An Expert Guide to the Best Beaches in Crete
Crystal waters, rugged cliffs and tropical palms - Crete's beaches have it all
With 650 miles of coastline, there’s stiff competition when it comes to the top sandy stretches in Crete. Here at Plum Guide, we pride ourselves on going above and beyond for our guests, so allow us to share our expert knowledge. We're here to give you the inside track on where to lay your towel (or find a luxury sun lounger), whether you’re looking to lie back with a good book, snorkel through the waves, or try your hand at some high-octane water sports. Greece’s largest island is known for its distinctive character, and its unforgettable beaches are no exception - expect silky pink sands, charming tavernas, intriguing rock formations, and even some rather friendly goats (and that’s before mentioning the pristine blue waters). With options in all four corners of the island, you’ll never be too far away from the perfect spot, so read on for our guide to the very best beaches in Crete.
Set in Crete’s southwestern corner, Elafonisi Beach used to be the island’s best-kept secret. Any chance of keeping it under wraps swiftly disappeared however, when Elafonisi was named one of the world's top 25 beaches in 2014. Though it’s a little busier these days, the beach still feels like a slice of Caribbean paradise on Crete - thanks, not least, to its famous pastel-pink sands and aquamarine waters. Elafonisi is, in fact, an island, separated from the mainland by a shallow and wonderfully warm lagoon, but linked by a sandbar (part of which disappears at high tide, though the water isn’t terribly deep). The beach on the mainland is equipped with sun beds and umbrellas, two beach bars, toilets, and lifeguards during the high season. With its popularity in mind, arrive at breakfast time both to beat the crowds and get the most value out of your sun lounger. Alternatively, take the (sometimes slightly damp) stroll over to the island and it’s a different story: quiet coves and tranquil pockets of sandy beach, generally devoid of crowds even in season. Be aware, however, that there’s another side to this coin - high levels of privacy also makes the island a popular spot for nudists.
Like your beach time with an added shot of adrenalin? Surf’s up at the west coast resort of Falassarna, where water sports fans flock to enjoy surfing, windsurfing, and stand up paddle boarding. Falassarna is made up of five beaches, with the main section known as Pachia Ammos. On this wide stretch of golden sand you’ll find sun loungers aplenty, snack bars, and spots to rent water sports equipment, while smaller, more secluded beaches may tempt you to explore either end of the bay. If you’re more interested in antiquities than adventure sports, fear not - the ruins of ancient Falassarna, a fortified city and harbour, lie to the north. Be sure not to rush off at the end of the day, as Falassarna is famed for some of the best sunsets in Crete.
To experience the best of Cretan nature, all the while enjoying a relaxing beach day, make a beeline for Preveli on the island’s southern coast. Set at the mouth of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, where the river Megalos Potamos meets the sea, Preveli is backed by a dense palm forest and rugged cliffs. Here, the river splits the beach in two to create a small lagoon, ideal for those of you with kids. Thanks to its status as a protected natural area, Preveli is relatively undeveloped compared to many of the best beaches in Crete. While this might mean forgoing a comfy sun lounger, it also provides opportunities to be at one with nature - why not preface a refreshing dip with a hike to the waterfalls of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge or the smaller Preveli Gorge? While you’re in the area, be sure to check out the Preveli Monastery, and bring your snorkelling gear to experience some of Crete’s most exceptional undersea life.
Seemingly plucked straight from a postcard, Balos is a piece of tropical paradise 35 miles northwest of Chania. It’s rumoured that Princess Diana and Prince Charles even paid a visit while on their honeymoon, and it’s easy to see why the royal couple made time for this sensational spot. The white sand beach is a small isthmus connecting Cape Gramvousa to Tigani Island, creating a vibrant turquoise lagoon with calm, shallow waters, backed by a dramatic headland. Getting here means a steep walk down from the carpark above, or hopping on a boat from the nearby port at Kissamos. Though there are sun beds available, we recommend getting to Balos before 10.30am to secure your spot.
If you’re mature enough to remember the Bounty advert "A taste of paradise", get ready to step back in time - the hugely popular 1970s ad wasn’t filmed in the Caribbean, but at Vai Beach on Crete’s eastern seaboard. This golden sandy stretch enjoys a backdrop of palm trees (the largest palm forest in Crete, in fact) and is fully equipped with loungers, umbrellas, toilets, and places to enjoy a snack. Water sports fans can try their hand at wakeboarding or jet-skiing, or take a thrilling ride on a banana boat. Birdwatchers will also be in paradise here, as Vai is blessed with impressive biodiversity - many migrating birds stop here on their journeys to and from Africa.
Seitan Limania Beach
You have to work for your trip to Seitan Limania, but it is absolutely worth it - it’s rated among the best beaches in Crete for good reason. This sandy cove, close to Chania airport, is surrounded by tall cliffs and rock formations, with a mini hike along a narrow trail necessary to reach it. Once you land on the silky sand, dispense of your walking shoes for a dip in the natural wave pool created by the cove. As a truly wild beach, Seitan Limania is totally undeveloped. Bring a picnic, and be prepared to share it with the (often rather friendly) goats who regularly roam the beach and cliffs.