A Beach of a Different Color

Close your eyes and imagine digging your toes in the sand as you gaze out over a beautiful beach landscape. Now look down. What color is the sand you’re standing on? Just your average beige? How boring. Instead, picture yourself at one of these 21 shorelines, where you’ll find stunning beaches in almost every color of the rainbow.
By: Hannah Prince
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RAINBOW: Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA

This popular tourist spot is a former city dump site, but the multicolored glass from bottles and other trash was eventually crushed and smoothed by the waves. Unfortunately, many visitors come to collect pieces of the sea glass, carrying them away by the bagful or bucketful (even though it’s prohibited), so the beach’s namesake commodity is disappearing.

ORANGE: Ramla Bay, Gozo, Malta

The Maltese name for this Mediterranean island destination, Ramla il-Hamra, may mean “red sands,” but the shoreline actually appears fiery orange. The Virgin Mary statue that looks over the beach was built in 1881 to commemorate a shipwreck. 

PURPLE: Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, CA

Big Sur is full of majestic views, but Pfeiffer Beach is arguably one of the best. Hidden down a narrow, unmarked road, it nevertheless attracts countless photographers, thanks to its picturesque stone arch and the violet striations in its sand.

GRAY: Ocean Cape Area, Gulf of Alaska

The Gulf of Alaska’s shores have miles of gray sand near Yakutat, an isolated town with just 700 residents. The coast is also covered with driftwood that tends to wash up during violent winter storms. The area is part of Tongass National Forest and adjacent to Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.

RED: Cavendish Beach, Prince Edward Island, Canada

The focal point of Prince Edward Island National Park is often considered to be among the best beaches in Canada. Nearby, visitors will find the historic house that inspired the setting of L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables.

BLACK: Black Sand Beach, Vik, Iceland

Beachgoers will certainly not want to take a dip in the water at this beach in southern Iceland. Aside from the temperature, Vik is also one of the rainiest towns in the country. But those who brave the weather are rewarded with gorgeous views of black sand, rock formations and maybe even a flock of puffins.

GREEN: Kourou, French Guiana

Kourou might not be much of a travel destination, but that makes its rare-colored beach all the more special and undiscovered. The coastal town in French Guiana, which sits on the northern border of Brazil, is known mostly for its space center.

DARK BROWN: Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA

You might call most beaches “brown,” but they aren’t the dark chocolate brown of Rockaway Beach near San Francisco. Stop here as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to gaze at the pounding waves and rocky shoreline. Mori Point, a tall bluff at the north end of the beach, makes the view postcard-perfect.

PINK: Rangiroa Atoll, French Polynesia

A string of hundreds of islets surround a sizable lagoon to form Rangiroa, one of the largest atolls in the world. While remote, it is serviced by regular flights from Tahiti. The deserted, blush-colored beach is called Les Sables Roses, or “the Pink Sands.”

WHITE: Hyams Beach, New South Wales, Australia

Sure, plenty of beaches are billed as having white sand. But the absolute whitest sand — at least according to Guinness World Records — is at Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay, about 120 miles south of Sydney. The turquoise waters aren’t bad, either, and offer amazing diving, snorkeling and whale-watching opportunities.

RED: Kaihalulu Beach, Maui

This isolated stretch of coastline, also called simply Red Sand Beach, is near Hana, along Kaihalulu Bay. The source of the rough, rust-colored sand is the cinder cone behind it, whose cliffs also make it a very treacherous hike down to the water.

GRAY: Shelter Cove, Humboldt County, CA

There’s so much beauty to discover at this spot on Northern California’s mostly undeveloped, 80-mile-long Lost Coast. The smoky color of the sand comes from eroding shale cliffs along the shore. But the sand isn’t the only gray attraction here; you may also spot migrating gray whales, as well as seals and sea lions.

PINK: Balos, Crete, Greece

The Greek island of Crete has a number of amazing beaches, but none are prettier than Balos, which sits on an aqua-blue lagoon. Millions of crushed shells create its pink hue. Catch a ferry from the Kissamos port to discover this pristine landscape, which is also home to plenty of wildlife.

GREEN: Papakolea Beach, Big Island, HI

From a distance, it would be easy to think that this remote beach is covered in moss. The green color comes from olivine, a mineral deposited into the sand by the adjacent cinder cone. Papakolea, aka Mahana Beach, is on the southern tip of the largest Hawaiian island.

BLACK: Playa Negra, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

This spot — whose name (predictably) translates to “Black Beach” — is on the southeastern shore of Costa Rica, near the town of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca. Families love it for its calm waters and safe swimming. Even beyond the color, the sand has another interesting quality: Thanks to its iron content, it’s magnetic. 

ORANGE: Porto Covo, Portugal

A small former fishing village about 2 hours south of Lisbon, Porto Covo has not only phenomenal burnt-orange beaches, but also great waves for surfing. When you’re worn out, stick around for the sunset to watch the sky turn orange as well.

WHITE: Clearwater Beach, FL

The water isn’t the only thing that’s immaculate on this barrier island on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Families come from far and wide to play on the soft, powdery sands. And with an average of 361 sunny days a year, there’s plenty of time to enjoy all the beach has to offer, including the daily Sunsets at Pier 60 festival.

PINK: Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

This stretch of about 3 miles is famous for its turquoise waters and pastel pink sand. The latter color comes from the red shells of microscopic marine animals called foraminifera. Harbour Island also features a number of luxury resorts, as well as outlying reefs that are great for diving and snorkeling.

RED: Kokkini Beach, Santorini, Greece

This famous Greek spot on the southern coast of the island is well-known for its striking volcanic cliffs. To get to the appropriately nicknamed Red Beach, you can park nearby and walk about 10 minutes, or you can arrive by boat instead. Either way, you’ll want to stay to watch the gorgeous sunset

BLACK: Punalu'u Beach, Big Island, HI

You may have to share the black volcanic sands of Punalu’u Beach with the sea turtles that come to bask in the sun (just don’t touch; they’re protected). You may also have some company of the human variety, since it is among the most popular and accessible colored beaches in Hawaii.

WHITE: Angaga Island, Maldives

Part of the Ari Atoll, Angaga Island houses a resort with romantic overwater bungalows, a spa, a dive center and wide, sugar-white beaches all around. The resort strives not only to preserve the natural beauty of the island, but also to maintain its local Maldivian character.