Wonderfully weird beaches around the world.
Close your eyes and imagine the beach of your dreams. Is there white sand, palm trees, and crystal-clear water? How about black sand, otherworldly rock formations, penguins waddling among granite boulders, or pigs swimming in the azure sea? There are a number of weird beaches around the world that prove that Mother Nature has some surprises in store. From places with colorful sand to mysterious rock formations, here are 19 unique beaches around the world.
Top Picks for You
Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
WHERE: Island of Hawai'i (Big Island), Hawaii
Imagine a tropical beach where turquoise water laps up on the shore, lined with coconut trees and palm fronds. Now imagine that beach with jet-black sand. That’s Punalu’u Beach near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The coastline of this unusual beach is full of rocky outcroppings and reefs. Riptides can be dangerous, so the best way to enjoy Punalu’u is by picnicking on the sand. Large groups of sea turtles are common, but don’t touch or feed them; federal and state laws protect them.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Big Island Guide
WHERE: Island of Hawai'i (Big Island), Hawaii
Green sand and rocky cliffs make Papakolea Beach seem a bit like an alien landscape. Olivine crystals from the nearby volcanic cone give this beach its olive hue. Intrepid travelers should be prepared for a 2.5-mile hike along rugged sea cliffs to reach this surreal beach on Mahana Bay. Be careful in the water—the surf is rough and full of strong currents. There are no facilities or places to buy food and water at this unique beach, so bring your own snacks or picnic, and be sure to leave the area as clean as you found it.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Big Island Guide
Pink Sands Beach
WHERE: Harbour Island, Bahamas
If black and green beaches aren’t for you, then perhaps you’d prefer to lounge on Harbour Island’s Pink Sands Beach. One of the island’s prettiest beaches features three miles of powdery pink sand, whose color comes from the presence of microscopic coral insects called foraminifera. Fancy resorts line this beach, which attracts wealthy vacationers with its calm waters and gorgeous surroundings.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Harbour Island Guide
Bowling Ball Beach
WHERE: Schooner Gulch, California
Seeing the huge, round boulders on the Mendocino Coast might make you wonder if giants exist. Only visible during low tide, these boulders are surprisingly smooth and lined up like bowling balls. That’s not the only odd thing about this weird beach—legend has it Schooner Gulch got its name after a washed-up schooner was spotted in the gulch one night, but there was no sign of it in the morning.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Mendocino Guide
WHERE: Northern Ireland
Few beaches around the world are more shrouded in mythology than Giant’s Causeway. The story goes that the giant Finn MacCool created the hexagonal rock formations as stepping stones in an attempt to reach his beloved giantess in Scotland. A more scientific explanation maintains that the strange rock formations were created by volcanic eruptions bursting into the sea 60 million years ago. The Giant’s Causeway is maintained by the National Trust, which recommends visitors book their visit in advance. Tickets cost £13-15 for adults and include parking, a guided tour, the use of hand-held audio guides, and access to the visitor’s center, which has an explanatory exhibition, a shop, a café, and bathroom facilities.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Northern Ireland Guide
WHERE: Llanes, Spain
Can you imagine a tiny beach over 100 meters from the sea? There is such a place in Llanes, Spain—and it definitely qualifies as one of the world’s weirdest beaches. Gulpiyuri Beach was formed by a sinkhole and is fed by salt water from the Bay of Biscay, which flows in through underground caves. Limestone cliffs and grassy meadows hide this little inland beach, which has become a tourist attraction for people who have to see it to believe it. The only way to reach it is on foot, and there are no facilities, so be sure to bring your own food and water.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Llanes Guide
WHERE: Bay of Bengal, India
Don’t bother looking for Chandipur Beach on the Bay of Bengal at low tide—you won’t find it. Twice a day, the water recedes up to three miles from the shore, leaving long tracts of sand where you can spot horseshoe crabs, seashells, and driftwood. If you hang around for a while, you can watch the sea slowly returning—a strange phenomenon to observe. The location is quite far off the beaten path, but there are a number of glamping resorts nearby, as well as Hindu and Buddhist temples to see.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s India Guide
Hot Water Beach
WHERE: Coromandel Peninsula, New Zealand
If you ever wished you could soak in a hot tub right on the beach, Hot Water Beach on Coromandel Peninsula is the place for you. Naturally occurring hot springs bubble up under the sand and are only accessible within two hours before and after low tide. For a natural spa-like experience, people dig holes in the sand and lounge in the mineral waters, which reach 150 degrees. To protect the site, eating and drinking in the hot pools is strongly discouraged, and visitors are asked to use the toilets at the parking lot.
