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Potamos Beach Crete: How to visit the best beach in Malia

Welcome to our guide to Potamos Beach, a stunning beach just outside Malia, one of the most popular resorts in Crete.

Potamos Beach is quite popular, but attracts nowhere near the crowds partying in the Malia town beaches. It’s a world away from these, a beautiful location near a river marsh and dunes. There are two great sandy beaches with three small rocky coves in-between, and it’s a brilliant place to take the family for the day.

Our Potamos Beach guide includes everything you need to know on what to see and do, the best places for swimming and more. We also advise on getting there from Malia and elsewhere, suggest places to eat and where to visit nearby. We visited Potamos Beach a few times and fell in love with the place – and wouldn’t be too surprised if you do too.

Why Visit Potamos Beach Crete

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Potamos Beach on a bright sunny day
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The eastern, calmer side of Potamos Beach
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Potamos Beach

Potamos Beach is the best of all the beaches in Malia Crete.

It’s two miles or so from the centre of the resort, and mainly attracts a family crowd rather the hedonistic partygoers Malia is famous for.

Potamos Beach actually consists of three beaches on a scenic stretch of coast with a mountainous backdrop.

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The wavier western side of Potamos Beach
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Serenity: one of the coves at Potamos Beach
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The famous amphora on Potamos Beach
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The boat at the entrance to Potamos Beach

The easternmost of the three beaches at Potamos is the best for kids – it’s a curved, sheltered bay that gets far less waves than the long straight beach 200 metres or so to the west.

It’s a great place to swim, with exceptional clear water and a soft sandy seabed – perfect for young kids to paddle in.

Things To Do At Potamos Beach Malia

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Start with a sunbed and umbrella

We enjoyed a wonderful family day out at Potamos Beach, as it’s a spectacular swimming beach in a gorgeous setting.

Faye and Our Little Man spent over four hours in the crystal-clear seawater, swimming and playing. Faye describes it as ‘paradise’, and she revelled in the pristine purity of the deep blue water.

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Faye and Our Little Man enjoying the clear sea at Potamos Beach

It’s also somewhere you can pull up a sunbed and relax for hours.  An umbrella and two-sunbed package costs €9 or 10 for the day, depending on which section of the beach you visit.

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Potamos Beach
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Faye giving Potamos Beach the thumbs-up
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Sunset at Potamos Beach

The two main beaches are sandy, and the series of small coves in between. The coves are quite shallow, with a mixture of sandy and rocky beds, ideal for snorkelling.

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A Welcome sign at Potamos
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Our Little Man enjoying a long swim at Potamos
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The centuries-old amphora between the beaches at Potamos

There is an unusual landmark on one of the small headlands among the coves. A large amphora –  a traditional storage jar – sits on top of one of the rocks, and makes a remarkable sight in early and late light and sunset. There is another one further along the coast towards Malia, a few hundred metres to the west.

There is also a short coastal hike over the rocky headland and up the coast to Agia Varvara beach and church.

Potamos Beach Tips

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You will need sun protection and some shade at Potamos Beach
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The excellent snack bar at Potamos Beach
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Potamos Beach Restaurant

Potamos Beach is a great place to make a full day out of it. As well as the beach there is an excellent snack bar and we also recommend the Potamos Beach Restaurant.

Unless you’ve brought your own, you will need to get a double sunbed and umbrella package for €9 or 10.  You will need some downtime in the shade, and will also need a lot of factor 50 sun protection. Don’t bother with factor 20 or 30, especially with kids, in this strong sun – it’s useless, and nowhere near enough.

Where Is Potamos Beach

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Potamos Beach is two miles east of Malia

Potamos Beach is two miles (3 km) east of the centre of Malia, and 21 miles (33 km) east of Heraklion, the capital of Crete.

