You'll be spoilt for choice on family days out in Crete
After around four hours of flight time from the UK, you’ll find yourself on an island steeped in history and stunning landscapes, with a substantial array of choices for fun family activities to boot.
When something’s good you might as well have three of it – maybe that’s why Hersonissos boasts not just three spacious, sandy beaches, but three action-packed waterparks as well. Quieter resorts like Gerani house Blue Flag shores ideal for little ones to splash in, while bustling Rethymnon is home to historic buildings and grants the opportunity for boat trips or even a little off-roading on land.
Travel to Lyttos Beach or Maleme for a family holiday that’s all about the sea and sand away from the hustle and bustle, where kids clubs and splash pools are the name of the game.
Best family friendly beaches
Crete is home to dozens of Blue Flag awarded beaches, which means you’ve got plenty of choice on days out.
Rather than feel overwhelmed by your options, simply take some tips in finding the beaches best suited for family breaks.
The beach at Maleme is a great spot for families with smaller children thanks to the gentle slope of the sand into the sea, where crystal clear waters offer an ideal setting for paddling and snorkelling. Further west, Rethymnon proudly flaunts 12 kilometres of sandy coastline, bordered by a promenade packed with plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or a cool drink in the shade.
The three vast beaches at Hersonissos are dotted with snack shacks and tavernas, as well as the Star Beach Water Park, and ample opportunity to get stuck into some watersport action. If you prefer to stay on land, plenty of loungers and umbrellas will help you stay cool on the sand.
Best family activities in Crete
You can also find several things to do in Crete that don’t include getting sandy. Chania’s Limnoupolis Waterpark offers 65 acres of slides, fun zones and lazy river loafing, while Hersonissos’ waterparks include the trifecta of parks with Aqua Plus, Star Beach and Water City.
If you prefer to stay on the water rather than in it, Crete’s island status means it’s easy to find boat trips, including glass-bottomed expeditions to spot sealife away from the shore. To get even closer to nature, a trip to the Reptile Rescue Centre allows kids to hold a few scaly friends before they head home. Or, you can dig out some walking boots and make the most of the scenic walkways winding through the countryside.
Bike through the heartlands
While the coastal regions of Crete hold obvious and tremendous appeal, it’s a good idea to check out the scenery of the trails and meadows further inland.
The island’s hills and dales are a pleasure to behold, and you can do so either by bicycle hire or by booking a biking tour that’s been designed specifically to emphasise the highlights. Think olive gardens, woodland groves and paths showing off the best views on the island.
Meet the dinosaurs
Crete’s ancient history is quite the spectacle, and combining the very ancient with a recently built tourist attraction, is Dinosauria, which all the family will agree is awesome.
Near Heraklion it features all your favourite dinos, from Triceratops to Tyrannosaurus, expertly rendered as scale – and indeed scaly – models. Photo opportunities abound, and of course the gift shop ensures that the kids can take a piece of the dino-action home with them.
You can also play a game in which you team up to excavate fossils.
Caves and gorges
Natural beauty is what Crete does well, but the kids needn’t fear it’s all just hills and valleys.
Indeed, there are some superb rocky formations and subterranean treasure troves to check out. The rugged nature of Crete’s internal landscapes means that cave exploration is a real joy.
Delve into Dikteon Cave in the east to see bats and birds of every kind, although fans of myth will marvel to known this very cave was said to be the birthplace of Zeus.
If your kids prefer open spaces, check out Samaria Gorge instead. It’s actually the longest gorge of its kind in Europe, rich with hiking trails and cute bridges over streams that are perfect for outdoor exploration.
If the kids still aren’t convinced or don’t fancy walking, give them two words to change their minds. Donkey rides.
Check out the waterparks
Crete boasts several waterparks, but the most popular among them is Acqua Plus, near Hersonissosl.
The slides and chutes here weave and curve around one another to make massive mazes above the pristine pools, and more tame activities include slow stream rides and picnics in the park. The park is smartly divided between kids’ and adults’ sections, although each area boasts its own daring slides challenging the most brave among you.
If you prefer some fun with a difference, step inside the big plastic bubble-balls to walk and run along the surface of the water in your own little sphere. Fun in the sun has never felt so wet and wild.
Other popular holidays in Greece
If you’re considering family holidays elsewhere in Greece, other great options include Rhodes, Kos and Corfu. But if all the balmy beaches and activity options in Crete sound like just your thing, take a look at our travel guide and check out a selection of excellent family hotels in Crete below.
Offering family swim-up rooms and suites boasting private pools – all on top of abundant sea views – you can wow the kids with a visit to this luxury family destination. There's a kids club for three to 11-year-olds and a kids-only pool, as well as an outside playground and optional tennis and basketball lessons. Buffet and a la carte restaurants have menus to satisfy even fussy eaters, and plenty of day and night activities keep children and big kids alike busy and content.
Two minutes from the beach and offering a free bus to nearby Chania, this resort has two dedicated children's pools, along with five swirling waterslides and a brilliant splash park. The hotel-run kids' club organise mini discos and special children's shows, and if the playground doesn't keep them occupied, the video games room might. The beach at Maleme has coveted Blue Flag status and is perfect for paddling trips and sandcastle contests.
You're spoilt for swimming choices with five swimming pools and multiple private coves at Nana Beach. Children's pool choices range from saltwater to freshwater pools and even include a waterpark with its own slide. The kids' clubs offer a range of activities for four to 12 and 13 to 17-year-olds, and early suppers can be arranged for little diners. Meanwhile, a growing list of activities give you the choice of scuba diving, canoeing, archery and more to pass the time between buffet trips and evening shows.
This 5* helping of style and swagger leaves nothing off the list when it comes to catering for kids. The six swimming pools include two dedicated family pools and a splash pool with a 'sprayground' to run amok in, plus more than half a dozen restaurants that cater to every taste. An extensive activity programme offers options specifically designed for teenagers, and the spa even includes mini treatments for lavishing the little ones. Couple that with Play House kids' clubs, a sensory nursery and live shows just for kids and you're onto a winner.
If mountain scenery and opportunities for off-site countryside adventures aren't enough, the sea-view family rooms overlooking any of five on-site swimming pools at this 5* hotel might just tempt you in. Two dedicated children's pool reside at this beachside venue, where kids' clubs will keep them out of trouble. There's also a teen club in high season and Children's Corner dining area. Pick from sports activities or Greek cooking lessons, or let someone else do the cooking with choices of buffet and a la carte restaurants.