The 14 Best Crete Beaches

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The largest of all the Greek islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Crete has long been a favourite holiday destination for beach goers. And with almost 100 miles of beaches along its coastline, tourists are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing their favourite beach. Thanks to such an abundance of beaches there is everything from secluded relaxing beaches with soft white sands, to those with great nightlife and even little pebbly ones hidden in rocky coves.

The beaches along the northern coast are the most developed and made up of soft golden sands that stretch out flat between the island's main cities and popular tourist resorts. One of the most popular resorts here is Rethimno with its wide sandy beach backed by a palm tree lined promenade which leads to the historical streets in the town. Bali Beach offers a much more charming location and set within an old fishing village.

Most visitors will head to the beautiful palm forest and soft sands of Vai; set on the eastern end of Crete it attracts tourists with its safe, crystal clear waters. To the west is Chania, a popular tourist destination and boasting various Blue Flag beaches and historical sites. One of the most visited beaches here is the 2km stretch of white sands of Georgioupolis. Not so far away you'll also find Falassarna beach which is set in front of an ancient city; it's a soft white sand beach and as it stretches away along the coast it rarely gets busy. Another beach set by a historical site is Prevelj beach which is close to the monastery and Kourtaliotikos Gorge; it's fringed with palm trees and dotted with pools from the Grand River.

Head to the southern coast of Crete if you’re in search of quieter and more secluded, rugged beaches, although bear in mind these beaches tend to be pebblier than the soft sands of the northern coast. There are still some sands here though; Elafonisi in the far west is one of these with its secluded expanse of unusual pink sand and blue waters, it's backed by sand dunes and there is a sandy islet just off the shore that can be reached through the shallow waters.

  • 1. Elafonisi Beach // Chania

    Elafonisi Beach
    © Halina JasiÅ„ska

    The beach here is a strip of sand that just connects the tiny island of Elafonisi off the far western coast of Crete. This area has a wild, unspoilt feel to it and development has been restricted leaving the pristine beaches a beautiful spot to unwind. Whilst the sand at Elafonisi appears white at first glance you may notice a pink hue. This is due to it containing traces… read more »

  • 2. Vai Beach

    Vai Beach
    © Karapas
    Great for:
    • Swimming
    • Kitesurfing

    Vai beach sits at the foot of the Vai palm forest, the largest of its sort in Europe. There are various stories of how the palm trees came to be here ranging from Arab pirates spitting date stones ashore to Phoenician traders planting them. The truth is though, they were always here and as a protected site will hopefully remain. Such a backdrop gives Vai beach a distinctly tropical feel… read more »

  • 3. Agiofarago Beach

    Agiofarago Beach
    © B.psycha / CC BY

    Agiofarago Beach sits at the foot of the Agiofarago Gorge, which you will need to traverse in order to reach the beach. This is an experience in itself as you hike through the vertical walls of rock. You will also pass by a number of caves where hermits from the Odigitria monastery still live today. There is also a small chapel of St Anthony there and the area in general… read more »

  • 4. Preveli Beach

    Preveli Beach
    © jarekgrafik

    Preveli Beach is possibly the most famous of Crete's beaches. Situated at the mouth of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, this is where the Grand River flows into the Mediterranean. It has a tropical landscape with a number of Theophrastus palm trees which line the river for around 500 meters before it empties into the sea.

    The beach itself is a small crescent flanked by cliffs with the lush green of the… read more »

  • 5. Red Beach

    Red Beach

    Red beach, so named because of the pinkish hue of the sand, is located just south of the better known beach of Matala. Both were firm favourites on the 1960s and 70s hippy trail and whilst Matala may have gone mainstream, Red beach still retains some of its laid back credentials.
    It's a lovely little beach set at the base of arid hillsides and limestone cliffs. The red sand is… read more »

  • 6. Balos Beach

    Balos Beach
    © Pavel Timofeev / 123RF

    Located on the north-western tip of Crete, Balos beach is a strip of sand and lagoon stretching between the Gramvousa Peninsula and the headland of Cape Tigani. The landscape of Balos is stunning with white / pink sand interspersed with turquoise pools all dominated by the bulk of cape Tigani. Despite the beach here being immensely popular there is a feeling of wilderness here - if you were to come… read more »

  • 7. Falassarna Beach

    Falassarna Beach
    © Milan Baloun / 123RF

    The island of Crete is famed for its great beaches, particularly in the north west. Falassarna beach is among the very best of these with its fine white sand and crystal-clear, azure waters. 

