Are you craving a beach trip that's just a little different? While white sand beaches are undoubtedly beautiful, they're very familiar to many travelers — and one of the joys of travel is the chance to experience something new.
Black sand beaches are attractive travel destinations because of the incredible views they offer, with long stretches of black sand contrasting the blue water. These stunning beaches are most commonly the result of sand being formed either from volcanic minerals or from lava flowing into the ocean and solidifying. As such, they are frequently found in areas with a lot of volcanic activity, such as Hawaii.
In fact, Hawaii has recently gained another black sand beach. After the Kilauea Volcano eruption in 2018, a new black sand beach was formed at Isaac Kepo'okalani Hale Beach Park. The Hawaii Visitors Bureau's executive director Ross Birch told CNN that this beach is a "silver lining" of the eruption.
Black sand beaches also frequently retain more heat from the sun. While this may not make them the optimal place to stroll around barefoot, it does make it more likely for you to spot some exciting wildlife — turtles frequently build their nests on black sand beaches.
If your interest is piqued, here are four beautiful black sand beaches to see for yourself.
Miho Beach, Japan
If you're interested in local folklore, you can also visit the Hagoromo-no-Matsu, one of the pine trees lining the beach. Legend has it that several hundred years ago, a fisherman named Hakuryo found a robe on the branches of the tree. A deity appeared to him and begged for her robe back, claiming that she couldn't return to heaven without it; Hakuryo agreed to return the robe in exchange for a dance. The current Hagoromo-no-Matsu tree was felled in 2013, but its trunk is still standing and can be visited by tourists. If you visit in October, you might be able to catch the annual reenactment of this legend performed in front of the tree itself.
While the Miho Beach itself isn't popular for swimming, the Miho Peninsula on which it's located has many spots for swimming, fishing, and even windsurfing. With its beautiful views and quiet pine trails, this beach is not to be missed.
Alternately called Vik Beach, Reynisfjara is a visually dramatic beach located in the south of Iceland. With its stunning views, large waves, and huge rocks jutting out of the sea, it is easy to understand why this beach was voted one of the top 10 non-tropical beaches by National Geographic in 1991.
The most striking thing about this beach, other than the black sand, is the basalt columns rising out of the ocean. Called "Reynisdrangar" by locals, these columns are shrouded in legend and mystery — a common story told in Iceland is that the Reynisdrangar were once trolls who were turned to stone after attempting to lure ships onto the shore.
Fans of the television series Game of Thrones might even find this beach strangely familiar; several scenes from season seven were shot here, making use of the beautifully stark landscape.
Karekare Beach, New Zealand
Karekare Beach was named one of the best beaches in the world by Passport Magazine, and it's easy to see why. It is surrounded by volcanic cliffs, a national park, a lagoon, and the beautiful Karekare waterfall, which is known to locals as the pendulous white thread. Called "eerily beautiful" by U.S. News and noted by Passport Magazine to have a "wildness, an out-there quality," this beach is one that needs to be seen to be believed, with many of its visitors noting that somehow the beach makes them feel separated from the rest of the world.
This quality has been capitalized on by numerous writers and filmmakers. Perhaps most notably, the 1993 Oscar–winning movie The Piano was filmed here.
It is important to note that if you want to go swimming, Karekare may not be the beach for you. Due to powerful riptides and impressive waves, safe swimming locations are limited to specific sections of the beach. But if you want to see a remote black sand beach surrounded by beautiful, untouched wilderness, give Karekare a visit.
Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Hawaii
Located on the Big Island, Punalu'u is easy to get to and boasts warm water, beautiful coconut palm trees, and excellent picnic areas. One of the things that makes this sunny beach so popular is the fact that visitors can often spot Hawaiian green sea turtles warming themselves on the sand. If you're lucky, you might even be able to spot the rare Hawksbill Turtle. This experience is truly one of a kind, as Hawaii is one of only a select few locations where sea turtles actually come out to bask in the sun.
With a permit you're allowed to camp near the beach, making this an excellent choice for a unique trip. If you'd rather go snorkeling, you can take a short hike to Ninole Cove, where you'll find a sheltered bay for diving.
Punalu'u Beach also has freshwater springs located underneath the ocean itself. Because saltwater is denser than freshwater, the water from these springs floats to the top of the sea. The freshwater is also colder than the saltwater, which can make for a unique swim; every so often, you may suddenly feel as though the ocean is two different temperatures at once.
While you're visiting this beautiful beach, you might consider taking a short trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park nearby. Although parts of the park remain closed following the 2018 volcanic eruption, many areas are open to the public. Here you can learn more about the actual source of the black sand beaches, discover the importance of volcanoes in traditional Hawaiian culture, and see two of the world's most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa.