folks abuse you and the land.

  2. mm
    RumShopRyan August 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Thanks Leslie! Great additions and I have some more videos coming…hopefully. Cheers!

  3. Shawn Kelly August 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Enjoying a fine beer on the beach is akin to heaven. A hint: your bottle caps… They go in the trash, not on the beach where I can step on them.

  4. Shannon August 23, 2011 at 11:45 am

    I would like to add: UMBRELLAS – please do not set up right in front of someone if you can avoid it; and if it’s windy, PLEASE do not set it up at all because it WILL take flight!! Those things can be dangerous. Had a group set up in front of me with one at Cinnamon Bay and after watching the umbrella take off 5 different times, it finally came at me. This umbrella had an aluminum post with a sharp point at the top, it would have really done some damage had one of the guys not caught it just in time. It took off so quickly I didn’t even have time to sit up, much less run to avoid it.

  5. Derrick August 23, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Wow, You pretty much hit that one on the head!
    And I agree with Leslie on this. The days of letting your Dogs and children just run loose are over with. I am a pet lover, Have several dogs my self. But I keep them contained. Nothing like relaxing at the beach, and then all of a sudden a big dog comes over knocks your mixed drink over while either trying to sniff your butt, or get into your Cheetoes!
    Thanks so much for this, funny thought!

  6. Genny August 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Gosh, Ryan…I think you hit all “high 5s” with your rules. Being a beach-bum, surfer-girl designer, I’d expand on the guys with the teeny tiny speedos and give a heads up to the ladies out there….know what bathing suit looks good on you while on z beach or else you’ll end up with black bars over your eyes and on the back page of Glamour magazine as a big DON’T!!!

    ps~website not done but “like” me on FB- Gennyville
    aloha 😉

  7. Justin Hamlin August 23, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    From someone who lived 400 yards from the beach in SoCal, I can completely agree unequivocally with all of your points.

    And leave it to Shawn to carry the chips 🙂

  8. The Shell Princess August 23, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    Sometimes those annoying kids on the beach are mine… I wish they’d give me some space! Nice rules Rumshop- good luck enforcing a ban on banana hammocks in Miami. They don’t really consider themselves part of the United States:)

  9. Chris Shaw August 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    I am going to find the tightest speedo humanly possible and follow you on your next beach adventure and set up camp right next to you. Then, I’m going to bring Colton (2.5) and put him in his minature speedo just to add insult to injury. Then I’m going to play Lisa Loeb (Stay) as loud as I can and have a sing along that rivals anybody on American Idol. Last but not least, I will change Colton’s diaper and tuck that baby just under the corner of your towel to give you a nice hot and steamy beach frangrance.

  10. mm
    RumShopRyan August 23, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Thanks Chris, remind me to never go to the beach with you!

  11. Shawn August 24, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Ryan, I couldn’t agree more with all you stated here. As a native Floridian these infractions have been a common occurrence my entire life which is why I started using the potato chip method (thanks for the mention by the way). I’d love to blame it all on the tourist but other locals are just as bad. One thing I love about the Gulf coast is the beaches are not as packed. Living in Ft Lauderdale and going to the beach sometimes makes me want to just stay at the pool because of these rules being ignored; and that is just sad. Cheers man. See you at the #KWCrawl in a few weeks!

  12. Laura T August 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    Love them all Ryan! My 2cents…if you camp on top of me, DO NOT pick up your blanket/towel and shake it out! And put your lotion on at home. Those great new spray cans don’t work in the wind…you are burnt because you applied at the beach and most of your spray mist is in my face. If you re-apply at the beach, spray it in your hand.
    I love throwing a football or frisbee around at the beach but please make sure you are able to aim. If you are not sure of your abilities or have kids involved, move to a non-populated spot…if it hits me in the head or you knock my drink over, it’s mine!
    I have kids and try to be respectful of everyone – this means I tell my kids NO, BE QUIET or STOP THAT! It’s ok for you to do it too…don’t turn on the ignore button because you are at the beach 🙂

  13. mm
    RumShopRyan August 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Right in Laura! Shaking out the towel on people is a big one!

  14. Meredith (Reeftraveler) August 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Your #1 is my #1. Encroachment is my biggest beach pet peeve. But there’s a phenomenon even more offensive than general encroachment, it’s called shade encroachment. This is when a person (or party) sidles up behind, beside or in front of you in a callous attempt to use your umbrella’s shade! The perp is usually an unregistered (and unwelcome) “guest” at the resort or hotel where one is staying.

    And I have to agree with the cigarette smoking, but I will also include the tourists in the Caribbean who sit on the beach puffing Cuban cigars solely because it’s a novelty item. Yuck!

    And finally, while I completely agree with the music, I’ll add that any loud noise in general is annoying at the beach.

    Great post!!

  15. mm
    RumShopRyan August 24, 2011 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks Meredith! I’d have word with someone getting so close to steal my shade. Cheers!

  16. Angie October 5, 2015 at 9:53 am

    Amen to all of your points. Kids…why are they always crying and screaming? Because they do not belong at the beach – that’s why! Get a sitter!

    I will add, as someone else mentioned above, do NOT spray your obnoxious sunscreen near me. I don’t want to breathe it up. Same with cigars. Bleh.

    Also, throwing a football or other ball back and forth across a crowd of people is annoying and you’re going to hit someone that doesn’t want to play your game. Go far away with your ball throwing.

    Dogs…yeah, you think they’re cute, but they STINK when they’re wet, they shake all over everyone, and really not everyone thinks your dog is as adorable as you do. Leave the dog at home, or take it to a DOG beach.

    And for crying out loud, we all enjoy a drink or six at the beach but if you’re gonna get slobbering drunk and obnoxious, don’t do it near me!

