13 Instagram-worthy beaches for the adventure junkie

Not all beaches are long stretches of sandy paradise hugging the coast of gently lapping seawater. Some lie against a backdrop of white marbled cliffs while others are hidden in the middle of a cave! Just as no two fingerprints are made equal, beaches are the perfect example of how the land shapes and forms at the whim of powerful bodies of water.

Here are 13 unique beaches for the explorer in you, and yes they are Instagram-worthy.

1. Hidden Beach

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: The Marieta Islands by Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

True to its name, this beach lies out of sight, just beneath a large hole in the ground. Beachgoers can only access the beach by swimming through a cave when sea and weather conditions are optimal. According to Vallarta Adventures, this beach was formed by a collapse of the volcanic rock that makes up the island.

2. Glacier Lagoon Jokulsarlon

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Borders of Vatnajokull National Park, Iceland

Most of the beaches in Iceland boast of glistening stretches of black sand because of volcanic activity in the country. This particular Icelandic beach however, is home to massive chunks of white glassy ice. The chunks, which are broken bits of ice cold glaciers, contrast beautifully on the black sand.

3. Bahia Gardner

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: EspaƱola Island, Galapagos

Located in the southernmost part of the Galapagos Archipelago, this island is also known by its English name, Hood Island. The island is one of the oldest in the region, at around four million years old and is home to sea lions, red lava lizards, and EspaƱola mockingbirds.

4. Mosquito Bay

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: Vieques, Puerto Rico

If travelling all the way to the 60th parallel to catch a glimpse of dancing northern lights is your idea of an adventure, this nautical version would definitely make the cut. Paddlers on Mosquito Bay will experience a trail of neon blue lights every time the canoe breaks the water surface. This happens when microorganisms known as dinoflagellates, are disturbed in the water.

5. Glass Beach

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Kauai, Hawaii/ Fort Bragg, California

Glass beaches are the perfect examples of nature's reclamation efforts. These two locations were previously used as industrial dump sites, but after a massive clean-up and years of erosion, discarded glass pieces were smoothen over to produce a glossy sheath exterior, turning into sea glass.

6. Giants Causeway Beach

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: County Antrim, Northern Ireland

At first glance the Irish legend of two giants building the bridge connect Scotland and Ireland almost seems believable. The nearly perfect hexagonal basaltic columns are in fact a result of intense volcanic activity in the region.

7. Green Sand Beach

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Papakolea Beach/Mahana Beach, South Point, Ka'u, Hawaii

What's so special about it: Thanks to the mineral olivine, which comes from the nearby cinder cone, this peculiar beach sparkles a brilliant green. It's only one of the four beaches in the world with bright green sand, the others being Talofofo Beach, Guam, Punta Cormorant on Floreana Island in the Galapagos Islands, and Hornindalsvatnet, Norway.

8. Tunnel Beach

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Dunedin, New Zealand

What better way to gaze out across the great southern ocean than to stand high above the sandstone cliffs of Dunedin? The jagged coastline overlooks Tunnel Beach, a coveted gem that would be inaccessible if not for the 1870s hand carved passageway leading into it. The journey through the rock makes an enlightening one, with shell fragments, bones and fossils of prehistoric origins embedded in the narrow arch.

9. Star Sand Beach

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: Irimote Island, Okinawa, Japan

These unusually shaped "sand" are actually exoskeletons of foraminiferans, microscopic marine organisms, washed up on shores. These organisms are believed to date back to 550 million years ago and is one of the oldest fossils known to man.

10. Pink Sand Beach

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Harbour Island, Bahamas

You must be well acquainted with the magical qualities of microorganisms by now. In this case, the pinkish glow of the Harbour Island's beach is attributed to tiny microscopic animals known as Foraminifera. The organism has a bright red shell, and when washed up by the waves onto the beach, they mix with the powdery sand to produce a gentle shade of pink that would make Barbie proud.

11. Beach of the Cathedrals

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: Ribadeo, Galicia, Spain

Mother Nature displays her best performance yet at this beach. Come low tide, any beachgoer will be blown away by the imposing rock arches that front the coastline, giving credence to its name. The beach, which can only be accessed during low tide, can be entered via narrow grottos. The more adventurous can also try their hand at some natural rock climbing for a more spectacular sea view.

12. Scala Dei Turchi

Photo: Shutterstock.com

Where: Realmonte, Sicily

Cutting into the clear turquoise water off Sicily's southern coast is a massive white marlstone boulder, smoothed by years of wind erosion. Its name, which translates to Turkish Steps, has violent origins, in which Arab pirates - referred to as "Turks" - once anchored their boats in the coast during their plundering days. These days, the boulder is frequently used a favourite sunbathing spot and a diving board for thrill seekers.

13. Benagil Sea Cave/ Cave Beach

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Where: Algarve, Portugal

Not to be confused with Hidden Beach in Vallarta, Mexico, this Portugese beauty on the Algarve coastline is a dome-shaped sea cave carved from the surrounding limestone cliffs. There's no need for lofty beach umbrellas here, with a rocky dome overhead a powdery golden beach. The best photo opportunity has to be under the cave's aperture when sunlight streams through, casting a natural spotlight.