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Pack your sandals and sunscreen, and head to the world’s best black sand beaches

Blue skies, stellar sunsets, and ink-black sand. There's nothing quite like relaxing on a black sand beach

A few people enjoying the black sands of a beach near Vik, Iceland.
aiden patrissi/Unsplash

We’re all familiar with tan-colored sand when having a beach day, but have you ever been to a beach with black sand? This may come as a shock, but these inky wonderlands are actually in many parts of the world, from Tahiti to Costa Rica and even right here in the United States!

The tan color of most sand beaches is the result of iron oxide and feldspar, which is brown to tan in its original form. But black sand comes from eroded volcanic material, such as lava, basalt rocks, and other dark-colored rocks and minerals, and is typically on beaches near volcanic activity. Here is our list of the most exotic black sand beaches around the world … see you at the beach!

Sunset over a dark sandy beach in Tahiti.

Papenoo Beach: Papenoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Papenoo Beach, located on Tahiti’s northern coast, reminds visitors of the island’s volcanic history. This black sand beach is popular among surfers since it’s home to some of the most spectacular waves in the world. The best panoramic view to take in the splendor of this black beach is the headlands at the eastern end of Papeno’o.

Not surprisingly, it gets busiest on the weekends, so we recommend enjoying it on a weekday. Opt for spending the weekend enjoying the nearby Papenoo Valley instead. The valley offers sights of lush green mountains and breathtaking waterfalls like Topatari, Puraha, and Vaiharuru Falls.

High view of an empty black sand beach in Iceland.
ArtHouse Studio/Pexels

Reynisfjara: Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland

One of Iceland’s most stunning black sand beaches, Reynisfjara is next to the fishing village of Vík í Mýrdal, on the country’s rugged southern coast. With a backdrop of jagged rocks called Reynisdrangar, and the cliffs of Mount Reynisfjall, this dramatic landscape may be familiar from the popular TV show, Game of Thrones (season 7).

According to local folklore, the large basalt columns were once trolls trying to pull ships from the ocean to shore. However, the trolls were dim and went out too late in the night, and once dawn broke on the horizon, the trolls turned into solid stone. The sea stacks are home to thousands of nesting seabirds. Species found here include puffins, fulmars, and guillemots, making it a bird-watcher’s paradise.

Dozens of baby turtles crawling on a black sand beach in Guatemala toward the ocean.
Pedro Novales/Unsplash

Monterrico Beach: Monterrico, Guatemala

Along the Pacific coast of Guatemala, Monterrico is a small village that’s part of a nature reserve. The Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii nature reserve stretches across 12 miles of beach and mangroves. The town has gained popularity for its ecotourism and sea turtle conservation.

Due to the volcanic nature of Guatemala, Monterrico Beach is made up of black sand, which can heat up quickly in the sun. Because of that, we don’t recommend leaving your shoes and walking barefoot. The beach is also known for having a strong undercurrent, so only dive in if you’re a good swimmer.

Black sand beach in Costa Rica.
Jesse Garcia/Shutterstock

Playa Pavones: Pavones, Costa Rica

Playa Pavones is home to one of the largest prehistoric rainforests along the Central American Pacific coast. Located in the Puntarenas region, the area has made its mark by being one of the top surfing destinations in Central America.

Although it offers world-class surfing, it isn’t consistent. There are two types of waves here, the outer wave, which is the larger of the two, and only recommended for experienced surfers, and the inner wave, which provides calmer waves perfect for less experienced surfers. Movies have been filmed here and books have been written about this beach, too.

Long stretch of black sand at New Zealand's Karekare Beach.
Sunmonic Y/Unsplash

Karekare Beach: Karekare, New Zealand

Karekare Beach is in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a wilderness area on the west coast of New Zealand, about 25 miles southwest of Auckland. This remote beach is known for its powerful surf and strong riptides, making it one of the most dangerous surf destinations in New Zealand.

The black sand beach, with its dramatic steep cliffs rising from the beach, made an appearance in the 1993 Oscar-winning movie, The Piano. Karekare Falls is about a 15-minute walk from the beach. Follow La Trobe Track to take you to the beautiful falls. The first stop on the trail is Opal Pool Stream Cascade, and as you walk a little further, you’ll see the stunning view of Karekare Falls.

Boats and crowds of people gathered at Lovina Beach, a black sand beach in Indonesia.

