If you’re thinking about a unique place to head to for your next vacation, it may be time to think a bit outside the box. Black sand beaches are a beautiful part of nature, only found in certain parts of the world.
A vacation centering around black sand beaches is not unheard of, and thankfully many of the best black sand beaches are already located on beautiful far flung islands like Tahiti.
What causes black sand beaches?
Black sand beaches are formed by volcanic activity and erosion by ocean waves. Meaning that most black sand beaches are found on islands or places with a lot of volcanic activity (think Guatemala, Iceland, and Bali). When volcanoes erupt, they release lava and ash, which eventually breaks down into smaller particles made up of volcanic minerals like basalt, obsidian, and magnetite.
The ocean currents then carry these black particles of sand to the shoreline, where they are deposited on the beach. The amount of black sand, and color of “blackness” varies based on the level of volcanic activity in the surrounding area.
Where Are Most Black Sand Beaches?
Black sand beaches can be found in various parts of the world, mainly where volcanic activity is including Hawaii, Santorini, Iceland, New Zealand, and the Canary Islands.
Can you swim on black sand beaches?
You can swim on black sand beaches and enjoy the beaches like you would any other beach. Some of these exceptions are in place like Iceland. Reniesfjara beach, for example, is an extremely dangerous beach where rogue waves can sweep people out to sea in a minute.
When we visited black sand beaches in Santorini, for example, shoes for walking on the sand were essential. The sun hitting the black sand radiates heat like nobody’s business.
How rare is a black sand beach?
Black sand beaches are not extremely rare, but they are also not as common as beaches with white or golden sand or pebble beaches like you find all over the Mediterranean.
Beautiful Black Sand Beaches
1. Saint-Pierre Beach – Martinique
The Caribbean islands are known for some of the best beaches in the world, but they also have their fair share of stunning black sand beaches like Saint-Pierre Beach in Martinique.
The town that once flourished around Saint-Pierre Beach was destroyed in a devastating 1902 volcanic eruption and perhaps the only good thing to come out of the event was the formation of this beach, the black sand forever a reminder of that past tragedy.
The beach is beautiful with the ominous Mount Pelee looming in the background and lush greenery creating a striking contrast with the black sand and blue water. Nearby, you’ll find a rejuvenated resort town that quite literally rose from the ashes and the beach is within walking distance to old ruins and a pretty downtown area with restaurants and shops.
2. Playa Jardín – Canary Islands
If you’re seeking a quiet escape from the tourist crowds of Tenerife, Playa Jardin is a slice of paradise with a unique feature – black sand!
With a combination of natural wonders and landscaped additions including lush gardens, waterfalls and flower beds, the dark sand against the blue sea creates an incredible scene. Surfing is popular here due to the ideal wave conditions.
3. El Médano Beach – Canary Islands
El Medana Beach is a popular destination for families in the Canary Islands who want to enjoy a beach resort atmosphere that’s fun, safe and scenic.
This beach on the island of Tenerife is known for its black sand, spectacular views of Red Volcano and gusty winds that make it a top destination for kitesurfing and windsurfing.
4. Punalu’u Beach – Hawaii
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii and are heading to Big Island, this is one of the best black sand beaches to visit. Pumalu’u Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island gets crowded but not so much with people! When you visit this stunning black sand beach, you’ll share it with the resident sea turtles.
This is a lovely beach to stroll along but be aware the volcanic sand can be a bit gritty and hard on bare feet. Swimming isn’t always advisable due to the strong current, but if you do take a dip, it’s best to do so at low tide when you’ll also be able to observe the tide pools.
5. Benijo Beach – Canary Islands
Tenerife is the most popular of the Canary Islands. It has some of the best beaches in the region, but one beach stands out from the rest for being one of the most natural and untouched beaches on the island and it’s also known for its black sand.
As you descend the stairs from atop a high cliff, you’ll immediately be struck with awe as you see the dramatic scene unfold before your eyes. Large volcanic rocks rise from the dark blue waters that contrast with the sand’s unique color. As you can imagine, words can’t describe how spectacular the sunsets are at this beach.
6. Spiaggia di Ficogrande – Italy
Stromboli Island in Italy is a great escape from the mainland crowds and is also home to one of the best black sand beaches on earth, Spiaggia di Ficogrande.
The nearby active volcano played a role in the creation of this spectacular natural wonder and the vivid blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea and views of Strombolicchio volcanic rock make it all that much more spectacular. On site, you’ll find a variety of concession stands and water sport rentals so you can enjoy your entire day here without leaving.
7. Miho No Matsubara Beach – Japan
There’s so much to do at Miho No Matsubara Beach and this makes it a perfect place to spend an entire day hiking through a beautiful forest that borders it, kayaking in the clear waters, windsurfing, diving, fishing or just relaxing in the sand.
