Legendary, mythical Crete is the largest island in Greece. Lapped by the friendly waters of the Aegean and Libyan Seas, this wonderful land offers its visiting tourists a wealth of culture and traditions, history galore and over 960 kilometres of striking, heterogeneous coast where they can spend their holidays by the sea.
Marvellous panoramas, rocks battered by crashing waves, trendy restaurants and bars and, naturally, a night life that’s hard to resist: these are just some of the reasons why you should visit the island of Crete. Crete is perhaps the most popular holiday destination in Greece, and this is no coincidence: here the atmosphere you breathe is one thousand years old, and has such a magical vibe that even the sunlight seems to kiss the rocks and the lush vegetation in its own unique, unmistakeable way. Here every tiny space is oozing with life: Crete is famous for its biodiversity, the tastiest olives in the world and its mountain landscapes that are sure to steal your heart.
In Crete, hospitality is an art too. Food, music and a warm welcome are all part of the locals’ daily life, as they mingle with tourists, showing off their talents and eagerly sharing the beauty that surrounds them every day.
History buffs will find lots to get their teeth into here. Come and visit Heraklion, the largest archaeological museum in Crete. Or stop at Frangokastello, where the villas of the Venetians stand proud, overlooking the rocks and the wild nature.
But let’s get down to business: thanks to its extraordinary long stretches of sand, Crete offers the tourist some of the most beautiful beaches in Greece. Think, for example, of the more effectively structured and better organised lidos, where you can hire a sun umbrella and listen to the music played on the speakers. Instead, those who favour a quieter holiday can opt for tiny secret beaches, dreamlike bays and mountain villages with an irresistible charm. It all depends what you want to do during the time you’ll spend in Crete, but you can always be sure that every activity will be truly unforgettable.
Here the climate is extremely pleasant almost all year round, and although the charm of any beach in summertime is simply irresistible, there is no wrong time to visit Crete. This is why we have devised a complete list of the most beautiful beaches on the island, especially for you. This way, you can concentrate on mapping out your itinerary without worrying about anything else.
- Triopetra beach
- Elafonissi beach
- Balos beach
- Agios Pavlos beach
- Vai beach
- Falassarna beach
- Kommos beach
- Skinaria beach
- Preveli beach
- The beaches of Paleochora
- Soúgia beach
- Malia beach
- Xerocambos beach
Triopetra is a splendid area of Crete, located about 50 kilometres from Rethymno, near the village called Akoumia. This piece of beautiful coastline that plunges into the light blue sea runs back to back with the Siderotas mountain. Triopetra can be found in the central section of the Akomiani Gialia coast, an area that once hosted immense olive trees and the multitude of cottages where the population of Akoumia would come and spend the night in the serenity of the countryside. Although that same village now thrives mainly on tourism and the restaurant trade, the atmosphere you breathe here is still rather magical.
And proof of this can certainly be found in the two main beaches of Triopetra, separated from one another by a small peninsula. Triopetra gets its name from the three enormous stones that rise majestically out of the sea nearby.
The first beach, Little Triopetra or Koumado, is located in a bay of sand and rocks south of the three enormous stones that gave this place its name. The Akoumianos river flows through the southern part of this idyllic section of paradise, separating Triopetra from the legendary Agios Pavlos beach at Cape Melissa. Here the bathing establishments are excellent and you can hire a sun umbrella and a lounger to ensure you enjoy the area’s holiday atmosphere to the max. The sea is crystal clear and the water is perfect for swimming in with all the family.
The other beach, the main one, is called “West Triopetra” or Chatzi, and it’s located to the west of the three stones, stretching for several kilometres until it reaches Ligres beach. The coarse golden sand plunges straight into the sea, which is tinged with the exquisite colours of the surrounding nature. It faces west, making it subject to strong winds that ripple the waves. When the sea is choppy, it’s therefore not a good idea to bring your children and in fact you should avoid going into the water in general. The wind here can also blow the sand around, which can sometimes be annoying. On the other hand, the eastern part of the beach has a host of eating places and many bathing establishments where you can hire sun umbrellas and loungers. There is also another beautiful river here, which will definitely inspire you to get your camera out. Not to mention the rocks along the coast, one of which has a magnificent triangular cavity that has made it a favourite with tourists.
Elafonissi (or Elafonisi) beach is featured every year in travel magazines worldwide due to its legendary beauty. And it’s not surprising that it attracts so many tourists every year: we’re certain that the pink beaches of this splendid location are the same stuff that Paradise is made of!
