12 Beautiful Black Sand Beaches of the World

When winter comes to the Northern hemisphere, many of us start dreaming about tropical paradises, island escapes and long stretches of white, sandy beaches. But white sand beaches are the only beaches that are stunningly beautiful to look at and lounge on. The beaches of the world come in a dazzling array of hues, and black sand beaches are perhaps some of the most arresting, if only because they are the polar opposite of our white-sand infused daydreams. If you’re hoping to jet off to paradise in the coming months, read this list before you book your ticket. We guarantee you won’t regret visiting the stunning, midnight-hued dunes of the locales, both exotic and close to home. All we ask is that you remember to send us a “Wish You Were Here” postcard.

12. Shelter Cove, California, USA

When someone says “black sand beach,” you probably think of an exotic locale. While it’s true that black sand beaches occur in some pretty far-flung and exotic places, they also exist in places like Shelter Cove, California. Situated on California’s Lost Coast, Shelter Cove is secluded and quiet, accessible only by boat, plane or a small mountain road through the King Range. It’s home to Black Sands Beach state park, which features 3.5 miles of black sand beach and offshore reefs to explore. The sand comes from greywacke, a dark-colored sandstone, and compressed shale that was produced by tectonic activity just off the shore. Popular with hikers, as well as travelers looking for a quiet vacation spot, the rugged terrain makes this an area worth exploring.

Shelter Cove, California

11. Samyang Beach, Jeju, Korea

Perhaps the most obscure entry on this list, Jeju is located in the Korean Strait, off the coast of South Korea. The island is volcanic and dominated by Halla Mountain, which has 360 satellite volcanoes. Associated with the mountain is a national park and a World Heritage site dedicated to the island’s lava tubes. Halla is also responsible for the volcanic soil and the black sand that forms Samyang Beach. Samyang’s midnight-colored dunes and its crystal-clear waters make it popular with the locals; its proximity to Jeju City, the largest city on the island, doesn’t hurt either. Samyang’s sands are finer and softer than Jungmun beach, and as black sand is believed to have healing properties, Samyang is becoming increasingly popular.

Black sand

10. Anse Chastanet, Saint Lucia

Most people envision long stretches of glittering white sand when they think of Caribbean islands, but Saint Lucia is a tropical paradise with some gorgeous black sand beaches as well. Among the most highly recommended are Anse Chastanet, which is something of a hidden gem (although a little difficult to get to, thanks to a nearby resort), Soufriere Beach, which has a highly variable amount of traffic, and Anse Couchon, hidden behind jungle undergrowth and edging on tranquil, aquamarine waters which are perfect for snorkeling. Like the other Lesser Antilles, Saint Lucia is volcanic, but unlike nearby Martinque, Saint Vincent and Barbardos, the island is more mountainous, with its highest peak standing 3,120 feet above sea level, making for breathtaking scenery at any elevation.

9. Point Venus Beach, Tahiti

When discussing black sand beaches, Tahiti has to come up. The island’s reputation is built on its famed dark dunes. The largest island in the Windward Islands of French Polynesia, Tahiti was formed by volcanic activity. Its geography is rugged and mountainous. Beneath the ocean surface, the island is surrounded by vibrant coral reefs, which make it ideal for snorkeling and diving. As much of the coastline is composed of stunning black sand, travelers have their pick of beaches here: from Lafayette Beach, which forms part of an upscale resort, to the half-mile long Plage de Toaroto and Point Venus Beach, which has a lighthouse and a park as part of its appeal. No matter your tastes, Tahiti’s black sand beaches have something for you.

Point Venus Beach, Tahiti

8. Cahuita Beach, Costa Rica

Nestled on the Carribbean coast of Costa Rica is Playa Negra, the Black Beach, near the small city of Cahuita. From December through March, surfing is a popular pastime at this volcanic-sand beach, as is bird-watching in nearby Cahuita National Park. Cahuita’s climate is tropical and the area is home to rainforest. The park also protects some 55,000 marine acres. In this area, you’ll find one of Costa Rica’s only living reefs; snorkeling along it is an absolute must. The city itself is known for dessert crepes and grilled chicken variations, as well as its laid-back Afro-Caribbean culture. If you want to escape the icy grip of the North American winter, make like a bird and fly south to Cahuita!

