Discover the best beaches on Crete island, in Greece! From the most famous and unique beaches, to off the beaten track hidden gems, and best beaches for families with kids!
Are you wondering what part of Crete has the best beaches? As fellow beach lovers and wanna-be mermaid (and merman), we asked ourselves the same question.
Crete is the largest island in Greece. And also the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean with over 1,000km of coastline to discover.
So to say that there are literally hundreds of stunning (and hidden) beaches to discover in Crete would only be an understatement.
Whilst it may not be humanly possible to explore all 100+ beaches on the beautiful island of Crete. We’ve made it our mission to explore as many of them as possible during our 2-week Crete vacation.
So if you’re wondering where you can find the best beaches in Crete, you’ve come to the right place. This MEGA Crete travel guide has it all!
From the most famous beaches in Crete like its signature pink sand beaches, to unique and off the beaten track hidden gems, and the best beaches in Crete for families.
Find out how to get there with our free map and what to bring to get the most of your vacation on Crete Island in Greece. And if you’re not sure which are the best towns to base yourself in Crete, our Where To Stay in Crete guide will help you decide.
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Map of Best Beaches to Visit in Crete, Greece
Here’s a free map to find the best Cretan beaches mentioned in this post.
Click on the map to see how far you are from the different beaches in Crete.
Famous Beaches in Crete, Greece
These popular beaches in Crete are famous for a reason. They’re considered to be some of the most beautiful and iconic beaches on the Greek island.
This also means that they’re often the busiest and most crowded. Especially if you’re visiting Crete during the summer vacation months of June, July and August.
Is it worth braving the tourist crowds to visit these famous Crete beaches? Find out what we honestly think before booking your vacation in Crete.
1. Elafonissi Beach, West Crete
If there was one beach that put Crete on top of people’s travel bucket list, it would be this one. Say ‘hello’ to Elafonissi – Crete’s signature pink sand beach.
The pink sand found on Elafonissi beach is famous because it’s unique to Crete. And you won’t find it anywhere else in Greece!
But don’t be fooled into believing that the entire beach is pink – it’s not.
You’ll usually find Crete’s iconic pink sand just around the edges of the water where the waves meet the beach. And the pink shade can be more or less intense depending on the ocean currents and the sunlight.
Besides the pink sand, we think that Elafonisi is definitely worth the visit. It’s one of the best beaches to visit in Crete whether you’re a family with kids, a group of friends, or a couple.
Elafonissi beach does tend to get crowded. But you can easily avoid the crowds by walking further away from the main beach towards Elafonissi South beach.
And if you have kids, it’s one of the most family-friendly beaches on Crete island. The kids will love the shallow lagoon, and showers, toilets and a small cafe are close by. Plus the beach is easily accessible from the parking and no hiking is required.
Oh, and did we mention how Elafonissi has some of the clearest water in Crete? It’s also one of the best beaches to watch the sunset on the Greek island.
How Do You Get to Elafonisi Beach?
Elafonissi is one of the only famous beaches in Crete that’s easy to get to by car. If you’re planning to drive, we’ve shared the road conditions, where to park, and driving tips to get to Elafonisi beach.
Another way to get to Elafonissi beach without renting a car is by going on an excursion or guided tour. Here are some options:
2. Balos Beach, West Crete
Another incredibly famous beach to visit in Crete is Balos beach. It’s considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece.
Balos beach is known for its exquisite natural surroundings with a lagoon on the one side and the sea on the other. And the rugged mountains in the backdrop create the ultimate nature lovers’ paradise.
Like Elafonissi, it’s one of the best beaches for families with kids, a group of friends, or a couple. And you can also find pink sand here! The only catch is that Balos beach is a lot harder to get to compared to Elafonissi.
Luckily, there are 3 different options to get to Balos beach. The easiest way is by ferry. But you could also rent a small boat and sail there yourself or drive to Balos beach by car.
Guided Tours To Balos Beach in Crete
The easiest and most stress-free way to get to Balos beach is by guided tour. You won’t need to rent a car at all because pick-up and drop-off from your hotel are included. Here are some options:
- Ferry to Balos and Gramvousa Island from Kissamos Port
- From Chania: Balos and Gramvousa Full-Day Tour
- From Heraklion: Day Trip to Balos and Gramvousa
- From Rethymno: Full-Day Tour to Balos and Gramvousa Island
Balos vs Elafonissi Beach
Deciding between Balos vs Elafonissi beach and wondering which one’s better to visit? That’s a tough one. They’re both equally unique and absolutely gorgeous. But Elafonissi beach is much easier to visit.
