11 of the best beaches in Crete

View of a persons legs and feet on a white sand beach by the sea

If you are looking for the best beaches in Greece, then Crete is the place to go. Crete is the largest island in Greece, and boasts a long, thin shape, which means it is perfect for offering miles upon miles of shoreline, and is an extremely popular destination for those of you dreaming of postcard-perfect sandy beaches and shimmering oceans. It is located South of the mainland, resting in the Mediterranean sea. 

Whether you’re more of a “kick-back with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other” kind of person, or if you’re seeking a destination with plenty of watersports on offer to keep your adrenalin high and your heart pumping, there are plenty of options for you no matter what kind of vacation you have in mind. Read on to discover more about some of the best beaches in Crete, and find your perfect vacation destination. 

So… where are the best beaches in Crete?

1. Elafonissi

White sand with a bright blue sea, land in the background, and rocks in the foreground

Located in the bottom left corner of Crete, the beach of Elafonissi is a rustic gem, complete with a beautiful stretch of golden sand and rocky features ripe for exploration. With a combination of authentic Greek landscapes, with sand dunes and shrubbery, and incredible pink-tinged sand that lines the shore, Elafonissi offers all the very best of Crete beaches.The water is crystal clear and beautiful with its protruding rocks, and even offers the perfect conditions to spot some fish. The unique aspect of this beach, and why so many love to visit, is the possibility to walk from the beach on the mainland of Crete, to the nearby island via a narrow strip of land hugged by shallow lagoons, which offers plenty more room, unique scenery, and shoreline to explore.

There are sunbeds to hire at beach Elafonissi, but also plenty of room for those of you who are planning on bringing your own. There are also places to buy food and water, some public bathrooms, and a nearby kite club, so this is a perfect spot to spend a day in beautiful surroundings, with everything you need nearby.Though the beach is a little out the way from the capital, it can be reached from Chania in an hour and a half, or Kissamos in just over an hour.

2. Beach Gouves

If you’re looking for the best beaches near Gouves in Crete, then where better to start than Beach Gouves itself? A stunning stretch of sandy shore located just outside of Heraklion, beach Gouves offers plenty of sunbeds for those hoping to bask in the midday sun, with a drink service also available when you hire one. Offering clear water perfect for paddling and swimming, this is a perfect spot for you to wile away a day in Crete.

Beach Gouves is surrounded by several popular resorts and beautiful, exclusive villas, so there is no shortage of places to stay. For those who want to explore a little further, Aposelemi Beach, which is a little more untouched and quiet than Beach Gouves, is located a little further up. There are also plenty of eateries surrounding Beach Gouves, a museum if you fancy a change of pace from the lapping ocean, and even a water sports equipment rental service with a huge variety of activities to choose from, located nearby. 

3. Vai Beach

Get a strange feeling of familiarity when you see Vai beach? You may have seen it before! Making its debut into public knowledge in the seventies in an advertisement for a popular chocolate bar, the Vai beach has been considered one of the best beaches on the island of Crete ever since. Located to the very East of the island, about a two and a half hour drive from Heraklion, this beautiful, picturesque beach is located amongst one of Europe’s largest palm groves, which offers spectacular opportunities for beautiful photographs. The beach is largely untouched save for a few sunbeds, with incredibly blue waters stretching out to the islands in the distance, which makes it popular for those seeking natural beauty, as well as a classic Grecian beach with endless water and plenty of spots to explore. 

Beach parking is available, as well as a choice of two nearby eateries. Facilities are generally limited due to this beach’s rustic and out-of-the-way location, but if you’re looking for an untouched beauty spot by the sea, then Vai Beach is the place to go.

4. Skaleta

a beach at sunset, with land in the distance

The area of Skaleta is a popular beach resort, joining this list for it’s beautiful stretch of golden sand, surrounding areas teeming with beautiful properties to stay in, and variety of restaurants and activities to keep you busy. One of the best beaches in Crete near Rethymnon in Crete, Skaleta beach tends to be quite quiet, offering relaxing and calming views over the sea without the hustle and bustle that often comes with some of the more well-known destinations. Complete with sunbeds, plenty of places to grab your evening meal, and luscious sand your toes will simply sink into, Skaleta is the perfect spot to go if you are looking for a beach you can visit regularly throughout your holiday, due to its perfect location near some of our most popular villas.

It is easy to get to, located only an hour West of the capital of Crete, Heraklion, and a short drive from other popular beaches located in Rethymno. Skaleta is the perfect destination to set up a base for your vacation.  

5. Paralia Ammoudara

Paralia Ammoudara beach is a long stretch of beautiful shoreline, fantastically located just outside of Heraklion. As an extra large beach, there is plenty of space, even though it is a popular destination due to its location close to the capital. It comes complete with sun loungers you can rent, and offers plenty of beach bars and places to grab a snack, which makes it the perfect place to spend a whole day if you are on a day trip from Heraklion. It is known for offering gentle breezes that give the waters the perfect conditions for windsurfing, so you’re sure to see plenty of people out there tackling the waves. 

We’ve chosen Paralia Ammoudara as it is one of the best beaches in Crete near Heraklion. Dripping with natural beauty, it is incredibly easy to get to and surrounded by plenty of fantastic properties you can rent for the duration of your stay, making it easy to visit and the perfect beach destination if you are planning an extended stay near Heraklion. Furthermore, there is so much more to do and see in the local area if you want to vary your beach visits with some local culture, including the Rocca a Mare Fortress, Natural History Museum of Crete, and the Venetian Walls of Heraklion, all located a short distance away in the capital.

