Taking as an example three study cases in the Costa Brava area, this paper examines the social perception of floods through surveys, interviews and Focus Group sessions. Perception is then related to vulnerability, flood management, and citizen's preferences regarding alternatives to curb flood losses in the future. The study concludes that flood awareness and the willingness to take actions regarding this hazard are clearly related to the degree of social involvement with the affairs of the local community. Furthermore, participatory settings such as Focus Group sessions appear to enable a better environment for assessing and implementing flood management options that attempt to modify human activities rather than modify natural processes as has been frequently the case in the past. © 2010 Author(s).