More than mere sun, sand, and surf, these world famous beaches make for some of the most unique travel destinations imaginable.
Everyone loves a good beach holiday. The warmth of the sand compressed between bare toes ... the sea's undulating curtain of glistening diamonds and sapphires, bursting into life under the brilliant rays of the hot sun ... the gentle lapping of the ocean as it rushes up the beach to welcome you … From sunrise strolls and midday meanders through the palm trees, to dusk dips and late night lounging around on sand still laced with warmth from the day, the beach is a quintessential holiday destination, ideal for embracing the summer or escaping the winter.
But not all beaches necessarily fit this paradisal image. Many instead boast an interesting history that more than compensates for the rolling white sand that, in popular culture, seems to have become a beach’s sole measure of worth. Today, we're celebrating those unusual beaches that whisper their secrets through sea spray laced wind that reverberates off uncharacteristic natural forms. From island paradises and secluded beaches to volcanic sand and weather-beaten formations, these destinations have something for everyone. After all, it's not for nothing that they've become some of the top holiday destinations for globetrotters everywhere!
Yet with popularity comes risk of exposure to careless treatment. These unique beaches make the list of the Scrubba wash bag's favourites not only for their beauty and individuality, but also because, in representing the diversity of global ecosystems, they are ideal for reminding us of the importance of environmental conservation and the responsibilities of every traveller to respect the landscapes they visit. Check them out below.
Reynisfjara Shore – Iceland
Iceland is renowned for dramatic, wild landscapes, and its south coast doesn't break from tradition. A trip here will bring one into the vicinity of Reynisfjara Shore, famous for its beautifully unique pebble and black sand and beaches, courtesy of the country’s extensive volcanic activity. As if that weren’t enough, the beach is also lined with impressively rugged basalt columns resembling rocky pyramids that serve as home to countless species of birds, and hosts numerous basalt sea stacks that protrude eerily through the rough waters.
With its unique landscape and unpredictable waves – visitors are warned to be particularly careful around the shoreline due to risk of being swept into the ocean – it's hardly surprising that local folklore abounds. These tales only amplify the uniqueness of the area, imbuing Reynisfjara Shore with an unparalleled sense of the natural and cultural world. Iceland's official tourism Instagram account does it's best to capture the unique beauty of the region's intriguing volcanic black sand and basalt stack combination - just enough to leave you desperate to see it with your own eyes!
Playa Del Amor (Hidden Beach) – Mexico
Not to belie its name, this secluded beach in the Marietas Islands off the coast of Puerto Vallarta is so hidden that it can only be reached by swimming or kayaking through an underwater tunnel. Accidentally created in the wake of bombings in the early 1900s, the area has since been converted from a military test site to a national conservation area that remains relatively untouched by tourism due to its remoteness. Complete with unique flora and fauna and picturesque coral reefs, Playa Del Amor would easily conform to most people’s typical ideas of a beach, if not for its total seclusion inside an isolated cavern that can itself only be reached after an hour boat ride from the mainland. Check it out on Visit Mexico's Instagram.
When you find a beach in a unexpected place 🏖 📷 @travelcoffeecr #IslasMarietas #RivieraNayarit #Nayarit #visitmexico #mexico #AWorldOfItsOwn #beach #beachlove #beachvibe #mexicodesconocido #hiddenmexico #instatravel #wanderlust Are you loving Mexico? Tag your shots with #MexicoLove or #FoundInMexico for a chance to be featured on our page.
Praia das Catedrais "Cathedrals Beach" – Spain
Located along the Costa de Galicia in north-west Spain, this beach has - presumably over a nearly immeasurable amount of time - been carved into a series of staggeringly impressive sculptures and formations by the ceaseless pounding of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the only constant within this forever changing landscape seems to be the power that the waves continue to wield over the shore, forever shaping the land and imbuing it with unique characteristics that reflect the movements of the tide.
Praia das Catedrais is so unique because the beach, almost entirely swallowed by the sea at high tide, divulges a labyrinth of natural caves, tunnels, and crevices during those periods when the water recedes and briefly takes a rest from its ongoing assault on the ever-evolving rock face. Boasting natural art that never fails to create powerful impressions, it is this unusual, highly transitory topography, coupled with the infinite perspectives and equally infinite secrets that this beach offers at various times, that renders it such an important jewel in the Spanish tourism crown. The below photo from the Turismo de Galicia Instagram account offers just a glimpse of the stunning formations that rise proudly from the depths of "Cathedrals Beach".
Rabida Island – Galapagos, Ecuador
With deep red sand resembling the centre of a parched desert, it’s almost easy to forget you’re located on a tiny island in the heart of the Galapagos when you ramble along the beautiful beaches of Rabida. Home to significant volcanic activity, the island has been abundantly exposed to the iron oxide and magnesium that are typical of Galapagos’ basaltic lava. It is these materials that are responsible for the rich, earthy tones of the island. The site is also abundant in marine life, with the unusually vibrant shoreline doing nothing to deter the plethora of spot fur seals and sea lions that frequently adorn it. In addition to seals, a number of birds, such as the Galapagos Hawk, pink flamingos, and brown pelicans, dot the landscape, while the seas below teem with colourful fish and white-tipped sharks, just begging to be explored by eager snorkelers. You can get a taste of the insane colour scheme and friendly fauna that characterise this delightful island beach in Silver Cruise's Instagram feed.
Glass Beach - USA
Located in MacKerricher State Park in Fort Bragg, California, the famous Glass Beach conceals, behind its impressive exterior, a bit of a tragic story. Once an immense dump, the shining crystals that now litter the beach are the remnants of innumerable glass bottles and cans, worn smooth by water, wind, and the passage of time. Nevertheless, the beach today houses some unique flora and fauna and, like the Playa Del Amor mentioned earlier on this list, is a striking example of the degree to which nature is capable of exerting its own power, utterly engulfing and reclaiming the ruins of detrimental human influence in order to transform them into something simultaneously phenomenal and hauntingly majestic. Don't believe us? Check out the below shot from the Visit Mendocino Instagram account.
Although there are plenty of other intriguing and unique beaches that could have made it onto this list, these five represent some of the world's most popular and are our absolute favourites because they provide such a detailed glimpse into the beauty, mysticism, and raw power that beach landscapes have to offer. Much more than soft sand and buoyant waves, each beach, from island paradise to secluded shoreline, forms its own mini ecosystem that showcases something new and different. So look a little deeper and wander a little further on your next trip to the beach. Even if your chosen location doesn’t, at first glance, seem to declare its individuality with quite as much vigour as those above, something exciting is bound to wash up in no time!