A day at the beach will make anyone’s day. The combination of sun, sand, and the sound of ocean waves constantly crashing in the background – what could be more relaxing? There are endless places to visit with stunning beaches and glistening white sands around the world, but there are also a few around this beautiful planet we call home that are especially unique and worth scouting out.
Black sand beaches are definitely among those spots that are totally worth doing a little extra work to get to. Created by the ocean’s erosive effect after volcanic eruptions leave leftover lava and volcanic minerals, these beaches really have to be one of the Earth’s coolest wonders. And they’re hiding around the world in destinations you might not even think of at first. I’ll give you a clue – they’re certainly not all in Hawaii (although there are quite a few on this gorgeous chain of islands).
If you’re a beach bum who ends up always going back to the same kinds of pretty beaches, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. But if you want to mix it up and experience something totally new and spectacular, you definitely need to check out this list. Get ready to be taken from the shores of the striking coastline in New Zealand all the way to the chillier yet just as otherworldly black sand beaches of Iceland. There’s something for every kind of traveller in this list, so read on and get inspired for something completely new and unforgettable for your next beach getaway.
20 Perivolo Beach In Perissa – Santorini, Greece
Let’s start this off in one of Europe’s best beach and island destinations. This amazing spot is one of Greece’s gems, nestled on the romantic island of Santorini. This seaside village is on the southeast coast of the island.
A large part of the island is covered by a volcano that is still active, but there hasn’t been an eruption since 1950 so it’s considered dormant.
That’s how this long black sand beach came to be. There are plenty of restaurants lining the beach, so you can dine and enjoy the views. Santorini is popular with tourists because of its deep blue waters, warm weather and stunning scenery, with its stacked white houses climbing up hills towards blue skies. There are plenty of things to do here even though it’s a relatively small island. Wandering Perissa is a great place to start, with the bright white Timiou Stavro church with blue domes on top to match the Aegean Sea and sky. If you have time, you should also try and go on a little trek up to the top of Mount Vuono to explore the Ancient Thira ruins from Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine times. The views of the sea from up top are unbelievable.
19 Playa Negra – Vieques, Puerto Rico
This beach’s name literally means ‘black beach’, and it’s a pretty little spot tucked away on the small island of Vieques, Costa Rica. Even though there isn’t a volcano here, the beach gets its colour from the geology of the island and its formation millions of years ago, and the hues have come from runoff from Monte Pirata, the island’s tallest mountain at 987 feet high. This one is a little more difficult to find, but we like a challenge. You just have to go on a little hike and through a dry riverbed to get here, but it’s totally worth it once you do. This spot is super secluded and sheltered by surrounding cliffs, although it doesn’t have many shady spots. Playa Negra is a popular spot for horseback riding, with generally calm waters and beautiful views. You can grab something to eat at one of the few eateries in nearby Esperanza. Try La Dulce Esperanza for affordable eats and delicious baked goods or just grab something at the one of the town markets and have a little picnic on the beach. Feeling like exploring more of the stunning scenery? Make your way to the other side of the island and explore Vieques National Wildlife Refuge where you can do some hiking, biking and horseback riding.
18 Punalu'u Beach – The Big Island, Hawaii
This pitch-black sand beach is a great place for sunbathing and seeing wildlife like endangered turtles and seals. The beach gets its colour of course from volcanic activity, creating a landscape from fragments of lava that have hit the ocean.
There are lovely coconut and palm trees lining this beach, so if you like to have a little shade when you hit the sand, Mother Nature has got you covered.
This one is also very easily accessible and is a great pick if you’re travelling with kids. The waters can be a little rough some days, but there’s a lifeguard posted for your safety. Snorkelling is a great activity here when the waters are calm. It’s suggested you come early to this spot as it can become quite crowded with other beachgoers and tourists later into the day. If you look to the northeast you’ll see the ruins of a warehouse and pier from the Pahala Sugar Company. Do be careful where you walk on the beach, as this is also a breeding ground for endangered turtles who lay their eggs here. If you want to stay a little while and watch the sunset, you can also go camping on this beach.