Related: This Country Has So Many Hot Springs
WHERE: Fort Bragg, California
Colorful sea glass covers the sand at Fort Bragg, glinting brightly in the sunlight. Glass Beach was once a dumping ground, but when that ended in the late 1960s, the sea beautified the area, smoothing the rough edges of broken glass and creating little treasures. You can’t swim here, and taking the glass is illegal, but this unique beach is still a nice stop along the Mendocino Coast. MacKerricher State Park has amenities like toilets and parking and good spots for picnics.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Fort Bragg Guide
WHERE: Dorset and East Devon, England
Geologists and fossil hunters travel from far and wide looking for specimens on the Jurassic Coast of England. In addition to the coast’s rugged cliffs and coves, 185 million years of the earth’s development are on display here. Due to erosion, fossils are continuously being identified, and visitors can go on guided fossil walks. Within the 95-mile stretch of coastline, there are many unique beaches to discover as well as towns to explore. Amateur fossil hunters are most likely to find something on the beaches between Charmouth and Lyme Regis.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s England Guide
Jökulsárlón can only be described as otherworldly. At this glacial lagoon in southeast Iceland, icebergs float and drift toward the Atlantic. Skua, large predatory sea birds, have made Jökulsárlón their home and can be seen nesting on the black sand. This stunning place was the setting for scenes in the James Bond movies A View to Kill and Die Another Day, as well as Tomb Raider. Don’t expect to swim in the freezing waters; between May and mid-November, you can take a boat tour instead. The Glacier Lagoon Café is open year-round and serves sandwiches, soup, coffee, hot chocolate, and soft drinks.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Iceland Guide
WHERE: Prince Edward Island, Canada
Prince Edward Island near Nova Scotia is full of picturesque beaches, meadows, and farm colonies. Fishermen haul in mussels, oysters, and lobsters from P. E. I.’s shores. What’s striking is that about half of the beaches have red sand due to high iron oxide content. Thunder Cove is especially surreal and beautiful, with rust-colored sand, sandstone cliffs, and sea stacks. Teacup Rock is probably the most distinctive sea stack, but it’s made of fragile sandstone, so don’t try to climb it. Thunder Cove has no restroom facilities, so be sure to plan ahead.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Prince Edward Island Guide
WHERE: Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Massive granite boulders as large as 40 feet in diameter form cave-like natural structures on the unique beach known as the Baths on Virgin Gorda. Formed when molten rock seeped up into the existing volcanic rock layers but cooled before it could reach the surface, the Baths are a beautiful place to explore, though it can be challenging for people with mobility issues. Wear a bathing suit to wade in the waist-deep water and admire the sunlight streaming into the grottoes. There’s a $3 entry fee for the park, and you’ll find a couple of restaurants by the park’s entrance and a snack bar on the beach.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Virgin Gorda Guide
WHERE: Cape Town, South Africa
African penguins waddle along the coast on Boulders Beach, part of Table Mountain National Park. Watch them from the boardwalks around Foxy Beach (built specifically for penguin-viewing), but stay away from their breeding grounds, as their beaks are razor-sharp, and they will bite. The beach’s name is due to the collection of giant granite boulders weathered down by thousands of years of erosion. To access the beach, you’ll have to pay a small fee (about $4), which goes toward conservation. You can swim and picnic on the beach, but alcohol and smoking are prohibited.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Cape Town Guide
A combination of strong winds and low tides revealed what remains of an ancient forest. Underneath the water and sand, hundreds and hundreds of tree stumps—that had been preserved by peat—now dot this weird beach for anyone to see during low tide at certain times of the year. The appearance of an ancient forest on the Welsh coast naturally evoked Cantre’r Gwaelod, a legendary sunken city often referred to as the Welsh Atlantis. Amenities nearby include toilets, cafes, restaurants, pubs, shops, and parking.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Wales guide
WHERE: Maryland and Virginia
It’s not so uncommon to head to a beach and see an equestrian making their way down the sand. But when you head to Assateague Island, you may have the good luck of seeing wild horses on the beach—sans rider. The barrier island is famous for being populated by feral horses. It’s unknown how the horse population got to the island, but a popular legend supposes they’re the survivors of a 17th-century Spanish shipwreck. There are paved and unpaved trails for hiking and biking, places to go fishing, and campsites where you can pitch a tent (only on the Maryland side).
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Maryland & Eastern Shore Guide
WHERE: Shark Bay, Australia
Shell Beach appears to be blanketed in standard-issue (albeit beautiful) sand. And while the name gives you a pretty good indication of its true nature, what makes up the shore only becomes more evident as you take a closer look. The shore is covered in delicate cockle shells that have become especially abundant here because the water’s high salinity makes it easier for the shells to form. In some places, the shells deposits are about 30 feet deep. The only facilities are parking and public toilets, but you can swim and snorkel.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Western Australia Guide
WHERE: Exumas, Bahamas
It’s easy to see fish and turtles all over the Caribbean, but there’s one unusual beach where you can swim with pigs. Big Major Cay in the Exumas is famous for its colony of swimming pigs. They’re not native to the island, and no one knows how they got there, but people travel from all over to spend some time with them. This unique beach is only accessible by boat, so you’ll have to join a boat tour or charter your own vessel. Volunteers care for the pigs, but you can bring some fresh fruit to feed them.
Scala dei Turchi
WHERE: Sicily, Italy
Located on the southwestern coast of Sicily, this unique beach is famous for the undulating white cliff whose surface has been polished to a smooth-looking shine by the sea and the wind. Its name, which means Staircase of the Turks in Italian, is a throwback to the period when Arab and Turkish invaders found shelter in this bay. Now it’s a popular spot for people who hang out on the sandy shores at the bottom of the cliff or go to beach clubs like the Lounge Beach Scala dei Turchi, which serves Aperol Spritzes and food overlooking the beach. It’s a good place to go if you’re visiting Agrigento to see the Valley of the Temples.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Sicily Guide