So if your Crete vacation is short and you’d like to visit as many beaches in Crete as possible. We’d recommend adding Elafonissi beach to your travel itinerary instead.
Save Me For Later
3. Seitan Limania, North West Crete
Seitan Limania used to be a remote beach that only a lucky few knew about. But now it’s become one of the most famous beaches on Crete island thanks to Instagram.
Seitan Limania literally looks like some magical beach conjured from an epic fantasy novel. It may be missing a dragon or two. But the wild goats and breathtaking scenery kinda make up for it.
Unlike Elafonissi and Balos, Seitan Limania is not the most family-friendly beach to visit. The drive there is challenging and the hike down a steep, rocky slope, is even more so.
But for those adventurous souls who are up for the challenge, you can find out how to get to Seitan Limania beach here.
4. Chrissi Island, South Crete
Chrissi Island is famously dubbed the ‘Caribbean island of Europe’ for a reason. Its beaches feature some of the clearest water you’ll find in Crete.
But you’ll find more than just crystal clear, sparkling waters on Chrissi Island. This teeny, tiny island located off the southeast coast of Crete features sand dunes, old cedar tree forests, and even volcanic rocks embedded with thousands of fossilized shells.
Needless to say, the beaches on Chrissi Island are popular with tourists. But well worth the visit if you can’t make the long trip to the Caribbean.
How do you get to Chrissi Island? By boat, of course! All ferries and private boat cruises depart from the small coastal town of Ierapetra.
Skip the queue and book your tickets online. Here are the options:
- Chrissi Island Day Trip from Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos (includes ferry ticket)
- Day Trip to Chrissi Island from Heraklion (excludes ferry ticket)
And for those who’d prefer to experience paradise without the crowds, you can rent a private boat cruise to Chrissi Island instead.
Each private boat cruise can sit up to 6 people. An experienced skipper will charter you to Chrissi Island so all you have to do is relax and enjoy your Crete vacation.
5. Gramvousa Beach, West Crete
Gramvousa is a remote beach located on an uninhabited island off the west coast of Crete. A couple of hundred years ago, it was famous for being a pirate island.
But today, Gramvousa beach is famous for looking like a movie set from the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Complete with a 14th century Venetian Fort on the highest point of the island and even a shipwreck too!
Lots of tourists visit Gramvousa island as part of a day trip to Balos beach. It will likely be crowded, but it’s still worth visiting.
The water at Gramvousa beach is incredibly blue and some of the clearest we saw in Crete. So much so, that it looked surreal.
To avoid the crowds, we suggest enjoying the beach whilst everyone rushes to the Fortress. And then only visit the Fortress when people are making their way to the beach.
If you’re adding Gramvousa beach to your Crete travel itinerary. We’d suggest skipping the challenging drive to Balos altogether and just take a ferry to both places instead.
You can easily book your boat cruise or ferry to see Balos and Gramvousa online to skip the queues:
- From Chania: Balos and Gramvousa Full-Day Tour
- Ferry to Balos and Gramvousa Island from Kissamos Port
- From Heraklion: Day Trip to Balos and Gramvousa
- From Rethymno: Full-Day Tour to Balos and Gramvousa Island
Best Beaches in Crete for Families
There are hundreds of magical beaches to discover on the biggest island of Greece. But most of them aren’t exactly what we’d call family-friendly.
They either require a brutal and bumpy drive to get there. Or a long, precarious hike to reach the beach. And sometimes, you’ll even have to do both!
But don’t worry – we’ve rounded up some of the best beaches in Crete for families with kids. You can easily get to all these beaches by car (or public bus) and there’s no hiking involved.
These beaches are also close to restaurants, cafes, shops, and hotels or vacation apartments. So you could probably skip renting a car in Crete altogether if you wish!
6. Voulisma Beach, North East Crete
If you’re dreaming of a long, white, sandy beach with crystal clear, turquoise blue waters, then you’ll love Voulisma beach. Not only is it gorgeous, but it’s easy to get to too.
It’s a short and sweet 15 to 25 minute drive from the coastal towns of Agios Nikolaos and Elounda. And you can easily get to Voulisma beach by public bus too. The bus stop is literally a hop and a skip away from Voulisma beach.
As you can imagine, Voulisma is one of the most popular beaches in Crete. So it can get quite crowded, especially during the summer months.
Best Places To Stay Near Voulisma Beach
There aren’t any beachfront hotels or vacation apartments to rent on Voulisma beach. But here are some options nearby:
- Budget-Friendly: Vrokastro Apartments
- Mid-Range: Petros Home Sweet Home
- Luxury: Istron Collection Villas
7. Paralia Tholos Beach, North East Crete
If Voulisma beach is too busy for you, then you may just fall in love with Paralia Tholos beach. It’s a more off the beaten track alternative to Voulisma, but just as easy to get to.
