These Are the Only Green-sand Beaches in the World

papakolea beach hawaii
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Seeing green at the beach is usually reserved for swaying palm trees or seaweed that washes ashore. But there are exactly four beaches in the entire world that have remarkable green-sand shores.

Related: 7 of the World's Most Beautiful Red-sand Beaches

Found in such varied destinations as Norway and Guam, the grains of naturally green sand contain crystalline particles called olivine — a heavy green silicate that's not easily washed out to sea. And the result is lake and oceanfront beaches with a verdant hue.

White-sand stretches are easy to find, but these four, far-flung green-sand beaches proffer a very different kind of experience.

Papakolea Beach in Hawaii

Not too far from South Point (the southernmost point in the United States) on Hawaii's Big Island is Papakolea Beach. This green-sand beach sits at the mouth of a bay on a tuff ring (the site of a volcanic eruption) that was formed some 49,000 years ago. Papakolea Beach can be reached only by a vigorous downhill hike, and upon arrival, travelers will find grains of sand that are almost pure olivine, with shades of green across the color spectrum. The olivine came from ancient lava flows of Pu'u Mahana.

talofofo beach guam
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Talofofo Beach in Guam

Olivine is also responsible for the phenomenon found at Talofofo Beach on the Pacific island of Guam. Visitors have noted that the beach's green sands are noticeable only during ideal sun and weather conditions, and it often accumulates in deposits on darker, muddier areas. Talofofo Beach is also regarded as one of Guam's best surfing spots, and the surrounding limestone cliffs make it pretty picturesque, too.

punta cormorant galapagos island ecuador
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Punta Cormorant in Ecuador

The Galápagos Islands are one of the world's most isolated and unique destinations. Formed by volcanoes, the islands host a number of endemic species found nowhere else on Earth. And on the island of Floreana at Punta Cormorant lies a beach that's radiantly green. Olivine crystals from nearby volcanic sites have drifted to the beach's edge over the years, and the area is as popular with stingrays and sea turtles as it is with tourists.

hornindalsvatnet lake norway
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Hornindalsvatnet in Norway

The site of Europe's greenest sand might be an unassuming place for a beach — especially in the cold north of Norway. But Lake Hornindalsvatnet's shores are one of the only places on Earth where naturally green sands can be found. Formed by glacial movements thousands of years ago, this fjord lake is filled with green mineral deposits left behind.

And unlike the few other green-sand beaches dotted around the world, Hornindalsvatnet — which happens to be the deepest lake in Europe — is too cold to tempt swimmers and sunbathers.

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