How To Get To Potamos Beach

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Parked cars at Potamos

Potamos isn’t on a direct bus route from Malia, but the Heraklion-Malia-Agios Nikolaos buses stop close by, at stop 36. It’s a few minutes’ walk left off the main road from there to the Malia Minoan Palace. Then it’s another 5-minute walk from there to Potamos Beach.

You can also walk to Potamos Beach from Malia – either along Grammatiki or Michis Kritis from the centre.

It’s also a short drive from Malia town centre. There is ample car parking close to both main sections of beach. Many visitors hire quad bikes for the duration of their stay, and a few make their way to Potamos Beach this way. It’s little more than a 5-minute drive away. Taxis cost €9-10 one way.

Places To Visit Near Potamos Beach

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The way to Old Malia – a very different side to the Crete party town
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Hydrangeas and a hand-painted cart outside a restaurant in Malia Old Town

Potamos Beach is very close to one of the foremost ancient sites in Crete, the Malia Minoan Palace.  The substantial complex dates back almost 4000 years, and has never been restored like Knossos in Heraklion.

The charms of Malia greatly vary. Many flock to Malia drawn by its reputation as one of the party capitals of the Mediterranean. The main road through the town is the dividing line between its two very different sides. The beaches, parties, booze cruises, pubs and clubs lie to the north, while gorgeous Malia Old Town is across the street to the south.

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Sarantari Beach near Hersonissos

We stayed in Old Malia for over a week, using it as a base to explore the coast and local attractions. And every night we took a short walk around the warren of narrow lanes. The main draw is the choice of great tavernas and restaurants. The best of these include the bougainvillea-clad Odas Taverna and the nearby San Giorgio Taverna. Part of the latter occupies a square around a gorgeous small Orthodox church.

Hersonissos, a few miles up the road to Heraklion, also has its contrasts. The Hersonissos beaches around the port are jammed, but the further you go away from the centre – particularly to Gefyri Beach and Sarantari Beach – the better they get.  

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Late evening with shade on Gefyri Beach

The hillside villages above Hersonissos port are also very different in character to the town below. Old Hersonissos, Piskopiano and Koutouloufari tend to attract older visitors, many of whom like to sit at the tavernas and watch the world go by.

While around Hersonissos, don’t miss the brilliant Lychnostatis Open Air Museum. It’s one of the best of its kind anywhere in Europe, with beautiful displays on life in 19th and early 20th century Crete.

The coast road west towards Heraklion takes you past several popular Crete family attractions. The best of these include Dinosauria Park, which got an enormous thumbs-up from our young prehistoric expert. We also thoroughly enjoyed the nearby CretAquarium, on the seafront in  Gournes.

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Piskopiano village near Hersonissos

Malia is at the eastern end of Crete’s party strip – after it, things get considerably quieter. The buses also tend to thin out a bit – the beautiful seaside village of Sissi Crete is only a few miles along the coast from Malia, but you need your own set of wheels to get there.

Beyond Malia the main road heads inland, eventually reaching the harbour city of Agios Nikolaos. From here, the likes of Spinalonga Island, Cretan villages like Kritsa and Elounda, the Lassithi Plateau are within reach. The wild remote beaches of the far east Crete coast – from palm paradise Vai to rugged Xerokampos – also beckon.  

Potamos Beach – Final Thoughts

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The Potamos amphora at sunset
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One of the coves between the two main Potamos beaches

Potamos is an outstanding beach, in our view the best of all the Malia beaches.

Stalis Beach (also known as Stalida Beach) at the other end of Malia is also a great beach for families.

But Potamos Beach edges it for us with its extraordinary setting and, in places, perfect conditions. It’s fair to say it’s one of the best beaches in Crete for families.

Image of David Angel found of Delve into Europe Travel Blog / Website

David Angel is a British photographer, writer and historian. He is a European travel expert with over 30 years’ experience exploring Europe. He has a degree in History from Manchester University, and his work is regularly featured in global media including the BBC, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, The Times, and The Sunday Times.  David is fluent in French and Welsh, and can also converse in Italian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, Czech and Polish.

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