VANCOUVER -- A trip to the beach may not be as carefree as it was before COVID-19, but it can still be fun and memorable. British Columbia's beaches are one of the big draws for locals every summer – but with travel restricted, there may be more people at the beach than usual.

So how do you stay safe at the beach during a pandemic? 

First, you have to know the rules before you go. Beach rules may vary between towns – some might allow all activities, while others could have limitations, like how many people are allowed to visit at once. 

You also have to plan ahead and make sure bathrooms and concession stands are open before you go. 

Trisha Calvo, Consumer Reports' health editor, says you'll probably be able to know if it's a good day to hit the beach the minute you arrive. 

"If the parking lot or the beach look too crowded and you don't think you'll be able to stay at least six feet from other people, it's probably a good idea to turn around and go home," she says. 

While the risk of waterborne transmission of COVID-19 is low, the biggest threat at the beach is coming into close contact with other swimmers or beach-goers who may be contagious. If it's really busy, try to wear a mask in areas where physical distancing is difficult, like bathrooms or lineups. Take it off before you swim and stay six feet or two metres from other people in the water. 

And make sure to set up your beach towel at least six feet away from anyone who is not in your household, even if you're hitting the beach together. 

"If you decide to go for a walk or anywhere where you might come into close proximity to other people, always put your mask back on," Calvo suggests. 

Coronavirus worries are no excuse to ignore sun protection – make sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin. And put it on your entire face, even if you're wearing a mask. If you want to take it off at any point when you're not around other people, you don't want to leave the lower part of your face unprotected from UV rays. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, and wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. 

With files from Consumer Reports