Black beach

Discover the black beaches of the world

7 favorites from Hawaii to New Zealand.

Photo: Matt Hardy, Pexels
September 2022
Sandy beaches are beautiful and dreamy. They’re extra special, though, when the clear blue water of the sea meets black sand instead of white. Here are some black sand beaches to take your breath away.

Pure white beaches and turquoise waters are to many people the perfect image of a seaside paradise. But did you know that there are beaches with black sand too? Black beaches, colored by volcanic minerals and lava fragments, can be found in many places around the world. These are the destinations to head to if you want to experience something new or take your vacation photos to a whole new level.

Reynisfjara, Iceland
The dramatic Reynisfjara beach in Iceland.

Reynisfjara, Iceland

Just over 2.5 hours’ drive from Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, Reynisfjara beach is famous for its dramatic black color. Big black rocks rise up out of the sea at the beach and according to Icelandic folklore these were trolls who used to pull boats out to sea at night, but were then turned into stone. There’s almost no land mass between Antarctica and Iceland, which means the waves here can be strong and suddenly sweep in over the land. So don’t turn your back on the sea while visiting this beach.

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Miho-no-Matsubara, Japan
The 7km-long Miho-no-Matsubara beach in Japan.

Miho-no-Matsubara, Shizuoka, Japan

Miho-no-Matsubara beach in Japan used to be white but after the railroad was built nearby, the beach was turned black by the volcanic rock brought from Mount Fuji. The mountain, with its distinctive white peak, can be seen from the beach. In 2013, this 7km-long beach was included on “The World Heritage List”, which lists sites of cultural, historical or scientific importance to the country.

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Muriwai beach, New Zealand
Watch the sun rise and set over Muriwai beach in New Zealand.

Muriwai, New Zealand

Half an hour from Auckland, on New Zealand’s North Island, is Muriwai beach. This 50km-long beach is as black as night and is worth a visit even if sun and sea aren’t your top priority. You can enjoy a nice stroll along the water’s edge or rent a bicycle. Or you can learn to surf, as the waves that roll in here are perfect for surfing. The sunrises and sunsets at Muriwai are a landscape photographer’s dream and bird-watchers won’t be disappointed either. You’ll find 1,200 pairs of gannets breeding here from August to March.

New Zealand
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Black Sands Beach, USA
Black Sands Beach – the finest black sand in the continental United States. Photo: Brady Bellini

Black Sands Beach, California, USA

If you’re looking for California’s swaying palm trees and pure white sand, then Black Sands Beach at Shelter Cove is not for you. Here you’ll find instead the finest black sand in the continental United States. Visitors to the beach should have respect for the ocean, as the tides and currents here make surfing or swimming treacherous. That doesn’t stop you from walking along the beach and taking in the dramatic and beautiful landscape though.

Mill Valley
California, USA
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Punalu’u Beach
Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii. Photo: Tommy Munoz

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

Punalu’u Beach attracts visitors for two reasons: its black color and its sea turtles. There are often green sea turtles basking on the beach and if you’re lucky you may see the much rarer hawksbill turtle swimming in the water. It’s perfectly possible to go swimming in the sea at Punalu’u Beach, but take care as the currents can be strong. There’s an underwater spring of freshwater that runs into the sea right at the beach. As the density of the freshwater is lower than salt water, the water from the spring sits on top of the sea water. So it can feel like you’re bathing in a sea of two different temperatures.

Hawaii, USA
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Períssa beach, Greece
The volcanic Períssa beach on Santorini, Greece. Photo: Sebastien Gabriel

Períssa beach, Greece

At the bottom of Mesa Vouno, a hill on the south-east coast of Santorini, lies Períssa beach. Easy to reach by car or bus, this black lava beach is one of the most famous beaches in Santorini. Visitors here can lie back on the sun loungers and soak up the Greek heat under a parasol. Those looking for something a little more active can try windsurfing, jet skiing, canoeing or speeding behind a motorboat. The clear blue waters also attract many snorkeling enthusiasts and there are two diving centers here.

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Playa de San Marcos, Tenerife
Family-friendly Playa de San Marcos in Tenerife, Spain. Photo: Majestic Lukas

Playa de San Marcos, Tenerife, Spain

The beautiful Spanish island of Tenerife is home to several black beaches. Playa del Socorro, Playa Jardín and Playa de la Arena are just some of these, but the most spectacular and family-friendly is the volcanic beach of Playa de San Marcos. This black beach is relatively undeveloped and offers a pleasant atmosphere and the opportunity to cool off in the water if you’re feeling too hot. There are parasols and sun loungers for rent if you haven’t brought a towel with you. You can take a picnic to enjoy on the black sand or walk a few steps to the cafés and bars specializing in Canarian food. There are also some shops to browse around.

San Marcos
Tenerife, Spain
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Text by Amanda Hjelm