- From Falasarna to Souda, each Cretan beach has its own unique features, such as white sand, pink hues, crystal-clear waters, and palm tree backdrops.
- The popular beaches like Falasarna, Elafonisi, and Balos are fully organized, providing beach bars, beach parties, water sports, and facilities like sunbeds and umbrellas.
- Matala is known for its iconic caves and historical significance as a hippie destination, while Agia Pelagia offers a sheltered and family-friendly beach experience.
- There are lesser-known beaches on the south coast of Crete that are equally great and less crowded.
The sun is blazing above your head, a bead of sweat trickles down your back, the air is salty, and your skin burns from the summer heat.
There is only one thing on your ‘to do’ list for Crete or any of the Greek islands, and it is to cool yourself down on beautiful beaches, letting the refreshing waves take the edge of the hot spell -along with your everyday stress- away.
Since Crete is massive, the beach choices are vast and plentiful, catering to every taste or need across the board, but at the same time, making it overwhelming for visitors that have arrived from Athens to Crete to choose between them.
To ease this burden off of you, here, we present the top 10 beaches in Crete and their stunning natural beauty you can enjoy if opting for one of our Greece vacation packages that includes this incredible island!
Falassarna beach - credits: lucianbolca/Depositphotos.com
Starting out strong, we kick off the list with our absolute favorite beach in Crete. As Greeks, we’ve experienced our fair share of beaches, but Falassarna is like nothing you have ever seen before, not even among the Greek islands.
Apart from its shimmering waters that lure you in, Falassarna’s uniqueness lies in the consistency of its white sand beach, which resembles the texture of velvet, inviting you to roll in it.
Falasarna, in antiquity, was a Greek harbor town on the northwest coast of ancient Crete. It is located 59 km west of Chania and 12 km west of Kissamos, and today, it is one of the most famous beaches in Crete, having been awarded in the past as the most beautiful beach on the island.
Falassarna beach is fully organized while also having several free spots for those who prefer to put their own umbrella and towel on the sand.
There are beach bars, where you can buy snacks and drinks, while in the evenings, there are often beach parties held on the beach. Therefore, don’t rush to leave, as the fun increases the longer you stay.
Water sports and a beach volley court are also available on the beach for the sports-crazed visitors.
Elafonisi is a small islet 200 meters from the coast and surrounded by a shallow lagoon, located in western Crete, 75 km south-west of Chania.
If you come to Crete, Elafonisi is a definite must-visit and one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, as it is well-known for its magnificent beauty across the world.
The soft sand on Elafonisi’s shore is light-colored, almost white, but in many places; it has a pink hue from the thousands of broken shells one can find scattered across the beach.
The waters are glassy, while their blue-green color is reminiscent of exotic places, a true paradise on earth.
Elafonisi attracts thousands of visitors every summer, climbing up to approximately 2500 per day in the months of July and August.
Therefore, and if you want to enjoy it to its full potential, we highly suggest you visit it at the beginning or the end of the summer.
Alternatively, you should avoid it during rush hours -from 11 to 4-, especially on the weekends. Its exotic beauty and clean waters have earned it the vote of the most beautiful beach in Crete, but also Europe and the world numerous times!
If you are visiting Crete with kids and toddlers, then Elafonisi is a must-visit beach for the whole family since its shallow waters allow the little ones to play carefree.
Balos beach during sunset - credits: natalyphotography/Shutterstock.com
Another one of Crete's best beaches is Balos. Balos beach is located northwest of Crete, at Cape Gramvousa, near the town of Kissamos in the prefecture of Chania. It is no coincidence that Chania beaches are considered the best!
The surreal beauty of this beach enchants anyone who visits it; the combination of bright white sand with dustings of pink sand and the incredibly vibrant turquoise waters of Balos beach has brought recognition to it as one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece and the world.
It is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular beaches you will ever see!
Balos beach is located 55 km from the city of Chania and 17 km from Kissamos. It is covered by soft sand, while its shallow sea is mild in temperature, offering a perfect swimming spot.
The easiest way to access Balos beach is by boat, which you can take from Kissamos and other parts of Chania that offer daily excursions.
If you plan on going by car, you have to know that a large part of the way consists of a dirt road, with the last kilometer being only accessible on foot, which may be tiring, but it will give you the opportunity to appreciate the stunning landscape of the area.
Finally, the most difficult -but at the same time, more impressive- way to approach Balos beach is by following a three-hour hiking trail from Kaliviani.
