In seeking out the best beaches in Crete, we’ve been overwhelmingly spoiled for choice, Crete has many of the best beaches in Greece. Many people decide where to spend their holidays based on the Crete beaches close to their hotels. We booked some of our Crete holidays with the same thing in mind, wanting to discover the very best of Crete Greece during our time there.
Its amazing beaches are up there with the best things to do in Crete. Crete’s inland mountain scenery is staggering, but much of its coast takes the breath away.
We visited a huge variety of beaches in Crete, from some of the popular Crete beach resorts on the north coast of the island to some of the most remote places in Crete. Our guide shows you many of the best places to visit in Crete, so if you’re wondering where to go in Crete, read on.
Our Top Ten Best Beaches In Crete
Here are our top 10 best beaches in Crete
- Balos Beach
- Agios Pavlos Beach
- Elafonissi Beach
- Kedrodasos Beach
- Gramvousa Beach
- Falassarna Beach
- Stavros Beach
- Gialiskari Beach
- Kalypso Beach
- Geropotamos Beach
We visited all of the above Crete Beaches in the summer of 2019. These are our favorite Crete beaches but are in no particularly order. It is incredibly hard to decide and as you will see below they are all wonderful and there are many, many more amazing beaches in Crete. Read on for our number one favorite Crete beach. It possibly is our favorite beach in the world.
- 1 What Are The Best Beaches In Crete For Families ?
- 2 What Are The Best Beaches In Crete Near Chania ?
- 3 What Are The Best Sandy Beaches In Crete
- 4 What Are The Best Beaches In Crete For Snorkelling
- 5 The Best Beaches In Crete
- 6 Gramvousa Beach
- 6.1 Kedrodasos Beach
- 6.2 Elafonissi Beach
- 6.3 Falassarna Beach
- 6.4 Agios Pavlos Beach
- 6.5 Kalypso Beach Crete
- 6.6 Plakias Beach Crete
- 6.7 Damnoni Beach
- 6.8 Rethymnon Beach
- 6.9 Spillies Beach
- 6.10 Geropotamos Beach
- 6.11 Karavostasi Beach Bali
- 6.12 Georgioupolis Beach
- 6.13 Stavros Beach
- 6.14 Pachia Ammos Beach Paleochora
- 6.15 Gialiskari Beach
- 6.16 Psilos Volakas Beach
- 6.17 Sougia Beach
- 6.18 Domata Beach
- 6.19 Matala Beach
- 6.20 Preveli Beach
- 6.21 Frangokastello Beach
- 6.22 Seitan Limania Beach
- 6.23 Skinaria Beach
- 7 So What Is The Best Beach In Crete ?
What Are The Best Beaches In Crete For Families ?
- Balos – the south (lagoon) side with the shallow water
- Falassarna – the section north of Agia Paraskevi church is by far the best, with two natural sheltered rock pools
What Are The Best Beaches In Crete Near Chania ?
- Seitan Limania
What Are The Best Sandy Beaches In Crete
What Are The Best Beaches In Crete For Snorkelling
- Kalypso Beach
- Karavostasi Beach, Bali Spilies Beach
The Best Beaches In Crete
1. Balos Beach
Balos Beach Crete has featured in many a best beaches list – Crete, Greece, the Mediterranean, Europe, the world. It’s one of the top Crete travel destinations, a beach you can visit on a tour from just about every travel agency between there and Heraklion. It features on just about every what to do in Crete list.
As we say in our Balos beach guide, it is definitely worth the hype. The beach is part of a lagoon in the north-west corner of Crete, between the island mainland and Cape Tigani, a mountain that looks like, but isn’t, an island. The shallow lagoon water is to the south of the sand, and the sea side of the beach is to the north. As with some of the other most popular beaches in Crete, it gets packed in the summer months, and is a much more enjoyable experience in the warm autumn months. Even if you’ve come by boat, climb the hill towards the car park for the astounding view. One of the most beautiful beaches in Europe.
Getting there: by boat from Kissamos, or by dirt road from there. The ferry service is operated by Cretan Daily Cruises, and runs may to the end of October.
Facilities: a couple of snack bars, a WC and a limited supply of sun beds and umbrellas. The ferry rents out umbrellas for 4 euros plus a 5 euro deposit.
See Also: 30 Famous Landmarks In Greece
Gramvousa could lay claim to being one of the best beaches in Greece, never mind Crete. What a place. It’s on the remote island of Imeri Gramvousa, off the coast of north west Crete but on the ferry route from Kissamos to nearby Balos beach.
