In the northern hemisphere, summer is winding down. But it’s not over yet. Now’s the time to seize the final, fleeting days of warm weather and hit the sand and surf. Forget those same old crowded beaches—all over the globe there are secluded strips of sand with nary a soul in sight. From red sand beaches hidden far from the beaten path, to stunning sandbars sitting beneath rocky natural cathedrals, there are all sorts of little-known shores that each have their own amazing sights and quirks. Check out our collection of 10 of the world’s best hidden beaches, and then get out there and find them.
1. THE BATHS
Spanish Town, British Virgin Islands
The huge boulders that cover the section of Virgin Gorda Island’s beach known as The Baths form a stunning network of natural caves and grottos. The path to the beach is fairly clearly defined, but thanks to the twisting caverns in The Baths, it can seem like you are the first person to discover their hidden wonder.
2. PAPAKOLEA BEACH
Mountain View, Hawaii
Hawaii’s Papakolea Beach is a small strip of shore located near the southernmost tip of the island chain, and while it is incredibly hard to get to, it’s certainly worth seeing—the little cove is the only green sand beach in Hawaii. The green sand is a product of nearby volcanic activity that forced large amount of the mineral olivine to the surface, which turned the beach its unusual shade. Getting there can take miles of hiking, or off-roading, but if you get to see this secret beach, others might turn green from envy.
3. BEACH OF THE CATHEDRALS
While knowledge of the beautiful Beach of the Cathedrals (As Catedrais Playa) is not uncommon, the beach is often hidden beneath the high tide, revealed again only once the waters recede. The Spanish spot is so named thanks to the natural stone arches that resemble holy arches extending out off of the sea cliffs. Time it right and the beach is an incredible geological walk. Time it wrong, and the sand is just another seabed.
4. TUNNEL BEACH
Dunedin, New Zealand
New Zealand’s Tunnel Beach got its name form an obvious source: the tunnel that allows people access to the secluded inlet. The tunnel, which is dug right through the natural rock, is actually a manmade feature, added in the 1870s to make it easier for people to get to the sand. To this day it remains the only way to access the beach by foot. But to even get to the tunnel, curious beach-hunters need to hoof it across private farmland.
5. RED BEACH AT MJELLE
According to the locals of Bodø, Norway, the strange red color of the sands of Mjelle Beach is the product of garnet dust. This story is a slice of superstition, but that doesn’t diminish the spectacular color of the sand on this secluded beach, which lies about 13 miles from the city.
6. BOULDERS BEACH PENGUIN SANCTUARY
Cape Town, South Africa
This small South African beach reserve is home to one of the world’s only colonies of “jackass penguins,” who mill about the boulder-covered shore in the thousands. The endangered African penguins that call this beach home got their nickname thanks to their trademark annoying squawk. As one of the few places in the world where they still get together on the mainland, this rocky beach is a strange-but-true location that most travelers never even hear about.
7. NAVAGIO BEACH
Located in a tight little cove on the Greek island of Zakynthos, Navagio Beach holds not only a beautifully secluded patch of beach, but also the rusting hulk of a crashed smuggler’s ship. The vessel ran aground in 1983 while on the run from authorities, giving the location the nickname Smuggler’s Cove. The contrast of the brown hulk against the bright blue water makes this already gorgeous beach even more beautiful.
8. LEGZIRA BEACH
Tiznit Province, Morocco
The two massive red stone arches that give Morocco’s Legzira Beach its unique character attract their fair share of visitors, but considering its remote Moroccan location, you are unlikely to meet many people who have actually been there. Like other beach arches, during high tide, the beaches become inaccessible, but during low tide you can stroll beneath the huge sedimentary portals like you are exploring the ancient shores of Mars.
9. THE ROCKS
Palm Coast, Florida
Florida is known for its long, flat beaches, perfect for vacation and resort relaxation, but there is a geological formation in Washington Oaks State Park that makes the shore more intriguing than other sand spots in the state. Known to the locals as simply, “The Rocks,” these rippling stones are hidden and revealed based on the storm cycle, which can bury them under sand and water, only to uncover them again later. With luck, visitors can catch this fleeting formation.
10. HIDDEN BEACH
The epitome of a hidden beach, the Playa Del Amor in Mexico’s Marieta Islands is only accessible via a sea tunnel linking the interior of the small island to the Pacific Ocean. The picturesque beach may have formed as a product of bomb testing by the Mexican military, although this has not been proven. Nonetheless, the secluded beach is essentially something out of a romance novel, so don’t feel bad if you fall in love with it.