The Getaway
The World's Best Black Sand Beaches

For beachgoers these days, black is the new white, when it comes to beaches, anyway. Let’s face it -- sunning yourself on sugary white sand has become a bit of a vacay cliche. Basking on black sand? Now that’s beyond the pale! You can thank volcanoes for the decidedly gothic color of these often remote shorelines -- they are the result of chunks of lava that have been churned by the ocean into fine grains of obsidian sand. Here are a few beaches that might convince you to consider turning to the dark side on your next beach holiday.


01 Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

Reynisfjara black beach

You don’t have to suit up to enjoy black sand beaches, and Reynisfjara Beach is proof of that. With a series of striking basalt columns standing tall in the waters and a collection of craggy caves to explore, this incredible Icelandic shoreline is beautiful regardless of the weather. If you’re lucky, the Northern Lights might even give you a show. With all the natural beauty surrounding you, it’s tempting to become one with nature here, but just be wary of the waves crashing up against this beautiful beach -- the strong Atlantic currents that swirl around this Nordic nation is infamously fatal.


02 Miho no Matsubara, Japan.

2. Miho no Matsubara. Shizuoka, Japan. Torsakarin / Getty Images

This sooty shoreline stretches four miles and boasts a backdrop of none other than the famous Mount Fuji. The name of this black sand beach translates to Miho Pine Grove because its 30,000-strong forest of ancient pine trees is what this natural wonder is most renowned for. Be sure to rent a bike to tour Miho’s peninsula on Kami no Michi (God's Road), and pay a visit to the nearby Miho Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage site.


03 Perissa Beach, Greece

Perissa Greece island cyclades

A black sand beach at the base of a volcanic mountain on a Greek island in the middle of the Aegean Sea? It doesn’t get much better than that. This hot spot is situated in the shadow of Mount Vuono, with the rocky ruins of Ancient Thira just a stone’s throw away. Just as well-equipped for recreation as it is for relaxation with its lounge chairs and beach umbrellas, Perissa offers water parks, volleyball areas, water sports facilities, and beach bars. Not only that, the beach is linked to the busy town of Perivolos, which is bustling with cafes, nightclubs, and Tavernas -- so you’ll never run out of things to do once you’ve managed to clean the black sand off your feet.


04 Playa Jardín, Canary Islands

Playa Jardín. Tenerife, Canary Islands fotofritz16 / Getty Images

If you’re looking for a black sand beach on a tropical island that the whole family can get on board with, look no further than Playa Jardín, situated in Puerto de la Cruz in the northern part of Tenerife. With plenty of playgrounds, lush gardens to tour, shows and concerts on stage, opportunities to surf or simply stretch out and soak in the Spanish sunshine, this beach has something for everyone.


05 Shelter Cove, California

Shelter Cove. Lost Coast, California Don Bui / Getty Images

You don’t have to hop on a flight to some far-flung corner of the earth to find a black sand beach -- just come to California’s Lost Coast, where you’ll find the secluded and rather aptly-named Shelter Cove. Only accessible by plane, boat, or twisty mountain road that cuts through the King Range, the Black Sands Beach State Park features 3.5 miles of coal-colored coast to hike through plus offshore coral reefs to explore. The tectonic sand in this spot gets its color from compressed shale and greywacke, which is an unusually dark sandstone.


06 Karekare Beach, New Zealand

Black sand and rocks, Karekare Beach, New Zealand kershawj / Getty Images

This black sand beach on Auckland’s west coast had its proverbial moment in the sun in the 1993 film The Piano. This beach is a surfer’s paradise and is only a quick walk away from the Karekare Waterfall. With jutting cliffs and breathtaking panoramas of the Tasman Sea, you’ll be surrounded by spine-tingling scenery that you probably won’t want to leave behind anytime soon.


07 Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii

Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii. Matt Wunder / Getty Images

Hawaii’s Punalu’u Beach is arguably the first place that comes to people’s mind when they hear black sand beach. Once you see it for yourself, it’s easy to see why, because it’s a picture-perfect example of this natural phenomenon. This easily accessible lava sand-covered coastline has the best of everything Hawaii has to offer all in one spot -- coconut palm trees, camping, hiking, picnicking, swimming and snorkeling. Not only that, both the green Hawaiian sea turtle and the endangered Hawksbill turtle call it home. While it may be hard to resist bringing back a bag of black sand as a souvenir, do so at your own risk. The locals believe that a curse will befall upon anyone who takes Hawaiian lava out of Hawaii.


08 Playa Negra, Puerto Rico

Playa Negra. Vieques, Puerto Rico E_Rojas / Getty Images

The dramatic golden cliffs that surround the volcanic sands of Playa Negra on the island of Vieques in Puerto Rico are a sight for sore eyes if you’ve managed to complete the strenuous 10- to 15- minute hike to reach the secluded cove. Best of all, you’ll likely have the beach all to yourself, and to top it off, you’ll be rewarded by exotic wildlife sightings, such as horseshoe crabs and hermit crabs. Although the churning waves that crash against the rocky coast mean that swimming is a no-no here, this tranquil spot is a tropical getaway in the truest sense of the word.


09 Lovina Beach, Bali

Tropical beach at sunset. Marija Jovovic / Getty Images

Nestled on the island of Bali in the middle of the Pacific Ocean lies another volcanic beach paradise. While most tourists zero in on the white sands of the south of the isle, the north is where you’ll find the ethereal Lovina Beach, where the sand is as black as night, and balmy waves lap the shores gently, making it a perfect place for wading and swimming. With volcanic hot springs in the neighboring fishing village to luxuriate in, this often overlooked area offers ultimate relaxation and is also a perfect place to spot dolphins frolicking in the surf. It's hard not to love Lovina.


10 Papenoo Beach, Tahiti

Black sand beach Tahiti island French Polynesia Damocean / Getty Images

The Papenoo Valley, which is teeming with emerald-hued jungles and breathtaking waterfalls, offers another often overlooked paradise called Papenoo Beach. This black sand stretch is so remote that there are no cafes, shops, bathrooms, or beach chair hawkers. Instead, you’ll mostly spot seasoned surfers here, because many believe this beach offers up the best waves in the world.


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