Beaches must comply with 33 criteria developed from the international criteria and strengthened to match current US standards by working groups.

The beach criteria fall into these categories:

Environmental Education and Information

Water Quality

Environmental Management

Safety and Services

Download the full US criteria and explanations for award here: BLUE FLAG USA BEACH CRITERIA 2021. Criteria strengthened by working groups are included in the document as track changes to highlight the differences between international requirements and US national requirements. Flyers for each criteria category and a checklist by criteria can be found in Tools and Resources.

Award Process

Beaches interested in achieving the Blue Flag award will go through the following steps to award.

Preliminary Assessment

Interested beaches who approach the program will fill out a preliminary assessment which will detail their current operations in a self report of each criterion at green, yellow, red. This gives the applicant and staff an idea of all the areas of support needed to implement the program at the specific site. Assessments can be submitted at any time during the year. 


Once a beach has submitted their preliminary assessment and it has been reviewed by staff, the beach can participate in workshops. Workshops target different topics related to the program and its criteria. Staff will walk applicants through information boards, environmental education activities, water quality testing requirements, and more.


Applications for award are submitted annually. Each year the application will be updated by staff and released to applicants in September. New applicants who have submitted their assessments can fill out the application and returning applicants can update their information. Final applications will be due the first week of December.


Staff will prepare application information for presentation to the National Jury. The National Jury will meet in January. Jury decisions will be communicated to sites in January. Approved sites will be promoted to the International Jury who meets in April.


International Jury decisions for all Northern Hemisphere countries will be communicated to sites in April. May 1 is the beginning of the Northern Hemisphere season and the international announcement of new sites. Raise the flag in a ceremony or community celebration.
During the Blue Flag season–months you are flying your flag–staff will conduct visits to verify compliance and provide site specific support.