Although Elafonissi was practically unknown until 2014, frequented only by a few tourists in love with beautiful Crete, and a precious secret jealously guarded by the local residents, the advent of travel review websites has now made this corner of coastline one of the most popular areas on the island. Since then, families, holidaymakers, groups of friends and photography fans have flocked to occupy Elafonissi, making it one of the most crowded areas on the Cretan coast, in spite of its discreet image.
The pink, sandy beach, broken up by small rocks, differentiates it from the more jagged beaches in the rest of Crete, much to the delight of the tourists who grace its shores. This amazing shade of pink would appear to be due to the composition of the sand: coral, fragments of shells and calcium structures which had lain on the sea bed for a long time and have now arrived here to create a soft bed of rose-coloured dust. And what’s even more amazing is that depending on the movements of the tide, the colour tends to vary, and at times the difference can be huge.
Come here with your children, lay out a towel on the pink sand and enjoy the calm, peaceful water of Elafonissi, where swimming is a pleasure and there is no risk of encountering the dangers you might come across in the water in other points of the island, where the currents are stronger. You can hire a sun lounger and sun umbrella and enjoy the little snack bars nearby, filling up on food and drink between dips in the sea. If you get here and it’s really too busy, keep on walking: beyond the dunes of pink sand, you’ll come across some more isolated areas of beach where you can enjoy the sound of the waves and the pleasure of your own company.
Elafonissi is the perfect location for landscape photography enthusiasts. With a bit of luck, you’ll also catch sight of a few animal species, including the Balkan green lizard, the gecko and, last but not least, the fantastic loggerhead sea turtle. The areas where the turtles’ eggs are laid to hatch are cordoned off: don’t cross the lines for any reason whatsoever!
Despite its natural, unspoilt appearance, Elafonissi is a place of history. During the Greek War of Independence, many Greeks fled here in the hope of escaping the Ottoman oppression (although their efforts were in vain). Additionally, in 1907, the area was the venue of a shipwreck: the passenger ship called Imperatrix sank just off the coast and today its relic can still be seen there, on the sea bed.
Whereas Elafonissi beach was hidden away until a few years ago, instead, the lagoon of Balos Beach is a piece of paradise that has been known and loved by everyone for many years. Welcome to Balos, one of the most beautiful areas in Crete and, possibly in the whole of Greece. Imagine a coast that slopes down towards the sea, setting off from lush headlands, beautiful white sand and a lagoon protected from the whims of the waves. Beyond it, separated by a very thin line of sand, lies the Aegean Sea in all its splendour.
For the locals, this place goes by the name of Gramvousa. If you’re here now, you’ll have arrived on the north west of the island, surrounded by natural beauties that you’ll never forget. Balos is the ultimate picture postcard landscape: the water is clear, crystalline and warm, and the beach welcomes you with a soft, sandy embrace.
To get here you need to come by ferry, but it’s worth every second of your precious time in Crete. Children can also go for a dip in the lagoon and relax in this beautiful place, as long as they manage to climb the short upward stretch you must cover to get here. Parents, you’ve been warned! Remember to bring a packed lunch with you and plenty of water, because there are no organised bathing establishments here in the vicinity: it will be completely up to you to get by until the ferry comes back for you.
Agios Pavlos beach
Welcome to Agios Pavlos, a coastal village located approximately 60 kilometres from Rethymnon, west of Agia Galini, Agios Pavlos (San Paolo) is accessible from Sachtouria and it is a place of peace, harmony, silence and tranquillity where you can spend peaceful hours bathing and sunbathing, far from the throngs of tourists generally found in some of the better-known areas.
The strip of white sand of Agios Pavlos merges into an irresistible sea, glistening with blue and turquoise highlights. Walk in the water, on the pebble sea bed and enjoy the warm temperature of the waves and the quiet, silent atmosphere. Top up your tan by hiring a sun lounger and, when you’re not relaxing, remember to try one of the many restaurants nearby, where you’ll find all the local specialities before setting off again on your cruise with us. If you fancy the idea, you could also hire a pedalo.
Come here with friends or with the whole family, including your children, to enjoy crystal clear water, and a stay based on comfort and convenience where you’ll be treated like a king. If you happen to feel like a break from the beach, you can always stop and tour the marvellous church of St Paul. Local legend has it that the saint lived here for a while before heading to Rome.
