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The Most Beautiful Colored-Sand Beaches in the World

Not all beaches are created equal—some are extraordinary.

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Sea, waves and pink sand
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Utterly unique—and absolutely gorgeous

The beach is an absolutely magical place. Depending on your mood, you can go there for fun, seclusion, serenity, or simply a walk. While all beaches are pretty great, let’s be honest: Some are a wee bit more amazing than others. The sun, sand, and surf may be enough to cure what ails you, but there are other things that make a beach trip one for the books. The following stunning beaches, for example, don’t have the typical white and beige sand that most do. Instead, they boast the colors of the rainbow on their shores. From orange and red to purple and black, here are some of the world’s most beautiful colored-sand beaches for your viewing pleasure. And in case you need some more daydreaming fodder, check out these beaches that travelers can’t wait to return to. Some of them even have some beautiful pink waves.

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Rocky Shores Near Bermuda's Horseshoe Bay
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Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda

Bermuda is known for its pink-sand beaches, and Horseshoe Bay Beach, one of the many beaches on the island that are open to the public, is the cream of the crop. Shaped like—you guessed it—a horseshoe and located on the south side of the island, this beach is home to bright pink sand so stunning, you can’t help but stare at it. The sand gets its pink hue from single-celled red organisms called foraminifera, which can be found in the coral reefs that are just offshore, and the turquoise water highlights the color of the sand even more. Add in some breathtaking limestone cliffs and intricate caves and you have a unique beach experience you won’t soon forget. Another thing Bermuda has going for it? It’s one of the 12 tropical islands least affected by the pandemic.

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Pfeiffer Beach Rocks, Purple Sand and Sunset
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Pfeiffer Beach, California

If you thought that you’d need to go outside the United States to find a beach with brightly hued sand, think again. Pfeiffer Beach, located in California’s Big Sur region, has stunning purple sand, due to quartz and manganese garnet deposits that come down from the mountains. While traces of purple can almost always be seen, it becomes more visible after a storm with heavy rains. And if the purple sand isn’t gorgeous enough, the beach is dotted with tide pools and has several natural arches that make for great photo ops. While fans would say that Pfeiffer Beach is pretty perfect all year long, check out these 14 beaches that are better in the fall.

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Hawaii Green sand beach (Papakōlea) the must-see beach of Big Island
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Papakōlea Beach, Hawaii

This beach on the Big Island boasts a one-of-a-kind color: olive green. The color of the sand is due to a type of lava crystal called olivine, which stays on the beaches because of its weight, allowing the sand to stay green through and through. The best part about this beach, though, is its location. Located in Hawaii’s Kau district, Papakōlea Beach is very secluded. It can be reached only via a three-mile hike, which will allow it to keep its beauty as long as time will let it. Here are more of the best beaches in Hawaii to visit in your lifetime.

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Reynisfjara Beach
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Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland

Home to the Blue Lagoon and stunning waterfalls, Iceland also has a unique beach unlike anything else you’ve probably seen. A little more than 100 miles from Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, Reynisfjara Beach features black sand, courtesy of eroded volcanic rocks. The juxtaposition of the black sand, the greenery that surrounds the beach, and the ocean water is a sight to be seen—and Instagrammed. However, the ocean is extra rough in this part of the world, so it’s better to take a step back. It’s easier to enjoy the view that way, anyway.

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High up view of famous Red Beach, Santorini, Greece
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Red Beach, Greece

While Greece may be known for its extra white beaches and deep blue waters, the country is full of surprises. Red Beach, located in Santorini, has sand that is a deep shade of, well, red. The color comes from a combination of black and red pulverized volcanic rock. It’s breathtaking on its own, but if that’s not enough, the beach is surrounded by steep red hills as far as the eye can see. Rent a sunbed and umbrella for your day on the beach, and head out for some fantastic snorkeling. Does this make you want to plan a trip overseas when life gets back to normal? Fill out your itinerary with these 12 amazing things you should absolutely do in Greece.

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View of Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta.
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Ramla Bay, Malta

A deep burnt-orange color, Ramla Bay Beach in Malta is located on a fertile valley, and its sand color is reportedly the result of coral and oxidized limestone deposits. Surrounded by greenery, this beach is also very historical: Roman remains are said to be buried in and around the area. Additionally, according to legend, it is the home of the Calypso Cave, where the nymph Calypso kept Odysseus as a “prisoner of love” for seven years in The Odyssey. Malta also happens to be among the best places to retire around the world.

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Aerial view of woman floating in turquoise sea, Pink Sand Beach, Barbuda, Caribbean
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Pink Sands Beach, Bahamas

If you thought pink sand was reserved for Bermuda, think again. Pink Sand Beach in the Bahamas is a popular vacation spot—and you can see why. Like Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay Beach, the pink sand on this three-mile-long beach is also formed by microscopic coral insects known as foraminifera. Surrounded by calm turquoise waters, this area is a scuba diver’s paradise. It may be hard to leave the perfectly pretty-in-pink surroundings to explore the sea, though. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Here are 20 more gorgeous beaches with the clearest water in the world—including another one in the Bahamas.

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porto ferro beach on a cloudy day
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Porto Ferro Beach, Italy

This beach in Sardinia, where Italians like to vacation themselves, is not only orange—it is virtually neon. The sand gets its interesting hue from a mixture of shells that decompose on the shore, which is located on the northwest section of the island. Stunning blue waters accent the sand as well, and with the added backdrop of dark green pine trees, the beach is a photoshoot waiting to happen. While you’re making your bucket list, consider these other 15 beautiful Mediterranean islands. Perhaps an island-hopping tour is in order when the pandemic is over!

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Usa, Californie, Fort Bragg. Glass Beach
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Glass Beach, California

OK, this isn’t technically sand, but it is stunning, and we think it’s worth a mention on this list. The sand on Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California, is covered with—you guessed it—sea glass. How did it all get there? According to legend, it was formed from mermaid tears, shed whenever a sailor was lost at sea. In reality, the sea glass is a product of long-ago and decades-long pollution, something that started after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake when garbage needed to be removed before the area could be rebuilt. After being tumbled in the ocean for years, the glass debris became smooth, shiny, and spectacular. The varied colors come from whatever bottles, pottery, and china they were once upon a time.

If you happen to visit Glass Beach, look and touch…but don’t take! Visitors have taken some of the more colorful pieces as mementos over the years, diminishing the beach’s bounty. For more travel inspiration, check out these 13 beautiful photos of beaches that naturally glow.