While beaches with varying shades of yellow sand aren't out of the ordinary, there are particular shorelines around this world that boast the most unexpected colors. Black, red, green, even purple sand can be found, so long as you know where to look. And with such otherworldly hues, these beaches need to be seen to be believed.
Punalu'u Beach in Hawaii, USA
Jet black sand against clear aquamarine waters gives this southern Big Island beach a rather otherworldly look. The unique color is a result of the basalt, created by the rapid cooling of lava as it hits the ocean. Unlike some of the other beaches on this list, Punalu’u Beach is vast and easily accessible, ideal for swimming, snorkeling and coastal hikes. And travelers aren’t the only ones who love this beach – the endangered hawksbill and green turtles are regular visitors. Be aware though, touching these animals is against the law, and Hawaii takes its animal conservation very seriously.
Pfeiffer Beach in California, USA
Described by The Huffington Post as "California’s best-hidden escape", the purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach looks more sci-fi setting than local seaside. Manganese garnet rock cliffs shower the seascape with violet crystals, creating a dramatic purple-colored coastline against the deep blue Californian waters. The beach’s main landmark is Keyhole Rock, which forms an arch and a striking photo opp'. The best time to capture a sunset snap through the keyhole is during December and January, when the sun is furthest south. Be sure to come early though – prime photography real estate is a hot commodity here.
Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island, Bahamas
Like something out of a Barbie advertisement, Pink Sands Beach is just that: pink. Situated on the Bahamas’ luxurious Harbour Island, the beach boasts stunning rose-hued visuals, linen-soft sands and gentle shallow waters. Unlike more popular Bahamas destinations, Harbour Island is refreshingly laidback, with locals and travelers relishes in the small-town vibe. The sand gets its famed cotton-candy color from tiny microscopic animals called Foraminifera, whose bright pink and red shells glitter among the grains of rock and coral. While a trip there may not be cheap, Pink Sands Beach is the full Bahamas package, packed with beachside restaurants, snorkeling, walking tours, straw markets and island hopping. Our advice? Better start saving now – this one’s well worth the journey.
Red Beach in Santorini, Greece
If Santorini holds the title for world’s most breathtaking geology, then the blood-colored cliffs near the town of Akrotiri are its crown jewel. The rock gets its crimson color from the nearby Thera volcano, responsible for one of the largest volcanic events on Earth in recorded history. However travelers have no need to fret – over 3,500 years have passed since Thera’s claim to fame – and Red Beach remains a spectacular reminder of what Mother Nature can accomplish. Situated in a protected lagoon, the beach is perfect for sunbathing and snorkeling and comes with a delightful assortment of beachside cafes and tavernas. Be prepared for a hike to get there though!
Scala dei Turchi in Sicily, Italy
Of all the stairways around the world, we're putting money on this one as the safest bet to heaven. Also known as the Turkish Steps, what was once a point of port for Arab pirates during their long Mediterranean voyages has now become a tourist attraction unlike any other. With sand primarily formed from quartz and shell fragments, the beach features stark white steps that descend into the turquoise waters below – a killer contrast. In fact, the steps are so unique that UNESCO deemed them a World Heritage Site. If you go, find time to check out the nearby Greek Temples of Agrigento, but be sure to make it back to the beach for sunset. It's magical.
Papakōlea Beach in Hawaii, USA
Papakōlea Beach boasts the most unusually colored sand we've seen yet: olive green. The green sand is created by a special type of lava crystal called olivine, which is kept from being washed away by its heavier weight. Highly secluded, the best way to reach the beach is by hiking, where you’ll pass stunning views and many ancient heiau dedicated to fishing. Papakōlea Beach may be a trek to get to but it’s well worth the effort.