17 Stokksnes, Iceland
Switching it up from the mainstream warm beaches, make your way to the truly magnificent Stokksnes on the southern edge of Iceland’s dramatic coastline. The intensity of the black sand is contrasted by the impressive Vestrahorn Mountain looming over the beach and sea. Everything comes together here to create a landscape that will literally leave you speechless. To really take it all in, go on one of the hikes around the nearby terrain, or just do the simpler route right along the beach. Stokksnes is also an amazing spot to see the Northern Lights from, but obviously you have to check the forecasts and time this right to catch a wonderfully colourful and lit-up sky. This place is especially popular with backpackers and photography enthusiasts, and it’s pretty easy to see why. You will need a car to get there and you have to pay about 7 dollars to get in at the Viking Café Outpost. On the way back you can also stop there again to grab some coffee and waffles or cake to warm up a bit from the cold temperatures. If you’re road tripping around Iceland, you should definitely add this one to your bucket list.
16 Lovina Beach – Bali, Indonesia
You definitely won’t get cold at this beautiful beach on the north coast of Bali. The waters here glisten turquoise and are a wonderful complement to the black volcanic sands. With calm waves and plenty of affordable hotels and places to stay close to the beach, you can rest here a while and just relax. There are tons of day trips or tours you can take in the area or go exploring yourself. Dolphin tours are also very popular here, but you’ll have to get up early before sunrise to make your way to one of those. It’s the most popular activity here, but the chill vibes of this beach town are so pleasant it’s nice if you stay a bit longer and take in the scenery. Treat yourself to a nice Indonesian meal with beach views at the Sea Breeze Cafe.
Watching the sunset is a must in Lovina too, so make sure you make it to the beach right before night falls, with the volcano in the background.
It’s also wonderful to watch the colourful fishing boats coming in at the end of the day. To go further afield, head to Kroya Waterfall in Singaraja where there’s a natural rock water slide!
15 Black Sands Beach – Shelter Cove, California
This hidden gem along California’s coastline is a departure from the standard images of beaches that come to mind when one thinks ‘Cali’. The beach obviously got its name from its jet-black polished volcanic rock sand, which is a spectacular contrast to the bright blue waters that characterize California’s sunny beaches. You will find this spot just north of San Francisco, about 45 miles south of Eureka, CA. Tucked away in the King Range National Conservation Area, this beautiful beach is worth the trek if you’re in northern Cali and feeling like a scenic road trip along the coast.
Although the beach is a bit rocky, it's still smooth and manageable, so you can also go for a swim here in summer.
It’s advised that beachgoers be aware of the tides and strength of the waves, as they can be more powerful at times. There’s parking right near the shore so it’s easily accessible, with a path right down to the beach. The best way to experience this spot is to plan for a hike as well, because the views from atop the nearby bluffs are jaw-droppingly outstanding with the 4,000-foot mountains lining the coast. Stop at a restaurant in Shelter Cove on your way out to recharge your batteries.
14 Playa Jardín – Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain
If you’re somebody who loves to just lie on the beach all day and sun yourself, then get a ticket now to Tenerife, the largest island in the Canaries. This beach’s landscape was actually designed by an artist, César Manrique, to really accent the naturally black sands with gorgeous greenery along the shores. The waters here are pretty calm since it’s right on an inlet between Punta Brava and Puerto de la Cruz, so it’s great for families with young children or weary swimmers. If you like to enjoy what a city has to offer combined with the convenience of a beach right nearby, then this spot is all you. There are plenty of restaurants, facilities and places to wander in the vicinity of the beach, or you can explore a little further out with tons of shops and restaurants to peruse. Take a look at the San Felipe castle directly east of the beach, an oceanfront fort from the 1600s. There’s also a botanical garden in town, as well as Loro Parque zoo. If you’re in the area for a couple days, try planning a trip to Teide National Park – it’s a giant protected UNESCO park in the centre of the island featuring the Teide Volcano, Spain’s tallest mountain.
13 Karekare Beach – Karekare, New Zealand
Many travellers always think of Australia when they’re looking to head down under, but New Zealand is a nearby island country with absolutely epic landscapes that vary quickly from one minute to the next. So if you find yourself exploring this otherworldly terrain, then you’ve got to make a stop at Karekare Beach. This spot became famous after appearing in the film The Piano, but is much loved by locals and tourists alike simply for its stunning views. This beach is super popular for surfing but just as much for its scenery. It’s a great place to go for a stroll and just take it all in, and it's not far from Auckland. There’s easy parking nearby with public toilets, and the beach is open to pedestrians 24 hours. There are some relatively easy hikes along the coastal cliffs here that take less than an hour, or you can go for longer than one hour hikes to really get to know the land.
