Heading off for a getaway of sand, sun and surf? Having the right apps on your smartphone can take your beach vacation from so-so to sunny. Here are our top picks.
Waterkeeper Swim Guide
While millions of people get sick each year from coming into contact with polluted water at beaches, this essential beach app helps you find the cleanest beaches for swimming, surfing, or just wading. Using data from 100 different beach monitoring sources, Swim Guide delivers real-time updates on water quality and cleanliness and find out if the water is safe for swimming. To find the beach that’s just right for you, browse the map or search for a beach by name. Beach descriptions tell you about amenities, lifeguards, where to park, and everything else you need to know.
Looking for the perfect beach entertainment? Along with TuneIn's 100,000-plus stations from all over the world, you also get streaming access to myriad concerts along with the hottests podcasts, talk shows, and series. From NPR and BBC news to dozens of musical genres and sports to local traffic alerts, this nifty radio app gives exactly what you what you want, when you want it, from retro beach oldies to classic summer albums .
Determined to keep your family sunburn-free this summer? The QSun app tells you how long you can stay outside before getting sunburned based on your skin type and location, and notifies you when to seek sun protection. It even tells you how much sunscreen to apply and how often. Perhaps most useful is the “Time to Burn” feature, which shows how long you can be exposed to the sun before developing a sunburn. It is calculated based on the UV index, environmental condition, your skin type, and sunscreen applied. Available for iPhone and Android.
Tides Near Me
A beach can feel dramatically different at high or low tide, and seeing the tides swell or ebb can be a cool sight. This free tide forecasting app is available for iPhone and Android. It takes current tide conditions and delivers forecasts of high and low tides, complete with maps.
Looking forward to catching up with a good book at the beach? Forget squinting and propping yourself up on your elbows. The easy way to plow through a page turner is to have someone else read it to you. This audiobook app is actually a service from from Amazon.com, offering one month free followed by an audiobook download plan for $14.95 a month for a single book download per month and a 30 percent discount for additional books within that month. The books are yours to keep and can be returned or traded if you’re not pleased with your selection. Find more audiobook apps and services here.
Global Shark Tracker
Worried about shark attacks near your beach? Through its free shark-tracker app for iPhone and Android, the non-profit research organization OCEARCH lets you track all of the great white, tiger and other large sharks it has tagged since 2007 and learn about worldwide shark conservation. Each shark tracked by OCEARCH sends a signal when its dorsal fin surfaces above the water for at least 90 seconds.
Into surfing, windsurfing or kiteboarding? This useful surf planning app lets you consult the forecasts your favorite beaches. You can check wave heights, wind conditions and tides, or check the waves in real time with the surf cams installed in hundreds of worldwide beaches.
Red Cross First Aid and Hurricane Tracking Apps
What's the best way to treat a jellyfish sting? What are the warning signs of heat stroke?Is there a hurricane coming your way? When it comes to health and safety, the American Red Cross has your back with two must-have apps. The First Aid app has an encyclopedic armory of all kinds of situations and ailments, along with what to do in each situation. The hurricane tracking app is a must if you are taking a coastal vacation during hurricane season, June 1 to November 30.
Want to connect more deeply with your favorite beach town? Putting a social spin on great storytelling, Findery collects virtual notes left by locals and visitors about the places they've been. Available as a free app for iPhone or Android, Findery is a modern-day cross between geocaching and a Moleskine journal; it lets you find and leave little treasures along your journey and also keep a fun record of your own travels.