15 Stunning Black-sand Beaches Around the World

From volcanic sands on Hawaii's Big Island to a glacial lagoon in Iceland.

Horses running on iceberg-dotted, black-sand beach in Iceland
Photo: Tim Flach/Getty Images

When you think of a beach vacation, you probably envision pristine golden or white sands and turquoise waters. And while there's nothing wrong with that picture, there's just something mysterious and dramatic about a black-sand beach.

The fascinating dark hue of the sand is caused by volcanic lava flow over time. Black sands can be found around the world, from Iceland to Japan to Dominica. Below is a list of 15 must-see black-sand beaches, all of which possess an unrivaled contrast to the blue waters that lap their shores.

01 of 15

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii, U.S.

People relaxing under palms at Punalu'u black-sand beach in Hawaii
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Located on the southeastern Kaʻū coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, Punalu’u Beach is a popular place for sunbathers to sprawl out between coconut palms and the Pacific coastline. Like other beaches across Hawaii, it gets its jet-black color from years of volcanic activity (from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) that has laced its sand with lava fragments.

Punalu'u is one of the largest, most accessible, and most popular black-sand beaches in the state. That it happens to be a hotspot for the endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle, locally called "honu," and the Hawaiian monk seal makes up for the fact that the swimming here, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, "isn't ideal."

02 of 15

Playa Jardín, Canary Islands, Spain

People sunbathing on black sand, Playa Jardin, Spain
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On the northern coast of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, lies touristy Playa Jardín. Considered a true urban beach — complete with a promenade that connects the sand to restaurants, children's playgrounds, and more — this stretch was landscaped by artist César Manrique to create a juxtaposition of dull-black volcanic sand and the lush plant life that lines the nearby shore. The name itself, "Playa Jardín," is Spanish for "garden beach."

The beach stretches more than half a mile and is divided into three sections: the small Playa Chica flanked by two larger bays, Playa del Castillo and Punta Brava.

03 of 15

Ureki Beach, Ureki, Georgia

Sun setting into water at Ureki Beach, Georgia
Akaki Torotadze/Getty Images/EyeEm

Appropriately, Georgia’s black-sand Ureki Beach sits on the Black Sea. And while many beaches on the Black Sea do not have sand, this one does — and its alleged healing properties have attracted people for centuries.

It's believed to have the highest concentration of "magnetic sand" among Georgia's beaches. What is magnetic sand, you ask? It's sand that comprises tiny particles of iron oxide, which make it magnetic.

04 of 15

Perivolos Beach, Santorini, Greece

Pink chairs and straw umbrellas on a black-sand Santorini beach
Christopher Groenhout/Getty Images

Santorini is known for its stunning beachfronts and stark white-stone buildings, but Perivolos Beach on the island’s southern shore is more known for its sand than anything. In true Santorini fashion, the blackness of the beach is contrasted with colorful beach chairs and, of course, the natural deep-blue hue of the Mediterranean. While it's one of Santorini's quieter beaches, visitors can expect some overflow from the more-popular nearby beaches of Perissa and Agios Georgios.

05 of 15

Kehena Beach, Hawaii, U.S.

Couple on Kehena Beach, Hawaii, looking out at the ocean

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Kehena Beach, on the east shore of Hawaii's Big Island, is a small and narrow strip of inky-black sand surrounded by beautiful volcanic cliffs. It's been dubbed Dolphin Beach because spinner dolphins are known to frequent the water. Disclaimer: This beach is a popular choice among visitors who like to sunbathe naked. Nudity is technically not allowed, but it's one of Hawaii's most popular unofficial clothing-optional stretches of coastline.

06 of 15

Piha Beach, Piha, New Zealand

Aerial view of waves crashing on Piha Beach, New Zealand
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On the western coast of New Zealand’s North Island, less than an hour's drive from bustling Auckland, is an iconic and oftentimes rough surf beach complete with beautiful black sand. Visitors claim that in the summer, the sand at Piha Beach is hotter than on most other beaches, but the locals don't let that deter them. Just remember to bring your "jandals" to avoid foot burns.

