Okay, so you probably have heard of white sand beaches (like those in the Maldives, Fiji, or most famously, Hyams Beach in Australia), but do you know where they come from? Turns out, a majority of the white sands of the world are tiny bits of and coral that most likely accompanied seaweed and other things that the local fish were eating, and couldn’t be digested. Or quartz.
White Sand Beaches
Pink Sand Beaches
There are actually quite a few pink sand beaches in the world, which I find shocking since I had never seen or heard of one. The pink sands come from the abundance of a special kind of foraminifera that live in tiny reddish-pink shells. When they die, these shells remain, and eventually wind up crushed and/or in the mix with the other bits of rocks and shells. They are located at Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas.
Sea Shell Beaches
Growing up that kid perpetually on a mission to take home every sea shell I found at a beach, it’s probably a good thing my parents never took me to any of these. At places like Shell Beach in Australia or Saint Barthelemy, Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, and Sanibel Island in Florida, the coastline is pure shells. Causes for the abundance of shells range from lack of predators leading to huge populations of shelled sea-critters, to unique geographic positioning that allows shells from all over to collect on the shores.
Red Sand Beaches
When volcanic rock and large iron deposits collide with the eroding powers of the ocean, red sand beaches are born. There are three major red sand beaches in the world: Kokkini Beach in Greece, Kaihalulu Beach in Hawaii, and one in the Galapagos.
Orange Sand Beaches
Though it is a rare occurrence, it does happen. Due to its high iron content but lack of volcanic rock bits darkening the sand, the coastline of Ramla Bay in the Maltese Islands is a bright orange.
This incredible beach in Fort Bragg, California was once a major dumping site for garbage from the nearby town. In the 60’s, the city shut “The Dump” down, and several restoration projects and environmental cleanup programs were instituted to clear the waste and debris. Underneath all the detritus, they found an entire beach of polished sea glass.
Green Sand Beaches
Rarer still, there are two beaches in the world with green sand: Papakolea Beach in Hawaii, and Talofofo Beach in Guam. These beaches get their unusual color from Olivine crystals which are chipped off basalt deposits (most likely from underwater volcanoes). As the Olivine crystals are much heavier than most minerals, they wash up onto coasts and are left behind when the tide pulls the lighter sands away.
Blue Sand Beaches
Okay, so it’s not really the sand that’s glowing blue, but a host of bioluminescent phytoplankton scattered across the coastline on this island in the Maldives. The glowing is driven by environmental stressors (like the crashing of the plankton onto the shores) and makes for one incredible sight.
Geometric Rock Beaches
Who says you need sand to have a beach? These striking pillars at the Giants Causeway in Ireland appear to be way too precise to be natural, but are actually the product of basalt from hardened lava fracturing as it dried, leaving interlocked pillars that seem to have been etched by the ancients.
Purple Sand Beaches
It is honestly a shame that all beaches aren’t this colorful. The exotic purple sands of the Pfeiffer Beach (near California’s Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park) draw their unusual color from manganese garnet granules eroded from deposits littered throughout the region.
Black Sand Beaches
Punaluʻu Beach (also called Black Sand Beach) is a beach between Pāhala and Nāʻālehu on the Big Island of the U.S. state of Hawaii. They’re incredible, unusual, and for some reason always strike me as uncomfortable–I’m not sure why. The numerous black sand beaches of the world get their unique color from high concentrations of eroded lava and volcanic rock.
Where you have the eroding power of the ocean and an eternity for it to do its thing, you’re bound to find some caves, and (if you manage to catch them before they’re entirely claimed by the sea) some secret beaches inside those caves. The Secret Beach Cave in Mexico and the Algarve Cave Beach in Portugal are possibly the two best- known examples of these incredible hidden cave beaches.