Discover 7 best beaches on the east coast of Crete island in Greece. Find out how to get there with our free map and what to bring to get the most out of your vacation in this epic Eastern Crete Itinerary.
There are many reasons to explore eastern Crete. It’s relatively less explored and hence less crowded compared to west Crete. Hotels, restaurants, and shopping on east Crete are generally cheaper in comparison. And let’s not forget the beautiful beaches…
It’s true – beaches on east Crete aren’t as famous compared to the west. But that’s only because most first-time travelers only know the iconic beaches like Balos and Elafonissi. Not because there aren’t beautiful beaches on east Crete.
And that’s where we come in. We spent 2 weeks exploring both east and west Crete (and plan to go back!).
Whilst it may not be humanly possible to explore all the beaches on both coasts. We’ve made it our mission to visit as many of them as possible during our 2-week Crete vacation so we could share the best ones with you!
So if you plan to explore Crete a bit off the beaten track, this Best Beaches in East Crete guide is for you.
This Crete vacation guide (part 3) shares both the popular beaches to explore in east Crete, as well as hidden gem alternatives. If you’re not sure which are the best towns to stay in Crete, our Where to Stay in Crete guide will help you find the best place to suit your needs.
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Map of Best Beaches on East Crete
Here’s a free map to find the best east Crete beaches mentioned in this post. We’d highly recommend you rent a car if you plan to explore the eastern coast of Crete. It’s more off the beaten track compared to west Crete so it’s much harder to get around without a car.
Click on the map to see how far you are from the different beaches in Crete.
1. Kolokitha Beach, North East Crete
If you’re looking for an untouched, wild beach on east Crete, then you must add Kolokitha beach to your travel itinerary.
Kolokitha is a small, sandy beach located on the uninhabited island of Kalydon on the east coast of Crete.
Hundreds of years ago, this remote beach was renowned as a pirate bay. But today, it’s better known as a gorgeous wild beach with that signature crystal clear, turquoise blue water that Greece is known for.
Besides enjoying a swim on Kolokitha beach, you can also hike around Kalydon Island and soak up the magnificent ocean views. You’ll be able to see the famous leper island, Spinalonga, if you hike towards the north of Kalydon.
There are no marked hiking paths on Kalydon Island though. We’d recommend downloading offline Google Maps so you can hike around the island without getting lost.
How Do You Get to Kolokitha Beach?
Getting to Kolokitha beach is quite an adventure. But it’s totally worth the drive to enjoy this little slice of paradise.
Plus you’ll get to experience driving on the most unique stretch of road on Crete Island – Akti Olountos. This narrow road connects the charming fishing village of Elounda to Kalydon Island. And as you can imagine, the road is surrounded on both sides by the ocean.
The adventure doesn’t stop there though. After you’ve crossed Akti Olountos, you’ll turn right after Christian Basilica Poros Elounda onto a narrow, unpaved, dirt road.
Drive slowly and watch for oncoming cars until you see Church of Agios Loukas on your left. You’ll find a small parking area here to leave your car. Then it’s a short 5 to 10 minute walk to Kolokitha beach.
Bonus Tip: Kolokitha beach is marked incorrectly on Google Maps. The correct location of Kolokitha beach is written in Greek letters. We’ve marked the correct GPS location of Kolokitha beach on our East Crete Beaches map mentioned earlier.
Bonus Travel Tip
With the ongoing COVID-pandemic, airport chaos, and who knows what else, it’s better to be safe than sorry! Travel insurance will protect you against cancellations, illness, injury and even theft. Get a travel insurance quote for a stress-free vacation and enjoy the adventure without worries. Here are some recommendations:
Best Places To Stay in Elounda, Crete
The shortest and easiest way to get to Kolokitha beach is from Elounda. It may only be a short 3.2km drive there. But it will likely take 20 to 25 minutes driving time given the road conditions.
We’d recommend staying overnight in Elounda if you want to explore Kolokitha beach and do some hiking around Kalydon island. Here are some great places to stay in Elounda:
- Budget-Friendly: Studio Marevi (1 bedroom apartment)
- Mid-Range: Margarita’s Seafront Luxury Apartment (2 bedroom apartment)
- Luxury: Villa Mimaze Minimalist Living (5 bedroom villa)
Where To Stay in Agios Nikolaos
Another great place to stay if you plan to visit Kolokitha beach is Agios Nikolaos. It’s an easy 40 minute drive (12.5km) from this picturesque coastal town to Kolokitha beach.
