Hello, Big Sur: Pfieffer Beach offers plenty of eye candy on the California coast. Credit: Ed Bierman.

By Jennifer Olvera

All beaches share one common trait: They border a body of water. But that’s where the commonalities can end. Beaches comes in many forms – and plenty of strange colors. From Hawaii to Harbour Island, we’ve rounded up some of odd arcs of sand to consider when planning beach vacations.

Punaluu Beach Park on Hawaii’s Big Island is the site of eye-popping natural beauty where jet-black lava sand is populated by honu and endangered green sea turtles. Soak up the swaying palm-tree setting, and watch the turtles snack on algae growing from lava rock. Although not suited for swimming, it is a  walk- and picnic-worthy affair.

Meanwhile, Big Sur’s stunning, fog-hung coastline is unspoiled, rugged and beach vacation-ready. Access its purple-hued Pfeiffer Beach, which fringes Los Padres National Forest, off of California Highway 1 on the state’s Central Coast. Its color is attributed to manganese garnet deposits, courtesy of surrounding rocks.

Then again, you’ll be seeing red at hidden, cliff-flanked Kaihalulu Papakolea Beach, a little-known cove on the island of Maui. Although it’s not easy to get to, those who succeed are met with a crescent of vibrant volcanic cinder cone sediment – and maybe a flock of pterodactyl-like ‘iwa overhead.

Situated at the base of base of the Puu O Mahana cinder cone, peculiar, olive-green Papakolea Beach offers a beach vacation like no other, its sand tinged by olivine crystals. Getting there is a three-mile trek through lava fields on Hawaii’s Big Island. But the effort reaps other rewards, too: otherworldly rock formations; stunning, swimmer-beware water; and what feels like endless, undeveloped terrain.

Then again, expansive Pink Sands Beach on the Bahamas’ Harbour Island is another pitch-perfect spot, its granules a blend of pulverized coral, rocks and – most notably – pink-red, cast-off shells from Foraminifera, invertebrates found beneath neighboring rocks and reefs, in caves and on the sea floor.

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Jennifer Olvera is a Chicago-based author, editor and food enthusiast, who travels often – usually in search of her next great meal.

Tagged: Beach Vacation, Caribbean Vacation

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