Wide sandy beaches, popular, busy beaches, secluded beaches - for most of us, the best beach is a soft white sandy beach, with a crystal clear blue sea lapping in a gentle breeze, on which our worries waft away.
Beaches are all about escape. Holidays revolve around them - other than the hotel, the most important part of many holidays is the beach. So it's important to get the beach right. When planning your holiday, think about what sort of beach you want - because, after all, beaches come in many flavours. Some are busy, so jam-packed with lilos and deckchairs and windbreakers that you will be hard pressed to find space after 10 in the morning. Others are difficult to get to, but well worth it when you do. Is the hotel 'near' the beach, or on the beach? And is there a main road in front of it, between you and the beach?
So be clear - and do your research. Sand quality is also important. The distance between Barbados and St Lucia may only be a few hundred miles, but one is black, volcanic sand, while the other is soft and white. Tarifa has windy beaches, so windy the sand can whip painfully around your legs - while Norfolk has low, flat, wet beaches - ideal for riding and walking, not so easy to swim from.
Given all this variety, there is of course no such thing as 'the best beach in the world' - though it's fun to make lists. In any case, probably 95% of the world's beaches are unknown to the journalists who write these lists. But the quest for the perfect beach remains a powerful pull for most of us. Go on holiday and find your own - and then let us know, if you can bear to share your secret...
To make sure you get to the right beach at the right time of year, check out where's hot when.