Best Beaches in Crete: From Elafonissi to Balos

Crete’s coastline is dotted with some of the most stunning beaches in the Mediterranean, each offering unique landscapes, crystal-clear waters, and a range of activities. From the pink sands of Elafonissi to the exotic beauty of Balos, here’s a guide to the best beaches in Crete, including how to get there and what to do once you arrive.

Elafonissi Beach: A Pink Paradise

Elafonissi Beach, located on the southwestern tip of Crete, is famous for its pink-hued sand and turquoise waters. The pink color comes from crushed seashells, creating a magical setting that feels otherworldly. The beach is actually a small islet separated from the mainland by a shallow lagoon, which is perfect for wading and ideal for families with children.

Getting There: Elafonissi is about 75 kilometers from Chania. You can drive there via a scenic route through the mountains, which takes around 1.5 to 2 hours. Alternatively, there are daily buses from Chania during the tourist season.

What to Do: Relax on the sandy shores, swim in the clear waters, or explore the nearby nature reserve. The area is a protected Natura 2000 site, home to rare plants and animals. There are also a few canteens where you can buy snacks and refreshments.

Balos Lagoon: An Exotic Escape

Balos is a wild beach on the northwestern peninsula of Crete. (Photo by Nabih El Boustani via Unsplash)

Balos Lagoon, located on the northwestern coast of Crete, is one of the island’s most photographed spots. The lagoon features shallow, warm waters in shades of blue and green, surrounded by white sand and rugged cliffs. The striking landscape creates an exotic ambiance that attracts visitors from around the world.

Getting There: You can reach Balos by boat from Kissamos, with daily excursions available in the summer. Alternatively, you can drive to the parking area near the beach and then hike down a rocky path for about 20-30 minutes. The drive includes a bumpy dirt road, so a 4×4 vehicle is recommended.

What to Do: Swim in the shallow waters, sunbathe on the soft sands, and take in the breathtaking views. For the more adventurous, a hike up to the nearby Gramvousa Castle (on a small uninhabited island) offers panoramic views of the lagoon and surrounding area. Bring your own food and drinks, as there are limited facilities.

Vai Beach: The Palm Forest Paradise

FILE – Vai beach is on Crete’s east coast and offers a backdrop of palm forest. Photo by Przemek Pietrak via Wikimedia Commons

Vai Beach, on the northeastern coast of Crete, is renowned for its unique palm forest, the largest in Europe. The beach itself is a long stretch of golden sand with clear blue waters, framed by the swaying palms. This tropical-like setting makes Vai Beach a must-visit destination.

Getting There: Vai Beach is about 24 kilometers from Sitia. You can drive there, which takes around 30 minutes. There are also buses from Sitia and Agios Nikolaos.

What to Do: Enjoy a relaxing day on the beach, swim in the inviting waters, and explore the palm forest. There are water sports facilities, including windsurfing and paddle boats. The beach has amenities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, and a few tavernas where you can enjoy local Cretan cuisine.

Preveli Beach: A Riverside Retreat

Preveli Beach, located on the southern coast of Crete, is a unique beach where the Kourtaliotiko River meets the sea. The beach is surrounded by lush greenery and palm trees, creating a serene oasis. The river forms a lagoon before flowing into the sea, providing a refreshing swimming spot.

Getting There: Preveli Beach can be reached by boat from Plakias or Agia Galini. You can also drive to the Preveli Monastery and then hike down a steep path to the beach, which takes about 15-20 minutes.

What to Do: Swim in both the river and the sea, sunbathe on the sandy shore, and explore the palm forest along the riverbank. There are no facilities on the beach, so bring your own food and drinks. The nearby Preveli Monastery is also worth a visit for its historical and cultural significance.

Falassarna Beach: A Sunset Spectacle

Falassarna Beach, on the western coast of Crete, is known for its long stretches of golden sand and stunning sunsets. The beach is divided into several sections, offering both quiet spots for relaxation and areas with water sports activities. The crystal-clear waters and impressive waves make it a popular spot for swimmers and surfers alike.

Getting There: Falassarna is about 50 kilometers from Chania. You can drive there, which takes around an hour, or take a bus from Chania during the summer months.

What to Do: Spend the day swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying water sports such as windsurfing and snorkeling. Stay until evening to witness one of the most beautiful sunsets on the island. The beach has amenities, including sunbeds, umbrellas, and several tavernas offering delicious local food.


Crete’s beaches offer a diverse range of experiences, from the exotic landscapes of Balos and Elafonissi to the tranquil retreats of Preveli and Vai. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or simply stunning natural beauty, the beaches of Crete have something for everyone. Plan your visit, pack your essentials, and get ready to explore some of the most beautiful and unique beaches in the Mediterranean.


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