And speaking of that sand, it’s another thing that draws so many people because it happens to be black! This black sandy stretch is bordered by towering trees and views of Mount Fuji making it a favorite spot for photo ops. The sunsets are spectacular here too and ond of the best places to head in the region come evening time.
8. Lovina Beach – Bali
Located in the northwest of Bali, Lovina Beach stretches for seven miles through several villages but that’s not its best feature; the beach also features black sand of volcanic origins. This beach isn’t as popular as some of the other beaches in the area which makes it a prime spot for peace and relaxation. That being said, there are some eateries and shops very close to the shore.
The waves are smaller here too, so it’s safe for swimming. Snorkeling is a popular activity if you’re interested in checking out the sea life that thrives beneath those waves. As you stroll along the beach, be sure to keep an eye out for the dolphins that are often spotted not far from shore.
9. Black Sands Beach – California
Black sand beaches aren’t only found on tropical islands and far-flung destinations; one can be found in the United States in California’s King Range National Conservation Area.
This is one of the best beaches in the United States, and although the sand is more pebbly than soft, the beach is just as scenic as any other black sand beach. If you’re up for the long descent down some long stairs and the ascent back up, you’ll enjoy more than just stunning scenery. When the tides are just right, it’s perfect for swimming and the Lost Coast Hiking Trail can be accessed directly from the beach.
10. Keramas – Bali
Keramas Beach is widely known for its amazing surfing conditions, but it’s also known for its shimmering black sand. It’s situated in Gianyar and stretches one mile along the scenic coast.
The beach isn’t ideal for novice swimmers as the surf is quite wild but surfers come from all over to enjoy those same waves. So if you surf make sure to include a rashguard on your Bali packing list and put this beach on your bucket list. The Komune Beach Club is almost right on the beach so you can grab something to eat or drink as you enjoy the sun and sand of Keramas.
11. Anse Chastanet – Saint Lucia
Located near a resort on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia, Anse Chastanet is a beautiful black sand beach bordered by towering palm trees, rolling green hills and distant mountain peaks. It’s nearby to one of the best resorts in the entire world – the Jade Mountain Resort.
Although this is far from the blackest black sand beaches on this list, it does have solid hues depending on the time of day. Visitors come to photograph the spectacular natural beauty of this marine reserve area and enjoy some of the region’s best snorkeling and scuba diving. Swimmers enjoy clear, warm waters that make for a refreshing escape from the afternoon heat.
12. Playa Negra – Puerto Rico
While Playa Negra is a genuine black sand beach, the volcanic runoff mixed with the sand that loosens from the rocky cliffs makes it look a little lighter than many other black sand beaches but no less beautiful!
The remote location, soft sand that isn’t hard on the feet and random pieces of driftwood help to create the striking vista that makes this six-mile-long beach a must-see if you ever find yourself on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
13. Kehena Beach – Big Island, Hawaii
Situated on Hawaii’s Big Island, Kehena Beach is a beautiful black sand beach that’s popular with people seeking an escape from the hot afternoon sun in the shadows of the ironwood and palm trees that border it.
The sand is from the lava that flowed from a past volcanic eruption at Kilauea. You won’t be able to swim due to rip currents, but you can watch the playful dolphins often spotted nearby. We recommend putting a pair of binoculars on your Hawaii packing list for this reason!
14. Papenoo Beach – Tahiti
Incredibly beautiful. Paradise. Dream Destination. Like something from a movie. These are just some ways people have described Papenoo Beach in Tahiti. This horseshoe-shaped black sand beach lies between turquoise blue waters and lush greenery creating a striking contrast of vibrant colors.
The beach is left fairly wild and there aren’t any facilities on site. On weekends, it tends to get crowded so if you wish to enjoy the peaceful side of this gem, it’s best to go mid-week.
15. Perivolos Beach – Greece
If you’re looking for a beautiful stretch of sand where you spread out a blanket and relax in the sun to the sound of the pounding surf, Perivolos Beach on Santorini is not the best Greek beach for you! This beautiful black sand beach is where you go if you want to be in the center of it all.
Crowds, loud music, and revelry make it a happening spot. The beach is also great for swimming and water sports such as paddleboarding, sailing, scuba diving and windsurfing. When hunger strikes, a variety of eateries line the beach.
16. Karekare Beach – New Zealand
You don’t have to travel far from the center of Auckland to find a pristine and remote coastal destination. Situated in Karekare Regional Park, the beach’s claim to fame is its sparkling black sand and incredible wave action that makes it a top destination for surfing.
