Crete, the largest island in Greece, is famous for its diverse landscapes, rich history, and stunning beaches. While each side of the island offers its own unique charms, determining which side has the best beaches depends on what kind of beach experience you’re seeking. Let’s dive into the different coasts of Crete to explore their top beaches and what makes each one special.

The Western Coast: Chania and Its Environs

Elafonissi Beach

Elafonissi Beach is arguably the most famous beach on Crete, and for good reason. Located on the southwestern coast, Elafonissi is renowned for its unique pink sands and crystal-clear turquoise waters. The shallow lagoon is perfect for wading and swimming, making it a favorite for families. Despite its popularity, the beach’s expansive area means you can always find a quiet spot.

Balos Lagoon

Balos Lagoon, situated northwest of Chania, is a stunning blend of white sand, turquoise waters, and rugged natural beauty. Accessible by boat or a hike, Balos offers a sense of adventure and seclusion. The panoramic views from the nearby cliffs are breathtaking and make the journey well worth it.

Falassarna Beach

Further west, Falassarna Beach is a vast stretch of golden sand known for its clear waters and spectacular sunsets. It’s less crowded than Elafonissi and Balos, making it a great option for those seeking a more tranquil beach experience. The beach is also popular with water sports enthusiasts.

The Southern Coast: Untouched Beauty and Secluded Spots

Preveli Beach

On the southern coast, near the town of Rethymno, lies Preveli Beach. This beach is unique due to the palm forest and the Kourtaliotiko River that flows into the sea, creating a tropical oasis. The combination of river, forest, and sea makes Preveli a picturesque and serene spot.

Matala Beach

Matala Beach, famous for its carved caves and hippie history, is located further east on the southern coast. The beach’s rich cultural heritage, combined with its beautiful setting and clear waters, makes it a fascinating destination. The nearby village offers a variety of accommodations and dining options.

Agia Roumeli

Accessible only by boat or on foot through the Samaria Gorge, Agia Roumeli is a hidden gem on the southern coast. Its remote location ensures a peaceful atmosphere, perfect for those looking to escape the crowds. The beach is surrounded by dramatic cliffs and offers a unique sense of isolation.

The Eastern Coast: Less Explored but Worth Discovering

Vai Beach

Vai Beach, located on the northeastern tip of Crete, is famous for its palm forest, the largest in Europe. The exotic setting and clear waters make Vai a popular choice, especially for those looking to explore the less-traveled eastern side of the island. The beach is well-organized, offering amenities such as sunbeds, umbrellas, and water sports.


Further south, Xerokambos is an unspoiled paradise with stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters. This remote area offers a series of small, secluded beaches that are perfect for those seeking solitude and natural beauty. The lack of large tourist developments ensures that the beaches remain pristine and quiet.

Kouremenos Beach

For those interested in windsurfing, Kouremenos Beach near Palekastro is a top choice. The beach boasts consistent winds, making it a favorite among water sports enthusiasts. The long stretch of sand also provides plenty of space for sunbathing and relaxing.

The Northern Coast: Vibrant Resorts and Family-Friendly Beaches

Elounda and Plaka

The northern coast, particularly around Elounda and Plaka, offers beautiful beaches with calm waters and excellent facilities. These beaches are ideal for families and those seeking a comfortable beach holiday with easy access to restaurants, shops, and resorts. The nearby island of Spinalonga adds a historical touch to the beach experience.

Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos, with its charming lake and bustling marina, offers several lovely beaches within walking distance of the town center. Ammoudi Beach and Kitroplatia Beach are popular spots for swimming and sunbathing, with plenty of amenities and nearby dining options.

Rethymno Beach

Rethymno Beach stretches for miles along the northern coast, offering soft sands and shallow waters perfect for families. The beach is well-organized, with plenty of sunbeds, umbrellas, and water sports activities. The nearby town of Rethymno provides a vibrant atmosphere with its historic old town, lively nightlife, and excellent dining.

Choosing the best side of Crete for beaches ultimately depends on what you’re looking for. The western coast, with its iconic beaches like Elafonissi and Balos, offers some of the most stunning and well-known spots. The southern coast provides more secluded and unique beaches, ideal for those seeking tranquility and natural beauty. The eastern coast is less explored but boasts exotic settings and pristine waters, while the northern coast is perfect for those looking for vibrant resorts and family-friendly beaches. No matter which side you choose, Crete’s diverse and beautiful beaches are sure to provide an unforgettable experience. So pack your sunscreen, grab your swimsuit, and get ready to explore the best beaches this magnificent island has to offer.

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