Balos, Elafonissi, Matala, Vai, Malia and Falassarna are some of the best beaches in Crete, but there is definitely more as the island has hundreds of beautiful beaches in all areas (but the best ones are in Chania)
Crete is a massive island and there are probably thousands of beautiful beaches along its long coastline, but there are some that are more popular than others.
Most of them have golden sand and crystal clear waters, but the thing is that you won’t have the time to visit all of them as you would probably need to spend a couple of months on the island… 🙂
I have categorized the beaches of Crete per each one of the 4 prefectures of the island (Chania-western Crete , Rethymnon, Heraklion, Lasithi).
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The best Crete beaches are:
Balos is a naturally formed lagoon with incredible turquoise waters around 60km west of Chania town and along with Elafonissi it’s probably the most photographed beach in Crete.
Balos is easily in the top 5 beaches in Greece (and probably in the top 10 in the world) as these are some of the most incredible waters you will see in your life.
The area is protected by NATURA 2000 which basically means there are hundreds of rare species of fauna and flora and obviously hunting and fishing is strictly not permitted.
The area is literally a shelter for monk seals and sea turtles!
The beach has very shallow waters which makes it ideal for the kids and the sand has tropical white and pink colours (from the millions of crushed shells). A small paradise for snorkelling too!
There will be lots of people around when you visit the beach in July and August but the best thing you can actually do, is to go to Balos as early morning as possible, to appreciate the beauty of the scenery pretty much alone… (basically before the boats from Kissamos arrive if possible).
There are a few canteens from where you can buy water and drinks (these appear only in the summer months of June, July, August).
Here is Balos Beach on a short video:
You can reach Balos beach by car or by taking a boat from Kissamos town (Google Maps).
I highly recommend you take the boat from Kissamos to Balos beach as the road is not asphalt paved and it’s very rough. It’s only a 15km ride from Kissamos town but you will probably do it in 45 mins…
Firstly, you have to reach Kissamos town which is about 40 km west of Chania (you have to take the national road) either by car or by a bus from Chania.
Then you have to drive to Balos (which I really do not recommend but it’s doable) or just take the ferry boat from Kissamos port (there are signs everywhere so you won’t lose them.
Elafonissi beach is also a naturally formed sea lagoon with tropical caribbean-style waters and surroundings. Elafonissi is very similar to Balos.
Elafonissi is also a NATURA 2000 preservation area and it is also one of the most tropical beaches in Greece with beautiful sand dunes with shallow waters and pink shells.
The beach is much more organised than Balos with lots of canteens , a large parking for cars and lots of umbrellas and sunbeds.
Elafonissi has a fascinating history as it was the area where the Mediterranean pirates were hiding their treasures back in the middle ages.
If you are visiting in July and August, try to be on the beach before 11am otherwise your chances of finding a sunbed and an umbrella are close to zero…
The coastline of Elafonissi is massive with lots of quiet areas as well. The western side of the island is also a nudist beach.
Here is Elafonissi Beach on a short video:
You can reach Elafonissi by car (1.5 hr drive) from Chania and by local bus from Chania.
The road to Elafonissi is a magnificent (but narrow sometimes…) ride up on the famous cretan mountains through beautiful gorges (like Topolia gorge) and picturesque villages.
The stunning landscape will definitely make up for the rough journey…!
There are not that many hotels around Elafonissi as this is one of the most remote areas in Crete, but if you absoultely want to stay close to the beach i recommend the following:
Falassarna is another exotic long and wide beach close to Chania with lots of amenities, umbrellas, sunbeds, showers and even a beach volley court on it.
Falassarna is also one of the most famous beaches in Crete and in Greece but there is one issue with it:
There are usually quite strong winds on that area which can make Falassarna beach not ideal for families and kids so you should better check the weather before you decide to drive there.
There are actually 2 long and wide beaches next to each other in Falassarna but the main one is called “Pachia Ammos”.
