Beaches mark the borders between sea and land, and as such have unique characteristics derived from both geological parents. These 10 amazing beaches showcase the best, the brightest and the most sublime sandy shores ever to rock your world!
Red Beach, Kaihalulu, Hawaii
The Red Sand Beach of Kaihalulu can be found on the Hawaiian island of Maui, south of Hana Bay on the far side of Ka'uiki Hill. The beach is relatively narrow, a factor which combined with its isolation makes it popular with nude sunbathers.
From high overhead, the Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach takes on a rusty hue reflecting the high iron oxide (rust) content in the sand eroding from an inland cinder cone. Add water, as the Pacific Ocean does with each crashing wave, and the rust-red sands take on a darker, more rufous hue.
Shell Beach, St. Barts
Every beachcomber enjoys searching for exquisite, exotic seashells while walking along the shore, and one won't have to walk far if they happen to be at Shell Beach, near Gustavia on the Caribbean island of St. Barts. A fortuitous combination of abundant marine life, strong currents and the odd hurricane has, over the centuries and millennia, driven countless seashells onto the sands of this eponymously named beach.
St. Barts boasts a surprising number of beautiful beaches for its size. Though none approach Shell Beach's ratio of shells to sand, most offer a more pleasing surface for those who choose to go shoeless.
Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia
Though many beaches sell themselves by advertising their pristine white sand, Hyams Beach in southern Australia takes the cake – with vanilla icing on top. Located 3 hours drive south of Sydney, the beach's fine, soft, powdery white sands are recognized by none other than The Guinness Book of Records as having the whitest sand in the world. Those planning a trip should put both sunglasses and sunscreen atop their "to bring" list.
The outstanding photograph above was taken by Bill Kaloudis on the north side of Hyams Beach on the shore of Jervis Bay. Even with limited light, the beach's brilliant white sands manage to reflect enough sunlight to stand out from the darker rocks at the water's edge.
Papakolea Beach, Hawaii
"Sea of blue, and beach of green…" Apologies to The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, but Hawaii's Papakolea Beach would make even the bluest Meanie grin. This exquisite emerald beach can be found at South Point in the Ka'u district on Hawaii's Big Island. Green sand beaches are exceedingly rare – the only other ones in the world can be found on the United States territory of Guam and in the Galapagos Islands.
The sands of Papakolea Beach are tinted green by crystals of olivine, a mineral common in igneous rocks but heavier and denser than black pyridoxine that is more easily washed out to sea.
Lyme Regis, Dorset, UK
From time immemorial, fossils of extinct sea creatures dating back tens or even hundreds of millions of years have been eroding out onto the beaches of Dorset, England. One of the most famous sites is Lyme Regis where fossil ammonites – tentacled cephalopods that grew to astonishing sizes – literally litter the beach. The pyritized ammonite shell above lurks among grains of beach sand from the so-called "fossil beach" at Stonebarrow, Charmouth, Dorset in the United Kingdom.
Fossils aside, the beaches in south-west England are some of the prettiest in all Europe, especially those near the village of Charmouth beneath towering Golden Cap, the highest cliff in southern England.
Punalu'u Beach, Hawaii
The deep black sands of Punalu'u Beach in Hawaii were created when hot erupting lava met cold ocean water, exploding into tiny bits. The name "Puna'lu" means "diving beach" in the native Hawaiian tongue; referring to the practice by ancestral Hawaiians of diving down to where freshwater springs poured into the ocean and filling up water jugs in times of drought on land.
The black sands of Punalu'u Beach attract more than just us humans. At Punalu'u Beach Park, green sea turtles and occasionally hawksbill turtles heave themselves onto the beach to lay their eggs in the sun-warmed black sands. It's against the law to interact with the turtles in any way, so visitors to the beach are advised to please look but don't touch.
Pink Sand Beaches, Bermuda and the Bahamas
The Pink Sands Beach in Harbour Island, The Bahamas is one of the most beautiful pink sand beaches in the world. Part of the allure is due to the pleasing combination of pastel pink sand and the shallow Caribbean water that provides a contrasting turquoise shade. The pink tint is derived from several sources, including finely ground coral and microscopic red plankton blending with white quartz and limestone sand.
The island of Bermuda is also famed for its pink beaches, in fact they are one of the British-held island's most enduring attractions.
Ramla il-Hamra Bay and San Blas Beach, Malta
Volcanic ash and golden limestone in the surrounding rocks combine to create the rich orange sands that distinguish the beaches at Ramla il-Hamra Bay and San Blas on the Maltese island of Gozo. San Blas beach is smaller and more isolated – all the better to enjoy this Mediterranean nation's soothing sunlight and unique scenic vistas.
Unlike some beautifully tinted beaches, the source of Ramla il-Hamra's orange sand is unlimited, derived from the rock that makes up the island of Gozo itself. Future generations can enjoy these beaches, well, from here to eternity!
Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur, California, USA
Pfeiffer Beach is situated beneath crumbling hills that have released, over time, billions of tiny garnet crystals. The blood-red garnets shimmer in the sand, bringing it alive with reflected sunlight. The action of the waves shapes and twists the tiny crystals into ever-changing iridescent rainbow patterns glowing pink, red, magenta and purple.
Though the world isn't necessarily as colorful as the above image would indicate, it doesn't have to be – Mother Nature has plenty of special effects of her own!
Looking out over Glass Beach today, it's hard to believe the scenic location was used as the local dump for almost 20 years. Area residents used the beach, originally owned by a lumber company, as a de facto rubbish heap from 1950 through 1967 when municipal authorities finally moved to designate an official dump site inland. Most of the heavier garbage was removed but the mighty Pacific finished the clean-up by gradually grinding down tons of broken glass into pretty, rounded pebbles.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, glass to sand? Both beach sand and glass are made of the same substance, silicon dioxide (SiO2) though sand contains bits of other rocks as well. The forces that have transformed man-made glass into natural looking pebbles and sand reflect the age-old weathering process that has occurred at the world's beaches since long before human beings even existed.