The more challenging treks will reward you with stunning views over the ocean and beach.
Not a far walk from the car park you will also find Karekare Falls nearby, a beautiful little paradise that is also great for swimming if you’re up for it.
12 Black Sand Beach – Prince William Sound, Alaska
Explore a bit more of America’s rugged terrain and you will also find chillier black sand beaches like this one in Prince William Sound on Alaska’s coast. Speckled with glacial ice and surrounded by some serious peaks, this is a place you have got to check out if you’re making your way around Alaska. This spot is hidden in the Barry Arm fjord of Chugach State Park on Alaska’s more inhabited south side. It’s not too far from Anchorage, so you can plan a road trip trek to make it out this way easily, although you will need do the final leg by boat or plane. But hey, I’ll go ahead and assume that you’re totally up for an adventure if you already find yourself in the wild wilderness that is Alaska. The park has amazing glacial lakes, mountains, and ski areas. The Black Sands Marine Park is also popular for kayaking, camping and fishing, mostly in the summer. If that’s your thing, you can kayak just about 5 minutes from the shore and find the giant rocks uncovered by the Coxe glacier. When the tide’s low, you can also explore further afield along the beach. There are also lots of guided tours and glacier cruises you can book if you want a little more of a relaxed exploring experience.
11 Point Venus Beach – Pape’ete, Tahiti
If you wouldn’t mind warming up a bit after imagining going into the Alaskan wild, then close your eyes and visualize yourself on this stunning sunny beach in Tahiti. The azure crystal waters are just beautiful next to the jet black sand – it pretty much doesn’t get much more relaxing than this. Tahiti is pretty far from anywhere, but if you’re going to treat yourself to a beach vacation, then why not go all out?
This picture-perfect black sand beach is right on a peninsula on the north side of the island, not far from the city of Pape’ete.
This spot is where Capt. James Cook recorded Venus’ transit in 1769, hence its namesake. There’s a picnic area here great for some afternoon beach tapas, plus a snack bar, souvenir spots, restroom facilities and parking. This place is great for sunbathing, and you can find some shade under the palm trees lining the beach if you want some cooler moments out of the direct sun. Some people even like to try a little surfing here, with calmer waters that are also great for newcomers. The sunsets are breathtaking here, and you should check out the nearby romantic white lighthouse, built in 1867.
10 Keawaiki Bay – The Big Island, Hawaii
If you’re into beach hiking (which is some of the best kind there is), you’ve got to plan a trip to Keawaiki Bay on the northwest side of Hawaii’s Big Island. To reach the bay you will need to hike a bit on rocky lava terrain for about 15 minutes, so make sure you’ve got some solid footwear or boots. When you arrive, you can see for yourself why this beach will totally make your efforts worth it. Since it’s a little challenging to reach, there aren’t many people around, so you can take in the views and scenery listening to the waves lap the shore in almost complete solitude. You can hike your way along the bays here, studded with bright green palm trees against the raven-black sand – it really doesn’t get much more dramatically stunning than this. From Keawaiki Bay to ʻAnaehoʻomalu Bay it’s about six and a half miles, so plan to take your time and spend the day there, stopping for a dip in the freshwater lava pool along the way! There are lots of restaurants, shops, hotels and more near Anaeho'omalu Bay, so you can rest and enjoy a nice meal after a rewarding day of hiking and beach exploration.
9 Anse Couleuvre – Martinique, The Caribbean
If you’re heading to the Caribbean for beaches, sun and fun, then mix it up by heading to this black sand beach on the north side of beautiful Martinique island. These beaches are surrounded by pretty cliffs covered in greenery, which looks wonderful next to the bright blue waters and black sands. It takes a bit of a leafy walk through the rainforest to get to it (about 10 minutes or so), but when you emerge you’ll thank yourself.
Because it’s not one of the island’s most easily accessible beaches, you can enjoy the quiet sunshine and waves without the nuisance of crowds.