The area around Falassarna is amazing with lots of great opportunities for hiking and if you manage to stay till the evening then you will witness one of the best sunsets in Greece (definitely the best in Crete!).
Here is Falassarna Beach on a short video:
You can reach Falassarna beach mainly by car or a local bus.
It is about 1 hr drive from Chania town.
Just follow the Kissamos signs and you will come across the Falassarna sign as well. The road is not that bad.
Stavros beach is located at the northern top of Cape Akrotiri of Chania prefecture and it is also one of the most famous beaches of Crete.
Stavros beach became worldwide famous when it was actually the set of the Hollywood movie “Zorba the Greek” :
Stavros is a great beach with lots of amenities, sunbeds, restaurants, cafes and beautiful waters to swim into.
Here is Stavros Beach on a short video:
You can reach Stavros beach mainly by car or by bus from Chania. It is very close to Chania (17km) and the road is very good.
You have to follow the signs to the Chania Airport.
Kedrodasos (which basically means: cedars forest) is a really unique tropical and wild beach close to Elafonissi.
The beach is very well protected by strong winds and it is considered one of the last unspoiled beaches of Europe.
The whole area is covered by a unique tree called Juniper which is considered the “cedar of Crete” but in reality these are not cedars (but it belongs in the same plant family).
Kedrodasos is also a spot for nudists so get prepared for that too.
If you visit Kedrodasos do not forget to bring water, snacks and drinks as there is nothing to buy there.
You can definitely combine a visit to Elafonissi with a visit to Kedrodasos as they are very close.
There is also a dedicated parking where you can leave your car.
Whatever you do on the beach though, please make sure you leave it as you found it: clean and unlittered. this is considered on e of the most wild beaches in Europe and any litter will definitely be a shame…
Here is Kedrodasos Beach on a short video:
Kedrodasos is literally a 5-10 mins drive from Elafonissi beach and unfortunately there is no bus that can take you there (from Chania).
You can only visit it by car.
There are no hotels or villas around Kedrodasos and I really hope it stays like this in the future… If you really want to be close to this amazing beach and area you have to stay closer to Elafonissi:
Seitan Limania (or Stefanou beach) is a little paradise that has become instagram famous a few years ago…!
Seitan Limania is a very small beach with incredible waters surrounded by massive rocks. The scenery is something that will stick to your mind forever.
The beach was literally know only to locals 10 years ago but it has recently become viral through social media and it is now considered one of the best beaches of Crete and Chania area.
There are no amenities around and the road to Seitan Limania is very tough.
This is definitely not a beach for families or kids as apart from the tough road to get there there also some serious climbing on steep rocks involved. Not easy…
But obviously you will be rewarded with a unique set.
Bear in mind also, that in July and August you will struggle to find a place to sit down on the beach as there will literally be hundreds of people around. Also, no water or food around so get prepared…
Here is Seitan Limania Beach on a short video:
The road to Seitan Limania is very narrow and extremely steep. Obviously there is no bus that can take you there.
If you are not an experienced driver do not attempt it.
If you are more than 50 years old: do not attempt it.
If you have kids with you: do not attempt it.
If you have health issues: do not attempt it.
Apart from the rough ride to gett to the (small) parking on the top of the beach , there is some serious climbing to get to the beach. I repeat: not hiking but CLIMBING.
There are no hotels around as the area is very remote but you can certainly stay at the lovely nearby Marathi:
Agia Roumeli is a beach at south Crete and it is basically small village around 60 km from Chania town.
Agia Roumeli is a very unique place because access to it is only through the famous Samaria Gorge (Agia Roumeli is basically the end of it) or by a small ferry boat from Hora Sfakion or Palaiochora.
I remember when I hiked the Samaria gorge , Agia Roumeli’s beach felt like an oasis after all these hours of hiking under the summer heat…
This is a beautiful and long beach with pebbles with a few tavernas, restaurants, cafes and amenities around.
