You wouldn’t know Spilies beach Crete was there unless someone tipped you off about it. It’s less than a mile (0.8 km) from another spectacular hidden Crete beach, Geropotamos, on the Heraklion to Rethymno and Chania highway.
Spilies – also known as Mariou to Riaki beach – is better concealed than its neighbour. The only sign directing you there isn’t visible as you’re driving past. But find it – which you will with our directions – and you’ll strike gold. Secreted away down a narrow rural road is one of the best beaches in Crete.
SPILIES BEACH IN A NUTSHELL
One of the most beautiful small Crete beaches
It’s a pebble beach, less than 100 metres wide, with magnificent low cliffs each side
It’s a fully ‘organised’ beach, with umbrellas, sunbeds and even four-poster versions with curtains
Taverna and beach bar keep you fed and watered
Exceptional clear water for swimming
Short, beautiful coastal walk close by
WHERE IS SPILIES BEACH?
Spilies beach is 17 km from the lovely coastal city of Rethymno. It’s located a minute’s drive off the coastal highway to Heraklion, the capital of Crete. It’s also only 5 km (3 miles) from lovely Panormos beach. It’s also only a 15-minute drive from one of the best things to see in Crete, Arkadi Monastery.
GETTING TO SPILIES BEACH
It’s easy to find the beach at Spilies once you’ve done it once. However, the unhelpful signage makes it quite difficult first time around.
If you’re driving from Rethymno or Chania, you’ll pass Skaleta beach, with its lovely church close to the shore. Soon after, you pass the Ciao café and a Shell garage on your left, then two Eko gas stations, one each side of the road, 300 metres further on. You need to cross to the left-hand side one.
In order to do this, you need to take the second left turn, at the far side of the gas station. As you turn in, there is a right-hand turn on the immediate right. This is where you’ll see the elusive hand-painted ‘Spilies Beach’ sign. Head down through the woodland, continuing until you reach the car park.
If you’re coming from the Heraklion, Bali and Panormos direction, your early warning sign is the view to the right at Geropotamos bridge. It’s 1 km from there to the Eko gas stations. You go right, then sharp right again.
If you’re travelling by bus in either direction, the bus stops at the Eko gas station.From there, it’s a five-to-ten-minute walk down to the beach.
DESCRIBE SPILIES BEACH
Spilies is one of those perfect Greece beaches that you could come back to again and again. It’s mostly made up of small pebbles, and is well organised, with plenty of umbrellas and sunbeds available.
If you want to stay out of the sun, there’s plenty of shade in the natural cave on the left (west) side of the beach. My son and I had a wonderful time here building rock and pebble towers for hours.
There are a couple of delightful coast walks from the beach. The first is a two-minute stroll up the hill from the path next to the toilets in the car park. You get a great view of the beach as you pass above the taverna, but continue towards the cliff edge for the full effect.
Stand back a few metres from the edge and you’ll get the bird’s eye view of Spilies. Here you’ll appreciate the incredible clarity of the water. You can see every detail of the immense square rock slabs that make up the sea bed here. This water even pushes that of Kalypso Beach, on the south coast of Crete, pretty close.
FACILITIES AT SPILIES BEACH
Everything you could need is here – umbrellas, sunbeds, a beach bar, a taverna serving meals (inside or at your sunbed) and toilets. The latter are 50 metres away, back at the end of the car park.
SWIMMING AT SPILIES
The water at Spilies is incredibly clear. Calm conditions make it ideal for a beach swim or snorkelling, with the surrounding coves also well worth exploring.
A WALK TO KAMARA SEA ARCH AND GEROPOTAMOS
You can’t see the nearby Kamara sea arch from Spilies beach, but it’s only a ten-minute walk away.
Follow the road back towards the highway, taking the left-hand turn at the sign marked ‘Heraklion’. At the top of the rise you’ll see a dirt track running parallel to the main road. Stay on the dirt track for 200-300 metres. Here you’ll see a wide but not very well-defined track. Follow this.
As you approach the coastline you’ll notice a finger of rock reaching out into the sea. This is the Kamara rock arch. Bear right and you’ll come to several viewpoints of the arch, including one revealing a beach at the base of the cliffs below.
Geropotamos beach, another of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, is further along the cliffs. You can reach it on foot by crossing the main road then walking under the road bridge to the beach.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.