The World’s Strangest Beaches

From psychedelic sands to magical rock formations and rare wildlife sightings, these unusual beaches around the world offer jaw-dropping diversions to suit every taste.

By Emma Sloley

Papakolea Beach, Hawaii
1 of 10 Steven Greaves/Getty

Papakolea Beach, Hawaii

Located near Ka Lae, at the southernmost point in Hawaii, this hidden spot is reached via an arduous three hour-long hike along sea cliffs. But it’s well worth the trek: the beach is known for its startling green sand, made from grains of a mineral called olivine. The origin? Puu Mahana, a volcano situated above the beach.

Bay of Fires, Tasmania
2 of 10 Leisa Tyler/Getty

Bay of Fires, Tasmania

Blessed with mind-blowing natural beauty, the tiny, remote Australian state of Tasmania also serves up some oddities, like this beautiful 30-mile stretch of beach on the east coast known for its curious orange-stained granite rocks. The color is derived from the lichens that grow atop the boulders, and believe us, you won’t need a filter when you capture these beauties for posterity.

Playa del Amor, Mexico

3 of 10 Mark D Callanan/Getty

Playa del Amor, Mexico

Also known as Hidden Beach, this magical cave—part of the Marieta Islands, near Puerto Vallarta—is only accessible by swimming or kayaking through a long water tunnel that links the beach to the Pacific Ocean. What’s not to love?

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
4 of 10 David Pu’u/Getty

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California

At this memorable beach in MacKerricher State Park, instead of sand you’ll find a thick covering of sea glass. The spot was once used as a dumping ground, but nature has smoothed any unsightliness by wearing away glass bottles to create a magical, multi-hued beach-scape.

Teewah Beach, Queensland, Australia

5 of 10 Andrew Peacock/Getty

Teewah Beach, Queensland, Australia

In Queensland’s Great Sandy National Park, north of Noosa, you can experience two rare phenomena: traversing the wide ribbon of sand in 4-wheel-drive vehicles, and admiring the “Colored Sands,” cliffs streaked with over 40 different shades of natural chemicals deposited here during the last Ice Age. Aborigines once decorated boomerangs with the colorful deposits.

Mudhdhoo Island, the Maldives
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Mudhdhoo Island, the Maldives

Not only does this Indian Ocean archipelago offer romantic vacation opportunities galore, it also sports an island that’s home to one of the world’s most spectacular natural sights. The beach on Mudhdhoo Island becomes illuminated at night when bioluminescent phytoplankton are agitated by the surf, creating amazing photo-ops and indelible memories.

Hot Water Beach, North Island, New Zealand
7 of 10 Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/Getty

Hot Water Beach, North Island, New Zealand

Can’t decide which you love better, kicking back on the beach or luxuriating in a hot tub? No need to choose at this curious tourist attraction on the Coromandel Peninsula, where naturally heated mineral water bubbles up from underground hot springs at low tide. Dig a hole in the sand to create your own personal tub, and join the party.

Boulders Beach, South Africa
8 of 10 spooh/Getty

Boulders Beach, South Africa

While it perhaps qualifies more as adorable than strange, this sheltered beach near Cape Town makes headlines both for its singular beauty—protected inlets set between huge granite boulders—and its resident colony of friendly African penguins.

Red Sand Beach, The Galápagos
9 of 10 Donyanedomam/Getty

Red Sand Beach, The Galápagos

Nature in all her weird and wonderful glory is what the Galapagos is all about, and this beach on Rábida Island really goes out of its way to strike awe. The spot is known for its arresting red sand, cliffs and volcanic slopes (the color comes from high levels of iron), but it’s also home to an Ark’s worth of creatures, including a sea lion colony, marine iguanas, and birds galore.

The Beach of the Cathedrals, Ribadeo, Spain
10 of 10 j-wildman/Getty

The Beach of the Cathedrals, Ribadeo, Spain

You might have to pinch yourself when you first catch sight of the sculptural rock formations adorning this beach in Spain’s northwest Galicia region. Wave erosion has formed incredible cathedral-like arches and buttresses that leave a powerful impression: visit at low tide to witness them in all their glory.

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