The surface profile of water waves propagating in shoaling water approaches the solitary waveform before wave breaking. The effect of the high non-linearity of solitary waves may be very significant on bed forms induced in the nearshore zone. In this study, experiments on bed form generation beneath solitary waves are carried out in a 10-m-long flume used in resonant mode. Solitary waves are generated in shallow water on the background of a standing harmonic wave. One solitary wave (soliton) propagates in each direction of the flume on the time period of the flow, above an initially flat sandy bed. Ripples form rapidly on the bed and a strong interaction with the free surface occurs. The amplitude of the soliton and the phase shift between the soliton and the harmonic wave decrease with time, while the ripple amplitude increases. The amplitude of the harmonic wave is not affected by the ripples. The final ripple wavelength is about 1000 times the sand median diameter. Bars with superimposed ripples appear, with bar crests being positioned beneath the nodes of the standing wave, when bars form with crests beneath the antinodes of surface wave for standing waves without solitons. The Eulerian drift distribution in the flume is not affected by the propagation of solitons. We propose an energy balance for solitons propagating in shallow water above flat beds in which a term for the dissipation due to sand ripples is introduced, which defines a coefficient of interaction between solitons and ripples.