People tend to think of white sand and gentle waves when they think of beach getaways. While that sounds nice enough, it’s worth dreaming a little bigger if you want to make it a truly special trip. There are some really amazing beaches around the world if you make the effort to visit them, from ones colored black and red to others that are almost hidden away from the world. Here is a list of some of the most unique beaches in the world, many of which could easily lay claim to the title of the most beautiful beach in the world. Visit any of these and you’ll definitely level up your next beach trip.
1. As Catedrais Beach – Spain
One of the most dramatic beaches you’ll ever set eyes on is the As Catedrais Beach on Spain’s northwest coast. This nickname for Praia de Augas Santas translates as Beach of the Cathedrals and was given due to the stunning row of giant arches off the cliffs that dominate the beach. These magnificent rock formations near the town of Ribadeo, formed by thousands of years of erosion, loosely resemble the arches and buttresses of a cathedral. Standing down on As Catedrais Beach and gazing through its natural corridor truly is a sight unlike any other.
2. Hidden Beach – Mexico
With names like Hidden Beach and Playa del Amor or Love Beach, it’s hard not to be curious about this beach on Mexico’s Marieta Islands. Found in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Nayarit in Islas Marietas National Park, this secluded beach is only accessible at low tide through a single water tunnel. But this is not an underground beach as it sits within an open-air crater, which adds to its special and secret feel. Oddly enough, it’s said that Hidden Beach and the cave were formed by bomb tests performed by the Mexican Government in the early 1900s.
3. Maho Beach – Saint Martin
There’s nothing unusual about heading to the Caribbean to spend time at its amazing beaches. Unless, that is, you’re heading to Maho Beach on the Dutch side of Saint Martin. This beach is famous for being right next to Princess Juliana International Airport and having planes fly super low overhead as they come into land. Loud jet engines and the force of jet blasts kicking up sand are the last thing most people would want from their beach getaway. But if you want the experience of an airliner flying right over your head, then this is the place to be.
4. Jokulsarlon – Iceland
In a place like Iceland you expect to see plenty of ice when sightseeing, and the beach at Jokulsarlon does have ice littering its pebble shores. Jokulsarlon lagoon is a famous attraction in Iceland, as every day it fills with icebergs that break away from the adjacent Vatnajökull glacier. Throughout the day, these chunks of ice drift out toward the ocean, with some washing up on the beach by the outlet. Jokulsarlon is also known as Diamond Beach because you can find ice in all shapes and sizes decorating its black beach that sparkles when the sunlight hits it just right.
5. Glass Beach – California, USA
As nice as it is to look out across a pristine white sand beach, it’s just as magical to see the multicolored shores of Glass Beach in California. Located just down from MacKerricher State Park by the small city of Fort Bragg, Glass Beach is one of the more interesting beaches out there. Rather than being a natural creation, Glass Beach had its origins in years of garbage, particularly glass, being dumped by the coast at several local spots. Over the years the discarded glass was gradually worn down and smoothed, creating three “Glass Beaches” outside the city, each littered with a kaleidoscope of colored glass.
6. Vik Beach – Iceland
Whether you call it Reynisfjara Beach or simply Vik Beach, this beach with jet black sand is one incredible place to visit. Although not the only volcanic black sand beach in Iceland, the beach at Vik is special thanks to the different rock formations and sea stacks found along it. These include the Reynisdrangar, a series of basalt sea stacks just off the coast, as well as the hexagonal cliff formations that tower over visitors. Given its dramatic scenery, it should come as no surprise that the beach was one of the many Iceland filming locations for Game of Thrones.
7. Benagil Sea Cave – Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve coast is blessed with many striking beaches below crumbling cliffs, but the beach within the Benagil Sea Cave is hands down its most impressive. Formed near the village of Benagil, this beach is found inside a sea cave with a small skylight illuminating its interior. To reach what is arguably one of the prettiest beaches in the world, people either take a boat ride or a stand-up paddleboard to its sea entrances. Once ashore on its gentle sand beach, you can admire the patterns in the cave’s rock and its captivating atmosphere.
8. Pink Sand Beach – Indonesia
When it comes to beaches of different colors, the most popular and photogenic are beaches like Pink Sand Beach in Indonesia, and it’s easy to see why. Situated within Komodo National Park on a small uninhabited island off Komodo Island, this beach is remote but well worth the journey. Known in Bahasa Indonesia as Pantai Merah, which means Red Beach, the beach owes its color to small grains of red coral mixed into the sand. Interestingly, there are a few beaches with pink sand around the world, including ones in the Bahamas and on Crete in Greece.
9. Punalu’u Beach – Hawaii, USA
Visit a destination like Hawaii and you expect to find some beautiful beaches, but Hawaii also has its fair share of unusual beaches, like Punaluʻu Beach. Situated along the south coast of the Big Island, Punaluʻu Beach is the most famous of Hawaii’s black sand beaches, and its name actually means precisely that. The beach was formed by fragments of basalt ejected into the ocean by lava flowing into the water and cooling. Besides its memorable appearance, the beach is a vital habitat for endangered wildlife, including several species of local turtles.