In my personal opinion, Agia Roumeli is only worth a visit if you are hiking the Samaria gorge otherwise you should better visit the other beaches of this list.
Here is Agia Roumeli Beach on a short video:
You can reach Agia Roumeli beach by a ferry boat or by hiking through Samaria Gorge.
There is no way driving to Agia Roumeli as there is no road to it!.
If you want to hike Samartia gorge (and you should!) there is a bus that can take you there from Chania.
Palaiochora beach is a long and sandy beach in a beautiful small village at south Crete.
The beach is more than 600m long and very wide so it will never feel crowded or full of people even though there are lots of people visiting every summer.
There are lots of amenities, restaurants, cafes, hotels, beach bars , lifeguards and watersports along the beach and it is definitely a great choice for families with kids.
Sometimes the beach can be windy so you should always be preapred for that too.
Here is Palaiochora Beach on a short video:
You can reach Palaiochora beach mainly by car or the local bus from Chania (KTEL). It is about 1 hr drive from Chania.
Unfortunately, there is no bus that can drop you off to this beautiful beach therefore it’s not crowded and it’s really worth visiting it as it is a truly natural and unspoiled “virgin” beach (yes…these places still exist in Mykonos…)
Marathi beach one of the most family friendly beaches of Crete as there are lots of amenities around, it’s close to Chania and it has beautiful waters.
There are actually 2 small beaches on Marathi and they are both very well protected by any winds, so these make them ideal in any situation.
You will find a lots of nice restaurants and cafes at Marathi but also sunbeds and umbrellas. The area is very well organized.
Here is Marathi Beach on a short video:
Marathi beach is a 30 mins drive from Chania town and there is also a bus that can take you there from Chania.
Fragokastello is a beautiful long and sandy beach at south Crete that is famous for the Venetian castle that is built on it.
The landscape is truly unique but to reach the beach you have to drive 2 hours southern of Chania.
The area is quite remote and seclusive but there are a few restaurants and hotels around.
Here is Fragokastello Beach on a short video:
You can reach Fragokastello beach mainly by car or the local bus from Chania.
Depending on the road you take it can be anything from 1.5-2 hours drive.
Loutro is a small fishing village at south Crete close to Hora Sfakion with some of the most unspoilt and beautiful waters you will ever see.
Loutro is only reachable by boat from Hora Sfakion and the beauty of the of the village comes mainly from the fact that is so secluded.
You will only find a few rooms to stay and some restaurants.
There are a lot of wild gorges and stunning walking paths around and there are also a lot of people who canoeing to the near deserted beaches.
Here is Loutro Beach on a short video:
You can reach Loutro beach by taking a boat from Hora Sfakion or by walking through the mountainous paths.
There are no cars at Loutro village.
This is a truly unique and unspoilt place….
Glyka Nera literally means “Sweet Waters” and this beach is famous because of the amazing crystal clear waters and the potable water that comes out of the pebbles on the beach.
The beach has been voted one of the top 20 beaches in Europe by the London Times and for some very good reasons.
The surrounding mountains are very impressive and the beach is definitely well off the beaten path.
There are umbrellas and sunbeds on the beach and obviously…you don’t have to bring water as there are lots of natural water sources around!
Obviously this makes the sea water quite cold any time of the year.
Here is Glyka Nera (Sweet Waters) Beach on a short video:
The only ways you can reach Glyka Nera beach are either by boat (from Hora Sfakion which you can reach with a KTEL local bus from Chania) or by hiking on the mountains behind the beach.
The hike from Hora Sfakion is about 30 mins and from Loutro beach is about 60 mins.
There are no hotels at Glyka Nera but you should better stay at Hora Sfakion:
There is only one tavern on the beach and it is very good:
Preveli beach is a magic place and a truly unique location with not only a beautiful beach but also a river and a palm forest.
Preveli was a famous location for the 60’s and 70’s hippies as there was a small community of people who actually lived there for many years.
I don’t blame them. The place is truly magic and along with Vai beach one of the most tropical places in Europe.
