I felt like I was treading into troubled waters when I first suggested doing a story on the best beaches in Latin America. After all, many people feel extremely possessive of their beaches and some are even willing to come to blows over what constitutes their ideal beach: white sand or black? Private or popular? Perfect for swimming and snorkeling or better suited for lolling by the water?

I decided to turn to an expert for help, specifically Paulo Palha, founder of The Most Perfect View, a new hotel-booking site that allows users to book only the rooms with views – many of them are oceanfront – in some of the most iconic properties in the world.

So what makes the perfect beach? Here’s Paulo’s take:

“A great beach is really how each one of us feels about the elements around us: the water, the sand, the weather and the landscape,” he says. “Usually the perception of a dream beach is the white sand and the blue turquoise water in some remote island, but from my point of view, that is not the only case. Diving in the freezing waters of Cape Town with seals next to you is for me a great beach moment, while enjoying carnival in Rio de Janeiro and refreshing yourself in the waters of Ipanema is definitely another wonderful experience.”

He sums up: “All beaches can be great - it all depends on how you choose to live it.”

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Great words of wisdom. Now here’s our list. What’s on yours?

Lisa Rogak is a freelance writer and New York Times Bestselling author. Her latest book is "And Nothing But The Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert."

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