6. Rethimno

Located on the North of the island, and just over an hour’s drive from Heraklion, lies the town of Rethimno. Here, you will find Rethymnon beach, located close to the old town and with a beautiful, long stretch of sandy shore. Though it is in a fantastic location, and close to a popular city, there is plenty of space to find your perfect spot, with shimmering waters all the way across. Being so close to a town, you are within incredibly easy reach of all of the amenities you could possibly need, as well as close to a fantastic range of vacation properties within walking distance.

There is an abundance of other activities to enjoy if you tire of the beach, such as the incredible Halevi monastery, the Biotopoi nature park, and the Venetian Fortezza castle, which makes this beach destination a fantastic place to stay.

7. Matala Beach

A beach with a cave formation in the background

Matala beach used to be one of Crete’s best-kept secrets, only known to a handful of locals before it became renowned as a popular haunt for hippies in the 60’s and 70’s. Now, offering a seaside village and a beautiful wide stretch of sandy shore perfect for families, couples and solo travelers alike, Matala Beach is well organised with sunbeds and plenty of nearby restaurants. Many make the journey to Matala, not only for the beautiful beach, but the awe-inspiring caves found leading out to sea along the right hand side of the beach, it’s sandy tones and gaping holes giving the appearance of honeycomb. You can explore these caves for a small fee, or simply enjoy the view under the hot Greek sun, as you relax on the beautiful beach.

Matala beach rests on the South of Crete, about an hour’s drive from Heraklion. It is steeped in majesty and beauty, with endless blue water, incredible natural cave formations, and an incredible park and garden within a short drive away complete with caves and cliffs. Perfect for the more adventurous traveller.

8. Karteros Beach

Next up on our list is the popular Karteros beach, located close to the centre of Heraklion. Karteros beach is a wide beach that can get quite busy, but it has plenty of room and if you can get there early enough, a fantastic place to spend the day on a sun lounger with beautiful, clear water stretching out towards the distant island of Dia. This beach is an aviation-enthusiast’s dream, as it is located close to the flight path of Heraklion’s airport. You can watch the jets taking off and landing as you drift in the shimmering sea with the sun’s heat against your skin. As this beach is located in such a popular destination, you will find plenty of cafes and bars in the nearby area.

A little further along the shore you will find a few more beaches you are free to explore, including the quieter, but just as beautiful Xenia Beach, and even further along from there, Amnissos and Tobruk beach. If you’ve really got your exploration hat on, you can also head to the nearby famous Boufos Cave, an impressive geological formation.

9. Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos is a stunning coastal town located to the East of Heraklion, that has an abundance of beautiful beaches on offer, overlooking Mirabello Bay and the curve of Crete beyond. The easiest to reach is the Paralia Kitroplatia, which offers a small pebble beach amongst the curve of the town, plenty of amenities within easy access, and a nearby yacht company if you fancy heading out on the water. There is also the sandy beach of Ammos a little further down. If you’re looking for something a little more out the way from the pretty town, head South to Beach Almyros or Paralia Ammoudara (not to be confused with the Paralia Ammoudara next to Heraklion.) You also have a selection of beaches to the north of the town, including the stunning Minos Beach.

There is a huge selection of beaches to visit if you’re heading to Agios Nikolaos, which makes it the perfect destination if you’re hoping to spend your vacation in one place. Furthermore, there are an abundance of restaurants, museums, and other cultural spots of interest within easy reach. 

10. Falasarna

A white beach with protruding rocks

A picture-perfect collection of beaches are on offer in Falasarna, perfect for those who want plenty of room to explore and relax. Consisting of Baby Beach, Small Beach, Big Beach, and the main Paralia Falasarna, there is no end to beautiful scenery and incredible locations to explore along this shoreline. It is a perfect spot for those of you who love to windsurf, as well as for families, as there are plenty of organised sections complete with sunbeds and perfect, glittering water that is just calling out to be waded in. If you are in Falasarna for an extended period of time and want to add a little bit of culture to your vacation, then you can visit the nearby Poseidon’s throne, an ancient sculpture of a throne that was believed to have been built in honour of the Greek God of the Sea, and a little further North, you can explore the ancient ruins of a Greek settlement, the archaeological site of Phalasarna. 

Falasarna is located to the very west of Crete, about an hour’s drive from the ancient and popular destination of Chania City.

11. Balos

Last but certainly by no means least, we have Balos beach. Considered an iconic Cretan beach, Balos is often the go-to beach when it comes to advertising the incredible, scenic beaches on offer on this island, so it is highly likely that you have seen pictures of Balos if you’ve flicked through any Crete travel guides. Though it is not the easiest to get to, it is well worth it for the turquoise waters, remote location, and peculiar natural formation. Best reached by boat from Kissamos, make sure you pack a picnic as this beach is far from civilization. 

You can walk the sandy stretch that connects this beach to a small island just offshore, which creates some shallow lagoons perfect for paddling in. On the small island, you will find the Tigani Balos Beach viewpoint, which offers incredible views of the surrounding area.

Summary of the Best Beaches in Crete

As you can see, there is no single best place in Crete for beaches, as incredible shorelines and sandy stretches can be found all over the island. So no matter where you are staying, you are bound to find the beach of your dreams nearby, and we hope this list has helped you to narrow down your choices.

If you’ve spotted the beach that gets you raring to run towards the water, and you’re ready to start planning the rest of your vacation, be sure to check out the incredible villas we have on offer in Crete. Our hand-picked villas come complete with private pools, plenty of bedrooms for all the family, and fantastic locations close to an array of fine, picturesque beaches just waiting for you to sink your toes into them.