Crete is the largest island of Greece and its coastline of 1,064 kilometres (approximately 660 miles) has hundreds of beautiful beaches. Located between the southern part of the Aegean Sea, which is also known as the Cretan Sea, and the northern shores of the Libyan Sea, Crete becomes a very popular destination for visitors in summer due to the gorgeous beaches, the traditional lifestyle of the Cretans and the beauty of its nature.
Among the most exotic sandy Cretan beaches is Balos, a wonderful place in Chania Prefecture with crystal clear water reminiscent of the Caribbean. This place amazes visitors with its stunning natural beauty. Another of the most beautiful beaches of Crete is the one at Elafonissi in Chania, on the westernmost spot of Crete, as well as the long, sandy beach of Falassarna. Finding a perfect beach is easy for visitors to the island, as there are exquisite clean beaches all along the coastline of the island. Some Cretan beaches are organized with the hire of sunbeds and umbrellas available and others are secluded, but all are clean.
Occasionally in July and August, strong winds blow on the northern side of Crete creating large waves. On these days when the etesian or Meltemia winds are blowing, the beaches are not appropriate for swimming except for skilled swimmers. Beaches on the southern side of Crete are less windy but sometimes they can also be affected.
CreteBay’s List of the 10 Best Beaches around Crete
The large island of Crete is famous for its fantastic beaches. Small or large, organized or secluded, the beaches of Crete are wonderful places to spend a long day under the sun. Discover Crete’s best beaches: Balos, Elafonissi and Falassarna in Chania, Preveli in Rethymno, Vai in Lassithi, and more.
1. Balos beach in Chania
Balos is a fantastic location on the north western side of Crete, in the region of Chania. This amazing place has been called the Caribbean part of Crete. In reality, it is simply a unique place. With crystal clear waters, soft white sand and a large island with a Venetian Castle on top, Balos amazes all visitors at first sight. It can be reached by car, preferably a four wheel drive, through a track road from Kissamos or by excursion boat from Chania town and Kissamos.
2. Elafonissi beach in Chania
Located on the south western side of Crete, facing towards the west and so being the perfect place to watch the sunsets for which this coastline is famous, Elafonissi is a fantastic beach with turquoise crystal waters. This place is idyllic, with soft white and pink sand and with cedar trees reaching down to the beach. Elafonissi means the island of the deer and is a magical place that should not be missed during your trip to western Crete. Part of the beach is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas.
3. Vai beach in Lassithi
On the easterly facing shoreline of Crete, in the region of Lassithi, is a fantastic beach called Vai. The special thing about this beach is that it is surrounded by the largest palm tree forest in Europe, consisting of 5,000 trees. The soft sand, the crystal water and the natural beauty make this beach an inviting place for families. In the past, Vai was a free camping site but now free camping is prohibited there.
4. Falassarna beach in Chania
Falassarna is a large sandy beach on the western side of Crete, a short drive from the town of Kissamos. This fantastic place is ideal for families with children due to the organized facilities and the soft sand. It is also good for windsurfing and in fact there is a windsurfing station on this beach in summer months. Overlooking it, there is the archaeological site of Ancient Falassarna.
5. Preveli beach in Rethymno
On the southern side of the Prefecture of Rethymno is a place of great natural beauty, Preveli. This beach is actually where a river flows into the sea, passing through a palm grove with many palm trees, the species being the Cretan Palm, indigenous to the island and the same as is found growing at Vai. The natural geology of the area has created, as the river approaches the sea, a small lake or lagoon where the river widens close to the beach. There are water sports in this lake to explore the river, while the sandy and partly organized beach of Preveli is a wonderful place to swim. There are boat excursions to Preveli beach from Plakias.
6. Matala beach in Heraklion
Matala was famous in the 1960s and 1970s as a hippie place. In fact, many hippies would come and spend many days or even months in the caves above the beach of Matala. Today the hippies are long gone and this pleasant seaside village with its fine tavernas attracts many families for the long, sandy and organized beach. Matala and the villages behind it are a convenient places to stay during your holidays in Crete. They can be excellent bases from which to make excursions to the archeological sites in the area of the Messara plain such as the Minoan Palace of Phaistos or Gortyn or from which to take drives to visit and explore the attractive inland villages and coastlines nearby.
7. Rodhakino beach in Rethymno
On the southern side of Rethymno, close to the tourist village of Plakias, is the large and sandy beach of Rodhakino. Partly organized with sunbeds and umbrellas and partly secluded, Rodakino beach has soft sand and crystal waters, making it ideal for families with children and for people looking for some calm and tranquillity. Some seaside tavernas and apartments are spaced along this beautiful place.
8. Plakias beach in Rethymno
Plakias is a large seaside village with a small port on the southern side of Rethymno Prefecture. The village has many tourist facilities and yet has retained its calm environment, away from the noisy world. Just in front of the village, there is a large sandy beach of more than one kilometre in length, with crystal clear waters. Part of Plakias beach is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas, while there are also some fish taverns and apartments along part of the beach nearest to the village.
9. Tymbaki beach in Heraklion, also known as Kokkinos Pyrgos
A vast beach with both sandy and pebbled parts, Tymbaki is located on the southern side of Heraklion Prefecture. Also known as Kokkinos Pyrgos, Tymbaki has an organized part with sunbeds, umbrellas and few seaside taverns with delicious local recipes. Geographically Tymbaki is located between two large tourist seaside villages of southern Crete, Matala and Agia Galini, which makes it a convenient base for excursions in the region.
10. Istro beach in Lassithi
At a close distance to the town of Agios Nikolaos, in the Prefecture of Lassithi, is this long beach with golden and white sand. Istro beach in eastern Crete is organized with sunbeds and umbrellas and has a gently sloping shoreline where children can enjoy playing in the water. The crystal waters and the relaxing environment amaze all visitors at first sight. Due to its large size, Istro also offers some spots for privacy.
Looking for a hotel or a villa near one of the most beautiful beaches of Crete? Check our hotels and villas to find the one that suits your needs best.