Most visitors to the Greek islands will make a beeline for the beaches, and we can’t say we blame them. Crete, the largest of Greece’s famous islands, has a Mediterranean climate with mild, somewhat wet winters and extremely hot, dry summers. The perfect excuse to head to the beautiful Crete beaches.
The best times to visit are April through October, when it rarely rains, and you’ll get the most out of the sunny weather and warm waters, which are perfect for beach bums. All this good weather means you’ll want to explore the best Crete beaches when you are there.
With some of the best beaches in the world, it’s worth exploring these oases of white sand and clear blue water. Many travelers to Greece looking for some holiday sun flock to Crete to take advantage of their incredible beach getaways.
Be sure to bring a good camera too, because when you arrive at any of these best beaches in Crete, you’ll want to take photos to remember the natural beauty.
The Best Crete Beaches to Visit
This might be one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete or even Greece for that matter, and certainly the most visited. Located in the Chania region of the island, which is noted for its beaches specifically, Balos Beach is a beautiful long strip of bright white sand and turquoise waters. Visting here is one of the best things to do in Crete!
Being that this is one of the island’s most famous beaches, it’s pretty packed during the height of the summer season, although its limited accessibility (only by hike or by ferries which arrive regularly from the Kissamos port) makes it more bearable. However, if you really want to avoid crowds, stick to the tail ends of the peak season like September and early October. Which is one of the best times to visit Greece (in my opinion) anyway!
The scenery is unparalleled with not only the natural setting of the beach but the massive rock island across the water on top of which sit the remains of a 16th century castle, the fortress of Gramvousa. While today they lie in ruins and the islands are uninhabited, they make for interesting views from the viewpoint of the beach.
Agiofarago Beach is the perfect beach in Crete if you want to sidestep the crowds. Located 80km southwest of the town of Heraklion, it is much more secluded than your average beach, since it’s just off the edge of (and sheltered by) a large gorge.
This is an unmanned beach in a more remote location, so there are no facilities of any kind and you’ll need to rent a car in Crete to get here. However, if that’s your thing and all you want is a quiet day surrounded by beautiful scenery, this could be the beach for you.
To access the beach, you can either hike 30-40 minutes by crossing the gorge and following the trail down to the beach (fortunately, less strenuous than it sounds) or catch a ferry from one of the four nearby ports. If you want the scenic route, the hike is recommended! If you plan to hike make sure to bring a pair of sneakers and don’t hike in your sandals! See our Greek packing list recommendations.
This beach is another good option for anyone not keen on sharing space with too many people. Sougia Beach stretches over 1200km, so it never gets that crowded. It’s located between two villages, Agia Roumeli and Paleochora, about 70km from Chania town. It’s a little bit more pebbly and less sandy, but this doesn’t take away from the charm and the beauty of the scenery.
Some of the nearby restaurants and shops along the main road rent out loungers and parasols. Overall, the area is very laid back – more quiet than your average busy Cretan beach and a great spot to spend a day by the Libyan Sea.
Also in the Chania region is Elafonissi Beach. It is an absolutely magical beach, so definitely note this one on your itinerary when visiting Crete. The beach is technically a small islet connected to the mainland by a very shallow reef, so you can simply walk across when the water is low and calm.
The sands here are incredibly soft and colored pink and white, so many refer to it as “the pink beach” of Crete. As usual, the waters are crystalline and warm. Part of the beach is set with umbrellas and beach loungers that are available on a first come first served basis.
Fair warning, this beach is immensely popular and not ideal if you want a laid-back experience. If a quiet beach day is what you want, it would be best to visit this beach during the beginning and end of the summer season.
Preveli Beach, located in the region of Rethymno along Crete’s southern coastline, is located right beside where the Kissano Faragi River flows into the Mediterranean Sea. Due to this, the surrounding banks and small lake at its mouth are very lush, with beautiful palm trees and other exotic greenery growing there. Visitors can do watersports on the small lagoon, and the ocean is only steps away if you want to go for a swim.
To arrive, there is a car park high up on a cliff, followed by a steep downward hike. If you want to explore the further area, there is also a monastery nearby — Preveli Monastery — for which the beach is named.
This beautiful Crete beach isn’t too far from the town of Agios Nikolaos, in the Lassithi region. It’s a popular beach thanks to warm, crystal clear waters perfect for swimming and its soft white sandy banks.
The sands are backed by small, green rocky cliffs, and some overhanging trees give off good shady spots on the sand! There are also lots of options nearby for lounger and umbrella rentals. There are also food huts nearby if you get hungry, so it’s a pretty good choice for a beach day with all the amenities.
This beach can get busy, but it’s still a calmer option than many so you can easily relax while here.