Lovina Beach: Bali, Indonesia

You’ll find Lovina Beach on the north coast of Bali, near Singaraja, on a 5-mile stretch of black and gray volcanic sand. The incredible marine life makes snorkeling and diving here a popular draw, but the main attraction is the playful bottle-nosed dolphins. The dolphins usually appear at sunrise and can be spotted on the horizon.

The name Lovina is said to be derived from the word love and ina (which is Balinese for mother), therefore meaning love for the motherland. Locals believe that Lovina grew from a simple cottage established by a traveler in 1953 to a thriving tourist destination today.

Lounge chairs lined up under thatched umbrellas on a black sand beach in Santorini.
Gianluca Figliola Fantini/Shutterstock

Perissa Beach: Santorini, Greece

Located in the small ancient port city of Eleusis, on the southeastern corner of Santorini, is a unique black sand beach with clear waters and a gigantic rock that rises from the Aegean Sea. Beyond sunbathing and water sports activities, travelers can hike to the top of the gigantic rock called Mesa Vuono. The summit offers incredible views of nearby islands.

At the end of the beach is a diving spot for those who are certified. The beach is fully equipped with loungers, umbrellas, lifeguards, showers, and a playground. Seaside bars and cafes for traditional cuisine are nearby as well.

Group of people enjoying the sun and waves at Puerto Rico's Playa Negra black sand beach.
Discover Puerto Rico

Playa Negra: Vieques, Puerto Rico

Vieques, an island off the coast of Puerto Rico, is home to Playa Negra, a black sand beach formed from the black sands that wash down from nearby Monte Pirata during heavy rainfall. The cliff walls are composed of driftwood, jagged rocks, and desert-like bushes, all behind a setting of sparkling blue waters and a black sand beach.

This unique contrast makes this beach a popular spot for photographers and social media influencers alike. Before the beach became a hotspot for tourists, it was called Playa Negrita, which means little black beach. Fun fact: Victoria’s Secret Angels filmed the Victoria’s Secret Swim Special at Playa Negra.

Crowds of people walking the black sands of Punaluu Black Sand Beach on Hawaii's Big Island.

Punaluu Black Sand Beach: Kau, Big Island, Hawaii

Kau is a rural, remote, and underrated island located in the southernmost region of Hawaii’s Big Island. One of the best beaches in the state, Punaluu Black Sand Beach, is located here.

What makes it popular is not only the beauty of its black sand but also that it’s home to the endangered hawksbill turtles and green sea turtles. Do not touch the protected turtles! People are also not allowed to remove the black sand from the beach. Swimming isn’t ideal, and water shoes are recommended if planning to swim at this beach, as the bottom is rocky. But a picnic with a view is highly recommended.

Gentle waves lapping the shore at Black Sands Beach in California's Shelter Cove.

Black Sands Beach: Shelter Cove, California

Below the Marin Headlands, in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a black sand beach, aptly named Black Sands Beach. The unique beauty is located in California’s King Range National Conservation Area. The beach is more for admiring than sunbathing, as the waters are too dangerous for swimmers.

To get to the beach, you’ll have to hike down a steep path from the parking lot, but the views are definitely worth it. You’ll want to keep your shoes on, as the black beach is mainly made up of black pebbles, not sand. Just be sure not to take anything home, or you’ll get fined, as the area is protected.

Black sand beach in the Canary Islands.

Playa Jardín: Canary Islands, Spain

Canarian artist César Manrique designed this black sand beach in northern Tenerife in the early 20th century. Leading up to the coal-colored volcanic sand are colorful gardens that have every color of native plant species and beautiful terraced waterfalls.

The striking snow-capped Mount Teide is also within view. The waves at Playa Jardín are ideal for boogie boarding and surfing. Lifeguards are on duty, a playground is available for kids, and there are plenty of amenities within reach. It is advised to wear water shoes to protect yourself from the rocks. Although the beach is artificial, it is paradisal.

Black sand beach at Italy's Spiaggia di Ficogrande: Stromboli.

Spiaggia di Ficogrande: Stromboli, Italy

One positive to having a volcano on an island is the beautiful dark beaches it can create. Take Stromboli, for example. This Aeolian archipelago is home to a black sand beach popular for swimming and sunbathing, and it’s called Spiaggia di Ficogrande. The beach is recognized as a Blue Flag beach because it’s extraordinarily clean and has absolutely clear waters.

