When the beach beckons, it takes more than a big umbrella, a beach towel and a bottle of drinking water to get through a day under the sun.
We've scoured the shops for cool essentials. They'll make you look good and feel comfortable at the beach and help protect your skin and eyes from the sun's harmful rays.
P.S. These must-haves work poolside, too.
* Sarong. No matter what your choice -- a bikini or a one-piece suit -- the cover-up of the season is a short sarong or wrap skirt. Look for sexy knit net versions this summer.
They provide the illusion of coverage. A printed sarong can dress up a maillot or tank, giving it an exotic look that takes that swimsuit from the beach to an oceanfront restaurant with a casual dress code. An extra-large square scarf can double as a sarong if you fold it diagonally and knot the ends.
* Hair accessories. On a hot day, hair sticking to the back of the neck and shoulders can be a nuisance. Use a scrunchy to keep the hair up and away from the skin. Pull the hair through the fabric-covered elastic for a sleek ponytail. To keep bangs away from your face, try a hair band in plastic, metal or fabric. Hair rods, which look like chopsticks, can keep wavy or curly hair up in a soft chignon.
* Boardshorts. Male surfers love them on a hot day, and with good reason. Boardshorts look good wet or dry. And you don't have to be a surfer to wear them.
Like a sarong, boardshorts give enough coverage to hang around the beach. Colors are generally muted and dark, from Burgundy to forest green. Look for over-stitching, hook-and-loop closures, prints that look like tattoos, black waistbands, auto racing-stripe trim mings, Versace-inspired checks in dark colors. Watch the length, especially if you have short legs, because boardshorts can make you look shorter. Also, if you like the security of a liner usually found in swim trunks, you generally won't find it in boardshorts.
* Sunglasses. The hippest sunglasses of the season are Oakley's E-wires. The frames are slightly oval, the lenses dark. They don't come cheap. E-wires are $130. For beach sports, Bausch & Lomb's Killer Loop sunglasses have interchangeable lenses for $89. More important than style, sunglasses have quality lenses large enough to provide adequate protection for the eyes. Those chic Armani sunglasses with the round lenses slightly bigger than quarters might make you look so cosmopolitan, but save them for driving around in your Lexus or strolling down partly shaded streets.
Most reputable makers provide information on the level of protection of the lenses. Choose sunglasses based on how you intend to use them.
* Sandals. Why settle for thongs and flip-flops when sports sandals can give you a better footing? Sports sandals are like sandals with seat belts so your feet don't slide. The drawback of sports sandals: They're pricier than thongs and you just can't slip them on and walk away -- you have to strap yourself in with hook and loop closures.
* Cap. A wide-brimmed straw hat provides good protection for the face, but good luck finding a beach dude who'll wear one. A baseball cap with logos by surf wear makers won't provide any protection for the face, but it's a style statement and it covers your head.
* Sunblock. Sunscreen can make sand stick to your skin like insects on a Venus fly trap. But as its name promises, the Neutrogena no-stick sunscreen with an SPF of 30 offers a UV-barrier without the sand trap.