When you picture the perfect beach, it's likely that you see clear blue waters, bright beach umbrellas, and colorful sand -- wait, what? That's right -- if you think sand only comes in beige, then you're missing out on some of the world's most gorgeous shorelines.
These 10 beaches are the perfect way to add some color to your next vacation.
One of the best natural examples of one man's trash being another man's treasure, the multi-colored glass pebbles on this beach are the result of trash being dumped in the ocean along Fort Bragg. The trash is broken down and smoothed over by the ocean waves before being dumped back onto the shoreline. Today, the glass pebbles dazzle in the sun and make for a serious upgrade from hunting for shells -- but don't take them home, please! Due to the number of visitors that have taken self-serve souvenirs from the beach, the amount of glass is dwindling.
How to see it: Glass Beach is located on the coast of Fort Bragg, in Northern California's Mendocino County. The beach is positioned within MacKerricher State Park, and is accessible via a side road off of the legendary Highway 1.
Where to stay: If your plans are flexible, the 4-star Heritage House Resort is located 15 miles from Fort Bragg.
Thanks to brightly colored microscopic reef organisms that have washed upon shore and integrated into the sand, the coastline of Harbour Island is a distinct pink hue. In addition to being undeniably beautiful, the Pink Sands Beach offers incredible offshore diving among the area's coral reef. Perhaps best of all, Harbour Island's off-the-beaten-path location means that the Pink Sands Beach is often free from hordes of tourists -- so you and your traveling companions will have the opportunity to stretch out on the gorgeous sands, undisturbed.
How to see it: Harbour Island and its Pink Sands Beach are only accessible via water, and the best way to get around the island is by foot, so leave the car at home (or at the airport) and unplug from the hustle and bustle for a serious dose of R&R -- Bahamas-style.
Where to stay: Double-down on this peaceful seclusion at the intimate, and aptly named Pink Sands Resort, where private villas attract honeymooners and other romantics.
There are white-sand beaches, and then there is Hyams Beach, which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as having the whitest sand in the world. To accentuate the pureness of the shoreline, Hyams Beach is lined with colorful beach cottages on one side and the crystal-blue waters of Jervis Bay on the other. Those visiting this beach can stretch out on the world-famous sands, check out the rich underwater life via snorkeling or diving, or participate in watersports like stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, or surfing.
How to see it: Hyams Beach is located in the Shoalhaven area of New South Wales on Jervis Bay, about two hours and 45 minutes from Sydney.
Where to stay: A plush way to rest up before or after the drive down, the Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney is a 5-star spot near another famous bright-white waterfront attraction: the opera house.
Red Sands Shore (Prince Edward Island, Canada)
Photo: Nicolas Raymond/Flickr/freestock.ca
Along the central southern region of Prince Edward Island lies a stretch of coastline with a color scheme surprisingly reminiscent of Arizona's red rock deserts: Red Sands Shore. Red clay sands, cliffs and roads dot the miles of shoreline through the areas of Argyle Shore, Bedeque, Breadalbane, Canoe Cove, Clyde River, Cornwall, Crapaud and Kinkora. Though most would assume this area is best enjoyed during summer, Red Sands Shore is a four-season destination and offers activities year-round.
How to see it: From the mainland, visitors can take the eight-mile Confederation Bridge across Northumberland Strait to Prince Edward Island and land right in the heart of the Red Sands Shore region.
Where to stay: The recently renovated Rodd Royalty hotel stays full of free breakfast, parking, and Wi-Fi, and the location near the highway puts all of PEI at close range.
A truly one-of-a-kind natural wonder, Papakolea Green Sand Beach is more of a hiking and sightseeing destination than a swim-and-sun beach. This is partly because of its geographical positioning -- though Papakolea Green Sand Beach is (duh) located on the water, it's actually on a small crescent-shaped bay cut into the side of an ancient cinder cone volcano. The green color can be credited to small pebble-like deposits of olivine, remaining from a lava eruption 50,000 years ago.
