Sunburn, Dehydration, and Heat Exhaustion
Actually this topic is probably the most important one to pay attention to. Sunburn and dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion and/or heatstroke. Heatstroke can be fatal.
And it doesn't take long to be overcome by the heat. If you've never been out on the beach in Florida in the spring and summer, I have to tell you, the sun is BLISTERING. If you do not have a fairly dark complexion, it only takes about 15 to 25 minutes to get a nasty sunburn. Remember, on the beach not only do you have the sun coming down from above, but you also have fierce reflection off the water AND off the white sand all around you. It's like being in a toaster oven. Wear maximum sunscreen. Sorry, "baby oil" won't help you.
Most importantly, when you are out on the beach or on the water, carry lots of cool water and drink frequently. The water doesn't help you if it is sitting in the cooler. You have to drink it. Note: Beer is not water. Gatorade is good. Also, take frequent breaks from the sun to go in the water and cool off. Take an umbrella, at least for the most intensely hot part of the day, between 11am and 3pm.
For all you snowbirds who think that since you are only going to be here for a week and don't have time for a proper tan, you'll just get a good sunburn to prove you've had so much fun on the beach. Forget about it! For one thing it hurts like heck, increases your risk for skin cancer, and shows all the locals that you're just another tourist. If you have very light skin you need to be using a sunscreen with a protection factor (SPF) of at least 45. Don't forget your children. Their tender skin burns much more easily and they also become dehydrated more quickly than adults. Make sure they drink a lot of water.
A bad sunburn can ruin your vacation on the first day. It can take a week to get over it.
You won't get sunburned during the sunset hour though. Be sure to hang around for the sunset, or have an early dinner and come back to the beach to see one of the most memorable sights of the day.
Bugs are not usually a big problem at the beach. Mosquitoes are common on all but the most overdeveloped islands after dark. This is because most of the islands have wet Mangrove forests that breed mosquitoes. During some months of the year, usually during the heat of summer, the no-see-um gnats (also called sand flies) come out at night with a vengeance You can barely see them, but they sure see you. And their bite really stings. Usually, if there is even a slight breeze, insects are not a problem. There is almost always a a breeze on the beach because of the different rates at which land and water heat up or cool off.
Most beaches do not allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages because it makes some people get into fights, and because drunk swimmers tend to drown. Generally if alcohol is not allowed there will be signs stating this. Some beaches in major resort areas allow alcohol on the beach in front of the resort/hotel/condo.
Crime and personal safety
Overall, I have always felt very safe on all the islands and beaches. I think nothing of walking alone at midnight on most of the beaches. I would not recommend that women walk alone on the beaches late at night when there are few people around.
Most crime at the beach involves property theft and car break-ins. Never leave anything on your beach towel that would cause you to be terribly upset or inconvenienced if it were stolen. There are sneak thieves who watch and wait till someone goes for a walk or for a swim, then steal their valuables off their beach towel. It is very easy to do without being caught. Also, thieves know that tourists have valuable items like cameras, jewelry, cash, etc. in their car in some far off corner of the parking lot. Lock your valuables in the trunk.
Here's a tip: If you know you will be out on the beach until late at night, park your car near a lighted area. If those spots are all taken, remember to come back and move your car to a lighted area when most of the crowd has gone home, and before it gets late.
Many public beaches are quite crowded until late at night, so there are always people nearby. For example, Manatee Public Beach, Lido Beach, and Siesta Beach, just to name a few.
(I swear I'm NOT making this up!)
If you do a little research on the internet you will find various claims about how many people are killed each year by falling coconuts. While the accuracy of the numbers is debatable, it does happen too frequently. (Once is too often, don't you think?).
Here are the facts: Coconuts grow high up on the palm tree. Coconuts are very hard and quite heavy. Coconuts fall to the ground when they are ready. Coconuts do not announce when they are ready to fall. How do I know these things? Walk around under some coconut palms that are growing somewhere that the lawn maintenance people don't tend. You will see old coconuts lying around on the ground. They fell. Bonk!
Many hotels and resorts with deep pockets to be sued keep all the coconuts trimmed off the trees to avoid problems.