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 of 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

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.

6. Miho no Matsubara, Japan

Japan’s Miho Beach is lined with thousands of ancient, World Heritage-listed pine trees, and offers unparalleled views of Mount Fuji. This 6.5 kilometre (4 mile) black sand beach is known in local folklore for its skinny-dipping angel and was formerly a traditional white sand beach. Miho no Matsubara turned black after construction of a nearby train line exposed its volcanic rock.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Miho no Matsubara, Japan | YUGA KURITA/GETTY IMAGES

The Miho Peninsula is extremely popular in summer months and common activities include: kayaking, windsurfing, diving and fishing. Its spectacular scenery was also the inspiration for Japan’s traditional woodblock prints by famed artist Utagawa Hiroshige.


7. Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

Often simply referred to as Black Sand Beach, Punalu’u is one the most well known ebony beaches. Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, the basalt sand that’s littered across Punalu’u was deposited by lava flowing into the ocean and exploding as it cooled. Swimming conditions aren’t ideal, but there’s lots more on offer.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii | Getty Images

Punalu’u is a haven for endangered species like the Green Sea turtle and the Hawksbill turtle, which can often be seen basking on the black sand. Spinner dolphins and humpback whales are also often seen swimming along this stretch of shore.

If hiking is more your thing, you can find a variety of cultural artifacts in the nearby park area, including petroglyphs and remnants of the ancient Ala Kahakai trail. Alternatively you can take a short walk to Ninole Cove, ideal for snorkelling.


8. Karekare Beach, New Zealand

Karekare beach once owned the title of the most famous black sand beach in the world, thanks to its starring role in The Piano, an Oscar winning film. The thrill wore off it’s now gone back to relative anonymity. Located around an hour from Auckland, in the Waitekere Ranges Regional park, Karekare is sometimes made to live in the shadow of the iconic Piha Beach.

Karekare Beach, New Zealand

However the beach offers some of the finest surf in New Zealand, and its looming cliffs make for an almost-apocalyptic feel behind the black sand. In a country full of unique scenery this beach still stands out.


9. Black Bay, Grenada

Black Bay Beach is a remote, volcanic beach in St. John, Grenada. Its secluded location, only accessible via a 20 minute hike from the main road, coupled with the silky dark sand makes it one of the island’s most wild and exotic places to visit.

Black Bay Beach, Grenada | Shutterstock/kruemel

Black Bay is an idyllic spot for swimming or enjoying a quiet picnic and also offers some awesome opportunities for keen explorers. Black Bay Cave lies at the southern end of the beach and here you can find old Amerindian markings.


10. Stokksnes Beach, Iceland

The second Icelandic black sand beach (but not the last) on our list is Stokknes beach, located in the south-eastern part of the country. Here you’ll find vast expanses of black beach, that look as dramatic as a setting from a sci-fi movie.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Stokksnes Beach, Iceland | Getty Images

The area is littered with black dunes beneath the famous Vestrahorn Mountain, with peaks reaching up to 454 metres (1490 ft) and steep cliffs rising from the sides of a stunning lagoon. The beaches landscape is constantly changing due to shifting dunes. Sunrise and Sunset offers the best photographic opportunities, which are endless.

Stokksnes is a 20 minute drive from the town of Hofn and the famous Vatnajokull glacier is not far away either.


11. Playa Negra, Puerto Rico

Dependant on the time of year, Playa Negra can either look like a sheet of onyx or a marble cake. During certain months, white sand from the cliffs that line the beach run onto the shoreline and mix with the native black sand.

It requires a bit of a hike but regardless the time of year, the path is beautiful and the shallow stream bed it leads through paired with extra-fine black sand makes it a hot spot for horseback riding.

15 Black Sand Beaches That Will Take Your Breath Away
Playa Negra, Puerto Rico | Flickr/Andrewdp

The fine sand tends to weasel its way in everywhere, and is a lot harder to get out than typical grainy beach sand. It can also stain.

There’s no shortage of gorgeous white sand beaches in Puerto Rico, but its secluded Playa Negra beach is just as worthy of a visit.


12. Point Venus Beach, Tahiti

When discussing black sand beaches, Tahiti always comes up, and with a second beach appearing on our list, its clear to see that the French Polynesian island has some big hitters when it comes to black beaches.

Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward Islands and was born out of volcanic activity. Its landscape is rugged and mountainous and within the crystal clear waters, you’ll find vibrant coral reefs, making it ideal for snorkelling and free diving.

Point Venus Beach, Tahiti | Getty Images

Much of the coastline is made up by shimmering black sand and visitors have their pick of beaches: from Lafayette Beach, which forms part of a luxury resort, to the half-mile long Plage de Toaroto and Point Venus Beach, which has a lighthouse.

Point Venus is the northernmost point of the island and is where Captain James Cook is said to have observed the transit of the planet Venus in 1769. It is a popular location for picnics with a snack bar and souvenir shops also on site.


13. Lovina Beach, Bali

Located in Bali’s northwest and surrounded by rice paddies, Lovina beach is described as a laidback beach ideal for relaxation. Far less crowded than the white sand beaches in the south, Lovina gets its black sand from cooled lava that flowed out of the nearby Mount Agung. Snorkelling conditions are incredible as the area is protected by a large coral reef and is also a known hotspot for dolphin watching, both from the beach and on guided boat tours.


Lovina Beach, Bali | Getty Images

Swimming conditions are fantastic as the waves are small and tides are calm. Nearby you can find local villages and volcanic hot springs.

14. Rosalie Bay Beach, Dominica

Its no surprise that “Pirates of the Caribbean” location scouts chose Dominica as one of its filming locations: The island has many black sand beaches that perfectly encapsulate the mystique and beauty of the Caribbean.

Rosali Bay Beach, Dominica | C’est Christine

Fringed with palm trees, Rosalie Bay Beach is the premier black sand beach in Dominica. One of the longest black sand beaches in the Carribean, Rosalie Bay is ideal for long walks and beach combing. It also offers spectacular views of the Atlantic coast.

Its an ideal area for nature lovers thanks to its lush green surroundings and the fact that it is a well-known hot spot for nesting sea turtles!


15. Diamond Beach, Iceland

Set on the banks of the famous Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon, The Diamond Beach is a stretch of jet black sand belonging to the greater Breiðamerkursandur glacial plain, on the South Coast of Iceland.

The magical Diamond Beach has become an Instagram phenomena in recent years, and gets its name from the hundreds of small iceberg formations scattered along the black volcanic sand, which look like giant diamonds sparkling under the grey Icelandic skies. These icebergs are fragments of the Breidamerkurjokull Glacier that have broken off and drifted ashore.

15 black sand beaches that will take your breath away
Diamond Beach, Iceland | Getty Images

Wildlife-enthusiasts readily frequent the beach with the aim of viewing the resident seals that call the beach home. Diamond beach is also one of the best places in the country to see orcas from the shore.

A visit to Iceland’s most popular will definitely not disappoint! Whip on a brightly coloured coat and prepare for serious Instafame!