The ferry schedule usually allows you up to two hours on Gramvousa Island. Some opt for the hike up to Gramvousa Castle, a Venetian fortress with outstanding views over the beach and back to Crete. The other option is a dip in the brilliant turquoise water of Gramvousa beach. It’s one of the most idyllic locations we’ve ever visited. Getting to Balos beach Crete involves a fair bit of effort and it’s worth it. So is Gramvousa beach.
Getting there: on the Kissamos to Balos ferry
Kedrodasos is one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, without a doubt. It’s only a 2 km hike from Elafonissi but what a contrast. Its name means ‘cedar grove’ but the trees that populate this series of coves and dunes are junipers. The walk from Elafonissi involves a fair bit of rock-hopping and scrambling – it’s on a section of the E4 long distance hiking trail across Crete.
Spending time at Kedrodasos was one of the highlights of our holidays in Crete. It’s a blissfully beautiful place, with some of the clearest water we’ve ever seen. Even in summer you won’t find many others around. The seclusion of Kedrodasos makes it popular – meaning you might just find ten people there – with naturists. The busy Crete resorts have their charms – but Kedrodasos is something else. One of the best places to visit in Crete.
Getting there: You can get to within ten minutes of the beach by car, after which you have to walk. Otherwise you need to walk on the E4 trail, either from Elafonissi or Krios beach, to the east.
Elafonissi is the pink beach Crete is famous for. It’s a stunning sight, one of the best places in Crete to visit. Most of the sand is not actually pink – the fringe along the shoreline is, like a frosting of candy floss. It’s a remarkable sight, best experienced late in the season (towards the end of October) when the crowds have left.
Elafonissi (also spelt Elafonisi) is one of the most popular Greece beaches, so in summer it is crammed with visitors. It’s in a remote location in the corner of south west Crete. It actually consists of several beaches – the main sea-facing beach, the adjoining lagoon beach, and more beaches along Elafonissi Island, to which you can often paddle on foot.
Getting there: many opt to visit on tours to Elafonissi, often from Chania or Rethymno. A
ferry also runs from Paleochora during the season.
Facilities: Umbrellas, sun beds, beach bars, snack bars, WC
Falassarna Beach Crete is a magical place. It’s on the west coast of Crete, around 12 km (8 miles) as the crow flies down from Balos Beach. Also spelt Falasarna, this beach has an awe-inspiring feel, with dramatic high mountains at either end. It has a real end of the world feel that reminded me of amazing beaches like Rhossili and Llanddwyn Island in my home country, Wales.
At Falassarna you get five beaches in one. They stretch over 3 km (2 miles) end to end, and vary greatly. The glorious main beach is one of the best sandy beaches in Greece, with some of the clearest water for swimming we’ve ever seen. There are also sections to the north with natural rock pools where our son was swimming every day. Throw in some dunes and rocks to explore back from the shore and you have something for everyone. As a family we loved Falassarna – so much that a three-night stay turned into two weeks.
Getting there: Good surfaced roads run from Kissamos, 20 km away. Buses also run several times a day until mid-October from Chania and Kissamos.
Facilities: Several tavernas, some sections with sun beds and umbrellas. Watersports hire on the main beach.
Agios Pavlos Beach
There are two Agios Pavlos beaches in Crete – this one, near Agia Roumeli, and another further along the south coast in Rethymno province.
This is one of the most secluded beaches in Crete,and requires more effort than most others on our list to reach. But what rewards. It’s a 4 km hike from Agia Roumeli, Crete, the end point for the great Samaria Gorge hike. It takes its name from the exquisitely beautiful 11th century Byzantine church of St Paul, which sits just above the beach. It’s a mixture of pebbles and grey sand, surrounded by vertiginous mountains and cliffs. One of my personal favourite places to visit in Crete.
Getting there: A 4 km (2.5 miles) hike from Agia Roumeli, which you can reach on the Paleochora ferry. You may also be able to get someone to take you over on a boat from Agia Roumeli harbour for a fee.
Facilities: The St Paul Taverna, with the menu painted on a large rock, is open during the season.
Kalypso Beach Crete
Kalypso beach is one of the most unusual south Crete beaches. It’s also one of the least known Crete destinations on our list. It’s part of the Kalypso Cretan Village Resort & Spa, hidden behind a rocky headland 5 km from the resort village of Plakias.