Agia Fotia Beach
Agia Fotia Beach, located just under 50km south of the town of Agios Nikolaos, has become more tourist-friendly over the years. Despite this it still maintains a laid-back, quiet atmosphere, which is perfect because you get all the access to important amenities without the crowds that usually come with it.
The beach is surrounded by tall pines that shroud a small stream that trickles down from the mountain of Thripti, which gives the beach a more secluded feel and adds to the quiet, laid back vibe. The bay is also surrounded by small cliffs and rocky hills which help with shelter and provide calm, inviting water perfect for swimming.
Makris Gialos Beach
Makris Gialos Beach, sometimes spelled Makrigialos Beach after the nearby town of Makrigialos, is located on the southeastern coastline of Crete. It’s located in a fairly touristy area, so this beach does tend to get busier in the high season but in early spring and early fall, it’s a quiet haven.
The immediate area has tourist resorts, markets, souvenir shops, and restaurants, so there’s tons to do. Many of the restaurants and cafés offer free beach umbrellas or loungers with food or drink purchases.
Certain parts of the beach are sheltered by some low-lying rocky cliffs, so the water is perfect for swimming and attracts beachgoers from all over. There are also some ruins nearby, of a Minoan mansion which can be a fun exploration outing.
Agios Pavlos Beach
This beautiful beach in Crete is much harder to access than many on this list, so because of the difficulty to access it doesn’t get nearly as busy as some of the other beaches on Crete. Agios Pavlos Beach is about 60km south of the town of Rethymno. The beach isn’t organized, with no umbrellas or loungers to rent, as this beach is located in a more remote area.
To access the beach, there’s a rocky off-road that takes about an hour and a half to drive before you reach the car park and can descend to the beach below. The nearby village of the same name has accommodation options, and there are taverns that make traditional Cretan dishes so you can sample the cuisine of the island.
Many beaches on Crete are great for kids and families, and Falassarna Beach is another one that’s perfect for traveling families. It’s not far from Kissamos town which has restaurants, hotels, resorts, shops, and cafes. The beach is organized, with umbrellas and loungers and other seating and has incredibly soft white sand. Ancient Falassarna is just above the beach, so you can bundle a beach day and a touring day.
This beach has great water conditions, so it’s popular for swimming (though you should avoid swimming in windy weather). It’s also ideal for windsurfing, and in the summer, there is even a windsurfing setup where you can rent boards. Due to this, it does tend to get busy, but it’s not considered a ‘party’ beach, and you’ll find a lot of other families there too.
This beach is well known in tourist circles, since Sissi is a beautiful coastal town and contains really popular beach resorts. However, despite its popularity, it remains fairly quiet – a good option if you want to experience some of the best beaches in Crete without the crowds and noise that often come along with them.
Sissi has a few beaches, and many consist of small sandy coves that are secluded and sheltered from strong winds. This makes them very calm and ideal for swimming. Many of these coves are populated with umbrellas and loungers, and there are other coves nearby that are even quieter, like Boufos and Avlaki.
Stefanou Beach, or Seitan Limania, is one of my favorite West Crete Beaches! It’s located 22 km from Chania, and features steep cliffs and of course turquoise clear blue water.
Stefanou is nestled in a tiny cove that looks like a “Z” shape from above. This is a pebble and sand beach, it’s not a large beach able to hold many people. So during peak summer season plan to arrive early or later in the day.
To access the beach you’ll need to drive down a steep path, followed by a hike down from the parking area. Bring water and snacks as there is nothing in the area.
Vai Beach is one of the coolest beaches on Crete. Located on the island’s northeastern coastline in Lassithi, Vai Beach has all the things that make a perfect Greek beach – crystal clear warm water, powdery white sand, and unobstructed sunshine.
However, the thing that makes this beach stand out is the wild date palm grove that borders the back of the beach; it consists of over 5,000 palm trees and stretches for hundreds of miles. Fun Greek fact: it only exists today because of date seeds that Phoenician merchants spit away as they ate dates.
The beach itself is organize with palm umbrellas, tables and chairs, and sun loungers spread throughout the beach. As a result of this it does become quite crowded in the high season, so best avoid it if you want a quiet experience, or time your arrival for the tail ends of the summer season.
If you can’t avoid traveling during the peak season, here’s a tip: follow the half-hour trail leading to the ancient Minoan site of Itaros. Here, you’ll find three small bay beaches that are much lesser known to tourists.
This beach is located about 70km southwest of Heraklion. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was a hippie hangout, and many would live in the nearby caves for weeks or months at a time. The caves were hand dug during ancient times, making this beach a long-standing place where people would gather. The nearby town, Matala, once thrived as a fishing village, but is now financed largely by tourism.