How to see it: Papakolea Green Sand Beach is located on the southernmost tip of the Big Island, and is accessible by either a short drive in a four-wheel vehicle (offered by locals from the parking area) or a hiking trail. Big Island Hikes suggests taking the 2.5-mile trail, which passes through additional archeological sites, including an ancient fishing heiau.
Where to stay: After all that hiking, retreat about two hours north to one of the island's nicest options, The Fairmont Orchid, which has a Travel + Leisure-lauded spa and sits on a private cove.
A geological jaw-dropper, Santorini's Red Beach is backdropped by a wall of red cliffs juxtaposed beautifully against the deep blue waters. The only thing that makes this stretch of shoreline even more colorful is the bright umbrellas dotting the sands.
How to see it: Located on the southern coast of Santorini in Akrotiri, Red Beach is not directly accessible by car. But you can get pretty close. Once you park at the nearby lot, you'll be just a few minutes' walk from the cliffside views and a short hike down to the shore.
Where to stay: Santorini is surrounded by unusual sands -- a volcanic black-sand beach gathers around the Bellonias Villas, where sleek and spacious studios have stunning sea views.
The eye-catching anchor of Wai'anapanapa State Park, Pa'iloa Beach is known for its deep black sands and black lava cliff. The lush greenery surrounding the area and the bright ocean waters make the black beach even more dramatic. Visitors to the beach can check out ocean caves adjacent to the main Pa'iloa area or explore the freshwater caves, burial sites and ancient temples throughout the rest of the state park.
How to see it: Just off the legendary Road to Hana, Pa'iloa Beach is the perfect addition to this trip itinerary.
Where to stay: A company favorite and "as good as it gets" (Lonely Planet), the Travaasa Hana resort perches on a cliff, and features an excellent spa plus lots of free activities.
Among the stiff beach competition that California provides, Pfeiffer Beach is undeniably a standout -- especially in terms of natural beauty. While the natural rock formations, oceanfront vistas and sea caves helped put Pfeiffer Beach on the map, the purple sand (a result of mineral deposits) ensures that this stretch of coastline looks good from every angle. The beach is the ideal spot for spending a day with kids, taking in a romantic sunset, or adventuring with man's best friend -- yes, this beach is also dog-friendly.
How to see it: Tucked into the coastline in Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach is located within the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park just off California's iconic Highway 1.
Where to stay: An adults-only, Conde Nast Traveler Gold List hotel that members love, Ventana Inn & Spa has nature walks through woodlands, Japanese hot baths, and patios with Pacific views.
Mediterranean island Sardinia is in no way short on natural attractions, but the golden sands of Porto Ferro are definitely one of the best. The sands orange, ochre color derives from natural minerals, and only accentuates the bright blue waters of the bay and the pine trees of the surrounding grove. Porto Ferro also offers surfing, windsurfing, and diving for tourists and locals alike.
How to see it: Sardinia is not driveable from mainland Italy and, though it is possible to take a ferry between the two destinations, the boat ride can take over seven hours, so flying tends to be the easiest option. Once on Sardinia, Porto Ferro is located on the Northeast coast in the Sassari region. The beach is easily accessible by car, and offers facilities for parking and camping overnight.
Where to stay: Located within a 19th-century palazzo on the seafront of Sardinia's capital city, Hotel Miramare has only 18 rooms that have murals and balconies.
The Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is so visually stunning that, upon first viewing photos of this destination, you may assume this beach could only possibly exist with the help of Photoshop. Far from a fairy tale, this Icelandic beach is famous for its black sands, unique rock formations and basalt sea stacks. A non-tropical beach, this sightseeing destination isn't made for laying out or swimming -- in fact, the waves are especially strong and tourists are encouraged to exercise caution by keeping their distance from the water.
How to see it: On the central southern coast of Iceland, the Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach is near the village of Vík í Mýrdal, in the area of Vik. The Reynisfjara peninsula, where the beach is located, can easily be reached by car.
Where to stay: One of our favorite airlines also runs excellent hotels in their home country, and the Icelandair Hotel Vik offers Scandinavian sleekness a five-minute walk from the beach.
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Nile Cappello is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.