    Set in a long sweeping bay backed by agricultural land Falasarna rarely feels crowded owing to its size. Visitors are well catered for with several bars and cafes along the beach. 

    On the second Saturday of August there is… read more »

  • 8. Matala Beach

    Matala Beach
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling

    The fishing village of Matala was just that until the 1960s. However, since then, like many other things, it hasn't been quite the same! It was then that Matala became a popular destination for hippy travellers attracting the likes of Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens and Joni Mitchell (who even wrote a song about it) in its heyday. 

    Many of these hippies camped out in the complex of caves that are carved… read more »

  • 9. Plakias Beach

    Plakias Beach
    Great for:
    • Snorkeling
    • Kitesurfing

    Plakias Beach is situated on the south coast, around 36 kilometers south of Rethymno City. It is one of the most highly rated and largest beaches on Crete, with a beachfront that starts near town and runs 1.3 kilometers all the way to Cape Mouri. The beach has cool green waters with tamarisk trees running along the back of the beach. As one of the islands go-to beaches there are… read more »

  • 10. Kokkinos Pyrgos

    Kokkinos Pyrgos
    Great for:
    • Kitesurfing

    Kokkinos Pyrgos is located near Tympaki, the main port of this region which is about halfway along Crete's south coast. The name means "Red Tower", and it comes from the reddish soil that is found at the mouth of the Geropotamos River.

    The beach is large with sand and beautiful clear blue waters. The northern end of the beach, close to the harbour, is filled with activity, and you can… read more »

  • 11. Voulisma beach

    Voulisma beach
    © Vadim Indeikin / CC BY
    Great for:
    • Swimming

    Voulisma Beach is located on the eastern part of Crete near the small town of Istro. Set in a beautiful sheltered bay, one of three beaches, Voulisma Beach is the main beach. With beautiful turquoise waters whihc are shallow and calm it is often called the golden beach because it has fine-grained, golden sand.

    You will find plenty od modern conveniences such as sun loungers and umbrellas for rent here,… read more »

  • 12. Seitan Limania Beach

    Seitan Limania Beach
    © Ellibah / CC BY

    Nestled between jagged white cliffs and seas with strong currents is Seitan Limania Beach. The name is derived from the Turkish for "Satan's harbor" due to the trechearous conditions encountered by early mariners here. Three stunning coves are located here in parallel to one another, all offering some degree of protection from the sometimes strong waves.

    Seitan Limania is 22 kilometers northeast of Chania and two kilometers east of Chordaki… read more »

  • 13. Kedrodasos Beach

    Kedrodasos Beach
    © Mafalda93 / CC BY

    Backed by Juniper Trees and sand dunes, Kedrodasos Beach is covered in white sand that reaches out into deep blue waters. This secluded beach is only one kilometer from the famous Elafonissi beach with its lagoon, and it is about 76 kilometers southwest of Chania.

    Kedrodasos beach draws visitors who appreciate the natural beauty of the Crete coast, and it is pretty much untouched with no amenities. You will… read more »

  • 14. Sweet Water Beach

    Sweet Water Beach

    Glyka Nera means "Sweet Water", and it is certainly one of the most impressive beaches in Crete. You will be in awe of the deep blue seas, near white pebbles and towering cliffs. You will need to travel to this beach by boat unless you dare to brave the hike down the precipitous cliffs. The views are incredible, but this hike is not one for the faint at heart!

    On the… read more »