If you’re dreaming of a beach getaway, you’re probably envisioning miles of white sand stretching as far as the eye can see. But what if turquoise waves lapped pink or green sand, instead? Or the coast was made up of trillions of shells? Such dreams are a reality at these six unusual beaches around the world.
Isla Rábida, Galápagos Islands
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, Isla Rábida is famous for its red sand lining the coast. Part of the Galápagos Islands, the island is home to beaches boasting a distinct rust color due to the presence of iron in the sand — the result of ashes from a nearby volcano.
In addition to its uncommon color, the red-sand beach is a habitat for unique wildlife. Colonies of sea lions are known to frequent the coast, while pink flamingos linger in the nearby lagoon. On land, visitors can spy blue-footed gannets and pelicans diving for fish, while sea turtles and sharks frequent popular diving spots offshore.
Hot Water Beach, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Hot Water Beach provides one of the most unique beach experiences in the country. Situated on the Coromandel Peninsula on North Island, the beach is located directly over a network of mineral springs. Visitors who are willing to dig into the sand during low tide are able to make their own private spa pools directly on the beach.
Spades and shovels are available to rent from several beach cafés, with plenty of restaurants and art galleries nearby. Known for its strong waves, Hot Water Beach is also a popular destination for surfers, although most visitors prefer to relax in the mineral water by the sea.
Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
This unusual Northern California beach in MacKerricher State Park is the result of toxic dumping — the Fort Bragg shoreline used to be a trash dump for local residents. Over time, however, the trash has turned into treasure. Broken down by the sea, the countless glass bottles dumped on the rocks have turned the shoreline into a beach made of colorful, glittering sea glass.
Known simply as Glass Beach, the coastline provides phenomenal views of the Pacific Ocean, with visitors often spying seals lounging on the nearby rocks. Located off Highway 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), the beach connects to a network of trails that traverse the coast and lead to other beaches. Taking the glass from the beach, however, is prohibited in order to preserve its beauty for future visitors.
Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, The Bahamas
Harbour Island is known for its stunning pink-sand beaches that stretch for over three miles along the Atlantic. The beach’s pale pink color is derived from foraminifera, microscopic coral insects that live underneath reefs and on sea floors. When these coral insects die, waves wash them ashore, mixing their remains with sand and coral to create the pink hue.
Visitors to the Bahamas’ pink-sand beaches are often surprised to discover that the sand does not overheat, as pink reflects the sun instead of absorbing it. As a result, walking on the cool sand is a pleasant daytime activity, as is riding on horseback or simply lounging by the tranquil sea.
Papakōlea Green Sand Beach, Hawaii
Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, Papakōlea Green Sand Beach is one of four beaches around the globe that have green sand (the other three are located in Norway, Ecuador, and Guam). The beach’s green sand is caused by olivine, a heavy, green mineral deposited on the beach due to its significant weight.
Carved out over thousands of years thanks to the volcano Mauna Kea, Papakōlea is accessible via a trailhead off Highway 11. Requiring a 5.5-mile, round-trip hike, the beach is a popular spot for bird watchers, although it should be noted it is illegal to take sand from the beach, and the punishment for doing so is a fine upwards of $100,000.
Shell Beach, Shark Bay, Australia
Located along Shark Bay in Western Australia, Shell Beach is exactly as it sounds — a beach made up of trillions of tiny shells. This phenomenon is due to the fact the waters surrounding the beach have a high salinity, which means there are no predators to inhibit the reproduction of Fragum cockles, a bivalve that thrives in salt water.
As a result, the shells of this particular species litter the shoreline. Although there is no sand on Shell Beach, it remains a popular spot for swimmers, as the salty water makes it easy to float.