Like Voulisma beach, Tholos beach is nestled within a bay. The beach is smaller in comparison, but it’s also much quieter as few tourists come here.
Where To Stay Near Tholos Beach, Crete
We’d recommend staying near Tholos beach so you don’t have to rush and drive in the dark. Here are some options nearby:
- Budget-Friendly: Private Studio in Historic House
- Mid-Range: Petra Nova Villas
- Luxury: Luxus Tholos Bay
8. Matala Beach, South Crete
Matala is one of the most loved beaches in south Crete for good reason. It’s one of the best all-around beaches for families with kids, a group of friends, and even couples.
Not only is this beach stunning. But it’s pretty unique too since it’s located right next to the archaeological site, Matala Caves.
Matala Caves is one of the most popular places to visit in Crete. So Matala beach can get quite crowded at the best of times. But in our opinion, it’s still worth visiting and here’s why.
There are very few gorgeous beaches like this in Crete which is located right next to a charming village that has everything you’ll need on vacation. Restaurants, cute cafes, bars, and shops are all within walking distance.
This makes Matala beach one of the best places to stay in Crete without renting a car. You can easily spend a week here and have enough things to do and explore.
Plus, Matala is also one of the few beaches in Crete where there are lifeguards on duty. That’s perfect if you need an extra pair of eyes to watch the kids whilst they swim.
Best Places to Stay in Matala, Crete
Planning to spend your Crete vacation enjoying Matala beach? Here are some hotel and vacation apartment options:
Bonus Tip: If you’re staying in Rethymno in north Crete, you can still visit Matala beach without renting a car. Just take this awesome full day tour to Matala beach and see the beautiful village of Agia Galini and Spili in south Crete while you’re there.
9. Falasarna Beach, West Crete
Falasarna is another great all-around beach for families with kids, a group of friends, or couples. There’s plenty of space and things to do for both adults and kids on this beautiful sandy beach in Crete.
You can enjoy the sun and the sound of crashing waves on a comfortable sunbed. Or do some watersports if you’re looking for a bit more action.
There are also lifeguards on duty at Falassarna beach. So you can enjoy a cocktail or two whilst the kids enjoy a swim.
And the cherry on top? You can find pink sand at Falasarna beach too! But without the tourist crowds you’ll find at Balos or Elafonissi beach.
Falassarna is also one of the best beaches for watching the sunset in Crete!
Enjoy the best sunsets in Crete from the comfort of your room or apartment by staying at Falasarna beach. Here are some great hotel and vacation apartment options:
10. Vai Beach, East Crete
Not only is Vai one of the most famous beaches on east Crete. But it’s also one of the most family-friendly beaches on this side of the Greek Island.
Vai beach is renowned for having the largest palm tree forest in Crete and entire Europe! Needless to say, this beach comes with all the bells and whistles.
There are restaurants, outdoor showers, toilets, sunbeds and umbrella rentals, and parking is close by too. All the ingredients required for you and your family to spend a relaxing day at the beach without too much planning.
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.
How To Get To Vai Beach
We’ve explained in detail how to get to Vai beach by car in our Best East Crete Beaches guide. But if you prefer to skip the hassle of driving in Crete, you can take a day tour from Agios Nikolaos 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.
Where 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:
11. Paralia Stalidas (Stalis) Beach, North Crete
Paralia Stalidas or Stalis beach is well-known for being one of the best beaches for families in Crete. Like Matala, it’s one of the best places to stay in Crete if you don’t plan to rent a car.
Restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, and even public bus stops are all within walking distance. So if you don’t want to spend every day on the beach, you can easily find other things to do near Stalis.
Best Places to Stay in Stalis, Crete
One of the great things about staying in Stalis is that the beach is right at your doorstep. There are lots of great beachfront hotels and vacation apartments to choose from.
Here are some accommodation options in Stalis to get you started:
12. Platanias Beach, North Crete
If you’re looking for a family-friendly beach like Stalis but on west Crete, then Platanias beach is the answer.
Like Stalis, it’s the perfect resort town to stay in Crete without a car. There are plenty of small cafes, restaurants, and shops within walking distance. And you can easily take a day trip to explore the old town of Chania too (30 minutes by public bus).
Plus, the kids will absolutely love all the beautiful stones they’ll find along this pebble beach in west Crete.
Where To Stay in Platanias, Crete
There are lots of hotels, resorts and vacation apartments to choose from in Platanias. Here are some options to get you started:
Most Beautiful and Unique Beaches in Crete, Greece
Crete has many dazzling beaches. But which beaches are the most beautiful and unique of all?
