Crete's wraparound coast is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Greece, touting white and gold sands backed by rolling green hills. Many beaches around the island will also come equipped with watersport centres, historical sites and restaurant-lined promenades, not to mention sunbathing spots as far as the eye can see. No matter where you call your holiday home in Crete, you're bound to find a set of shores to your liking on your Greek island holiday.
Elafonisi Beach is touted as being not only one of the most beautiful beaches in Greece, but in the world, making it a must for anyone on cheap holidays to Crete. Reachable by bus or boat service from Chania, Elafonisi is a small islet that's actually a nature reserve. Fringed by white and pinkish sands, it is lined in places with umbrellas and sunbeds and has a little beach bar. The water is incredibly shallow so you can walk out to Elafonisi, and even reach the island by foot without getting your toes wet when the tide is out.
Hidden on Crete's southern coast, Preveli Beach can be difficult to reach, but once you set foot on these shores, all your travelling woes will melt away. The beach, located just below the monastery of the same name, is accessible via car or tour bus from Rethymnon and by boat from Plakias.
Preveli is where the river and Kourtaliotiko gorge spill into the Libyan Sea, creating a lagoon that's surrounded by palm trees. It gets pretty busy in the summer, filling up with people lounging on the sunbeds and gliding through the waves on paddle boats.
Plakias Beach is one of the longest in Crete, and features spots for watersport enthusiasts, sunbathers and naturists. It's also one of the windiest beaches on the island, making it especially popular for windsurfers. Surrounded by mountains and olive groves, it's another of Corfu's incredibly scenic beaches. It can be enjoyed from a sunlounger or the promenade lining the beach – that's where you'll find watersport centres, restaurants and hotels.
Myrtos is a gorgeous stretch of beach only made prettier by the colourful village behind it. The water is known for being especially clear here, and for the fact that the shores aren't touched by the strong northerly winds blowing along most of Crete's coast. For the most part, the beach is serviced by cafes and watersports, though you can walk west for a calmer, more secluded atmosphere.
The upmarket town of Elounda is known for its 5* accommodation and chic visitors. It also has a beautiful, Blue Flag award-winning beach to match, with scores of history adding to the charm.
Along the coast, there are six stone windmills marking the last above ground remnants of the city of Olous, whose mosaic floor and ancient walls can be seen above the water's surface. The beach also overlooks the Venetian fortress island of Spinalonga, which can be reached via boat debarking from Elounda's harbour.
Though not the Bali in Indonesia, this Cretan Bali has its own set of lovely beaches to brag about. Bali is located on a peninsula jutting out along the northern coast of Crete, and has a handful of sandy coves and a bay surrounded by rocks that make the water feel more like a lake than the sea. There's a diving centre on hand, as well as pedalos to rent – they can help you reach the scattering of smaller islands you can see from the shore.
The town of Aghia Pelagia is centred around its bay, with homes, hotels and restaurants built into the hillside and overlooking the coast. A line of rocks hug the water, keeping the waves tempered and safe for little swimmers, though the sea tends to get deep rather quickly. Onshore are sunbeds and umbrellas, as well as watersports and a diving centre, while behind, you'll find a selection of cafes and tavernas.