We’d recommend staying at Agios Nikolaos if you love shopping, dining out late or keen to bar hop. It’s more lively compared to Elounda, but also more expensive.
Here are some great places to stay in Agios Nikolaos:
- Budget-Friendly: Downtown Luxury Apartment (1 bedroom)
- Mid-Range: Marina House (2 bedroom apartment)
- Luxury: Kallia Apartment (2 bedroom apartment)
Day Trip To Spinalonga, Elounda, Agios Nikolaos and Kolokitha Beach
Keen to explore Kolokitha beach on East Crete, but don’t want the hassle of renting a car and driving? No problem!
Skip the drive and take this day trip to explore Spinalonga, Elounda, Agios Nikolaos AND Kolokitha beach in one day. It’s a 9 hour guided tour that includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in the Heraklion area.
The trip will first take you to explore Elounda where you’ll catch a boat to visit the historical island of Spinalonga. Then you’ll sail to Kolokitha beach for a swim and enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch on board.
And finally, you’ll head off to Agios Nikolaos to enjoy the sunset and some much-deserved shopping before getting dropped off at your hotel.
Tips For Visiting Kolokitha Beach
Make sure to bring food and water with you when visiting Kolokitha beach. It’s a wild beach so there are no cafes, restaurants or toilets nearby.
You can buy food and drink at one of the many shops or cafes in Elounda. We recommend getting the Greek spinach and feta pie called spanakopita and a cup of coffee at Elounda’s Bakery.
Plan an entire day to visit Kolokitha beach if you want to explore and hike around Kalydon Island. You don’t want to rush the drive there or drive in the dark on the unpaved road when returning to Elounda or Agios Nikolaos.
We’d also recommend wearing hiking shoes or sandals and long pants if you plan to hike. There are many thorn bushes on Kalydon Island. We got pretty scratched up walking from one wild beach to another so don’t make the same mistake we did.
2. Vayu Beach, North East Crete
If you’re looking for a more off the beaten track beach in east Crete, then you need to visit Vayu beach.
Vayu beach is also located off the east coast of Kalydon Island. But it’s much quieter compared to Kolokitha beach. We pretty much had Vayu beach all to ourselves when we visited Crete in September 2021.
This remote beach may not have the crystal clear, turquoise waters of Kolokitha beach. But the half pebble, half sandy beach makes it pretty unique.
It’s so tranquil that the only sounds you’ll hear are pebbles gently crashing against one another or sheeps bleating away in the background.
How Do You Get to Vayu Beach?
Vayu beach is just a short 15 to 20 minute walk from Kolokitha beach. So just follow the directions like you would if you’re heading there. Walk to the other end of Kolokitha beach and continue along the edge of the coastline until you reach Vayu beach.
The short hike to Vayu beach isn’t hard. But there are lots of thorn bushes along the way. We’d recommend wearing long pants if you don’t want to get pricked and scratched.
There’s also no cellphone signal on this part of Crete. So make sure to download offline Google Maps so you can get an idea of where you’re going.
3. Paralia Stalidas Beach (Stalis), North East Crete
Paralia Stalidas (or Stalis beach) may not be the most beautiful beach you’ll see in east Crete. But it’s definitely one of the best beach options if you want to get around without renting a car.
So if your Crete vacation goal is to relax, enjoy delicious Greek food and laze on the beach, then Stalis beach is for you.
What is Stalis in Crete like?
Stalis is a great all-around place to stay in east Crete for couples or a group of friends. But it’s particularly well-known for being family-friendly. The long, sandy beach at Stalis has something to suit everyone.
There’s a shallower section of Stalis beach that is great for kids. Lifeguards are on duty there. So there’s an extra pair of eyes to watch the kids whilst you relax on a sunbed and enjoy a cocktail or two.
And for those looking for a bit more action. You could do some watersports, rent a jet ski or kayak and explore the coastline.
Restaurants, cafes, shops and public bus stops are all within walking distance. So you can easily find other things to do if you don’t want to spend every day on the beach.
You can easily explore the nearby towns and villages around Stalis like Malia, Hersonissos or Gouves by taking public transport (bus). Or make the journey as fun as the destination by renting a scooter or buggy and getting there on your own.
Related Post: Thinking of spending your Crete vacation in Stalida? Read our Stalis Crete guide to find out what things to do and see in and around Stalida and where’s the best part of town to stay.