Go for a swim or just chill out on the beach with a book. Since the two beach coves are sheltered, the waters are relatively calm here. Snorkelling is a pretty popular activity here since there’s so much life swimming about in the calm waters of the inlets. If you’re in Martinique during the week, it’s best to visit this spot then, as it can see a bit of a rise in visitors on the weekends. If you want to discover a little more of the area, you can always go on a hike to the nearby waterfall, which is an easy trek of about 45 minutes.
8 Seongsan Beach – Jeju Island, South Korea
Although South Korea may not be the first country that comes to mind when planning a beach vacation, they’ve got some amazing coastlines to explore, specifically on the island of Jeju. There are black sand beaches all around this island’s coast, but the number-one spot on my list has got to be Seongsan beach near Seongsan Ilchulbong Peak on the eastern edge of the island. The formation of the cliffs and beaches here was caused by a volcanic eruption more than 100,000 years ago. The terrain is unbelievably dramatic and unique, which is probably the reason it’s been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the easy access stairs down to the beach and you’ll really get a sense for how tall the peak is. Even more interesting, there’s a crater at the top of the peak that makes it look like a crown. This area isn’t so much for swimming, but better for other activities like beach walks and horseback riding. The area is especially splendid in the spring, when bright golden bursts of yellow canola flowers come to life surrounding the peak. To see more of the island, visit Hallasan National Park, with Hallasan volcano at its centre.
7 Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Nestled near a small fishing village, this black sand beach in Iceland is one of the world’s must-sees, without a doubt. It’s on the southern coast of Iceland, with the closest town being Vík í Mýrdal, and it's only about 100 miles from the capital, Reykjavik. There are giant basalt rocks that distinguish this beach, stacked on top of each other to create a structure that only Mother Nature could conjure up. As is common for Icelanders, these basaltic rocks have some folklore behind them – it’s said they’re actually the frozen versions of trolls who were once attempting to pull ships in from the sea. As the sun came up, the trolls were frozen and turned into solid rock. There are other Icelandic legends, but this one is my favourite. The scenery here is unforgettable, so definitely go for a stroll along these black sands to really digest all of it.
Do be careful though, as the waves are particularly strong and can suddenly hit harder than you might expect.
There have been some accidents here, so just keep an eye on the waves and don’t ever turn your back to them. This amazing natural wonder must be appreciated and respected.
6 Number One Beach – Dominica, The Caribbean
If you’ve ever seen Pirates of the Caribbean and wondered where it was filmed, well here’s one of those spots, the Number One Beach spot to be precise. Aptly named, this secluded little black sand beach takes about a 15-minute hike through some jungle cover and mud to get to, but why not, right? The beach is surrounded by serious cliffs and plenty of coconut palm trees, so it’s ideal for a picnic, or just for enjoying practically having the whole thing to yourself.
Turtles also love this spot, and they come here for nesting season from April to June, so if you happen to see them just remember to give them some space and respect while they’re laying their eggs.
They do usually come ashore at night though, so you’ll probably be out of their way. After you’re done channeling Jack Sparrow and playing with coconuts, you can head to a nearby town and grab some grub if you haven’t already had a picnic on the beach. If you don’t want to go far, try the Batibou Beach Bar & Grille, or head east where there are a few beachside restaurants like the Coral Reef Bar & Restaurant.
5 Miho No Matsubara – Shizuoka, Japan
Now this beach is really something different. Japan might be another spot that’s not always on your list of beach locales, but taking a quick look at this beach, it’s easy to see why you should change your tune. Miho Beach was listed as part of the Mount Fuji UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. This beach offers greenery that is a bit different than the usual, with more than 30,000 pine trees growing here along a beach that stretches for almost five miles. The combination of the black sands, pines and Mount Fuji in the distance have been inspiration for many Japanese painters and writers. To take all of this in, you can go for a bicycle ride on the paths that run alongside the beach, and it's easy to rent bikes here and explore the peninsula on these paved walkways. It’s also worth your time to explore the peaceful pine groves along the beach – these impressive trees are hundreds of years old. You can also visit ‘Miho Navi’, a facility that will give you more information about the area and how it has become an important part of Japanese art and culture. The beach is easily accessible by car or public transport plus a short walk.