Regardless of the way you'll get yourself there, Balos beach is going to reward you for your effort with its astonishing beauty!
Matala beach - credits: Iornet/Shutterstock.com
The iconic Matala beach, with its signature caves decorating the imposing rocks and sand dunes surrounding the area, became famous in the 1960s when it became home to the hippies and is probably the most photographed beach on the island.
A large stream of travelers arrived in southern Crete following the steps of a special ‘hippie -trail.’
They lived in Matala's caves for weeks, months, or even years, following a natural way of life and occupying themselves with music, meditation, painting, poetry, philosophy, and fishing while enjoying the deep blue sea, the warm nights, and the sandy beach.
Today, the famous beach of Crete island earns its spot on our list of the best beaches in Crete, having not lost any of its charms, attracting thousands of visitors each year, who want to discover the allure that drove the hippies there.
Matala beach is fully organized, with sunbeds and umbrellas, showers, and municipal toilets.
Additionally, there are cafes and canteens to quench your thirst and introduce you to Cretan cuisine.
At the back of the beach, there are Tamarisk trees scattered around the sand, offering shade to those who want to experience Matala in a more organic and natural way.
Agia Pelagia Beach - credits: creti.co
18 km west of Heraklion lies the small beach of Agia Pelagia, sheltered from the winds and perfect for some much-needed relaxation. It is an absolute must, especially if you're residing in one of the striking hotels in Heraklion!
The small beach is a narrow strip of white sand, which due to its calm water, is perfect for swimming regardless of the weather. It may not be the most famous beach in Crete, but it is, however, a gorgeous one.
It is -yet again- a fully organized beach, providing visitors with umbrellas and sunbeds, while you can also rent water bikes and embark on water sports adventures!
The waters are deep with great clarity, so don’t forget to bring your mask with you on the occasion you find yourself there. Along the narrow beach, you can find a selection of local taverns, as well as other various shops.
The beach of Agia Pelagia, with its proximity to the town of Heraklion, its calm waters, and excellent food choices by the beach, offers a great destination for a family getaway in Crete, as it is one of the most secluded beaches in the area.
Tymbaki beach is large and diverse, sporting both sand and pebbles across its shore, and is also known as Kokkinos Pyrgos.
Because the Tymbaki is a long and wide beach, it is organized and surrounded by various traditional taverns serving local dishes. As a result, you can easily spend your whole day there, relaxing, sunbathing, swimming, and eating!
Kokkinos Pyrgos is located 67 km southwest of Heraklion, in the periphery of the town of Tympaki.
This spectacular beach of Crete has contributed to the tourist development, while the climate in the area is particularly warm as a result of the many greenhouse cultures found on its grounds.
Kokkinos Pyrgos beach is a very long beach with white sand, which starts west of the settlement and extends for many kilometers to the east, reaching the region of Komos.
On this long sandy beach, Caretta-Caretta sea turtles are born during the summer months, making the beach a host for environmental organizations.
If the beach is good enough for Caretta-Caretta, who are we to deny its majesty?
Vai beach is an exotic sandy beach with thousands of palm trees in the background, reminiscent of the Caribbean, dominating the eastern side of Crete in the prefecture of Lassithi.
There is no question that Vai beach is one of the most popular sights in Crete and one of the most beautiful and unique locations in the entire Mediterranean.
Unknown until the early 1970s, an advertisement for the famous ‘Bounty’ coconut chocolate, which was filmed in the region, made Vai beach famous internationally.
Following its newly-acquired fame, Vai beach became -along with the aforementioned Matala- loved by the hippies who discovered it in the early '70s.
However, the vast amount of campers, with their careless ways, destroyed the area, turning it into a dumping ground.
In the 1980s, Vai was declared a protected area and was thoroughly cleaned. Today, it is still considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete, the palm grove is fenced and protected, being the largest palm tree forest in Greece, and staying on the beach is strictly forbidden.
The area, beyond its special and exotic beauty, is also interesting in terms of biodiversity, as many migratory birds stop in the area on their journey to and from Africa.
Istro beach is located about 12 km southeast of Agios Nikolaos on the way to Ierapetra, with deep, crystal-clear waters, soft golden sand, and verdant slopes being its signature characteristics.
Like most Crete beaches, it is organized, offering sun loungers and umbrellas to its visitors, as well as a canteen for coffee or food.
The quiet beach of Istro is a bit quieter in comparison to the other Crete beaches -which doesn’t mean that it is quiet, especially during summertime- away from the vibrant cosmopolitan vibe of beaches like Elafonisi, and it is ideal for leisure.