One thing you won’t enjoy is swimming because it’s too dangerous! However, you’ll enjoy spectacular scenery consisting of dark dunes and towering cliffs.
17. Monterrico Beach, Guatemala
With its crowd-free sandy stretch along the Pacific coast of Guatemala, it’s no wonder Monterrico is one of the most popular beaches in the country.
Despite its popularity, lifeguards are only on site during weekends when there are more people around but even on those days, the beach isn’t nearly as crowded as some of the others in the region.
Besides being quiet and free of busy resorts and eateries, this Monterrico Beach is also known for its black sand. You can swim here but be aware that the current is quite strong!
18. Perissa Beach – Greece
If you’re seeking some peace and quiet without tourist crowds, it’s best to visit the black sands of Perissa Beach in the off-season. Located on one of the best Greek islands, Santorini, you won’t be disappointed by what this black sand beach has to offer in any season!
Picture those glistening dark sands set to the backdrop of the crystal clear, turquoise sea and towering Mount Vouno. That’s the view you’ll enjoy as you stroll along this beautiful stretch of coastline in the historic city of Eleusis.
While there, you can rent a kayak, diving equipment, or windsurf to add a touch of adventure to your visit. On site you’ll find chairs, umbrellas, washrooms and volleyball courts and great restaurants and shops are only a short walk away.
19. Santo Domingo – Philippines
Volcanic black sand is the thing that Santo Domingo Beach is mostly known for. It’s also known for its remote position on Luzon Island. The incredibly blue water and palm trees contrast beautifully with that dark sand and some people say it has healing properties that can be enjoyed by simply slathering some of it on your skin.
20. Kamari Beach – Greece
Being a volcanic island, we have all the Santorini classics right here. Kamari Beach is one of those classics, situated in a resort town on Santorini Island so you can expect it to be crowded. However, the beach is also one of the biggest and most beautiful black sand beaches in the region so it’s worth it to brave the crowds to witness its beauty.
Enjoy views of Mesa Vouno, go for a refreshing dip in the clear water and check out the restaurants, cafes and shops nearby.
21. Vík í Mýrdal – Iceland
You may not think of Iceland as a place with beautiful, sandy beaches. There are many but there’s one that’s unique from the others due to its black sand.
Located in a rural area on the south coast, Vik I Myrdal Beach features a stunning landscape with high cliffs, beautiful rock formations and crashing waves, and of course, that lovely black sand.
22. Waianapanapa Beach – Maui
Situated in Waianapanapa State Park on Maui, Waianapanapa Beach is a captivating black sand beach in a secluded cove. Bordered by a rocky coastline and the turquoise waters of the Pacific, it was created by a combination of volcanic activity and wave action.
The towering sea stacks just add more intrigue to the landscape and the natural blowholes are a fascinating feature to observe.
23. Lafayette Beach – Tahiti
The islands of the South Pacific region are known for stunning beaches, but Tahiti is home to a black sand beach that beautifully contrasts with the turquoise waters and lush, green plant life that border it. The beach is a popular place to spend a sunny day relaxing and enjoying a dip in the ocean.
24. Baixa d’Areia: Caloura – The Azores
Secluded, beautiful, natural, uncrowded. Everything you want in a beach, right? How about a location tucked away in a ravine and a black sandy stretch lined with lush greenery and dramatic cliffs? There is such a place on the island of Sao Miguel known as Baixa d’Areia and its paradise!
25. Number One Beach – Dominica
The Caribbean islands are known for beautiful beaches and tropical landscapes and the island of Dominica is no exception. In fact, this island has some of the most beautiful landscapes in the region! One amazing place is Number One Beach and besides being scenic and tropical, the beach is known for one main thing; its black sand.
Getting to this beach is an adventure in itself, meaning you’ll have the bonus of a crowd-free paradise as most people would rather dodge the difficult hike through jungle terrain. Upon arrival, you’ll realize that the trek was worth the effort when you see those sparkling blue waters lined with mangroves, palm trees and steep cliffs.
The water is rough at times, but you can safely frolic in the warm surf. If you go at the right time of year, you may witness sea turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.
26. reynisfjara beach, Iceland
Reynisfjara Beach in Iceland is a stunning volcanic black sand beach located on the South Coast, renowned for its natural beauty. With its massive basalt stacks, rugged Atlantic ocean, and picturesque landscape, it’s easily one of the most beautiful black sand beaches in the world. Despite having visited numerous beaches across the globe, Reynisfjara remains one of the most awe-inspiring we’ve seen.
If you’re planning a visit, know that it’s a two and a half hour drive, or 180km, from Reykjavik but easily accessible by car. Many tourists choose to include Reynisfjara in their Southern Iceland tour or as a stop on the Ring Road.
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