Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, and it boasts some of the most stunning and diverse beaches in the country. Whether you are looking for white sand and turquoise water, secluded coves and rocky cliffs, or lively resorts and water sports, you will find something to suit your taste and budget on this island. Here are some of the best beaches in Crete and what they have to offer.
Elafonisi Beach is one of the most popular and picturesque beaches in Crete, located on the southwest coast of the island. It is famous for its sparkling white sand with a pinkish hue, which comes from crushed shells and coral. The beach is actually a peninsula that connects to a small islet by a shallow lagoon, where you can walk or swim across. The water is clear, calm and shallow, making it ideal for families with children. The islet has some dunes, cliffs and coves to explore, as well as a lighthouse and a chapel. You can also enjoy panoramic views of the beach and the sea from the top of the dunes.
Elafonisi Beach has plenty of facilities for visitors, including umbrellas, sunbeds, showers, toilets, changing rooms, lifeguards, parking and a few snack bars. You can also rent kayaks, paddle boards and other water sports equipment. The beach can get very crowded in the summer months, especially on weekends and holidays, so it is advisable to arrive early or late in the day to avoid the peak hours. Alternatively, you can walk along the coastal trail east to Kedrodasos Beach, which is less crowded and more natural.
You can reach Elafonisi Beach by car from Chania (about 75 km or 47 miles) or by bus from Chania or Kissamos. You can also take a ferry from Paleochora or Sougia.
Balos Lagoon is another stunning beach on the northwest tip of Crete, on the Gramvousa Peninsula. It is a natural wonder that consists of a sandy beach surrounded by two small islands (Agria Gramvousa and Imeri Gramvousa) and a shallow lagoon with turquoise water. The lagoon is home to many marine species, such as fish, crabs, starfish and sea turtles. The islands have some interesting features, such as a 16th-century Venetian fortress on Imeri Gramvousa and a shipwreck on Agria Gramvousa.
Balos Lagoon has limited facilities for visitors, such as umbrellas, sunbeds and a canteen. There are no showers, toilets or changing rooms, so you should bring your own supplies and leave no trace behind. The beach can also get very busy in the summer months, especially when the boats arrive from Kissamos.
The best way to reach Balos Lagoon is by boat from Kissamos (about 50 km or 31 miles from Chania), which takes about an hour and includes some scenic stops along the way. You can also drive to Balos Lagoon by 4WD from Kalyviani (about 60 km or 37 miles from Chania), but be prepared for a rough dirt road that ends at a small parking lot. From there, you have to hike down (and up) a steep sandy path for about 20 minutes to reach the beach.
Paleochora Beach is actually two beaches in one: Pachia Ammos (thick sand) on the west side of the town and Halikia (fine sand) on the east side. Both beaches are long, wide and sandy, with clear blue water and gentle waves. Pachia Ammos is more exposed to the wind and attracts windsurfers and kite surfers, while Halikia is more sheltered and calm. Both beaches have umbrellas, sunbeds, showers, toilets, changing rooms, lifeguards, parking and many tavernas, cafes and bars nearby. You can also rent bikes, scooters, boats and water sports equipment.
Paleochora Beach is part of Paleochora town, which is a lively and charming place to visit. You can wander around its narrow streets, admire its Venetian castle ruins, visit its museums and churches, shop at its markets and boutiques, or enjoy its nightlife. Paleochora is also a good base for exploring other beaches and attractions in the southwest coast of Crete.
You can reach Paleochora Beach by car from Chania (about 75 km or 47 miles) or by bus from Chania or Sougia. You can also take a ferry from Elafonisi, Sougia or Agia Roumeli.
Falassarna Beach is one of the best beaches in Crete for surfing, located on the northwest coast of the island. It is a long and wide beach with golden sand and crystal clear water. The beach is divided into several sections by rocks and dunes, offering some privacy and variety. The main section is the most organized and crowded, with umbrellas, sunbeds, showers, toilets, changing rooms, lifeguards, parking and a few snack bars. The other sections are more natural and quiet, but have fewer facilities. The beach is exposed to the wind and has strong waves, making it ideal for surfing, windsurfing and kite surfing. You can rent surfboards and other equipment from the nearby surf school.
Falassarna Beach is also known for its stunning sunsets, which you can enjoy from the beach or from the nearby ancient site of Falassarna, which has some ruins of a Hellenistic port and a temple of Apollo. Falassarna is also close to other attractions, such as Balos Lagoon and Elafonisi Beach.
You can reach Falassarna Beach by car from Chania (about 50 km or 31 miles) or by bus from Chania or Kissamos. You can also take a boat from Kissamos.
Vaï Beach is one of the most exotic and unique beaches in Crete, located on the northeast coast of the island. It is famous for its palm forest, which is the largest in Europe and covers an area of 250 acres. The beach is a crescent-shaped bay with fine white sand and clear blue water. The palm trees provide shade and a tropical atmosphere, while the water is calm and warm. The beach has umbrellas, sunbeds, showers, toilets, changing rooms, lifeguards, parking and a few snack bars. You can also rent pedal boats and canoes.
Vaï Beach is part of the Natura 2000 network, which protects its natural beauty and biodiversity. You should respect the environment and avoid damaging the palm trees or littering the beach. The beach can get very crowded in the summer months, especially on weekends and holidays, so it is advisable to arrive early or late in the day to avoid the peak hours.
You can reach Vaï Beach by car from Sitia (about 25 km or 16 miles) or by bus from Sitia or Agios Nikolaos. You can also take a boat from Sitia or Mochlos.
Preveli Beach is one of the most scenic and romantic beaches in Crete, located on the south coast of the island. It is a small pebbly beach at the mouth of the Megalopotamos River, which forms a freshwater lagoon surrounded by palm trees and oleanders. The beach has a wild and natural beauty, with greenery contrasting with the blue sea. The water is cool and refreshing, but also deep and sometimes rough. The beach has no facilities except for a small canteen that sells drinks and snacks. You should bring your own supplies and leave no trace behind.
Preveli Beach is also known for its historical significance, as it was a hiding place for rebels during the Cretan revolutions against the Ottoman Empire and Nazi Germany. You can visit the nearby Preveli Monastery, which played an important role in these events.
You can reach Preveli Beach by car from Rethymno (about 40 km or 25 miles) or by bus from Rethymno or Plakias. You have to park at a designated area and walk down (and up) a steep path for about 15 minutes to reach the beach. You can also take a boat from Plakias or Agia Galini.
Agios Pavlos Beach
Agios Pavlos Beach is one of the best beaches in Crete for relaxation and tranquility, located on the south coast of the island. It is a long and narrow beach with fine dark sand and clear green water. The beach is backed by impressive sandstone cliffs that create a dramatic landscape. The beach has some umbrellas, sunbeds and showers, as well as a few tavernas and hotels nearby. You can also rent kayaks and paddle boards.
Agios Pavlos Beach is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing, as well as yoga and meditation. The beach is usually quiet and peaceful, even