Its name is Vai, or rather, the palm forest of Vai, and it’s one of the most beautiful, evocative beaches in the whole of Crete, if not in the Mediterranean as a whole. This very popular piece of coast attracts thousands of visitors every year and this is no coincidence: not only are they drawn by its heavenly sea and golden beach but also by the main attraction of the place. We’re talking about the enormous, lush palm forest.
Vai was “rediscovered” by the hippies in the early seventies, when a group of them were thrown out of Matala and had to find a new place to stay. At the beginning of the 1980s, Vai turned into an immense camping area where thousands of people with similar political and philosophical viewpoints set up home. And in the same period, unfortunately, the area was turned into an enormous dumping ground. Later on in the decade, Vai was declared a protected area and it was thoroughly cleaned from top to bottom. Today, Vai is one of Crete’s most striking, beautiful destinations, and its sea has been awarded the “blue flag” for its cleanliness.
Vai beach spans about 200 metres of sand and also offers public toilets and showers. Here, more active tourists can also hire wakeboarding and water skiing equipment.
Come here with your children too and hire a sun umbrella and a lounger for your relaxation on the golden sand. The water is warm, crystal clear and clean, perfect for swimming or snorkelling. After a day of lounging, sunbathing and beach activities, you can seek out one of the many local restaurants or admire the natural beauty of the palm forest, which spans over 250,000 metres, making it one of the largest in Europe. You’ll feel as if you’re on a tropical island! Its origins are steeped in mystery - or at least they were until a few decades ago. It is said that the Arabs came here and ate the dates that they had brought with them, tossing the seeds on to the beach. It is said that those seeds grew into the palm trees that still stand tall here today. Another legend confirms this theory, but attributes the seed-tossing to the Phoenicians. But unfortunately, the truth is a little less legendary! Scientists have established that the Phoenix theoprasti, or Cretan date palm, is an species endemic to Crete.
Falassarna beach is located on the west coast of Crete, near the village of Falassarna, one of the most famous places in Chania. The clear, crystalline waters of this location draw thousands of tourists here every year, all in hot pursuit of the perfect seaside holiday. It is one of the most important beach destinations in Crete, not only because of its beaches, but also due to the natural environment that hosts them. Indeed, Falassarna is part of the Natura 2000 project, which aims to protect and safeguard the local flora and fauna. This means that from the beach you’ll be able to catch sight of a series of greenhouses.
There are three main coastal areas, the most famous of which is undoubtedly Pachia Ammos. Heading south, the beaches become sandy and the pebble sea bed offers even more of a spectacle. Falassarna has won various awards for the most beautiful beaches in Greece and is often included in the top 10 most beautiful European seaside destinations. With its immaculate sands, Pachia Ammos is so big that you’ll find it difficult to feel crowded: here the “tourist hotspot” vibe is easily diluted.
When the water is calm, swimming here is a veritable pleasure. But the fact that Falassarna is exposed to the northern and western winds can often mean that it experiences huge waves. This is why the location is also a firm favourite with windsurf enthusiasts.
Come here with your family or top up your tan as you relax in this wonderful Greek sun trap. You can hire a sun umbrella and sun loungers along most of the coast, but there are also many free beach areas that you can visit, armed only with your beach towel. The area has its fair share of bars and small restaurants and in the evening it often comes alive with parties and entertainment for everyone. Falassarna is also the ideal location for lovers, who can admire the beautiful sunset sitting comfortably on a beach that feels as if it belongs to them alone.
Kommos is a village in the south of the island of Crete, hosting one of its most beautiful beaches. Famous for its extra-long strip of sandy coast, punctuated by picture postcard scenery, it is also one of the oldest local harbour cities. The Minoan city of Kommos is in fact one of the most important archaeological sites in the prefecture of Heraklion, located about 60 kilometres from the centre. Unfortunately not much remains of the city’s ancient beauty, but a visit is still well worth the stop.
One of the main attractions of Kommos is undoubtedly the beach, which starts in Kalamaki and stretches as far as Matala. In some points you can still see the ruins of the harbour.
The water is exquisite and the sand is soft and welcoming. However, the coast is exposed to the western winds, making the area particularly prone to big waves. So take extra care on windy days, when the rocky sea bed could prove perilous.
From May to September, Kommos is the habitat of the loggerhead turtle, which comes here to lay its eggs in the sand.
The area north of Kommos, known as Potamos or Potamoserma, is one of the most popular naturist destinations - a throwback to the period when the area between Matala and Vai was a haven for hippies. Kommos is a protected area and only has a few bathing establishments: those who come here can hire a sun umbrella and loungers to make the most of the beach. Don’t forget to bring a packed lunch and plenty of water with you. Despite its high visitor flow, Kommos will hardly ever seem crowded to you, as it is so big!
