This article offers some reflections on beach management, on the basis of the results of a survey on the recreational use of beaches and beach users' perception, which was carried out in the Metropolitan Region of Barcelona in 1992. The first part outlines the situation of the beaches, recent metropolitan beach policy and the organization of administrative bodies responsible for beach management. Survey objectives and methods are also explained briefly. In the second part, the principal results of the survey are presented and different beaches are compared in an attempt to analyse the types of users, the uses they make and the perception they have of the beaches. The conclusions identify new emerging social needs which demonstrate that new trends in beach management are also needed. Practical recommendations, related to this emerging perception of beaches as natural systems, are suggested.