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Best summer beaches of 2004

Whether you're looking to surf, snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef or just relax on the shores of Zanzibar, has found the perfect beach for you.
Surfers walk into the water along Sydney's Bondi Beach last summer. Forbes ranked the world-famous and popular tourist surf beach as one of the best beaches to visit.David Gray / Reuters file
/ Source: Forbes

Believe it or not, some people don't like the beach. They think sand is irritating. Waves scare them. The sun is too strong. And the reception on their cell phone is lousy.

Well, this article is not for them.

But if you are the kind of person who loves the smell of the ocean, the feel of saltwater and spray on your skin, and the warmth of the sun, and you believe that sandwiches actually taste better with a little real sand in them, read on.

To begin with, there are many different kinds of beaches. If your idea of a perfect beach is a groomed sandy expanse with calm, translucent water in front and a resort in back where waiters and cabana boys attend to your every whim, you may not enjoy some of the more rugged shorelines of Africa.

For others, paradise could be surfing the high waves of Hawaii or strutting in St. Tropez or Miami's South Beach. For some people, the beach is ancillary to the shopping, dining and late-night carousing found in many resort communities. To others it is the whole point.

One of the best things about a beach vacation is that it can offer something for everyone. Looking for romance? Relaxation? A chance to spend time with the kids? Beaches have it all.

Of course, not all beaches are created equal. Or, if they were, they have been slowly spoiled by overcrowding and overbuilding. The pristine beauty of Juan-les-Pins on France's Riviera, for example, was made famous in books like F. Scott Fitzgerald's “Tender Is the Night,” but 80 years on, its natural charms are all but gone.

Although millions of Europeans still tend to flock to the beach in August for their annual summer holiday, in the U.S., only 11 percent of all domestic travelers went to the beach, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Travel Industry Association of America. The top activity for travelers in 2002 and 2001 was shopping, with 34 percent of all travelers saying that retail therapy was the primary purpose of their trip. Still, beach vacations rank higher in popularity than golf vacations, visits to national parks and theme parks.

Whether you're looking to work on your bodysurfing or just work on your tan, has a beach for you. Some, like Palm Beach and Venice Beach, are in most travelers' backyards. Others are in far-flung locales, like Fiji and Thailand. The beaches on our list vary, from tranquil lagoons like Oahu's Lanikai Beach to Ambergris Caye in Belize, where the beach is almost an afterthought to the world-class scuba diving. Some of the beaches have sugary-soft sand, while others, like Red Beach on Greece's Santorini island, have blazing-hot red and black sand from the lava rock.