Kommos also affords a breathtaking view of the Paximadia islands. At 300 metres from the archaeological site, in the water you can also admire the view of a large rock known as Volakas. It’s a key element of Greek mythology and is said to be one of the rocks thrown by Polyphemus after he had been blinded by the crew of Ulysses’ ship, according to Greek mythology.
Skinaria, also known as Shinaria, is a stunning beach located 30 kilometres from Rethymno, not far from the village of Lefkogia. Skinaria is a small strip of coast hosting a beach of grey sand and small pebbles, located in the eastern part of Plakias. The sea bed is rocky but the water here is crystal clear and tinged with a wide array of incredible colours.
There are small ponds of freshwater all along the beach, which fill up in springtime, with water from Mount Koroupa. And around these, life is in its element: the lush vegetation is the perfect setting for a vast, healthy fauna. And if you’re not much of a walker, remember that Skinaria is the perfect location for snorkelling and diving. Come here and marvel at octopuses, moray eels and shoals of fish in every shape and colour.
Skinaria beach is not particularly well-organised: there is a small eating place that offers delicious Greek dishes and refreshments. Sun umbrellas and loungers are free for those who drink or dine there.
You’re about thirty kilometres from Rethymno, in Preveli. The beach, also known as “Preveli Lake” or “Phoenix” is located at the exit of the imposing Kuirtalitikos gorge, where the Great River (Megas Potamos) flows. It is perhaps the most famous coastline in southern Crete, and its beauty attracts countless tourists every year, curious to experience the natural, wild beauty surrounding this part of the island.
In the period between the 60s and 70s, Preveli was a hippy hotspot. This was because of the vast date palm forest located near the river. This amazing vegetation gives the island its characteristic tropical charm that is the perfect backdrop for your holiday snaps.
In Preveli, the river forms a large lake of about 500 metres, which flows into the sea a little further on. It contains water all year round, and is protected by the mild shade afforded by the plants. Near the mouth of the river a beautiful sand and pebble beach awaits, with a splendid heart-shaped rock emerging from the sea.
The area is protected so at the moment there are no bathing establishments here. If you decide to come, bring your own sun umbrella, a towel and of course, a packed lunch.
The beaches of Paleochora
No less than eighteen kilometres of coast, each one more appealing than the one before. Welcome to Paleochora, in the south of the island of Crete, overlooking the Libyan Sea. Come here if you want to plunge into the beautiful waters of some of the most important beaches in Crete. For example, Pachia Ammos, an extraordinary, vast beach, or Halikia and Votsala. Instead, if you’re passing through the eastern part of Paleochora, stop at the Gianiskari, Gyaliskari beaches or Anidri. Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful rocky shores in Crete.
The Psilos Volakas, Plakaki and Karavopetra beaches are located in the east. Krios is well worth a visit and, of course - last but not least, so is the legendary Elafonissi.
The seaside resort of Malia stands a few kilometres from Heraklion, an oasis of beautiful beaches and a small centre for relaxing and resting, not too far from one of the most beautiful Minoan palaces in Crete. Malia offers beaches of golden sand and beautiful sea beds that slope towards the horizon. Although it is very busy, it’s the ideal place for hiring a sun umbrella and lounger, and enjoying a day of relaxation and rest in Crete. Bring your children here too: the water is also ideal for weaker swimmers.
Malia is also equipped to cater for water sports and, naturally, for when you decide to take a break and tantalise your taste buds with traditional Greek food and drink. It’s well worth it!
Xerocambos beach offers a simply irresistible spectacle for beach lovers from far and wide. Come here to enjoy the pale sand and crystalline water, warm and ideal for a refreshing dip when you’re feeling relaxed. Although it’s not too busy, you can still hire a sun umbrella and loungers for just a few euros and enjoy all the comforts of the organised bathing establishments.
Peace, rest, relaxation and a sea that will compel you to take one photo after another: come here if you’re seeking a place where you can relax in peace, in a location far from the madding crowd, before setting off again on board your cruise ship.
Set sail for Crete with Costa Cruises
Set sail for Crete with Costa Cruises! You’ll discover a wonderful island, ready to offer you a warm welcome, and a fantastic holiday featuring sun, sea and good food. What are you waiting for? Book your Costa cruise today and set off for one of the most beautiful, striking islands in Greece.