You will find a river that goes through a small canyon with incredible emerald waters in between palmgroves and small lakes with refreshing waters.
Other than a small cafe under the palmtrees there are no sunbeds or umbrellas on the beach as the area is protected so to preserve the beauty of the area.
Here is Preveli Beach on a short video:
Preveli beach can be reached from Chania or Rethymnon by car (about 1.5 hr drive).
There is also a local bus from Rethymnon that can take you to Preveli (3 buses per day).
There is no bus from Chania to Preveli and you have to go to Rethymnon first.
There are obviously no hotels in Preveli and the closest area you can stay to be close to Preveli is Plakias village and beach:
Plakias is one of the most famous resorts at south Crete and one of the best in Rethymnon area.
Plakias is a seaside village with lots of restaurants, hotels, showers, umbrellas, sunbeds, amenities, watersports and even changing rooms on the beach.
The massive vertical rocks that are on the west side of the beach attract many climbers as they provide a perfect natural climbing wall
Here is Plakias Beach on a short video:
You can reach Plakias beach by car from either Chania or Rethymnon (about 1 hr drive) but there is also a local bus from Rethymnon (4 times a day).
Livadi beach is only one of the beaches of the famous Bali seafront resort of Rethymnon that is one of the most beautiful areas on Crete.
Livadi and Bali is very family friendly area and is also considered a very romantic destination and one of the best areas for a honeymoon in Crete.
Livadi is a very well organised beach with lots of amenities around and also lots of umbrellas and sunbeds.
Livadi is the longest beach of the Bali area and it’s also the one that can be more windy than the other Bali beaches like Karavostasi (I personally like Karavostasi more than Livadi to be honest…)
Here is Livadi Beach (along with other Bali beaches) on a short video:
Livadi beach and Bali area are pretty close to Rethymnon with very regular local buses from Rethymnon (but you can also drive there as well).
Agia Galini is also a famous beach side resort on south Crete (close to Plakias).
Agia Galini is a small village with lots of restaurants and touristic amenities around that has also been a famous hippies destination since the 60’s and the 70’s.
The beach itself has small pebbles and the waters can feel a bit cold as they are also mixed with the waters from nearby rivers.
There is also a camping site at Agia Galini.
Here is Agia Galini Beach on a short video:
You can reach Agia Galini beach mainly by car or the local bus KTEL from Rethymnon..
There are 4-5 local buses from Rethymnon to Agia Galini.
Agios Pavlos is also a small village on south Crete with 2 beautiful and unique beaches with impressive sand dunes.
Lend is that Saint Paul stopped there while travelling to Rome and that is why the place has taken his name (Agios Pavlos means Siant Paul) and there is also a small Saint Paul church.
There are literally 2 beaches and the most impressive one is definitely the one behind the village with the massive sand hills.
Here is Agios Pavlos Beach on a short video:
Unfortunately there is no local bus that can take you to Agios Pavlos and the only way to reach the beach is by car.
It is about a 1 hr drive from Rethymno town.
Skinaria beach is the unofficial scuba diving capital of Crete!
Skinaria’s waters provide an excellent opportunity for snorkelling and scuba diving as this is one of the richest seabeds on the island.
There are only a few sunbeds and umbrellas on the beach and a small beach bar.
Here is Skinaria Beach on a short video:
You can reach Skinaria beach only by car.
It is about 1 hr drive from Rethymno town.
Karavostasi is the most beautiful beach in the Bali area east of Rethimno and also the smallest.
The beach has emerald waters but it is small and it might feel very crowded in the summer (July and August mainly).
The beach has lots of amenities and it is also ideal for families.
Here is Karavostasi Beach on a short video:
You can reach Karavostasi beach by car and by KTEL local bus from Rethymno.
It is about a 30 mins ride from Rethymno.
Spilies is a small beach east of Rethimno town with a few sunbeds and umbrellas literally a 20 mins drive from Rethimno.