These otherworldly beaches will make you feel like you’ve teleported to another world.
From a palm forest beach that will make you feel like you’re in an African oasis. To driving on the most unique stretch of road in Crete and a red sand beach that feels like it belongs to the planet Mars.
13. Preveli Beach, South Crete
Preveli beach may no longer be an off the beaten track hidden gem. But it’s definitely one of the most beautiful and unique beaches you’ll find in Crete.
Its landscape is simply one-of-a-kind. The beach itself has been carved out by the ocean on one side, and a river and palm tree forest on the other.
Preveli beach is one of those magical places that you have to see to believe in.
Unfortunately, you can’t reach the enchanted beach of Preveli on flying broomsticks or teleportation. And it’s not an easy drive there either.
But don’t worry, we explain in detail how to get to Preveli Beach in our South Crete Beaches guide. We’ve included road conditions, where to park for a long vs short hike, and also share how hard the hike down to Preveli Beach is.
Best Places To Stay Near Preveli Beach, Crete
If you prefer skipping the challenging drive to Preveli beach, we’d recommend staying in Plakias (close to Matala). There’s a daily ferry from Plakias to Preveli beach.
You can check out the ferries to Preveli Beach schedule to get the exact departure times and ticket prices.
Here are some great places to stay in Plakias:
- Budget-Friendly: Horizon Beach
- Mid-Range: Thalassa House Apartments
- Luxury: Belvedere Luxury Apartments & Spa
Bonus Tip: Preveli and Vai are the two best known palm tree beaches in Crete. What’s different between Preveli vs Vai beach and which one should you visit? Read our Best East Crete Beaches guide to find out.
14. Red Beach, South Crete (Kokkini Ammos)
If there was a beach on Mars, we’d imagine it to look like this! Say ‘hello’ to Kokkini Ammos beach. Otherwise better known as Red beach.
As the name suggests, the sand at Red beach is… well, red. Or rather reddish, orange if you want to be exact.
The warm hue of the sand in contrast with the cool, turquoise blue waters of the ocean and white, stark cliffs in the backdrop, makes Red beach one of the most beautiful and unique beaches we’ve ever seen on our travels (let alone Crete)!
Red beach is also one of the best beaches to watch the sunset in south Crete. Plus, if you’re lucky, you may see some local kri-kris (Cretan mountain goats) here.
Red beach is a popular nudist beach in Crete. You don’t need to be nude yourself to visit. But you need to be okay that others will be nude and respect that.
The only way to get to this beach is to hike there from Matala. We’ve shared how to get to Red beach and what the hiking trail is like in our Best South Crete Beaches guide.
15. Kolokitha Beach, North East Crete
Those that love the journey as much as the destination will absolutely love Kolokitha beach. It’s an adventure getting there but totally worth it to enjoy this slice of paradise.
Kolokitha beach is a small, sandy beach located on an uninhabited island off the east coast of Crete.
Hundreds of years ago, Kolokitha beach was famous for being 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.
It’s one of the only islands around Crete that you can get to by car. Yes – you read that right! You’ll get to experience driving on the most unique stretch of road on Crete Island – Akti Olountos.
This narrow road connects Crete to the uninhabited island where Kolokitha beach is located. And as you can imagine, the road is surrounded on both sides by the ocean.
Find out how to get to Kolokitha beach and what the short hike is like here.
Places to Stay Near Kolokitha Beach, Crete
Kolokitha beach is remote. So there aren’t any nearby hotels or vacation apartments. The closest place to stay near Kolokitha is in Elounda, which is around a 20 to 25 minute drive away.
Given the road conditions, we’d recommend staying overnight in Elounda if you plan to spend the day at Kolokitha beach. Here are some options:
- Budget-Friendly: Studio Marevi
- Mid-Range: Margarita’s Seafront Luxury Apartment
- Luxury: Villa Mimaze Minimalist Living
Bonus Tip: Keen to explore Kolokitha beach, but not too keen on 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.
Off The Beaten Track Beaches in Crete
If you’re all about discovering hidden gems and going off the beaten track, then you’ll love these beaches in Crete!
We’re not gonna lie. Some of these beaches are brutal getting to. But absolutely worth it if you’re looking for a bit of adventure, love hiking, and most importantly, enjoy a gorgeous beach with as few people as possible.
16. Agiofarago Beach, South Crete
This was one of our personal favorites after spending two weeks in Crete! Meet Agiofarago beach.
The name Agiofarago means ‘Gorge of Saints’. And my-oh-my does it live up to its name.
