It's not easy putting together a list of the best beaches in the world, because everybody likes something different. Some look for seclusion and privacy whilst others crave the opportunity to see and be seen. Black sand, white sand or no sand; west coast sunsets or east coast sunrises; rolling surf or tranquil waters; you see? It's impossible.
But we've done our best to find something for everyone. Below are some of what we consider to be the best beaches, depending on what you are after.
When the colour of the sand is a feature
You'd be forgiven for thinking that everyone's priority is a stunning white sandy beach but for some, the appeal of black sand in places such as Honokalani Beach in Maui is that it is composed of crushed lava fragments and volcanic minerals. In fact, when lava flows into the ocean, it can contain sufficient fragments of basalt that a new black sand beach can be created in a single day!
If you're really keen on white sand for its apparent purity and beauty, then you probably need to book yourself a holiday in Bora Bora, Tahiti where the powdery beaches and turquoise water are practically luminescent.
In Australia, Whitehaven Beach offers a 7-kilometre stretch of pearly white sand on Whitsunday Island. Idyllic in its seclusion, it is only accessible by boat from the mainland.
Meanwhile, in Tasmania, Wineglass Bay lives up to its name thanks to its crescent shape and the clarity of the sparkling water. The white sand is as much a drawcard as the rest of the pristine environment that surrounds the bay.
Pebbly beaches have their very own appeal
What if there's no sand? Well, the beauty of billions and billions of ocean-polished pebbles cannot be denied and pebble beaches are not exactly abundant. The Philippines is home to Mabua Pebble Beach and features a 1-kilometre shoreline of variously sized pebbles. The closer you edge to the waterline, the smaller they are. Some say that a pebble beach feels more 'zen-like' and that the gentle curves of the stones is calming and peaceful.
Near Canterbury in New Zealand is Birdling's Flat, where swimming is ill-advised – unless you're a seal! The attraction here is the sheer abundance of different coloured pebbles, all as individual as the stars in the night sky, and fun to collect and ponder over in moments of contemplation.
The best beaches for celebrity-spotting
Those gloriously wealthy celebrities … they know a good beach when they see one! Happily for the star struck, celebrities will still sometimes choose to holiday on one of what we think are the best beaches in the world, even if they don't offer 100 per cent privacy from the paparazzi. One such spot is South Beach, Florida in the USA. A known haunt for the Kardashian and Jenner clans, the beach is lined with opulent hotels with swimming pools. But if you long for a dip in the ocean to show off that bikini bod, the beach is where it's at.
Voted one of the 10 best in the world by the TV program Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Crane Beach in Barbados attracts the likes of Simon Cowell, the Beckhams and Hugh Grant. In Mexico, it has to be Los Cabos where Jennifer Aniston, J. Lo and Cameron Diaz have all laid out a towel and caught some rays.
East or west, what you choose is best
Of course the sun rises in the east and sets in the west so if you want to wake up early to catch the sunrise, you'd better be hanging out where you get a bird's eye view of the east. Try Poipu Beach in Kauai, Hawaii. After watching the glorious sunrise, you can settle in for the day and explore the natural ocean wading pool or plonk yourself under a palm tree and bliss out. For an east coast Aussie start to your day, it has to be Bondi Beach in Sydney where the reflections on the sand as the water ebbs and flows change second by second and the mist over the ocean is appropriately golden.
One of the best beaches in the world for sunsets – if tourism numbers is anything to go by – is Santorini in Greece where the kaleidoscopic colours over the Aegean Sea are literally mesmerising. Even the beaches themselves are colourful with their black and red volcanic pebbles. Perch yourself on Perissa Beach with a loved one and don't blink or you'll miss seconds of one of the most fabulous sunsets planet Earth has to offer.
Too many surf beaches to mention
Isn't nature a wonderful thing? The way it brings waves crashing to the shore long ago gave rise to the sport known as surfing and the best beaches in the world for surfing are the subject of debate everywhere. We'll just mention a few to whet the appetite for rolling in the deep. Let's see … Jeffrey's Bay, South Africa; Santa Cruz, California; Bells Beach, Australia; Kuta Beach, Bali; Playa Naranjo, Costa Rica; Mentawai Islands, Indonesia; and for a wildcard, Thurso in Scotland which is purely for those brave hearts who dare to tackle the breaks.
Easy does it in calm waters
If calm waters are more your speed, then the options are just as many. You couldn't possibly overlook the Maldives with its crystal clear water and classic palm tree dotted shoreline. Or consider Aitutaki in the Cook Islands with its overwater bungalows and "the world's most beautiful lagoon" with its white sand beaches and transparent water. Or, float your body in the sweet tranquillity of Comino Island that sits between Malta and Gozo in the Mediterranean.
Whatever floats your boat or spins your wheels!
When deciding which of the best beaches in the world to visit, you first need to decide what you really want to do there. Showing off your expensive designer swimsuit isn't going to be as fun in Wineglass Bay as it would in South Beach. And if you're taking your surfboard on holidays with you, then you certainly wouldn't be happy looking out at the calm water from your Bora Bora over-water accommodation.
There are many options - you just have to make the decision!