The word “Spilies” literally means “caves” in greek and the reason for that is basically the caves and the beautiful geological formations on the rocks surrounding the beach.
There is even small water tunnel on the right of the beach which can be very fun (but not when it’s windy…)
Here is Spilies Beach on a short video:
Spilies is a 20 mins drive from Rethymnon and even though the beach is easily accessible from the main road between Rethymnon and Heraklion, there is no bus that can actually take you there.
So, the only way to reach the beach is by driving (20 mins drive from Rethimno).
There is a very good beach bar/tavern on the beach of Spilies and that is the only restaurant around:
Ammoudara is the best beach close to Heraklion and it is basically a long and wide beach with lots of beach bars and amenities around.
Ammoudara is such a long and wide beach that it will never feel crowded even though nowadays Ammoudara is considered part of heraklion city.
The beach has golden and brown sand and it is ideal for the kids and the families who want to have a nice day on the beach.
Here is Ammoudara Beach on a short video:
Ammoudara is just 1 km west of Heraklion city and you can basically walk to it from Heraklion. It is by far the most easily accessible beach close to Heraklion.
The best hotels close to Heraklion are located in Ammoudara beach:
Matala beach is a very unique place as it has been one of the most famous places that hippies visited and resided back in the 60’s and 70’s.
There is a massive rock with lots of caves on the right of the beach with lots of caves and beautiful rock formations that used to be places where the hippies had formed a community back in the day.
The whole beach is now dedicated to that era and there re lots of things reminding that lovely innocent period.
Joni Mitchell used to stay there after a serious break up she had back in the 70’s and she even wrote a song about it.
Matala now hosts a really unique festival called “Matala Beach Festival”
Here is Matala Beach on a short video:
Matala is about 1 hr drive from Heraklion but if you don\t have your own car you can also take the local bus from Heraklion city to visit the beach.
Malia is one of the most famous beach resorts of Crete with probably the most infamous nightlife in Greece.
In reality Malia in the summer is like spring break in New Orleans: lots of teenagers (mainly from Europe) and lots of cheap alcohol around…
Malia is definitely a beautiful long and sandy beach but it will feel extremely crowded at any given time between May and October.
There are lots of beach bars with loud music, lots of watersports, amenities on the beach and even massage parlours but it is definitely not a quiet place (and also not recommended for families in my opinion).
The best thing about Malia though is that there are so many things to do and spend your day as there is an Aquarium and even some lovely waterparks where the kids would definitely enjoy.
Here is Malia Beach on a short video:
Malia beach is about 40 mins drive west of Heraklion and you can visit it either by driving your car or by taking the local KTEL bus from Heraklion (there are buses throughout the day)
Potamos is the second most famous beach in Malia area with lots of sunbeds and beautiful brown sand
The beach can get very busy in August and it can also be quite windy in the summer months.
Here is Potamos Beach on a short video:
Potamos is just 30 mins drive from Heraklion but you can also take the bus that stops at Malia and just walk to Potamos beach.
Vai beach is the largest palm tree forest in Europe and by far the most famous beach on east Crete.
Vai (along with Preveli) is the most exotic beach of Greece and possibly of Europe so it is definitely worth your visit.
The beach itself has amazing crystal clear waters and golden sand.
You don’t get to swim next to a palm tree forest in Europe, very often…
However, the beach can get very busy after 11am in July and August so you should better be there as early as possible.
Snorkelling wise this is probably not the best beach as the seabed is not something special and you may notr see that many fishes to be honest.
Bear in mind that you have to pay for the parking lot and also for the sunbeds and umbrellas that are provided (from 10-30 euros depending on how sea front you are).
Here is Vai Beach on a short video:
You can reach Vai beach by car and by local from Sitia (there are 3 buses every day during the summer months).
Vai is about 30 mins drive from Sitia and about 2 hours drive from Agios Nikolaos.
