Picking the best Cretan beaches for your vacation should take into consideration your own holiday style and preferences. Would you like white sand or pebbles? Sunbeds and beach bars or wilderness? Shallow waters or deep blue sea right away? Convenience or adrenaline? Would you rather go for some quiet beaches near Athens to be close to the big city?
Chania Beaches for Thrill Seekers
If you are the type of person who can’t lay down on a sunbed for hours, moving nothing than one hand to ask the waiter for another cocktail, you should add the following beaches to your Cretan holiday shortlist. These beaches are hard to reach, but this makes them even more exciting.
Seitan Limania (Stefanou Beach)
How would you like to jump off the cliffs right into the deep blue sea? Whether you are crazy about that or you only enjoy watching others doing it, Seitan Limania is the perfect beach for you. The name of the beach is actually Stefanou or Saint Rafael, but most people know it by the name of Seitan Limania, which means The Devil’s Haven.
Location: The beach is located on the Akrotiri peninsula, 2km east from Chordaki and 22km northeast from Chania Town, on a very good but narrow asphalt road. The views are spectacular. Drive carefully, as the road is curvy and it has no protection on the sides.
There is a free parking on top of the cliffs. The adventure starts once you get off the car and start descending towards the beach. The trail is steep, rocky and extremely narrow. If you get here in August, you’ll find a happy crowd willing to do the same thing. This makes it a no return path; once you are on it, you need to go all the way down to the beach, as there isn’t enough room to turn around.
Beach type: wild, secluded sandy beach, without sunbeds, umbrellas, foods or drinks. There is no natural shadow (which makes sunscreen a must). The water gets very deep very soon. This makes it ideal for jumping off the cliffs, but less suitable for small children or people who can’t swim. There’s no lifeguard, either.
Special tips: wear your sneakers and bring water, food, sunscreen and anything else you may need. If you forget anything in the car, you’ll have to climb the Devil’s path again. Don’t wear your sunglasses on your head and don’t look down until you feel the sand under your feet. This beach isn’t recommended to acrophobia sufferers.
When I went to Seitan Limania, I had no idea what I was going to find here. It didn’t cross my mind to bring my sneakers to the beach. Luckily, I had the rubber shoes for the water. Anything is better than flip-flops when it comes to mountain hiking. I was wearing my sunglasses on my head, the photo camera around my neck, and a big beach bag on my shoulder. Looking down as my sunglasses fell off my head was a huge mistake. The very next moment I found myself hugging the rock and not wanting to move anymore. It took a few endless minutes to pull myself together and get to the beach. Luckily, we found a less steep path leading back to the main road.
Out of all Chania beaches, Seitan Limani impressed me the most. I’d go back there any time.
Lovers of off road driving adventures will enjoy Menies Beach. Located at 45km northwest of Chania Town, Menies isn’t exactly the beach to go to for taking photos of the sunrise. The asphalt road is just fine, but it ends as you pass Rodopos. From this point on, you are on a 23km bumpy dirt road that’s going to rock your kidneys. Rodopou peninsula is barely inhabited, so don’t expect to find taverns or villages along the way. You can get to Menies in any type of car (very low ones aren’t suitable, though), but I’d suggest you rent an off-road vehicle. Our Suzuki Jimny did a great job. Apparently, you can get to Menies beach by taking a small boat from Platanias harbor. I haven’t tried this option, so I can’t give you any further details. However, you should know that there are also boat tours that take you around the peninsula, giving you the opportunity to see it without having to drive on dusty roads. If you get to Menies beach, you can also visit the Diktynna Sanctuary, one of the most important religious sanctuaries in Rodopou during the Roman period.
Beach type: wild, secluded beach, with pebbles and deep blue waters, not affected by the strong winds blowing in northern Crete. As there’s no asphalt road, town or village nearby, there are no crowds on the beach even during the peak season. The water is clear, excellent for snorkeling.
Special tips: make sure you fill up your fuel tank for this trip, and take water and snacks with you. Also bring sunscreen and a sun umbrella, as well as anything else you may need. Once the dirt road starts, cover your photo camera, as there’s going to be a lot of dust on it if you don’t.
