Sun, sand, sea. It's a combination that never goes out of fashion, and one that can be dressed up or down to suit your mood. Ready to take it slow? A deserted beach, where waves gently wash the shore while the wind whispers through the palm fronds, fits the bill. Looking for something a bit more lively? Then head for a stretch of sand where beach bars dish up tropical cocktails to the accompaniment of a reggae soundtrack.
Blessed with so many great beaches of our own, Australians tend to be picky about where we go for a seaside holiday. If the water is not clean and the sand is not soft, or people are packed together like sardines, we are not interested. As Siobhan Bickle from the acclaimed luxury boutique hotel Halcyon House at northern NSW's Cabarita Beach says, "Who can resist the soothing sounds of waves from your room, an early morning dip or a relaxing walk along an uncrowded beach?"
But how do you find a beach that fits the bill? We turned to 10 experts in both Australia and overseas, asking hotel and resort professionals who work right next door to some of the planet's most celebrated beaches as well as experts for whom the beach plays an integral part of the working lives, to provide their picks. Their choices are surprisingly diverse – ranging from Rio to the Red Sea, Spain to Hawaii – and offer plenty of holiday inspiration.
Just don't forget to pack the sunscreen.
BEST BEST BEACH FOR A ROMANTIC GETAWAY
Yasawa Island, Fiji
"Relocating to the Fiji Islands last year gave my wife and I the opportunity to explore its 333 islands. From the main island of Viti Levu, many outer island beaches are within easy reach by boat, seaplane or helicopter. We found one of the most secluded and breathtaking beaches on Yasawa Island. We arrived with picnic and books in hand to find not a single man-made noise, just the gentle lapping of waves and palm fronds in the breeze." Martin Rogers
BEST BEACH FOR NATURE-LOVERS
Caves Beach, NSW
My family have gone to Caves Beach, near Lake Macquarie in NSW, for holidays for years. It's like a second home and I love to stay there when I have time off and just relax. The beach is named after all the caves on the coastline and at low tide you are able to walk through and explore all the caves. Phoebe O
BEST BEACH FOR GETTING ACTIVE
Ala Mana Park Beach, O'ahu
"While living and working on Hawaii's beautiful island of O'ahu, I've found that one of my all-time favourite beaches to visit is Ala Moana Park Beach. Often frequented by locals, Ala Moana Park Beach is just a quick walk or bike ride from Prince Waikiki and offers everything that I love when it comes to beaches. It's clean, well protected by the reef making the water ideal for swimming and it's an amazing place for a sunset stroll on the sand." Charles Abbott
BEST BEACH FOR GETTING AWAY FROM IT ALL
Makena Beach, Maui
"Some of the best beaches in Maui are found on its south-western shores, and Makena is my favourite. It's a long, secluded beach – I have been told it has more than 900 metres of sand – and it has huge surf and great snorkelling. I love to walk this beach and simply take in the beauty. In fact, I love it so much, I named my dog after it." Ilse Harley
BEST AFTER-HOURS BEACH
"While you need to be a strong swimmer to brave the water, there are plenty of stylish shops, bars and restaurants that line its street. Sometimes what's around the beach is just as important as what's on it! For a nice dinner near Seminyak Beach or for late-night drinks, I personally enjoy Starfish Bloo or 1 Below conveniently located at the nearby W Bali." CB
BEST BEACH FOR AN EXOTIC FAMILY HOLIDAY
Red Sea Coast, Egypt
"Egypt wouldn't be top of mind for many people as a beach destination, but its marine and coastal environments are incredibly beautiful. On our first visit we were awestruck by the whitest of sands and crystal clear aqua water. The diving and snorkelling is among the best in the world. You only need to wade in the shallow waters to see a rainbow of coral and fish species. It inspired two of the children became certified divers." MR
BEST BEACH FOR PEOPLE WATCHING
South Beach, Miami, US
"Miami's social scene revolves around the water, and South Beach is the centre of it all. It's worth the visit just to soak up the lively atmosphere from the bustling crowds, from rollerbladers and cyclists zooming along Ocean Drive to people plunging in for a swim. On a perfect day you can float and see straight to the bottom. But South Beach is as much about the action out of the water as in it. The art deco buildings lining Ocean Drive are home to lots of stylish bars and restaurants, which are busy all day and into the night." Robert Lowe
BEST BEACH FOR SUNSETS
Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"Arpoador in Rio is one of the first beaches I ever put my feet on as a young child. What I like is the different "tribes" co-existing and sharing the same piece of land, from fit senior citizens practising tai-chi-chuan to a crowd of surfers patiently waiting for the perfect wave that will make their day. Summer evenings in this spot are special, featuring nocturnal swimming, jam sessions and picnics. Locals come here to wait for the sunset, and when the sun sets behind the mountain in orange skies, it's time to applaud." Cristina Kastrup
BEST FOR CRYSTAL-CLEAR WATER
Vivonne Bay on Kangaroo Island, South Australia
"Vivonne Bay [on the south coast of Kangaroo Island overlooking the Southern Ocean] has natural clear water that is that a wonderful turquoise colour, and the long sandy beach curves around the bay. It's a beautiful place." Shane Daw
BEST BEACH FOR KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Playa de Ses Illetes, Formentera, Spain