There are no hotels around Vai beach as the area is protected from any building activity. However, there are a few hotels close to Vai that I highly recommend:
Voulisma is probably the most famous beach close to Agios Nikolaos town in Lasithi.
Voulisma is a long sandy beach with pretty much every possible facility you can think of and it surely gets quite crowded in the summer.
The waters in Voulisma beach are probably some of the most clear in Greece and the place is very family friendly.
There is also a free parking spot near the beach and a nice beach bar / cafe that is offering drinks and fresh fruit (along with some fast food options).
Many people make the mistake to visit Voulisma while they are staying in Heraklion but I do not recommend that because it is too far away from Heraklion (2 hrs by car).
In fact, I do not recommend visiting any of the Lasithi beaches if you are not staying in the Lasithi prefecture.
Here is Voulisma Beach on a short video:
Voulisma beach is only a 15 mins drive from Agios nikolaos and you can also take the local bus.
Xerokambos is one of the most remote areas in Crete as it sits around 100 km south east of Agios nikolaos in a very remote area of the island.
The beach is not organized and there are no amenities around so you need to make sure you bring your own stuff: water, drinks, fruits, food, ice etc
There is a small canteen with a few sunbeds and umbrellas but it would be better if you bring your own things.
The beach is very secluded and this is where you will enjoy the pure wild beauty of Crete without too many tourists and without any annoying beach bars.
Here is Xerokampos Beach on a short video:
You can only reach Xerokambos beach by driving south east of Agios Nikolaos and Sitia for about 2 hours and 1 hour respectively.
There are only a handful of hotels around as the area is very remote and ideal for relaxation and tranquility:
Agia Fotia beach is a lovely quite organised beach on the southern Lasithi area, close to Ierapetra town.
Agia Fotia is basically the beach of Ierapetra town (12 km far from it) and it is very well organised with lots of beach bars, canteens, restaurants and umbrellas/sunbeds.
The lovely pine trees surrounding the beach offer a very different experience from the other beaches of Crete while being equally beautiful
Here is Agia Fotia Beach on a short video:
Agia Fotia is just a 15 mins drive from Ierapetra town and there are also local buses in Ierapetra that can take you to the beach as well.
Erimoupolis beach is a beautiful sandy beach north of Vai palm tree forest and about 30 km east of Sitia town.
The area also has the ancient name of “Itanos” and there are still ancient ruins behind the beach that you can visit for free (here it is).
Most of Itanos ruins are still under the water so you can snorkel and see them under water!
Here is Erimoupolis Beach (Itanos) on a short video:
Erimoupolis is 10 minutes drive north from Vai and about 30 mins away from Sitia town.
There is no local bus that can take you there.
There are no hotels around and the area is very remote. You can stay at one of the best hotels around Vai and Sitia:
Kolokitha beach is a small picturesque beach close to Elounda with beautiful waters and green surroundings.
Kolokitha is actually the name of the small island that is opposite the beach (many people think this is Spinalonga island but it’s not…).
It’s a rough ride and a short walk to reach the beach but it’s totally worth it in my opinion.
The beach is not all sand and there are a few stones and small rocks around (the sandy bit is actually quite small)
Here is Kolokitha Beach on a short video:
You can reach Kolokitha beach by driving from Elounda and then leave your car at the open area behind the beach. There is a short walk to reach the beach but the wilderness of the landscape will reward you.
There are no hotels around Kolokitha beach so you should better stay at the beautiful Elounda that has some celebrity level hotels:
So, these are the best Crete beaches: Elafonissi, Balos, Falassarna, Vai and Preveli but there is definitely moe to those. .
What you have to understand though is that Crete literally has thousands of beaches, that you can explore and visit by yourself.
The best way to explore Crete’s beaches is by renting a car .
Yes, the north crete beaches can become windy in the summer (July and August) but if it does get windy you can just go and visit the beaches in the south.
Spending time on a beach in Crete is one of the best things you can do while in Crete and the wild beauty of the landscape will definitely become an amazing experience.
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