There’s nothing quite like a tropical summer holiday to properly relax and unwind after months of the usual grind, especially for those living in countries with harsh winter climates. Typically when planning a beach vacation, one tends to search for the most pristine tropical locations with sugar white sand and crystal clear waters. However there’s a breathtaking alternative that you may have never seen or even heard of – black sand beaches.

These black sand marvels are the result of volcanic remnants which have been broken down by the ocean over centuries. All black sand beaches provide a unique experience with locations ranging from warm, tropical climates – suitable for lounging and sunbathing – to winter climates where the dark sand paired with the surrounding scenery will make you feel as if you’re on another planet.

But where to find these wonders of nature? We’ve sifted through them all and created a shortlist.

Here are the best black sand beaches in the world:

1. Vik Beach, Iceland

Iceland is one of the last places you’d think of when planning a beach holiday, but in fact it’s home to some of the most incredible black sand beaches in the world. The small island country has around 130 volcanoes and as a result many black beaches have risen from the ashes. Vik Beach, known as Reynisfjara to locals, is the nordic country’s most famous black beach thanks to its mind-boggling basalt columns, lava formations, towering cliffs, and caves. 

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Vik Beach, Iceland

Getting its name from Iceland’s southernmost settlement – the village of Vik – this beach is not the ideal spot for swimming as the icy Atlantic batters the shoreline at full force, but it provides some exceptional scenery and is an Instagrammers paradise!

Vik beach’s black sand is a byproduct of the nearby Katla volcano, which last erupted in 1918. Katla lies directly beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier, which means Vik is under constant threat of eruption and flash flooding.

2. Black Sands Beach, California

The only black sand beach on the North American continent, Black Sands Beach is definitely worth a visit. Sprawling 5.5km (3.5 miles) across the Lost Coast of Northern California, the beach is unfortunately not ideal for lounging or swimming. Onlookers admire the waves from afar as the waters are usually too dangerous to enter. But the unparalleled beauty leaves every visitor extremely satisfied.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Black Sands Beach, California | Bill Cannon

The rugged terrain makes for beautiful landscapes that are popular with hikers looking for some unique scenery. Shelter Cove also has some awesome tide pools to explore and collecting silver dollars on the shore is a real treat!

The best time to visit is the months between September and January as you may be lucky enough to spot gray whales swimming along the breakers.

3. Perissa Beach, Greece

Greece’s Perissa Beach is a real sight to behold. One of the most unique settings of all the black sand beaches on this list, its jet black sand stands out boldly against the gleaming white houses and bright blue water that have made Santorini the iconic destination that it is.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Perissa Beach, Greece | Mark Dublin

With shade loungers dotted across the bar-lined beach, Perissa is the ideal spot for a relaxing afternoon, sipping on a cold beverage while taking in the impressive views of Mount Vouno – home to the ruins of an ancient city called Thira.

Thira is an attraction in its own right as it is believed to originally have been a spartan colony.

4. Playa Jardin, Tenerife

Beaches are usually designed by nature, but in the case where an artist pieces together the entire scape, it damn well better be perfect, and Playa Jardin is exactly that. Native Canarian artist Cesar Manrique, created Playa Jardin in the 1990s with hopes of building the ultimate relaxation spot, and with lush gardens and palm trees against glistening black sand, he definitely hit the nail on the head.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Playa Jardin, Tenerife | ELENA19/SHUTTERSTOCK

The pathway to the beach leads you through lush gardens full of local plants and waterfalls, which definitely sets the tone for an afternoon in paradise. Above the gardens, you’ll find a two-tier promenade bursting with cafes and restaurants.

5. Papenoo beach, Tahiti

The remote, Papenoo Valley is one of the lesser-visited sections of Tahiti. A tropical jungle full of waterfalls and volcanic sand, its not exactly what you’d see on a typical Tahitian postcard.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Pepenoo Beach, Tahiti | Travelwire

The valley leads out onto Papenoo Beach, a wild stretch of beach with none of the usual beach amenities – no bathrooms, no cafes, and nolounge chairs – this beach is strictly for surfers, and Tahiti’s northern coast boasts some of the best waves in the world. However all are welcome to find a spot and soak up the Tahitian sun. Its advised to visit on a weekday if possible as the shoreline will be far less crowded.

Papenoo Valley offers picturesque hiking trails where you can discover the breathtaking natural beauty of the island, with its glorious green mountains and valleys. Notable sights include the Topatari, Puraha and Vaiharuru waterfalls.