Where To Stay in Stalis (Stalida), Crete
Stay around Stalis beach so you don’t have to worry about driving at all! It’s also a central area to stay in if you plan on getting through most of this eastern Crete itinerary. Here are some great hotel options in Stalis:
- Budget-Friendly: Maistrali Sea View Apartments (1 bedroom)
- Mid-Range: Bella Casa (2 bedroom apartment)
- Luxury: Escape in Blue (2 bedroom villa)
4. Voulisma Beach, North East Crete
Voulisma beach is one of the most popular beaches on east Crete. It’s famous for its long, white, sandy beach with crystal clear, turquoise blue waters.
During the summer months, Voulisma beach gets quite crowded. Especially towards the right side of the beach since there’s a beach bar there.
But if you head towards the left side of Voulisma beach, it’s usually much quieter. There’s also a free campsite and outdoor showers there for those who are living the van life.
Bonus Tip: Voulisma is gorgeous. But like most beaches on east Crete, it’s not the best for watching the sunset. If you’re looking for epic sunset beaches in Crete, then you’ll find them on the west of the Greek island. Check out our West Crete Beaches guide for the full itinerary.
How to Get to Voulisma Beach?
It’s an easy drive to get to Voulisma beach. The closest town is Agios Nikolaos and it’s a short 15 minute drive (13km) to get to the beach.
From Elounda, it’s a 24 minute drive (22km) and from Stalis, it’s a 40 minute (46km) drive to Voulisma.
The entire way to Voulisma beach is paved for all 3 options. You’ll be mostly driving on the main east-west highway in Crete. So it’s safe to drive even at night.
Bonus Tip: Want to learn how to cook traditional Cretan food from a local? Book this awesome 4 hour cooking class at Arolithos Traditional Cretan Village in Heraklion! Learn some Cretan folk history, cook traditional food with experienced chefs, and enjoy the yumminess you created after.
Voulisma Beach Parking
There’s a small parking area at Voulisma beach. It’s easy to miss. You need to turn down towards the beach when you see the bus stop and the sign pointing towards the beach.
If the parking is full, you can also park your car along the highway.
Where To Stay Near Voulisma Beach, Crete
If you can’t get enough of Voulisma beach, then your best option is to stay nearby. Here are some hotel and vacation apartment options near Voulisma beach:
- Budget-Friendly: Vrokastro Apartments (1 bedroom apartment)
- Mid-Range: Petros Home Sweet Home (1 bedroom apartment)
- Luxury: Istron Collection Villas (1 bedroom villa with pool)
Bonus Tip: Planning to travel Crete? Make sure you find the latest COVID restrictions for visiting Crete.
5. Paralia Tholos Beach, North East Crete
If you’re looking for a more off the beaten track option to Voulisma beach on east Crete, then Paralia Tholos is a great option. It’s nestled within a much smaller bay. But it’s also much quieter as few tourists come here.
Like Vayu, Tholos beach is a half sandy, half pebble beach. But the water here has that turquoise blue shade that we all adore.
How to Get to Tholos Beach?
Tholos beach is a short 20 minute drive (17km) from Voulisma beach. The entire way to Tholos is paved, so it’s a pretty easy drive. Plus there’s plenty of parking when you arrive at the beach.
Best Places To Stay Near Tholos Beach, Crete
Besides the beach, you can also visit one of the oldest and biggest olive trees on east Crete – The Monumental Olive Tree Azoria. Or go on a hike and explore Havgas Gorge. Stay nearby so you don’t have to rush back and drive in the dark.
Here are some great hotel and vacation apartments near Tholos beach:
- Budget-Friendly: Private Studio in Historic House (1 bedroom apartment)
- Mid-Range: Petra Nova Villas (1 bedroom villa)
- Luxury: Luxus Tholos Bay (2 bedroom villa with pool)
Save Me For Later
6. Vai Beach, East Crete
Vai is one of the most renowned beaches on east Crete. It’s famous for not only having the largest palm tree forest on Crete Island but entire Europe! It doesn’t hurt that the beach itself is gorgeous too.
Picture fine, golden sand, crystal clear waters with a backdrop of palm trees as far as the eye can see. And you’ll feel like you’ve teleported to some tropical island far, far away.
Vai beach isn’t off the beaten track, of course. This beautiful beach draws thousands of visitors every year, especially during the high-peak summer months. But it’s worth visiting for its unique landscape if you’ve never been before.
Interesting Fact: The name of the beach ‘Vai’ comes from the word ‘vayia’, which means ‘palms’ in Greek.
Preveli vs Vai Beach
Preveli and Vai beach are the two most famous palm tree beaches in Crete. But it’s near impossible to see both beaches if you’re staying in east Crete.