Cahuita Beach, Costa Rica

7. Anse Ceron, Martinique

Deep in the Caribbean lies the tiny volcanic island of Martinique which boasts not just 1, but 4 gorgeous black sand beaches. In the north, there is Anse Ceron, a well-shaded beach with tons of coconut trees. The crystalline water and a small island known as “the Pearl” have made this beach famous. Anse Couleuvre, surrounded by high cliffs, has an air of secrecy and is actually a 2-for-1 deal. In the south, you’ll find Anse Noire, the only black sand stretch on this side of the island. Between St. Pierre and Le Carbet, Playa de St. Pierre also boasts ebony sands, a reminder of the island’s volcanic past. All of the beaches boast excellent opportunities for divers and snorkelers.

6. Lovina Beach, Bali

Halfway around the world, in the Pacific Ocean, lies another volcanic island paradise. Bali is home to a rich cultural history and, yes, black sand beaches. While most travelers head to the white sand beaches on the south side of the island, the black-as-night expanse of Lovina Beach lies on the northern shore of the island. Formed by a lava flow from Mount Agung, Lovina is quiet and calm, as are the waves, which make it a swimmer’s dream. Nearby is a local fishing village and volcanic hot springs. Come at dawn and catch a glimpse of dolphins playing in the surf. On the west coast, you’ll find more black sand: Candikusumah, Pantai Rening and Balian offer black sand seascapes and make for quieter destinations.

Lovina Beach, Bali

5. El Bollullo Beach, Tenerife, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands, located just off the northwest coast of Africa, are volcanic in nature and mostly composed of basalt. Tenerife, the largest island, hosts the magnificent El Bollullo beach, just north of Puerto de la Cruz. La Gomera has Valle Gran Rey, which is also its longest beach. La Palma is home to Los Cancajos, a black sand beach bordered by narrow, rocky inlets along the coastline. El Golfo beach on Lanzarote is notable because its cove, which was formed during a volcanic explosion, is bordered by the ocean on one side and a bright green lagoon on the other. No matter which you choose, the beauty of these beaches is bound to take your breath away!

El Bollullo Beach, Tenerife

4. Muriwai Beach, New Zealand

Muriwai is a hugely popular beach in the Auckland Region of New Zealand. Located on the North Island, the area is renowned for its silty black sand, a result of iron content in the silt deposited by ancient volcanoes, particularly the so-called Kaipara Volcano, which was active 16 million years ago. The sand is now moved by longshore drift and deposited along the beach. The area is popular for surfing, as well as paragliding and hanggliding, as the prevailing westerlies provided favorable conditions. There are also numerous trails for both hiking and mountain biking, and people love to cross the beach on horseback or by car. Many also enjoy fishing, but be warned! It can be dangerous thanks to the geography of the area.

Muriwai Beach, New Zealand

3. Vik, Iceland

Iceland is probably one of the last places you’d think of when someone mentions beaches, but a stunning black sand beach lies at the foot of the island’s southernmost settlement, the village of Vik. There’s little swimming at Vik, thanks to Iceland’s northern latitudes and the icy Atlantic, which batters the shoreline full-force; the remainder of a vast cliff, long since eroded, is a testament to how hard the island is hit by Atlantic rollers. Vik’s black sand is a product of the nearby Katla volcano, which last erupted in 1918. Katla is directly beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier, meaning Vik exists under constant threat of eruption and flash flooding. Vik is a beautiful basalt beach for the brave!

Vik, Iceland

2. Agios Georgios, Santorini, Greece

Thanks to its unique geology, the island of Santorini features beaches of all colors. The island is essentially a volcanic caldera, created by an eruption during the height of the ancient Minoan civilization, around 1600 BC. The volcanic eruption left most of the ancient town intact, much like Pompeii. Drive down to Perivolos to find Agios Georgios, the black sand beach. With crystal-clear water warmed by the volcano, this beach is perfect for diving and swimming. Or, if you prefer, lounge in the sunshine on one of the deck chairs provided. Be sure to bring your flip-flops, though—the black sand absorbs the heat of the sun, making it even more scorching than a white sand beach!

1. Punalu’u, Hawai’i, USA

What other beach could claim the top spot? Also known as Black Sand Beach, Punalu’u is possibly the most famous example of a beach exhibiting ebony dunes. Located on the Big Island of the Hawaiian chain, Punalu’u is formed of basalt sand that was deposited by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it cooled, making Punalu’u not only pretty, but pretty awesome too. It’s also a haven for many endangered species, including the Green Sea turtle and the Hawksbill turtle, often seen basking on the black sand. Sightings of Spinner dolphins and humpback whales are also common along this stretch of shore. There are lots of cultural artifacts in the nearby park area, including petroglyphs and remnants of the ancient Ala Kahakai trail.

Punalu’u, Hawai’i