4 El Bollullo Beach – Tenerife, Canary Islands
This gorgeous stunner of a beach is another must-see spot on the amazing island of Tenerife, part of the Canary Islands. The waves here are strong, but are calmed a bit by the cliffs that surround it and create a little cove. The drastic contrast of black sands, bright crystal blue waters, black basalt rocks and rust-tinted cliffs make this spot a popular one as far as black sand beaches go, but it’s still very much worth a visit. There’s a not-so-big car park above the cove with some gnarly stone stairs down to the bottom, or you can also reach this spot by hiking along the coast, which is a relatively easy feat. Let the soft black sands sift through your fingers and listen to the waves crash. El Bollullo Beach isn’t so much for swimming, but the scenery totally makes up for it. There is a small café nearby, but that’s about it for this hidden locale. If you’re looking for a full sit-down meal, you’ll have to journey back to one of the towns close by like Puerto de la Cruz. Don’t forget to snap some photos of the views from the top of the stairs before you head down!
3 Muriwai Beach – New Zealand
Another beautiful stretch of sand along New Zealand’s western coast, Muriwai Beach is amazingly magnificent and totally versatile for all kinds of beachgoers and activities. The fine black sand is what sets this beach apart, and the fact that it stretches along the coast for about 40 miles.
Surfing is one of the biggest draws to this spot, as well as paragliding and hang gliding – the beach is perfect for these activities since there are more often than not prevailing southwesterly winds.
Fishing is also popular here, but usually only practised by locals since it can be dangerous. If you’re visiting, the best option if you’re not a surfer or paraglider is to do some ‘bush walking’. There are plenty of options for hiking in the area, even some with boardwalks in place for easier access. The ‘Hilary Trail’ runs through this beach as well. The cliffs are also home to the only colony of Australasian gannets, white seabirds who perch on the rocky outcrops, covering the areas close to the water. Muriwai Beach is only about a 25-mile drive from Auckland, so it’s easy to tack onto a New Zealand city trip. There’s also a campground right near the beach if you want to stay the night.
2 Jökulsárlón Beach – Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
With so much volcanic and geo-thermal activity going on in Iceland, it’s no wonder they’ve got some of the best black sand beaches in the world. This spot is situated right on the southeastern coast, on a glacial lake. The area is usually dotted with great pieces of icebergs, which has caused it to garner the name ‘Diamond Beach’.
The unbelievably clear iceberg crystals give this beach a completely otherworldly feel, like much of Iceland’s terrain. The lagoon here was created due to icebergs melting.
Being so close to the sea, it’s actually a mix of both fresh water and sea water. The river that connects the lagoon to the sea is now quite small, so you can also see sea life in the area at times. The icebergs floating in the lagoon are also a site to behold, but visitors are reminded that the area can be quite dangerous so they shouldn’t try and go anywhere out on the water or climb on icebergs (seems obvious, but it’s good to have friendly reminders). There’s a parking lot nearby and it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the ocean as well, so wander around and take in your surroundings. It’s best to visit in the summertime when there’s more daylight.
1 Wai'anapanapa State Park – Maui, Hawaii
So I may be a little biased on this one, but it’s only because I’ve had the absolute pleasure of seeing this spot twice in my life – and yes, if you’d ask me, I’d go again in a heartbeat. If you find yourself on the paradise island that is Maui, a must-see is the 'Road to Hana'. This winding, suspenseful highway wraps around the island’s curves on the northeast section, which also happens to be the most uninhabited. There are unbelievable lookout points along the way, waterfalls and breathtaking beaches, so this drive isn’t something to rush. Wai’anapanapa State Park is the perfect place to take a rest – you can camp here and explore the gorgeous black sand and volcanic craggy beaches, with bright green plants growing atop the black-as-night rock next to waters so vividly blue you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven. You can go swimming at this beach, but it’s best to stay closer to shore as the waves can be strong. Don’t forget to visit the Wai’anapanapa Cave, which is a quick trek down some steps close to the beach, with beautiful turquoise waters. If you camp here, enjoy the seclusion and silence of the park while you look up to the night sky – on a clear evening you’ll see an extraordinary blanket of stars.