Travel bloggers and writers like to write about “the perfect beach”. It’s a lie. No beach is a perfect beach. To find the right beach for you, first decide what you want to do at the beach.
The perfect tanning beach
Leaving aside the wisdom of long exposure to the sun the perfect tanning beach might be the easiest as it has less to do with the formation of the beach as it does about the amenities and the crowd. You do want a beach that is not windy and it is preferable to have a beach where the sand is soft enough that it does not hurt your feet as you walk to a beachside bar for a mojito.
I would recommend a beach with ready shade. That might be palm trees and or it might be a muscular beach attendant named Manuel who will set up a chaise longue and shade umbrella for free (or at least for a reasonable price). When Manuel will also periodically bring you a cold drink or a cold cloth then you are in the right place.
Since lying out in the sun is often more about seeing and being seen the most important ingredient may be who is on the beach. You may not be looking for the beach in Spain that led me to say “look grandma has a new bikini… I wish she would wear all of it”.
Best beach combing beach
You want a beach with lots of tidal action and sea creatures. you also want to go at low tide when you might be more likely to find great shells. Shells will tend to be less broken on a sandy beach than a rocky one.
Best beach for beach glass
This may be an obscure beach hobby but some people collect glass that has been buffeted and polished by the waves until it is smooth. Glass is not naturally occurring so you are looking for a beach that is where the locals hang out and drink beer. They have to drink enough beer so that throwing bottles into the ocean seems like a good idea. Preferably this beach has more coarse sand. Always wear footwear at this beach because there will be sharp broken glass as well.
Once you want to get in the water a great beach is going to be without a terrible undertow, jellyfish, or sharks. That may be obvious but what may be less obvious is that since you will be in the water a beach with minimum crime will also be desirable.
The perfect swimming beach
If you just want to frolic in the waves with your kids you want a beach with a soft sandy, bottom. You will want waves that break and at roughly the size of you or your child. Preferably you want a late break on the waves, near the shore, so that your kids don’t have to venture out as far.
The perfect body surfing beach
The difference between a perfect bodysurfing beach and swimming beach is that for body surfing you want a long gently sloping beach. Look for a beach where the waves start to break at least 25 or 50 feet from shore so that there is time to catch and ride the wave. You also want a beach where the angle that the waves hit the beach is shallow as possible so you don’t break your neck when you come ashore. Also, the softer the sand the better because if you ride a wave all the way in you don’t want to sand off your upper frontals on a rough bottom.
The best snorkeling beach
The best snorkeling beach has little or no wave action as the waves just kick up sand that makes visibility more difficult. A sheltering reef with water about 4-5 feet above the reef is my preference. you want the reef close enough to touch and far enough away to keep from having to touch it. Touching coral is bad for the corral and not so great for you either. if the local coral includes fire corral then I prefer a little more water between me and the corral.
Best windsurfing beach
You need wind, lots of wind. On islands with tradewinds look on the windward side of the island. Note that a good windsurfing beach is by definition a bad suntanning beach.
What is your favorite beach and what kind of beach is it?