Although quiet, the area doesn’t lack local taverns and accommodation offerings. The beach itself is fantastic, with the color of the sea resembling a postcard and the fine sand of the beach, along with the calm and safe waters being ideal for all family members.
On top of its striking waters, the landscape of Istro beach is just as stunning, with rich greenery covering its slopes, an aesthetically pleasing contradiction to the blue shades of the sea.
Preveli Beach - credits: www.caravel.gr
In the south of the region of Rethymnon, enclosed in a vastly vegetated area at the end of Kourtaliotiko gorge, lies Preveli beach.
Nearby Preveli Monastery, one can walk to the beach surrounded by palm trees easily within minutes. The sandy beach of Prevelis stretches out with splendid waterfalls flowing into the sea, making it one of the best beaches in Crete.
By wandering around the beach on foot or with a water bike, you will get to experience the beauties of Preveli beach, which is one of the most striking sights of Crete.
Although Preveli beach itself is not necessarily unique, it stands out because of the surrounding landscape.
In the eastern part of Preveli beach stands a beautiful, imposing rock in the sea that resembles a heart -ideal for the hopeless romantics. Its out-of-this-world aesthetic and ethereal vibe make for one of the sweetest experiences you’ll carry back home!
Beach of Souda - credits: holidayify.com
On the south coast of Crete and 41 km from Rethymno lies the settlement of Souda. There, the coastal road ends from the bay of Plakias, and the beach of Souda stretches with its thick sand, blue waters, and surrounding rocks.
On this beautiful Cretan beach, visitors can find umbrellas, deck chairs, showers, and a couple of taverns, where they can try a number of traditional Greek summer dishes.
If you’d like to explore the bottom of the sea with a mask, on the right of the beach, there are towering rocks.
On the left, there are small cliffs with rocks and shimmering waters that make swimming more interesting while also being ideal for fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving.
The waters of Souda Beach are cold and rejuvenating due to the river of Finikas that runs all year round, crossing the green valley with the palm trees behind the beach.
Perhaps one of the best beaches in Rethymnon and certainly the coldest sea in the area, Souda Beach has it all!
Of course, there are many other incredible beaches in Crete, and some of them are hardly known, like the ones on the south coast that look out to the Libyan Sea.
They are just as great and much less busy, while the clear waters of the Libyan sea are a pleasure to swim in. The Libyan Sea is part of the Mediterranean Sea, and there is no reason why we should overlook it!
After-beach activities in Crete
If after exploring the Crete beaches and their natural beauty, you’ve worked up an appetite, you can join us on a Herakleion foodies tour to also uncover the secrets of Cretan gastronomy, or book a tailor-made tour, designed to suit your needs and preferences.
The exquisiteness of Crete is unmatched, and although uncovering all of its beauties in one visit is nearly impossible, by visiting the Crete beaches we have listed above, you’re one step closer to understanding what the island, its landscape, and its culture are all about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are the beaches in Crete sandy or rocky?
Crete has a diverse range of beaches, offering both sandy and rocky options. The type of beach can vary from one region to another. Some beaches have soft, golden sand, while others may have pebbles or a combination of sand and rocks. It's advisable to check the specific beach you plan to visit to know its characteristics.
Are there organized facilities on the beaches in Crete?
Many of the popular beaches in Crete are fully organized, providing amenities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, showers, and beach bars. These organized beaches often charge a fee for the use of their facilities. However, there are also plenty of unorganized beaches where you can bring your own beach equipment and enjoy the natural surroundings.
Are there water sports activities available on Crete's beaches?
Yes, several beaches in Crete offer water sports activities for visitors to enjoy. These can include jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, snorkeling, and scuba diving. The availability of water sports may vary depending on the beach and the local operators present.
Can I visit Crete's beaches with the children?
Crete has beaches suitable for visitors of all ages, including children. Some beaches have shallow and calm waters, making them ideal for families with young children. It's recommended to research and choose beaches that are child-friendly and provide facilities like lifeguards and playgrounds.
Are there secluded and less crowded beaches in Crete?
Yes, Crete has numerous secluded and less crowded beaches, especially if you venture away from the popular tourist areas. Exploring the island's coastline can lead you to hidden gems where you can enjoy a quieter beach experience surrounded by nature.
Are there nude or clothing-optional beaches in Crete?
While public nudity is generally not allowed in Greece, there are a few designated clothing-optional beaches in Crete. These beaches are typically located in more remote areas. It's important to respect local regulations and etiquette when visiting such beaches.