It’s also known as the Pirates’ Fjord. You won’t find any sand, or indeed pebbles, here, just some of the most exquisite clear emerald water on the planet. Our family fish Faye rates it the best water she has ever swum in, anywhere.
One side of the fjord is a cliff soaring over a hundred metres high, and this is linked by a bridge to the other side, a narrow finger of land barely ten metres high. You’ll find some of the best snorkelling in Crete here as well as the fantastic swimming.
Getting there: by road 5 km. from the village of Plakias.
Facilities: WC in the Hotel 200 metres away; snorkelling equipment hire, a limited café next to the beach. Restaurants and bar in the Hotel.
Plakias Beach Crete
Plakias is one of the best places to go in Crete if you plan on beach-hopping, and the village beach is a great place to start. As with the other beach villages in south Crete, it’s one of the quieter Crete holiday resorts, with plenty of tavernas on the street behind the beach. It’s not somewhere you come for the rowdy nightlife.
Plakias beach Crete is a real beauty, a crescent of fine sand facing west, ideal for sunset watching. The mountains to the right also make for a very impressive backdrop.
Getting there: You can only reach Plakias by road. It’s around 40 minutes by car from regional capital Rethymno, and a little longer from the bus station there.
Facilities: Everything you need – several tavernas, small supermarkets, information boards, sun beds, umbrellas, you name it.
Damnoni beach Crete is another south coast beauty. It’s around 5 km (3 miles) from Plakias, or a 20-minute coast walk from Kalypso Beach, which is located the other side of the imposing rocky headland on the west side of the beach.
Damnoni is a fantastic sandy beach, with rugged mountain backdrops at either end. It also has something for everyone, so if you want to relax on the beach, try out a taverna, dabble in watersports, hike to nearby beaches like Kalypso or Ammoudi or take a boat trip to Preveli, it’s all here.
Getting there: 5 km (3 miles) from Plakias by road.
Facilities: Tavernas, cafes, watersports equipment hire, sun beds and umbrellas.
Rethymno, also known as Rethymnon, is the third largest town on the island and arguably one of the best places to stay in Crete. On one side, the medieval Venetian old town is a great place to explore and linger. Barely five minutes away, it also boasts possibly the best sandy beach in Crete.
Much of the vast beach is ‘organised’, with the usual umbrellas, sun beds and beach bars. Yet there’s still lots of space to roam and wander. The beach extends eastwards to resorts such as Adelianos Kampos and Skaleta. We met several people who return to Rethymno year after year, seduced by having a great beach and bustling old town on the doorstep. It’s not hard to see why some think it’s the best town in Crete.
Getting there: It’s halfway between Heraklion and Chania, just off the highway. It has extensive bus connections.
One of the best Rethymnon Crete beaches is Spilies, also known as Mariou to Riaki. It’s secreted away down a wooded valley near the highway, a stunning narrow beach with amazing clear water.
It’s a pebble beach with honey-coloured cliffs each side – as the sun moves around during the afternoon, one of them makes for a lovely cool shade from the fierce summer heat.
Walk to the top of the cliff above the taverna for the best view, with the aquamarine water washing over vast slabs of rock below.
Facilities: There’s a taverna serving Greek classics like souvlaki and organising the sun beds and umbrellas.
Getting there: Turn off the highway at the Eko petrol station on the coast (north) side of the road, then follow the sign right down the hill and through the wood for about 600 metres. Buses between Rethymno and Panormos (and Heraklion) stop at the Eko stations either side of the road.
Geropotamos beach can be seen from the Heraklion to Chania highway, and it’s a stunning sight. On one side there is a river and lagoon, with the broad sweep of sand to its left. Beyond that, a splendid sea arch – Kamara – completes the scene.
I was surprised how little development there is at Geropotamos. It’s right next to the Iberostar complex that includes the Creta Marine hotel and Creta Panorama hotel – one of the biggest Crete resorts. Yet the crowds just weren’t there. The beach can be susceptible to northerly winds, but even then there’s ample room to explore, and a beach bar and cantina to quench your thirst. One of the top beaches in Crete, somehow hidden in plain sight.
Getting there: via the main north coast highway, then turning off at the end of the bridge and back under it to reach the car park. Regular buses stop at the west end of the bridge.
Facilities: Beach bar, umbrellas, sun beds and taverna.
Karavostasi Beach Bali
Bali, on the north coast between Rethymno and Heraklion, is one of the busiest Crete holiday resorts. The village has a wonderful natural setting in a sheltered mountainous bay, and has five fine beaches. The catch? We visited in the shoulder season and found they were all packed solid, almost every grain of sand occupied by umbrellas and sunbeds.