Although the island is home to a number of black sand beaches, Spiaggia di Ficogrande is the most accessible. Cafes and toilets are available to sunbathers at the beach. Many small white boats lie on the shores of the black sand beach, making it even more photogenic (if that’s even possible).

Waves lapping the small black sand beach at Anse Balenbouche in St. Lucia.

Anse Balenbouche: St. Lucia

At Anse Balenbouche, there is a small black sand beach where the Balenbouche River meets the ocean. This rockier and shallower beach is a great place to chill out with friends and take a dip. However, be careful of strong currents and occasional large waves. Some say the name means “whale mouth.” Due to St. Lucia’s volcanic makeup, there are a number of black sand beaches around.

Dark sands and ocean water of Miho Beach in Shimizu, Japan.
Juliana Barquero/Unsplash

Miho Beach: Shimizu, Japan

Other than the exotic black sand, the views of Mount Fuji make it worth a trip to Miho Beach. The beach is uniquely lined with thousands of pine trees. Among the pine trees is Hagoromo-no-Matsu. Legend has it that a fisherman once found a robe belonging to a heavenly maiden hanging on the tree’s branches. The second-generation Hagoromo-no-Matsu pine lived for over 600 years before withering. The trees that line the beach were even named as part of Mount Fuji’s UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The beach is popular for kayaking, diving, fishing, and windsurfing in the summer months. A nice walking and cycling trail also lines the beach.

Silhouettes at sunset over a beach in Martinique.
Teddy Charti/Unsplash

Saint-Pierre Beach: Saint-Pierre, Martinique

Saint-Pierre Beach in Saint-Pierre, on the French Caribbean Island of Martinique, was once the capital until the town was destroyed by Mount Pelée’s volcanic eruption in 1902, killing thousands of residents.

Remnants of the old city can still be found, such as the historic theater that seated 800 people and a prison with a cell that held the only survivor of the volcanic catastrophe. Today the area is a lively tourist destination, and most travelers come to take in the volcanic sand beach, which overlooks the volcano.

The black sands of Baixa d'Areia on the island of São Miguel in The Azores.
Pablo Kaufmann/Shutterstock

Baixa d’Areia: Caloura, São Miguel, The Azores

Baixa d’Areia is a secluded beach near the quaint fishing village of Caloura. The Baixa d’Areia black sand beach has nearby vegetation, black basalt walls, and vineyards.

It’s on the southern coast of the volcanic island of São Miguel. São Miguel is the largest island in the Azorean archipelago and is known for its volcanic scenery and marine life, such as whales. Twin crater lakes, one green and one blue, are to the northwest, and to the east are fumaroles and hot springs.

Sunset on a black sand beach in the Philippines.

Santo Domingo Beach: Luzon, Philippines

Santo Domingo is different than most beaches in the Philippines. Located in the town of Santo Domingo in the province of Albay on the island of Luzon, this beach has blue waters, white clouds, and black sand — the perfect combination. The palm trees that cover the area are also a beautiful contrast against the black sand. The textured sand comes from the natural erosion of volcanic rocks from Mount Mayon’s ground lava.

Sunset on a black sand beach along the Black Sea in Ureki, Georgia.

Ureki Beach: Ureki, Georgia

It’s fitting that one of Georgia’s (the country, not the Peach State) best black sand beaches happens to lie on the Black Sea. It’s unusual because many beaches along this famous body of water lack sand of any kind, let alone black sand. Beyond that fact, this beach attracts visitors from around the country (and Europe) for its natural healing properties. The reason is simple: Of all the country’s beaches, Ureki Beach has the highest concentration of so-called “magnetic sand.” It’s sand that’s made up partly of tiny iron oxide particulars that make it literally magnetic and possibly curative, too. But don’t quote us on that.

There’s nothing quite like packing up your beach bag and spending the day relaxing on the sand to recharge and reduce stress. But why not make it an even more unique experience by visiting one of the world’s most beautiful black sand beaches? It is quite fascinating what Mother Nature (and humans) can create. Some are remote and harder to reach, while others are known for their gnarly surf waves. Whether you’re into a tropical island vacation or more of a colder glacial vacation, there’s a black sand beach out there for everyone, and these are definitely worth the trek.

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Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
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