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, an unexpected destination for beach goers, is home to breathtaking black sand beaches formed from 130 volcanoes. The country’s most famous beach, Reynisfjara or Vik Beach, is famous for its impressive basalt columns, cliff formations, caves, and lava structures.

Despite its stunning beauty, this beach, named after the southern village of Vik, is not ideal for swimming due to the rough Atlantic waves. But its breathtaking scenery makes it a dream location for photographers.

The black sand of Vik Beach was created by the 1918 eruption of the nearby Katla volcano, located beneath the Myrdalsjokull glacier. This makes the area vulnerable to future eruptions and flash floods.

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

Visitors to Reynisfjara Beach can explore the fascinating basalt columns, created by cooling lava, and see the rugged cliffs, including the famous Reynisdrangar sea stacks.

The beach also has several fascinating caves to explore, including the Halsanefshellir cave, which is one of the largest lava tubes in the country. The black sand and unique geological features of Reynisfjara Beach make it a must-visit destination for nature and geology enthusiasts.

With its dramatic landscapes, it is easy to see why this beach is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. Whether you’re interested in geology, photography, or simply enjoying a unique beach experience, Reynisfjara Beach is not to be missed.

2. Black Sands Beach, California

Black Sands Beach is a unique and captivating destination located on the Lost Coast of Northern California. This 5.5 km long beach is the only black sand beach on the North American continent, making it a must-visit for tourists.

Despite its stunning beauty, Black Sands Beach is not the best place to swim or lounge, as the waters are often too dangerous to enter. Visitors typically admire the waves from a safe distance, taking in the breathtaking scenery and rugged terrain that make this beach so special.

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

The beach is popular among hikers who are looking for a unique landscape to explore. Its rugged terrain and stunning beauty make it a great spot for nature lovers and photographers. Additionally, there are tide pools in the area that are a real treat for those who like to explore and collect sea creatures. One of the highlights of a visit to Black Sands Beach is the opportunity to collect silver dollars, which can often be found washed up on the shore.

The best time to visit Black Sands Beach is between September and January, as this is when gray whales are known to swim along the breakers. This provides visitors with an incredible opportunity to witness the beauty of these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

Overall, Black Sands Beach is a unique and awe-inspiring destination that is definitely worth a visit. Whether you are looking to hike, explore, or simply admire the beauty of nature, this beach has something to offer everyone.

3. Perissa Beach, Greece

Perissa Beach in Greece is truly a magnificent sight. This black sand beach is one of the most unique settings on this list and stands out with its bold, jet black sand against the bright blue water and gleaming white houses that make Santorini such a renowned destination.

The beach is lined with bars and dotted with shade loungers, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind on a hot afternoon. Visitors can lounge and sip on a cold drink while taking in the breathtaking views of Mount Vouno, home to the ruins of the ancient city of Thira.

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

Thira, the ancient city on Mount Vouno, is a must-visit for those interested in history and archaeology. It is believed to have originally been a Spartan colony and is now home to impressive ruins that visitors can explore.

This ancient city provides a glimpse into Greece’s rich history and is an attraction in its own right.

Perissa Beach is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to relax and soak up the sun while admiring some of Greece’s most breathtaking scenery. With its unique setting, tranquil atmosphere, and historical attractions, this beach is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.

4. Playa Jardin, Tenerife

Playa Jardin is an exceptional beach that truly stands out. Unlike most beaches which are naturally designed, Playa Jardin was created by the talented artist, Cesar Manrique. In the 1990s, Manrique set out to create the ultimate relaxation spot, and with its lush gardens, palm trees, and glistening black sand, he succeeded in creating a true paradise.

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

As you make your way to the beach, you will be transported through a lush garden filled with local plants and cascading waterfalls. This pathway sets the tone for a tranquil and serene afternoon on the black sand beach. Above the gardens, you will find a two-tiered promenade that is teeming with cafes and restaurants.

The artist’s vision of creating a peaceful and picturesque environment has been brought to life at Playa Jardin, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.

Whether you want to lounge on the black sand, explore the lush gardens, or dine at a local cafe, Playa Jardin has something for everyone.

In short, this beach is a true masterpiece and an outstanding example of what can be achieved when creativity and beauty are combined.

5. Papenoo beach, Tahiti

Papenoo Valley is an undiscovered gem located in the remote regions of Tahiti. Its lush, tropical jungle and volcanic black sand beaches provide a stark contrast to the typical, picturesque images often associated with the island.

The valley leads to Papenoo Beach, a serene and secluded stretch of sand that is a surfer’s paradise. Despite its lack of modern amenities like restrooms and cafes, visitors are welcome to bask in the sun and enjoy the breathtaking natural beauty of the region.

To avoid the crowds, it is recommended to visit on a weekday.

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

Papenoo Valley offers a unique adventure to nature lovers, with its lush green mountains, verdant valleys and numerous hiking trails that lead to breathtaking waterfalls such as Topatari, Puraha and Vaiharuru.

The region is the perfect destination for those seeking a peaceful escape from the busy city life, and to immerse themselves in the breathtaking natural beauty of Tahiti.