It’s still worth stopping by to visit Karavostasi beach, one of the most beautiful Crete Greece beaches. It’s the furthest of the five from the main road, a 3 km walk or ride by the seasonal tourist train. It’s in a gorgeous spot, with breathtaking views either side. It’s busy but there are cafes, tavernas, great snorkelling and exhilarating short walks around the headland. One of the most beautiful places in Crete.
Getting there: 3 km off the main Heraklion to Chania highway, at the far end of the village – buses stop at the exit for the village. From there, it’s either a five-minute drive or you can take the tourist road train there, passing the other Bali sights on the way.
Facilities: Tavernas, cafes, sun beds, umbrellas and watersports gear hire.
Georgioupolis is one of the longest beaches on all of Crete island, a 10 km sweep of sand from the village of the same name, with hotels close to the sands at Kavros, a few kilometres to the east. An ideal spot for a Crete vacation, between the two historic towns of Chania and Rethymno, and also close to the waterfalls of Argyroupoli and the mountains. The beach gets very crowded close to the village and the iconic white chapel, but the crowds thin out after the beach bars 1 km. or so east.
Getting there: Georgioupolis Crete is on the main highway across the north of the island. Regular buses between Heraklion, Rethymno and Chania also stop at the edge of the village.
Stavros beach is a stunner. It’s a lovely curve of golden sand next to a mountain, hidden away at the northern end of the Akrotiri Peninsula, just to the east of Chania.
It’s one of the most popular Chania Crete beaches, and no wonder. In summer hundreds flock there every day, stopping by at the busy tavernas afterwards. We visited right at the tail end of the season, on November 20th. There were about 15 people on the beach, nearly all of them swimming. It’s one of a number of great Chania beaches within easy reach of the beautiful old city.
Getting there: 12 km by road from Chania, or around 40 minutes by bus.
Facilities: Tavernas aplenty in season, likewise umbrellas, sunbeds, etc.
Pachia Ammos Beach Paleochora
Pachia Ammos is one of two beaches in Paleochora, a lovely town on the south-west coast of Crete. Relaxing or swimming at Pachia Ammos is one of the most popular things to do in Paleochora. It’s a long sandy beach with views to the Venetian castle one way and west along the mountains. It’s also a great spot for watching sunset from one of several beach bars and restaurants along the strip.
Getting there: It’s on the west side of Paleochora town, which you can reach by car or bus from Chania.
Facilities: Beach bars, restaurants, the two main local supermarkets all within a minute’s walk of the beach
Gialiskari is one of those amazing places in Crete that very few people get to see. It’s 4 km (2.5 miles) from fairly low-key Paleochora, an outstanding base for Crete beach holidays. Paleochora’s isolated location means it’s a fair way off the beaten path in Crete terms, and Gialiskari requires even more effort – a walk or slow drive along a dirt track.
It’s worth the journey just for the climax, as the gorgeous pebble beach of Gialiskari beach is revealed from between two cliffs. The rocky scenery is wonderful, and the mountains make for an amazing backdrop. Several hand-painted signs direct you to sandy Anidri beach, less than five minutes from Gialiskari. The beach is also one of the best in southern Crete, with a great taverna under the trees.
Getting there: via the dirt road from Paleochora
Facilities: car parking, café, sun beds and umbrellas on Gialiskari beach; taverna, sun beds, umbrellas, and watersports gear hire on Anidri beach
Psilos Volakas Beach
There are several fine Paleochora beaches along the coast road west of the town, and this is our pick of them. It’s a relatively unexplored corner of Crete, but there are several beaches worthy of any holiday in Crete along this stretch of coast.
Psilos Volakas beach is around 3 km west of Paleochora. It’s a small cove, protected from any coastal winds by a rocky peninsula. It’s a blissful pebble beach, probably no more than 50 metres across. As with the other Crete holiday destinations in this article, it gets busy in summer, but by the October shoulder season it’ll be a lot quieter, and more enjoyable. Karavopetra beach, just to the west, is also worth seeking out for its striking rock formations.
Getting there: By car or bus to Koundoura along the coast road west of Paleochora
Facilities: Small taverna, sun beds, umbrellas, WC
There can’t be many less accessible beaches in Crete than Domata. It’s a 4-hour hike from Agia Roumeli over some tough, steep terrain. However you can see it from the Agia Roumeli ferry from Paleochora, which passes very close by.
