The 5 best beaches in Crete

A great destination for a beach hopping adventure

Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, has been captivating visitors for years with its enchanting beachy shores. It has something for everyone, from secret sandy coves to bustling organized beaches, adorned with pebbles or golden sand and see-through, turquoise waters. And what makes it even better? The fact that Crete’s sea temperature is perfect for swimming until October!

On Ferryhopper, we have prepared a list of the 5 best beaches in Crete. Browse through our suggestions, book ferry tickets online and get ready for an unforgettable swim!

  1. Balos - Chania
  2. Falassarna - Chania
  3. Vai Palm Forest - Lasithi
  4. Elafonisi - Chania
  5. Preveli - Rethymno

A beach in Crete at sunset with waves crashing against the shore and a rocky cliff in the background, Greece

A beautiful beach in southern Crete at sunset

Balos in Chania

In the wild and secluded setting on the Gramvousa Peninsula, about 60 km northwest of Chania, Balos beach captivates visitors with its pink-colored sand and vivid turquoise seas, which have made it the most photographed beach in Crete. Its shallow warm waters make it an ideal option for families with children.

The easiest way to reach Balos beach is by hopping aboard one of the small boats that run from Kissamos. Alternatively, you can drive through a 12-km dirt road to the parking lot and then follow a 1-km path down to the beach.

With rare species of flora and fauna, the lagoon and surrounding area are protected under the Natura 2000 network. Therefore, apart from a canteen, you won't find many amenities here, so make sure to pack yourself a picnic.

Tip: if you want to capture the magic of the landscape and enjoy a few moments of peace without the crowds, we recommend arriving at the beach early in the morning.

Fun fact: the pinkish sand gets its color from the crushed red shells of sea creatures found in the waters there.

Aerial view of Balos Lagoon, a beach with turquoise waters and pinkish sand surrounded by hills, on the island of Crete, Greece

Impressive turquoise waters at Balos beach

Falassarna in Chania

Set on the west coast of Crete, Falassarna beach has been awarded as the best beach in Crete and one of the best in Europe. Its allure lies in its wonderful fine sand and superbly clear waters. The beach stretches over a fairly large area, offering a blend of organized sections with umbrellas, sunbeds and beach bars, along with ample space to spread out your towel and soak in the sun's warmth.

The area around Falassarna is part of the European Natura 2000 Εcological Νetwork, thanks to its beauty, flora and fauna. Apart from the magical landscape, this beach is also suitable for water-sports enthusiasts. On windy days, brave souls can indulge in windsurfing or kitesurfing.

Tip: don't leave this beach in a hurry. Rumor has it that Falassarna boasts the most beautiful sunset in Crete. To fully appreciate this spectacle, savor a refreshing beverage at one of the tavernas behind the beach.

Aerial view of Falassarna beach with golden sand and turquoise waters, and the mountains of Crete in the background, Greece

People enjoying the sun and crystal-clear waters of Falassarna beach

Vai Palm Forest - Lasithi

Nestled about 30 km from Sitia in the Lasithi province, you'll come across Vai, the largest palm forest in Europe. This small, idyllic beach of unparalleled beauty blends the emerald hues of Cretan palm trees with the turquoise color of the sea.

With calm and shallow waters, as well as several amenities, it’s a great option for families with children. Apart from its exotic beauty, Vai is a common migratory stop for birds traveling between Europe and Africa.

Fun fact: the beach was relatively unknown until the 1970s, when thanks to a chocolate ad it started to become popular.

Panoramic view of Vai Beach, Crete, featuring a palm forest next to the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Greece

Tropical vibes at Vai beach on the remote easternmost coast of Crete

Elafonisi in Chania

Elafonissi beach lies at the southwesternmost tip of Crete. This narrow peninsula, lapped by crystalline aquamarine waters, could easily be mistaken for a scene straight out of The Blue Lagoon. Its unreal beauty is further enhanced by the gentle rose dunes, pastel-pink sands, dramatic black rock formations, and the several rare species of animals that live in the surrounding area.

On the eastern side of the beach, you'll find various services, such as umbrellas, showers and refreshment facilities. If you’d like to discover your own secluded paradise, you can easily make your way around the island on foot (the waters here are very shallow) and find your favorite swimming spot. Keep in mind that the area is part of the Natura 2000 network, as it is a refuge for the Caretta caretta sea turtle. 

Tip: don’t miss the Monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalitissa, an impressive, whitewashed building overlooking the Libyan Sea. Its beauty and serenity are just a short walk away.

The organized part of Elafonissi beach dotted with umbrellas and loungers on the island of Crete, Greece

View of Elafonissi beach with its pink sand and turquoise waters

Preveli in Rethymnon

If you choose Rethymnon for your holidays, you should not miss a visit to Preveli beach. Located at the point where the river Megalopotamos empties into the Libyan Sea, a breathtaking scene unfolds. Imagine powder-soft, pristine white sands lapped by crystal-clear waters great for snorkeling. This natural wonder is framed by the rugged cliffs of the Kourtaliotiko Gorge, while jungly palm-lined riverbanks create an exotic atmosphere.

From Rethymno, take the scenic drive and leave your vehicle at the car park, 2 km from the Preveli monastery. Then follow a steep path of outstanding beauty that leads to the beach in about 20 minutes. The descent to the beach is an amazing experience in itself, as you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the lush vegetation thriving under the shade of towering palm trees. Alternatively, you can get here by boat from Damnoni or Plakias.

Useful info: wondering which are the easiest ways to reach Crete and start exploring its amazing beaches? Just check out our complete guide on how to get to Crete.

Palm trees line the banks of the Megalopotamos River, which empties into the sea at Prevelis beach, Crete

Panoramic view of Preveli beach, backed by a lush green forest and dramatic cliffs

Crete's dazzling coastline holds endless possibilities, so get ready to discover your perfect slice of paradise! Explore all the ferry routes on our Map of Ferries, book ferry tickets on Ferryhopper in just a few clicks, and get ready to fall in love with Crete, again and again!

Tip: and remember, the magic continues after August—here are 6 reasons why September is the best time to visit Crete.