07 of 15

Miho no Matsubara, Shizuoka City, Japan

Snowy mountain rising above beach at Miho no Matsubara Japan
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For centuries, Japanese artists have depicted the majestic Mount Fuji from the shores of Miho no Matsubara, a black-sand beach that provides perfect views of the volcano's summit. The scene is made even more distinctive with the tens of thousands of pine trees that line the beach. Come with a canvas if you're feeling inspired to paint the landscape, or join the adventurous in diving or windsurfing.

08 of 15

Diamond Beach, Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

Horses running on an iceberg-spotted beach in Iceland
Tim Flach/Getty Images

Iceland is a hotbed of volcanic and geothermal activity, and these natural forces are what created the black sand at Diamond Beach on Iceland's most famous glacial lagoon, Jökulsárlón. Located in southeastern Iceland, this beach is known for its glistening black sand covered in large pieces of ice — hence the "diamond" in its name.

09 of 15

Playa Negra, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica

People playing in the water at Playa Negro, Costa Rica
UIG via Getty Images

Surfers of all levels head here for sought-after right-hand barrel waves and warm water, but the main draw of Playa Negra is its carbon-colored sand. The beach is walkable from the town of Los Pargos, which has many hotels and restaurants to accommodate tourists. Other things to do in the area include zip lining through the rainforest, renting paddleboards, and snorkeling in the shallow water.

10 of 15

Papenoo Beach, Papenoo, Tahiti

Palm tree stretching out over breaking waves in Tahiti
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Tucked away next to the green mountains of Tahiti and surrounded by lush greenery, Papenoo Beach draws adventure seekers because of the river mouth that empties there. That river break provides surfers with left- and right-hand waves galore, but if you're not qualified to go up against rough waters, admiring the experts from the safety of Papenoo's stark black sands is a perfectly acceptable alternative.

11 of 15

Spiaggia di Ficogrande, Stromboli, Italy

View of the sea from Ficogrande Beach, Stromboli, Isole Eolie, Sicily
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Italy is known for its picturesque coastline, but this volcanic island off the coast of Sicily offers a contrast to the golden-sand beaches most people picture. Tiny black pebbles cover the coastline, intensifying the blue of the sea. Spiaggia di Ficogrande is a Blue Flag-status beach, meaning it's managed sustainably and its waters are highly swimmable and fishable.

12 of 15

Black Sands Beach, California, U.S.

Surfers walk along a black-sand beach
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You don't necessarily have to hop on a long-haul flight to see a dramatic dark coastline. Black Sands Beach, just a 30-minute drive from San Fransisco in the Marin Headlands, provides an option for beachgoers in the continental United States.

A departure from the usual light-colored, quartz-rich sands you find up and down the California coast, this black-sand beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a hidden gem.

13 of 15

Playa Negra, Vieques, Puerto Rico

Black-sand beach surrounded by dramatic cliffs in Puerto Rico.
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Not to be confused with Costa Rica's black-sand beach of the same name, Puerto Rico's Playa Negra occupies the south side of Vieques, an island known and celebrated for its bright-white sand. Rough waves and a rocky bottom make swimming a challenge at times, but the scenery — made even more dramatic thanks to the steep surrounding cliffs — is alone worth a visit.

14 of 15

Rosalie Bay Beach, Rosalie, Dominica

Entrance into the black sand beach at Rosalie Bay Eco Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Rosalie Bay Eco Resort & Spa

This black-sand beach is located just steps from the Rosalie Bay eco-resort, where guests can enjoy views of the distinctly colored sand from their own rooms. Besides the stunning scenery — think rainforest, mountains, and beach wrapped in one — Rosalie Bay is known for being the nesting site for endangered sea turtles from March to October. Come to witness the awe-inspiring spectacle, but don't touch the animals or get in their way.

15 of 15

Keramas Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Keramas Beach at sunrise
Ed Sloane/World Surf League via Getty Images

This stunning beach in Bali is especially popular among surfers, so it's a great place to hit the waves or watch as surfers ride in. Its sparkling black volcanic sands are quite pebbly, but comfortable enough to stretch out on for sunbathing. Despite its surf appeal, Keramas Beach is one of the most remote beaches south of Ubud. Expect a locals-only vibe with lots of peaceful, natural scenery just 30 minutes from the cultural capital of Bali.

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