The beach is in two parts, both under spectacular cliffs. The western section, the first you pass en route from Paleochora, has an unusual rock formation that looks like a series of walls. This is at the end of the wild, dramatic Klados gorge. It’s a pebble beach with typically clear water, and incredible place on the Libyan Sea south coast of Crete.
Getting there: on foot on the E4 trail from either Agia Roumeli or Sougia.
Matala is one of the most famous Crete beaches. It became popular when the island was ‘discovered’ in the 1970s, and it became a hippie hangout. Some even set up in the caves in the honeycombed cliff on the north side of the beach. You can walk up to some of the caves for a great view of the beach, which is a mixture of sand and pebbles.
Getting there: by road from nearby Agia Galini. Many travel agents, especially in the main towns, offer tours to Matala beach Crete. From Rethymno there are tours which also visit the beautiful mountain village of Spili.
Facilities: Matala is one of the more popular Crete sights, and everything you’ll need is here – tavernas, cafes, shops, sun beds, umbrellas.
Preveli beach Crete is another of the best beaches south Crete has. Its location is quite isolated, at the mouth of the Kourtaliotis gorge with a stunning palm tree forest.
The beach is essentially a long finger of sand with sea on one side and fresh river water the other. It involves a trek down the mountain – 400 steps – to reach it, but it’s a sublime spot. There are great viewpoints up on the cliffs either side of the beach. Preveli is one of the top Crete attractions, known the world over – there is a lovely beach in Western Australia named after it.
Getting there: By road or bus from Rethymno or Plakias, with the aforementioned 400-step walk to follow. Otherwise, boats also run from Plakias and Damnoni. Regular tours to Preveli also depart from Rethymno and Chania in season.
Facilities: Snack bar on the beach.
Frangokastello has one of the most spectacular settings of any Crete beaches, with an imposing medieval Venetian castle dominating the scene and mountains forming a splendid scenic backdrop. It’s one of the quieter Crete holiday destinations, an open, exposed swathe of sand with lapped by the shallow turquoise waters of the Libyan Sea. It’s also a short walk (1 km) to the vast sand hills of Orthi Ammos beach, its continuation to the east.
The only drawback with this superb beach is that strong northerly winds can whip up the sand. If you’re there on a day with little wind, no such problem.
Getting there: By road from Chania, Rethymno or Chora Sfakion; buses run up until late October from Chania.
Facilities: Tavernas, beach bars, sun beds, umbrellas
Seitan Limania Beach
Tiny Seitan Limania beach is tucked away at the base of cliffs on the east side of the Akrotiri Peninsula near Chania. Many rate it as one of the best beaches in Chania province, and it’s a unique place indeed: a narrow strip of sand, deep in a rocky inlet with glorious turquoise water.
Getting to Seitan Limania can be quite an adventure. The only way down is along what can loosely be called a path (as a friend once said to me descending an almost vertical mountain in Central Europe:”Think of it more as a series of footholds”). Expect it to be packed to the rafters in summer.
Getting there: By road from Chania or by bus during season (in 2019 buses stopped by September 1st)
Plakias is one of our favourite south Crete resorts because of the variety of excellent beaches nearby. Another beach that should be essential on any Crete sightseeing itinerary is Skinaria.
It’s the wildest of the beaches near Plakias, and requires a bit more effort to reach than the others. It has soft sand, relatively sheltered crystal clear waters and magnificent mountain views. It’s also the ideal environment for snorkelling and is one of the best places for scuba diving in Crete.
Getting there: It’s 3 km (2 miles) from the village of Lefkogia, which is on the Rethymno to Plakias road. If you’re using the bus, you can get off in Lefkogia and walk.
Facilities: Beach cafe with sun beds, umbrellas and WC
So What Is The Best Beach In Crete ?
This question could provoke endless head-scratching and debate, but for us, as a family, there was one which stood out from the rest. It really got under our collective skin, and the three of us fell deeply in love with this beach.
It features on many a ‘what to see in Crete’ list, though not necessarily always at the top.
This beach has some of the most beautiful Crete scenery, with steep, high mountains at either end of the beach. It actually consists of five very different beaches, and the walk along all five is a wonder indeed.
It has a wild, end of the earth feel. There are a few small hotels, guest houses and apartments, several tavernas, a couple of small supermarkets and a single ATM. If you want to get away from it all, especially after the summer rush recedes, this may just be the best place to stay in Crete for you.
The best beach in Crete? Falassarna.