Menies beach is perfect for camping. When I visited it, there was a family with an RV and another guy in a tent on the beach. They seemed to be there to stay for more than one day. apart from them and another couple who came by car, the only living souls on this beach were the goats (they love apples and pears, by the way).
This is also one of my favorite Chania beaches.
Touristy Beaches of Chania
You don’t have to like off the beaten track experiences to love Chania beaches. There are some great beaches for civilization lovers and for bucket lists fans. Getting there doesn’t require renting a car. You can have your relaxing Greece holiday by the beach, with food and drink, showers and proper toilets.
The pink sand of Elafonisi surely makes waves on lots of websites. I’ve seen so many gorgeous photos of this spectacular beach that I felt the urge to drive almost 80km to get to Elafonisi. Little did I know that getting there in August was not a very good idea. As you approach, all you see are cars parked between sand dunes. The vegetation is scarce, all cars are exposed to direct sunlight, and there’s dust in the air. If you want, you can also get to Elafonisi by bus. The road from Chania to Elafonisi is very good. It is also very beautiful, particularly the leg that crosses the spectacular gorge of Topolia. Here you can buy Cretan olive oil, honey and other goodies made by people in the nearby villages.
Beach type: sandy beach, partially organized, with lifeguards, sunbeds, umbrellas, changing cabins, toilets, showers, and restaurants. The shallow water makes it suitable for small children. Swimmers will need to work hard to get to the deep water. Elafonisi is a Natura 2000 protected area. This means you aren’t allowed to pick flowers nor to take any sand or shells with you. Naturists can find some secluded coves near the west end of the peninsula, where they can stay nude.
Special tips: get here as early in the morning as you can. The other good moment of the day to enjoy Elafonisi (and to take some photos without people in them) is after the crowds leave, just before the sunset.
As you get off the car and head over to the beach, you might suffer a shock seeing the crowds. There are large areas packed with sunbeds and umbrellas very close to each other. Funny enough, as I was laying on my sunbed, face down, I raised my head and I all I saw for one moment was the darkest place of a guy changing his underwear.
Once I arrived to overcome the shock, I enjoyed the time spent on this Cretan beach. I also got to see its beauty – it deserves all the fame tourists and travel writers have given it. Nonetheless, I crave to get back there in the winter, as that’s when Cretan beaches are truly spectacular.
Marathi Beach is located in the southern part of Akrotiri peninsula, about 15km from Chania Town. Unfortunately, there are no buses from Chania to Marathi, so you’ll need to rent a car or to take a taxi.
Beach type: There are actually two beaches, separated by a port. The water is crystal clear and calm all year round. Even when the sea is rough, these waters remain still. Marathi is a blue flag beach and it is suitable for people with special needs. There are lots of fish in the sea, so make sure you take your snorkel. Both beaches are well organized, with sunbeds, umbrellas, showers and toilets. There are several restaurants where you can have lunch or dinner.
Special tips: As the place is very close to Chania Town, it gets very crowded during weekends, so make sure you book a table for dinner as soon as you get there.
If you hate crowds and noise, you’ll probably spend a lot of time in the water, swimming or snorkeling. That’s the beauty of this place. The food is also very good. Try grilled fish and Greek salad, and you can’t go wrong. Marathi is a place where you can spend a full day with the whole family without getting bored. You need to like crowds, loud music and background noise, though. Here’s a link to a detailed overview of Marathi beach with photos.
Convenient Beaches for Lazy Bums
If crowds are not your cup of tea, and you don’t like adventure, either, you should try the hotels and the beaches nearby Chania Town. You can stay in a five star hotel with swimming pool and impeccable service, and cross the street to get to one of the most beautiful blue flag beaches in Chania.
Located 6km west from Chania Town, Stalos is one of the most convenient beaches in Chania. It has everything you want, from sunbeds, umbrellas and showers, to beach bars, coffee shops and taverns. There are also wide areas where you can put your beach towel, should you want some privacy and silence.
Stalos beach is a few km long. This makes it perfect for morning walks on the sand.
Agia Marina Beach
As you walk on Stalos beach to the west, you’ll reach Agia Marina, another blue flag beach which will blow your mind off. Both these beaches are everything you need to spend a great summer holiday and to get a nice tan. These beaches are home to Caretta Caretta turtles. Their nests are protected by fences, so that people don’t destroy them by accident.