As Greece’s largest island, Crete has an extensive shoreline that is blessed with a diverse variety of beaches. The best beaches in Crete include bays of fine pink sand, hidden coves, sandy stretches backed by pine forest and lively beaches complete with bars and water sports.
The island of Crete, surrounded by the Aegean, Libyan, Ionian and Cretan seas, is known for its wild natural beauty – a fact reflected in its stunning beaches. Whether you’re looking for a secluded rocky cove, rolling dunes with crashing waves or a well-equipped beach perfect for families, Crete has you covered.
This is the beach that dreams are made of – with clear turquoise sea that meets soft pink sand, Elafonisi is known as Crete’s most Instagrammable beach. There is even an Elafonisi island you can wade over to through the shallow waters. Located on the southwestern side of Crete, Elafonisi is accessible via a daily bus service from the city of Chania (75 km/47mi away), by car or even by boat from Paleochora and elsewhere along the coast. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available in certain areas of the beach, plenty of parking space and a few beach bars offering simple snacks. The only downside? Its popularity. Expect crowds during peak season.
Triopetra takes its name from the three majestic rocks that divide the bay into two beaches. Relatively untouched, the beaches retain a somewhat wild feel; the beauty of the cliffs jutting into the sea, the wide expanses of sand and the deep blue waters create an astounding scene. As it’s 48km (30mi) from Rethymno and 110km (68mi) from Chania International Airport, Triopetra is best reached by car – there is ample parking space. It has a choice of a few tavernas and some more organised beach areas with sunbeds and umbrellas. Go and enjoy a tumbler of strong Cretan raki with some simple meze at Navagos beach bar – a picturesque little place right on the sand where owner Stelios will entertain you with philosophical musings.
East of Triopetra are some stunning sand dune beaches and the little village of Agios Pavlos. Huge sand dunes tumbling into the sea and one of the best sunsets in Greece are the key features here. Secluded and quiet, the dunes are an ideal spot to get away from it all, free of distractions – just be aware there are a few nudist spots here, too. Should you get hungry, you can climb back up the dunes and visit the tavernas in the village of Agios Pavlos.
One of the most famous beaches in Greece, Falasarna has previously been voted the best beach in Crete and even among the ten best beaches in Europe. Strictly speaking, Falasarna is made up of five consecutive beaches – a long and wide expanse of beautiful white sands, with the largest of the beaches called Pachia Ammos, meaning “coarse sands”. An ideal beach for families, with organised facilities and activities, Falasarna is also a popular windsurfing spot. Falasarna is located 59km (37mi) west of Chania and 17km (10.5mi) west of Kissamos, and accessible by car or by bus from Chania. Above the beach, you can visit the ancient Roman city of Falassarna for some culture after a lazy day of splashing and sunbathing.
Glyka Nera, or “sweet waters”, takes its name from the fresh spring water that runs out of the ground here from mountain springs. The cold, crystalline waters and pebble beach of Glyka Nera is accessible on foot via the European E4 trail. The walk from Loutro takes about an hour and has some gorgeous views, making the journey well worth the effort. Reward yourself with an ice-cold local beer upon arrival and a dip in the cool waters! There are some showers on the beach and a beach café/bar that offers some decent lunch options. For anyone not up for walking, there is also a boat that runs from Loutro.
Kedrodasos, or ‘cedar forest‘, is a white sand beach, located 76km (47mi) southwest of Chania and 1km (.6mi) east of the famous Elafonisi lagoon. The beach is home to juniper trees (related to cedars), sand dunes and unusually smooth sculpture-esque rocks. You can find some shade under the trees, but there is no beach bar, umbrellas or sunbeds. There is a car park, but access to the beach is a further 10-minute walk down the hill. Stock up on water, as the nearest shop is a drive away!
Known as a turquoise paradise, Balos is located approximately 56km (35mi) northwest of Chania and 17km (10.5mi) northwest of Kissamos, on the northwestern side of Crete. You can reach this beach by car on a track road from Kissamos, or by boat from Chania Town and Kissamos. White sand and shallow, warm turquoise waters make way beyond the rocks for a deeper part of the lagoon, perfect for snorkelling. There are a few food stands and sunbeds with umbrellas on offer, but Balos Lagoon still remains relatively untouched and free from commercialism.
Otherwise referred to as ‘the Isle of Gold’, Chrysi Island is an uninhabited island close to Ierapatra. It has golden sand and aquamarine waters that are reminiscent of Caribbean beaches. Dotted with cedar trees, it is an area of natural beauty protected by the European network of Natura 2000. It is accessible from Ierapetra by boat from early May until late October.
Located 94km (58mi) east of Agios Nikolaos and 24km east of Sitia in eastern Crete, Vai is surrounded by Europe’s largest natural palm grove. Backed by Cretan date palms, the golden sand beach is famed for its appearance in the ‘Taste of Paradise’ Bounty ad in the 1970s. Sunbeds, umbrellas, water sports and a restaurant are available.