10. Koekohe Beach – New Zealand
What makes Koekohe Beach on New Zealand’s South Island so special has less to do with the beach itself and more with what’s on it. That’s because Koekohe Beach is home to the mystifying Moeraki Boulders, a collection of huge spherical boulders dotted across its shores. These ancient boulders along the beach on the Otago coast have gradually been revealed and shaped due to coastal erosion, with some measuring up to two meters in diameter. Understandably, there are local Maori legends that came about to explain these strange landmarks, although many tourists like to think of the rocks as dinosaur’s eggs.
11. Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland, UK
Perhaps not a beach in the traditional sense, the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is still a phenomenal seaside destination not to miss. One look at the beautiful effect created by the collection of connected hexagonal basalt columns will explain why this spot is so special. Found on the north coast of County Antrim, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is rightly one of the most popular tourist attractions in this part of the United Kingdom. The Giant’s Causeway also has ties to local legend and mythology, earning its name from a legend about its creation by the giant Finn McCool.
12. Green Sand Beach (Papakolea) – Hawaii, USA
Continuing our tour of Hawaii’s many prismatic beaches, we arrive at the green hues of Papakolea Beach on the Big Island. Located near the southernmost point of the island, Papakolea Beach is often just referred to as Green Sand Beach, for obvious reasons. The beach owes its distinct shade to the crystal mineral olivine, which is a common component of lava and forms when lava cools. It is one of only four beaches with green sand in the world, making it an even more special place to visit.
13. Shell Beach – Australia
Beach names can often be quite on the nose, especially in plain-spoken Australia, so it’s no mystery what you’ll find at Shell Beach. Cockle shells are littered all across this beach on Shark Bay in Western Australia, and it’s believed that the shells go down as deep as 10 meters from the surface. The insane volume of shells here is due to local cockle clams thriving in the saline waters near Shell Beach. While it may not be a great pick for a barefoot stroll by the water, this brilliant white beach really is a stunning sight.
14. Red Sand Beach – Hawaii, USA
Our final special beach from Hawaii is Kaihalulu Beach, a.k.a. Red Sand Beach, on the island of Maui. Red Sand Beach is nestled within a small cove along Ka’uiki Head, and while not huge, is sure to wow you with the deep iron-red color of its sand. As with the other interesting beaches on Hawaii, the sand here is formed by volcanic activity. There are only a handful of other red beaches in the world, including one all the way out in the Galapagos Islands.
15. Pig Beach – Bahamas
Those with an interest in unusual beach vacations will surely find the prospect of visiting Pig Beach in the Bahamas quite exciting. After all, it’s not everyday that you see pigs swimming in the sea. Pig Beach runs along Big Major Cay on an unsettled island in Exuma and would seem like a regular beautiful Caribbean beach were it not for its colony of feral pigs. There’s no official explanation of the population of pigs on the island, but they’re certainly not native to the island.
16. Bowling Ball Beach – California, USA
If you had to guess what makes a place like Bowling Ball Beach special, chances are you’d guess right on your first attempt. Yes, this beach on the Californian coast in Mendocino County is home to a collection of round stones that kind of look like bowling balls. The sandstone spheres tend to be about two to three feet in diameter, meaning they’re actually a bit too large for bowling bowls. Nevertheless, these formations of sedimentary rock are quite a pretty sight, especially at low tide when they’re properly visible.
17. Hot Water Beach – New Zealand
At first glance there doesn’t seem to be anything really special about Hot Water Beach on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula. But visit within a specific window around low tide and you’ll probably spot a bunch of people digging holes in the beach and then sitting in these makeshift tubs. That’s because Hot Water Beach sits over hot springs that filter up through the sand around low tide. So if you dig a hole in the beach at the right time, you can actually create your own private hot tub with sublime seaside views to appreciate as you soak and relax.
18. Hyams Beach – Australia
Australia is home to a number of beaches that boast incredible white sand, but Hyams Beach is the only one that holds a world record for it. This beach along Jervis Bay in New South Wales was declared the beach with the whitest sand by the Guinness World Records back in 2005. The sand is made from pure quartz, giving it a brilliantly white look and squeaky feel underfoot. And Hyams Beach may well be among the best beaches around the world because it also offers crystal clear turquoise waters that you just can’t beat.
19. Boulders Beach – South Africa
We haven’t mentioned too much wildlife up to this point, but it’s really the wildlife that makes Boulders Beach in South Africa so appealing. Tourists flock to this sheltered beach in the suburbs of Cape Town to see its local colony of African penguins. Because of the endangered status of African penguins, the beach is a protected area, which may seem strange given that it’s in a residential area. Still, it’s a real treat to see these rare birds, as they’re only found on certain parts of the coastline in South Africa and Namibia.
20. Scala Dei Turchi – Italy
Although Italy offers visitors countless beaches to tan themselves on, one of its most unique offerings is the beach below Scala dei Turchi in Sicily. The Scala dei Turchi, or “Stair of the Turks,” are remarkable bright white cliffs that ripple down to the water kind of like a staircase. The cliffs flow down a small headland on Sicily’s coast, and there are two sand beaches either side of the “stairs” where you can swim and sunbathe, as well as climb up onto the Scala dei Turchi to see it up close.
There you have it: a surprising selection of unique beaches from across the globe just waiting for you to see them for yourselves. Planet Earth really is a breathtaking place, isn’t it?