Preveli beach is located on the south west coast of Crete Island. So it’s at least a 4-hour drive to get from Vai to Preveli beach each way.
You’ll probably only be able to visit one of them if you’re spending only 1 week in Crete. So what’s different between Preveli vs Vai beach and which one should you visit?
If you’re there for the palm trees, then you’ll love Vai beach. The palm tree forest at Vai is 6 times larger than Preveli beach.
But Vai beach is way more crowded compared to Preveli beach. That’s because Preveli Beach is a little bit harder to get to and you’ll need to hike a bit to get there.
Vai beach also comes with all the amenities. Parking is close by, there are restaurants, toilets, outdoor showers, sunbed and umbrella rentals. Whereas Preveli only has a small cantina to grab a quick bite.
So Vai beach is probably better suited for families with young kids vs Preveli beach.
Bonus Tip: Keen to add Preveli Beach to your Crete travel itinerary? Check out our South Crete Beaches guide for tips and how to get there.
How To Get From Elounda to Vai Beach
Vai beach is a 2 to 2.5 hour drive (101km) from Elounda. It’s doable, but we don’t recommend it because you’ll likely spend more time in the car than on the beach.
Driving at night is also a bit tricky in Crete. If you plan to make a trip to Vai beach, we’d recommend staying in Sitia or closer.
Bonus Tip: Take a short hike up the stairs to admire Vai beach from the hilltop. It’s absolutely gorgeous and every drop of sweat will be worth it.
Parking at Vai Beach
There’s a parking area at Vai beach. It’s around 200m from the beach and it costs €3 to park there for the day.
How To Get From Agios Nikolaos to Vai Beach
If you prefer skipping the hassle of driving in Crete, we’d recommend taking a tour from Agios Nikolaos to Vai beach.
It’s by far the easiest way to get around Crete without renting a car. You can relax and enjoy the majestic views of the coastline while you’re chauffeured to Vai beach.
This 6 hour guided tour from Agios Nikolaos to Vai beach includes pick up and drop off from your hotel. And it’ll take you to see the 15th century Monastery, Toplou, on your way to the tropical paradise that is Vai beach.
From there, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy swimming in the crystal clear waters at Vai beach and savor its unique landscape.
On your way back, your tour will make a stop at Platanos to watch the sunset before heading back to your hotel in Agios Nikolaos.
Places to Stay Near Vai Beach, Crete
There aren’t any hotels or vacation apartments within walking distance to Vai Beach. But here are some of the closest options:
- Budget-Friendly: Voula’s Casa Di Mare (1 bedroom apartment)
- Mid-Range: Surf Beach Apartments (1 bedroom)
- Luxury: Villa Aiolos (2 bedroom villa)
Related Post: Visiting Crete for the first time? Skip the guesswork and follow our Two Weeks in Crete Itinerary. Explore jaw-dropping waterfalls, hike magnificent gorges and discover the best beaches in Crete over 14 days. If you’re planning to visit Crete for 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 days, then read our Crete Itinerary travel guide.
7. Itanos Beach, East Crete
If Vai beach is too crowded for your liking and you prefer exploring Crete off the beaten track, then you’ll love Itanos beach.
Itanos is a sandy, wild beach just 2km north of Vai beach. Surprisingly, very few tourists visit this beach on east Crete even though it’s easy to get to and no hiking is involved.
So if you love having a beach all your yourself, then this is the beach to visit.
Tips For Visiting Itanos Beach
Make sure to bring food and water with you when visiting Itanos beach. It’s a wild beach so there are no cafes, restaurants or toilets nearby.
Water shoes are not a must – but a nice-to-have so that you can easily walk over the rocks near the shore to reach deeper waters.
You’ll find a small parking area near Itanos beach where you can leave your car.
Crete Hotels near Itanos Beach, Crete
It’s pretty remote around Itanos beach so there are no hotels or vacation apartments nearby. If you don’t want to drive far after spending the day at Itanos, we’d recommend staying at the Vai beach accommodation mentioned earlier.
Best Beaches in East Crete, Greece
That’s a whole lot of beaches to explore on eastern Crete in Greece. So here’s a quick summary of the best beaches to visit in east Crete:
- Kolokitha Beach
- Vayu Beach
- Stalis Beach
- Voulisma Beach
- Tholos Beach
- Vai Beach
- Itanos beach
Related Post: Visiting Crete for the first time? Make sure you read our 21 Best Beaches in Crete travel guide. We’ve listed the beaches from most famous to off the beaten track hidden gems, as well as the best beaches for families and those that are most unique in Crete.
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