Beautiful Beaches with Stunning Rock Formations

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I wouldn't describe myself as a total geology geek, but I do love a good sea stack. The world's coastlines are under constant assault from the elements; sand blasted by the wind and battered by ocean swells. Over the millennia this has created some weird and wonderful rock formations that look like the creations of an overactive imagination.

From limestone pinnacles, to towering rock arches, implausible caves to cliffs that resemble mythical beasts, these rock features create some of the most beautiful beachscapes to be found anywhere on earth.

  • El Nido // Philippines

    El Nido
    ©softlight69 / 123RF

    El Nido is an unspoilt tropical paradise often referred to as the Philippines' last frontier. Situated towards the northern tip of Palawan island El Nido is much more than just a single beach. In fact it comprises around 50 beaches set among a series of small islands, towering marble cliffs, lush tropical vegetation, ancient caves and enchanting lagoons.

    As if that wasn't enough, El Nido is the largest marine sanctuary in the Philippines with turtles, sea cows and whale sharks all native.

    Located on the northeast shores of the El Nido… read more »

  • Anse Source d'Argent // Seychelles

    Anse Source d'Argent
    ©Iakov Kalinin / 123RF

    Located in the North of La Digue island is Anse Source d'Argent beach, a little slice of tropical paradise.

    Powdery white sand is offset by towering granite boulders worn smooth by the passage of time. Palm trees sway gently in the breeze and the water is clear and blue.

    Protected by an offshore coral reef the sea here is always calm making it ideal for swimming. This makes Anse Source d'Argent is a great beach for kids who'll love exploring the craggy boulders too.

    read more »
  • Cala Goloritze // Italy

    Cala Goloritze
    ©Yesuitus2001 / CC BY

    Perhaps one of Italy's most iconic beaches, Cala Goloritzè is beautifully positioned at the base of a ravine on the north eastern coast of Sardinia. As with other beaches in the vicinity, the water here is a brilliant azure blue and crystal clear whilst the beach is bleached white by the sun.

    But it is the stunning limestone cliffside and rock formations that really sets Cala Goloritzè apart. Most notable of these is Monte Caroddi or the Aguglia, meaning "needle" which describes this 150m (500ft) high pinnacle fairly well. In addition… read more »

  • Kynance Cove // UK

    Kynance Cove

    It is a surprise not to see Kynance Cove in Cornwall on more best beach lists. It isn't exactly a secret and can be summed up in one word - stunning!

    Situated just along the coast from Lizard Point (the most southerly point in Britain) this beach has been painted and photographed countless times over the past couple of hundred years. With near white sand, turquoise waters and incredible serpentine rock formations it is not difficult to see why.

    read more »
  • Hidden Beach // Mexico

    Hidden Beach
    ©Christian Frausto Bernal

    The Marietas Islands, off Mexico's west coast are home to one of the most unusual beaches you will find anywhere. Whilst it wouldn't rank on a top 10 list of beaches for its modest stretch of (albeit very nice) sand it is has to get a mention just because of how weird and wonderful it is.

    Imagine a large cave with a beach in it - difficult I know! Now imagine a huge circular hole in the roof to let the sunlight in and you have Mexico's "Hidden Beach". To make… read more »

  • Reynisfjara beach // Iceland

    Reynisfjara beach
    ©Felix Lipov

    Reynisfjara is one of Iceland's most iconic and spectacular beaches. Located around 2 hours from the capital Reykjavik, Reynisfjara is near the village Vik in Myrdalur on Iceland's South Coast. To the southern end of the beach is the 120 meter high promontory of Dyrhólaey, Iceland's most southerly point.

    This black sand beach is a geologist's wet dream with hosts of incredible rock formations and features. Rising up out of the sand are amazing cliffs formed of basalt columns, known as Gardar. These look like some kind of crazy steps… read more »

  • Calanque d'En-vau // France

    Calanque d'En-vau
    ©Michmuch06 / CC BY

    Set on the 10 mile stretch of coastline between Marseille and Cassis in southeast France are various stunning beaches, inlets and hidden coves. The calanques are fjord-like inlets carved into the white limestone by ancient rivers that have long since disappeared underground. Of all these deep inlets none is more beautiful than Calanque d'En-vau.