The beach itself is backdropped by large cliffs with the curved caves, and a curved bay with warm, clear blue water and white pebbly sand. The beach is popular with families, and there are umbrellas, tables and chairs, and loungers spread out for ultimate comfort. The nearby town has a lot of options for accommodations, taverns, and excursions to other parts of the island.
Five kilometers to the south of Matala, Kommos Beach is a beautiful, slightly wild beach not sheltered from the wind, so large waves are normal. Due to this, it’s not well suited to families with small children. The northern end of the beach is a nudist hot spot, while the southern end is like any other Cretan beach – busy and thriving with loungers and umbrellas lining the sand.
The beach is named for the nearby site of Kommos, an archaeological Minoan ruin that is not open to the public (though you can catch a glimpse of the site while walking on the beach). As this beach is more open, it’s a perfect place to watch the sunset, maybe with a drink in hand from one of the beach taverns.
Other notable beaches in Crete
- Rodakino Beach, Rethymno
- Tymbaki Beach, Heraklion
- Glyka Nera Beach, Chania
- Loutraki Beach, Chania
- Krios Beach, Chania
What do I need for these crete beaches?
Of course, you need to throw your bathing suit, flip-flops, and travel towel in your beach essentials bag. However many of the beaches mentioned involve a hike down rocky paths. It’s advisable to put a pair of sneakers in your Greek rental car or on the 4×4 so you can throw them on if needed for a hike!
It should also be noted that many of the best beaches in Crete don’t have restaurants or convenience stores near them, so you should be prepared with snacks and water to stay hydrated.
Don’t forget sunscreen either. The Mediterranean sun is intense and you’ll want to protect yourself from sun damage with sunscreen as well as a hat.
The Best Crete Beache Map
How to Get Around Crete
We were able to get to all these wonderful Crete Beaches because we had a rental car from Discover Car Hire. Traveling around the island and trying to get to these beaches would be a serious hindrance if we were only relegated to public transport.
Many of the secluded beaches and bays mentioned are only accessible by car. It’s good to note that the terrain on the island varies so much that even if your GPS says something is 10km away, it can still take one hour to get to!
Driving in Crete is not for the faint of heart. The roads are rugged, windy, and sometimes very narrow. It also seems that every Cretan has someplace to be and that your very presence is hindering them from getting to their next destination.
Where to Stay in Crete?
Well there you have it – the beautiful beaches of Crete! Now you’ll need somewhere to stay, and there are so many options for accommodation around Crete it may make your head spin when booking. We were on the island for two weeks staying at a plethora of accommodation options. Here are some of our favorites.
When is the Best Time to Swim in These Beaches of Crete?
You can swim in the Crete beaches at any time, but the best time to swim in the beaches of Crete is between June and October. This is when the water will be the most pleasant and not too cold, especially in the later months towards fall before winter sets in.
What is the Nicest Beach on Crete?
Of course this is all subjective. However of all the beaches in Crete that we visited I particularly loved Balos Beach and Elafonissi Beach. In general, the Chania Region of Crete holds the most beautiful beaches on the island.
READ MORE GREECE TRAVEL TIPS
I hope you enjoyed this guide on the best Crete beaches. Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few relevant articles for more travel around Greece!
- How Much Does a Trip to Greece Cost?
- 30 Fun Facts About Greece You Should Know!
- The Best Things to do in Corfu
- The Best Things to do in Milos
- The Best Things to do in Santorini
- The Best Things to do in Rhodes
- The Best Things to do in Paros
Greek Travel Planning Resources
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Greek: “Yasou” and “Efharisto”
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- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in the European Union out of 180. Many nationalities are granted this on arrival for free. Check with your embassy to see if that is you.
- Weather: The weather in Greece is a Mediterranean climate. This means winters are mild and rainy, while summers are warm and dry with plenty of sunshine throughout the year.
- What to Pack: Warm weather clothes and a swimsuit, don’t forget a good pair of clothes to go and a jacket for cool nights. Read about what to wear in Greece.
- Budget: If you’re in the initial stages of planning check out our awesome post that breaks down how much a trip to Greece costs.
- Rent a Car: We suggest most visitors consider renting a car for the best trip possible. Try Discover Car Hire to compare quotes from different rental agencies. Check Price Here!
- Protect Your Trip: Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance! We always carry travel insurance to protect from injury, theft, or a canceled trip.
- Tours in Greece: Check out our list of the best tours you can enjoy in Greece!
- Travel Adapter: Make sure you find a good adapter to keep your personal electronics charged. Otherwise, you may be paying for a cheap one once you land. Purchase one here.