  17. Steve October 5, 2015 at 9:53 am

    another thing, don’t set up camp at the path entrance from the beach, also-don’t set up your chairs at the waters edge making people have to walk around you when walking

  18. Shannon's Reef October 5, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Not a problem at all beaches but when visiting a beach that has rentals/owners that rent/live ON the ocean…so not cool to place you and your belongings at the foot of their staircase. These people paid for oceanfront access. We have had beach thugs walk over an access area and place themselves right at the foot of our stairs and even used them to hang their towels. I have always said there should be a pamphlet included in rental packets outlining Beach Etiquette 101.

    Thanks for the post!

  19. Robert October 5, 2015 at 10:22 am

    A few great peeves Ryan! My wife and I recently returned from a holiday in Mexico. We had a beautiful stretch of beach and along comes at least 15 loud people who planted themselves directly in front of us. We couldn’t believe what they did and it was if we were invisible! Helloooo!! 🙂

  20. Don McKillip October 5, 2015 at 10:51 am

    We are kindred souls, brother!

  21. Rick October 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

    I was at a lake beach with my kids. When we arrived we were the only ones at the beach so we headed to a nice spot and set the kids free. After we where there for about 20 minutes a couple showed up and parked right by us then started fishing 15 foot from where the kids were playing in the water. The beach is a good 3 miles long so there was plenty of room. The thought crossed our mind to move but we had already settled into that spot, me being stubborn we stayed put. About 30 minutes after our new neighbors moved in they came to me and ask if we could make our kids stay out of the water for it really bothered their fishing. Remember the kids were swimming when they cast their lines in that location. Some people have a lot of nerve.

  22. Jw October 5, 2015 at 11:01 am

    I certainly agree with the personal space rule and it should apply for everywhere. Restaurants, washrooms, treadmills at the gym everywhere. Move away from me! Lol???? The others rule about speedos. I’m not crazy about seeing women that are 50, 60, or more lbs over weight wearing bikinis. One time I watched this very over weight women walk down the beach believing she wasn’t wearing a bottom. It was only after she had passed by me that I could see her bottoms because her stomach was hanging over it in front.

  23. Greg October 5, 2015 at 11:46 am

    Lived on the coast for several years. Don’t pee in the sand is another one. I’ve seen several women squat and pee at the beach. Find a restroom.

  24. Jorie October 5, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Great list… Too bad so many of us have had our relaxing beach trip doomed by clueless folks! Your point about the music resonated with me and hoes to pool environments too. We have twice now experienced some “everyone wants to party with me” kind of guy blasting his own playlist at resort pools… Once in Punta Cana, the other recently in Playa Mita. Honestly, while the playlists in both cases were not offensive, that wasn’t the problem. Frankly, both resorts had local music playing from their speakers and I was enjoying the cultural difference… Kind of helped me keep work and other junk out of my head …I was on vacation in another country, after all. But these guys had thier wireless speakers blasted! You couldn’t even have a conversation if you wanted to! While they puffed thier stogie and hooted it up, they occasionally glanced around to see who was looking thier way. A few suckers were wrangled in, but secretly I wanted to pay a kid to cannonball right next to the speaker!!! ????

  25. FakePC October 5, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    So, I’m totally triggering right now because you’re body shaming (sp?) men right now, men can wear whatever they want wherever they want, just because it makes you uncomfortable, just look away… tooootally triggered.


  26. Eric B October 5, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    All these are the exact reason we purchased a house that has it’s own private beach. My beach, my rules!
    Although I did have to put up a “private beach” sign after some vacation rental kids decided they liked my beach. Haven’t had a problem since!

  27. Leslie October 5, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Great article. I would add to pick up all of your trash whenyou leave and dispose of in a proper container, or take home and throw it away. Also, pets, do not mix with people unless it is a pet beach…who wants to walk in pet doo doo? Lasly, I saw people feeding the seagulls and birds fried chicken and chicken bones…this could kill the birds…do not feed the wild life…it is not good for them onmany levels.

  28. Pat October 5, 2015 at 7:38 pm

    Please keep an eye on your children. One wave can sweep a child away in the blink of an eye. Do not let young children go in the water alone. Even if they are great swimmers in a pool, the ocean is an entirely different story.

  29. Misti October 5, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    DO NOT feed the gulls! This family next to us this summer was chip throwing crazy. They were having fun and I told my hubby if they shit on me in wiping it on their towel. Next thing you know like I thought a thousand sea guls were yapping and flying all around us. I think they learned their lesson. I was obviously pissed and they didn’t know what to do. I told them to cover all the chips with sand. They did the birds left and the people moved

  30. teachergirlkaren October 5, 2015 at 9:03 pm

    I love this! My kid is grown and I retired after teaching elementary for 27 years. I don’t want to deal with loud, obnoxious kids in paradise. Also, I’m allergic to dogs so I don’t want to be around them either in public places. And, if you set up tent city in front of me I’m going to talk smack about you on FB and post a picture! It just seems too hard for some.

  31. Sandra October 5, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Great rules that you would THINK are common sense.

    Here’s a pet peeve of mine; people walking past your blanket close enough to kick sand on it. Totally not necessary to walk that close to me, every time it has happened to me.

  32. Gene October 9, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Seems to me that #s 1,2,4,5 are all sort of the same catergory and all good rules , along with the whole littering thing.
    As far as the whole speedo,board-shorts,trunks thing…..I get your point but I’m also old enough to remember when speedos were the norm and board-shorts/trunks,baggy-trunks were definately the oddball…that was the case right up to the early 90s….besides which just don’t look if you find it unattractive.

  33. W & F October 12, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Ha Ha, I think that pic at the top of the page is the same guy my wife and I saw on the beaches of Sanibel island last year while there.

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