Agiofarago is a heavenly beach located on the southernmost tip of Crete Island. It’s a hidden gem with the most dramatic landscape imaginable.
Two striking cliffs guard either end of one of the most beautiful pebble beaches you can find on Crete.
It’s one of the more challenging beaches to get to in Crete. Not only is the drive brutal. But you’ll also need to hike another 35 to 45 minutes (each way) to get to Agiofaraggo beach.
But those who dare will be rewarded with some of the clearest water you can find in Crete! And to top it all off, Agiofarago is probably one of the quietest (and nicest) beaches we visited in Crete. So much so, that we are prepared to do it all over again!
Where To Stay Near Agiofarago Beach
The drive to Agiofarago Beach is not easy. We’d recommend staying overnight at a hotel or vacation apartment nearby so you can avoid driving on narrow and windy roads in the dark. Here are some places to stay near Agiofarago Gorge:
17. Voulolimni Beach, West Crete
This is another off the beaten track hidden gem in Crete. It’s actually a giant, natural rock pool, rather than the traditional sandy or pebble beach you’ll find in Crete.
Say ‘hello’ to Voulolimni beach!
Voulolimni beach is probably one of the most unique places we found in Crete. So unique that we were surprised that none of the travel guides we read mentioned this place.
When we were there, there were never more than 5 people (including us) swimming at Voulolimni at any given time. And most of the people who found this gem were locals from Crete.
It’s a surprisingly easy drive to get to this beach too. The road is paved all the way except for the last 300 meters to the small parking area. We’ve explained in detail how to get to Voulolimni beach in our other West Crete Travel guide.
18. Paralia Menies Beach, North West Crete
If you’re an adventure lover, then Paralia Menies is another off the beaten track beach to add to your Crete travel itinerary.
It’s one of the most beautiful and secluded pebble beaches you can find on west Crete. But probably THE most challenging beach to get to on this Best Beaches in Crete list.
It’s totally worth it though! Paralia Menies reminds us of the gorgeous Seitan Limania beach. The only difference? You’ll probably have Paralia Menies beach all to yourself like our friends Mel and Connor did.
Up for the challenge? Find out how to get to Paralia Menies beach here.
19. Kedrodasos Beach, South West Crete
If you’re looking for an off the beaten track option to Elafonissi beach, then Kedrodasos is the answer. It’s a white, sandy beach just a short, 10 minute drive from famous Elafonisi beach in west Crete.
Frankly, we don’t know how this beach has remained a secret.
Not only does Kedrodasos beach have some of the clearest water. But it’s one of the few good snorkeling spots in Crete. You’ll find plenty of fish between the rocks and coral here.
It’s an easy drive to Kedrodasos beach too. Most of the road is paved except for the last 2.5km stretch to the parking at Kedrodasos beach. From there, it’s a short 15 minute hike down to the beach and you’ve arrived in paradise!
Get the exact details on how to get to Kedrodasos beach and other tips to know before visiting.
20. Itanos Beach, East Crete
Itanos beach is a hidden gem alternative to the famous Vai beach in east Crete. It’s a remote, sandy beach just 2km away from the popular palm tree forest beach.
Surprisingly, very few tourists visit Itanos beach even though it’s easy to get to and no hiking is involved.
So if you love having a beach all to yourself, then make sure you add this to your Crete travel itinerary.
21. Vayu Beach, North East Crete
Last but not least – Vayu beach. It’s an off the beaten track alternative to Kolokitha beach in east Crete.
This remote beach may not have the crystal clear, turquoise waters of Kolokitha beach. But the half pebble, half sandy beach is pretty unique.
It’s incredibly tranquil at Vayu beach. You’ll most likely have it all to yourself. So the only sounds you’ll hear are pebbles gentle crashing against one another and sheeps bleating away in the background.
Best Beaches To Visit in Crete, Greece
That’s a whole lot of beaches to explore around the island of Crete, so here’s a quick summary:
Most Famous Crete Beaches:
- Elafonisi Beach
- Balos Beach
- Seitan Limania Beach
- Gramvousa Beach
- Chrissi Island
Best Crete Beaches for Families With Kids:
- Matala Beach
- Falasarna Beach
- Vai Beach
- Voulisma Beach
- Tholos Beach
- Stalis Beach
- Platanias Beach
Most Unique and Beautiful Beaches in Crete
- Red Beach (Kokkini Ammos)
- Preveli Beach
- Kolokitha Beach
Off The Beaten Track Crete Beaches
- Agio Farago Beach
- Voulolimni Beach
- Kedrodasos Beach
- Paralia Menies
- Itanos Beach
- Vayu Beach
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