    Set at the end of a deep canyon is a small stretch of pristine white pebbles and sand lapped by the gentle turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. Lush pine trees cling to the towering cliffs which… read more »

  • Durdle Door // UK

    Durdle Door

    Durdle Door is the name of the limestone rock arch at the eastern end of this sand and shingle cove. Located on Dorset's World Heritage Jurassic Coast this is just one of several geological curiosities within a stone's throw of each other.

    The beach sits at the base of high, white limestone cliffs and is only accessible from neighbouring Lulworth Cove via lots and lots of steps. This helps keep the crowds down a little!

    Durdle Door beach is renowned for its clear calm waters; along with interesting rock formations and caves,… read more »

  • Maya Bay // Thailand

    Maya Bay
    ©Iakov Kalinin / 123RF

    Virtually enclosed within towering limestone cliffs Maya Bay is one of Thailand's most spectacular and iconic beaches. The beach is situated on the island of Ko Phi Phi Ley in the Andaman Sea some 30km off the Thai coast and only accessible by boat.

    However, the 2000 Leonardo diCaprio movie, "The Beach", which put Maya Bay on the map ensuring its popularity for years to come. It is said that much damage was caused to the beach during the filming but in a strange twist of karma much of this… read more »

  • Playa de las Catedrales // Spain

    Playa de las Catedrales

    Playa de las Catedrales is subdivided into two parts by a series of majestic natural rock arches from which the beach in northern Spain takes its name. A Galician Natural Monument under its official name of Praia de Augas Santas (Beach of the Holy Waters), it is located approximately 10 kilometres (six miles) west of the town of Ribadeo.

    During high tides, Playa de las Catedrales loses much of its breadth of golden sand, although it's still possible to swim. Likewise, its cathedral-like structures can only be enjoyed at low tide,… read more »

  • Koekohe Beach // New Zealand

    Koekohe Beach

    The long sandy beach at Koekohe is famous for one thing - the Moeraki Boulders. These particularly large spherical boulders are technically known as septarian concretions. Some of the rocks measure nearly 3 metres across and most have a cracks in their surfaces making them appear like some sort of giant dinosaur eggs. The fact that they are hollow

    The traditional M?ori explanation for the rocks existence is even less likely. The legend is that they are the remains of eel baskets washed up from the wreck of the… read more »

  • Bandon Beach // USA

    Bandon Beach
    ©Andrew Soundarajan / iStock

    Bandon Beach is a wide and wild public beach. Its sands form a relatively flat surface as they head towards the Pacific, making them suitable for all sorts of games, from beach football to tag. Commonly referred to as Bandon State Natural Area, the beach is probably best known for its sea stacks - thin slivers of rock that rise majestically out of the surf and have all manner of names linked to their appearance. Most notable of these are Face Rock, Elephant Rock and Komax.

    The beach and rocks provide… read more »

  • Phra Nang // Thailand

    Phra Nang
    ©efired / 123RF

    Phra Nang is without doubt one of Thailand's most spectacular beaches. Indeed, the claim is that it is one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. On first arriving here, you might think you had stumbled over Conan Doyle's Lost World. Framed by the imposing ThaiWand Wall rising vertically from the ocean at its northern end, this surreal stretch of beach has spectacular overhanging cliffs announcing its southern limits too. The idyllic white-sand beach serves as a corridor between these two promontories tracking the calm, clear shoreline and… read more »

  • Benagil Beach // Portugal

    Benagil Beach
    ©Sven Grüne

    Like many others on the Algarve, Benagil was a small fishing village. Unlike many others Benagil has managed to retain some of its charm and a little of its industry. Along with the sandstone cliffs, clear waters and golden sand of this archetypal Algarvian cove you will find fishing boats, baskets and nets and a few of the fishermen who still work from here. Despite its appeals the beach at Benagil is rarely busy, this is largely on account of it being a little of the main tourist map and,… read more »

  • Stiniva (Vis Island) // Croatia

    Stiniva (Vis Island)

    Croatia's beaches and coastline are beginning to get a little more attention, and rightfully so. They are among the most stunning and sun-kissed in all of Europe with a growing number of accolades to back this up. Stiniva Beach was voted Europe's Best Beach in The Guardian a few years back, and with good reason.

    First and foremost, it is quite breathtaking. Generally speaking Croatia's beaches are famous for their white pebbles and sparkling azure water, but this slice of paradise takes the cake. It has an absolutely incredible feel with… read more »