This Beach In California Is So Dangerous It's Been Given A Horrifying Nickname

With its fairy-tale-like architecture and picture-perfect cobblestone streets, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a stunning American city that will make you feel like you're in Europe. However, this luxurious vacation spot is actually located in Central California, Monterey County, less than an hour from Big Sur. It's no wonder that Carmel has several breathtaking beaches including Monastery Beach. Situated near the Carmelite Monastery, home to the Carmelite Nuns, visitors will find gold sand and cerulean waters. Additionally, it's a beloved diving destination. Despite this, Monastery Beach has another moniker that is not as divine: Mortuary Beach. 


Just like other beaches with horrifying nicknames and those regarded as the most dangerous in the U.S., there's an unsettling reason for it: Many fatalities have occurred here. A 2019 article from the Monterey Herald reported that over 30 individuals had died at Monastery Beach primarily due to drowning. But why have so many lost their lives? The beach's underwater terrain is to blame, said California State Parks-Monterey District Superintendent Jim Bilz to KSBW in 2015. He explained, "What makes this particularly dangerous is the contour." 

He added, "It's probably 30 feet that it very sharply goes down at an angle. The contour is created by the deep shelf off the coast here." This, in turn, can create rogue waves. Unsurprisingly, swimming here is not recommended. Consequently, Monastery Beach has made headlines for taking the lives of divers and unsuspecting beachgoers alike. 


Deaths at Monastery Beach a.k.a. Mortuary Beach

In 2009, Correy Randall Fedor, a 22-year-old student at University of California, Santa Cruz, drowned while diving at Monastery Beach. Although the circumstances of his death are hazy, it is known that Fedor had prior diving experience. However, individuals on the shore have also fallen victim to Monastery Beach. In 2015, Linda June from Illinois was taking a stroll by the sea with her family when a wave pulled her and another individual into the water. June, who had planned the California vacation for her father's death anniversary, did not survive in the incident.


Speaking with the Monterey Herald, her children, Laura and Scott Arredondo criticized the lack of safety measures at Monastery Beach. Laura told the publication that she did not see any warning signs. She also said, "When coming back from Big Sur we kept thinking what a beautiful beach. We never thought it would be dangerous; it looked calm. Who knew it would be deadly?"

In 2017, Haotian Wu, a 9-year-old boy from Southern California died at Monastery Beach when he too was pulled into the ocean by a wave. According to KSBW, the waves at the time of his death were anywhere from 8-12-ft high. Note that despite the dangers, there were no lifeguards at the time of these deaths at Monastery Beach.


Monastery Beach's safety initiatives

Due to the alarming amount of drownings, Monterey County implemented unique signs at Monastery Beach in 2008, each displaying articles depicting previous deaths that had occurred at the beach. "We wanted to really get people's attention," Loren Rex, from the Department of Parks and Recreation Monterey District, told the Monterey Herald. "We also wanted to be able to provide divers with warnings about the specific skills required at that beach." It's unclear if these signs are still posted at Monastery Beach at the time of this writing. However, the beach does have signs warning visitors of its deadly waves. These were installed after Linda June's death.


Likewise, one reviewer on Tripadvisor stated that Monastery Beach has a red flag posted next to the sign. This indicates danger and that no one should be in the water. After the death of Wu, Sean James, the public safety superintendent for the State Parks Monterey District urged for the installation of a lifeguard tower and one was installed in 2019.

In an interview with KSBW, lifeguard Jonah Gomes stated, "The reason that they assigned me to this tower specifically is to keep people from the water's edge." If you ever visit Monastery Beach, make sure to keep your eyes on the water, even if there's a lifeguard on duty.