"Unlike its sister-island Ibiza, tranquillity is the name of the game in Formentera. Cars are rarely seen, people commute on bicycles and scooters. There is not a lot of tourism infrastructure, but the laid-back hippie vibe gives this beach a special place in my heart. The landscape is stunning, with velvet white sand and clear water; people are never in a hurry; and the scent of salt permeates the island. A beachside dinner of pescado al sal – salt-baked fish – is divine." CK
BEST BEACH FOR WHITER-THAN-WHITE SAND
Lucky Bay, WA
"The sand at Lucky Bay, which is located in Cape Le Grande National Park [631 kilometres south-east of Perth] in Western Australia is the whitest in Australia and the turquoise water is crystal clear. The kangaroos on the beach also make for that picture-perfect image." Sean Scott
TAKE ME THERE: FIVE BEACHES I WANT TO VISIT
NAVAGIO BEACH, GREECE
"I've actually been to Navagio Beach [Shipwreck Beach] on the coast of Zakynthos, Greece, but I would love to return. This beach can only be reached by boat as it is enclosed between large cliffs. There is a famous shipwreck you can roam around on the beach, and combined with the beach's remoteness, its crystal-clear water and white sand, it is a spectacular experience." Phoebe O
RAINE ISLAND, PAPUA NEW GUINEA
"Raine Island, towards the border with Papua New Guinea. It is probably the most important green turtle nesting island in the southern hemisphere, where hundreds if not thousands of green turtles nest every year. Unfortunately this turtle population is under threat from fishing nets, from pollution and from climate change." Dermot O'Gorman
AMALFI COAST, ITALY
"The beaches on the Amalfi Coast. The whole scenery there looks incredible, different to anything we have here in Australia. I do think we have the best beaches in the world but for something a bit different the Amalfi Coast appeals to me." Sean Scott
STARFISH BEACH, PANAMA
"There are hundreds of them. I love beaches that are unspoiled, with not too many visitors. Some of the beaches in the Seychelles look amazing, but I saw a picture of Starfish Beach in Panama that makes it look magical." Shane Daw
A REMOTE TROPICAL ISLAND
"The beach I'd most love to visit is any beach on any remote tropical island. There's absolutely nothing better than being able to lie on soft white sand in the middle of nowhere, or sit in the line-up and have all the waves to yourself and your friends. It doesn't get any more perfect." Nikki Van Dijk
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BEACH?
"When we are on holiday with our children and grandchildren, it's never-ending white sand, crystal waters and the buzz of happy beach goers. When my wife and I are travelling alone, it's a small, secluded bay, rock pools or reef to snorkel and only the sounds of nature." Martin Rogers
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BEACH?
"The best beaches are those that are clean, relaxing, peaceful and a great place to walk." Charles Abbott
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BEACH?
"Somewhere that invites you to sit back and relax. Ideally, with white sands and clear blue water and palm trees that offer shade." Robert Lowe
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BEACH?
"The landscape obviously plays a big part – fine white sand, clean and clear water, the surrounding nature. However, intangible features such as the atmosphere, the crowd, the vibe, are what really makes a great beach." Cristiana Kastrup
WHAT MAKES A GREAT BEACH?
"Soft sand, beautiful blue waters, and beautiful views." Ilse Harley
FIVE MORE OF AUSTRALIA'S BEST BEACHES HYAMS BEACH, NSW
The Jervis Bay area offers plenty of beaches for lazing around on, but it's hard to beat this one. With calm waters and two kilometres of fine white sand, it is a great place for swimming and for stand-up paddle boarding.
RAINBOW BEACH, QLD
The perfect beach for those who hate to sit still. On Rainbow Beach, choose between going surfing, taking a horse ride or gunning it in four-wheel-drive. A 4WD trip also lets you check out the beach's famous coloured sands, which are at their most vibrant after the rain.
HAMPTON BEACH, MELBOURNE
From snorkellers exploring the reefs to swimmers doing laps, this popular beach attracts a range of visitors. During the heat of the day, the adjoining foreshore reserve has plenty of shady spots to retreat to.
GREENS POOL, WA
Western Australia's south coast is known for its wild beaches, but the beautiful Greens Pool is surprisingly tranquil. Just 15 kilometres from the town of Denmark, this sheltered bay is perfect for families, with gently sloping sand and plenty of small fish darting around the rocks.
SEMAPHORE BEACH, SA
Enjoy a healthy helping of old-school fun at this Adelaide favourite. Apart from wide frolicking on the dune-lined beach, there are plenty of other activities on offer, from a ride on a vintage carousel to a sunset stroll along the pier.
HANGING TEN: OUR BEACH REPORT PANEL
MARTIN ROGERS general manager, Hilton Fiji and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Fiji
PHOEBE O, leading Australian swimwear model
CHARLES ABBOTT general manager, Prince Waikiki hotel, Honolulu
SEAN SCOTT, Gold Coast-based ocean and wildlife photographer
ROBERT LOWE general manager, Mandarin Oriental, Miami, Florida, US
NIKKI VAN DIJK, Australian professional surfer
CRISTIANA KASTRUP general manager, Hotel Fasano Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
DERMOT O'GORMAN, chief executive, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia
SHANE DAW, national coastal risk and and safety manager, Surf Life Saving Australia
ILSE HARLEY general manager, Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla, Caribbean