OK, so it’s not technically a beach, but the lava pools on the remote, northwestern tip of Madeira Island are one of the most beautiful places to take a dip in the ocean, anywhere. Surging out of the Atlantic more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) west of Morocco, Madeira is the craggy tip of a giant volcano. The last eruption was more than 6,000 years ago but sometime before then, molten lava oozed down to the sea and solidified to form black rock pools beside the former whaling community of Porto Moniz.
The pools are refilled with seawater — and some decorative sea creatures — at high tide. Madeira’s subtropical climate means all-year bathing in the pools’ clear, blue water. The pool complex offers 3,800 square meters (41,000 square feet) of swimming space including a kids’ pool.
There are broad zones for sunbathing from where you can gaze up at the amphitheater of black cliffs that soar up above the village. A short walk away, there are wilder, deeper pools besides the little fort which was built in 1730 to deter pirates, and now houses an aquarium showcasing Atlantic life.