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For sunny spot travelers, finding the right kind of beach is a huge matter of importance. It has to have something in the way of attraction, whether it’s sparkling clear waters, pristine sands, easy access, or a lot of nearby amenities. There is also a portion of travelers for whom how the beach looks matters, too. They’re not content with your average, run-of-the-mill beach that everyone’s heard about, but would rather spend time vacationing at a spot that takes your breath away. And while it’s easy enough to find beaches that are the inspiration for paintings and postcards everywhere, the color of the beach is what’ll really have you writing home about.

Black Sand Beaches

There are two different ways beaches can have black sand: it’s either situated near a volcano and gets its black color from little tiny pieces of lava, or it’s a magnetic mixture of fine sands due to an accumulation of gravity-separated minerals. It’s actually far more common than you think, but here are our favorite black sand beaches in the world.

Wai’anapanapa State Park, Maui

Venture down the treacherous and winding roads of the Hana Highway (go slow on the dozens of hairpin curves and one-lane bridges!) until you reach the town of Hana, and then turn onto Wai’anapanapa Road. Keep driving down the tree-canopied road until you get to the state park, where you’ll either just be visiting or camping out in a tent. On the camping lawn, turn left and walk down a paved stair path until you reach the black sand beach, which is wide open and has huge waves crashing onto its shore. For a vantage point a little further back, such as the winter months when the surf is dangerous to swim and snorkel in, turn right at the camping lawn and hang out by the enormous blowholes, looking at the black sand beach from there.

Black Sand Beach, Lost Coast, California

This coast may be 80 miles long, but it gets a surprisingly small amount of foot traffic there. Perhaps it’s because only the bravest of souls dare to tackle its rugged cliffs and mountainous vistas, with plenty peaks topping the 2,000-foot mark. Once you arrive, take in either a hike along the Lost Coast Trail or, if you’re really adventurous, a summit up the 4,087 feet that is King’s Peak, the tallest mountain in the King Range. Of course, you’ll want to go in for a quick dip, but make sure you’re a strong swimmer: the currents can get a little wild, so if you’re unsure about your abilities, just wade in to waist-high water.

Red Sand Beaches

The red coloring occurs because of nearby volcanic activity that left red lava rocks, which then crumbled from wind and erosion to become fine particles of sand. It’s quite striking the first time you see it, as you’d only ever expect to see red on yourself after a long day at the beach. But from personal experience, there are two red sand beaches that really stand out.

Red Beach, Santorini, Greece

Way back in 1450 BC, a volcano named Thira erupted and started the formation of the cliffs and beach that we now know today. Also referred to as Kokkini Beach, this red sand beach features sky high red cliffs that contrast stunningly with the blue Mediterranean waters under you. It does get pretty popular with tourists and the red sand heats up quickly under the blazing sun, so your best bet is to check it out in the morning hours. And remember to rent a beach chair!

Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach, Maui

Hawaii has a bit of a reputation for being interesting in so many ways, and having such a colorful appearance is part of that. When you venture to this red sand beach in Maui, though, be prepared for quite a bit of adventure. To reach it, you first have to cut over a swatch of private property, tackle an extremely narrow ridge high above the water, take the trail under trees with only a sheer red cliff wall to guide you, and then hop down the rocks to reach the water. The effort is more than worth it, as you can just sit there for hours and marvel at the unspoiled beauty found in nature.

Green Sand Beaches

 

Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

There’s only one green sand beach worth mentioning in the world, and it’s found on the Big Island in Hawaii. You can easily reach it by Highway 11 from either Kona on the west or Hilo on the south, with either route take about 2 hours and 15 minutes (not including all the scenic stops you’ll want to make along the way, such as at Volcanoes National Park if coming from Hilo). Keep driving until you see signs for South Point, and then drive a little past to reach Papakolea. You’ve just arrived at the southern most point of the United States, and your reward is a stunning beach made green by olivine crystals. And if that isn’t enough, you can drive back up the road a bit and jump off the cliffs, being able to tell your friends and family you did so at the southernmost point.

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