Unlike Santorini, there is no shortage of beaches in Crete, and some of the most famous beaches in the world are located on the island.
Our big road trip during our Crete vacation was up to Balos Beach, which is about a two hour drive from Rethymno. Some reviews will warn you about the drive as it does go through the sides of the cliffs, but it is completely doable and nothing to be afraid of – just go slow! And take a rental car.
Get to Balos a little late though (11 AM/12PM, depending on the day), and you’ll have to park on the winding road, but a quick walk will take you to the main parking lot where there is also a snack shop and some toilets.
Now be prepared. Others have said that it’s a “short hike” down to the beach, but let me be clear that it is an actual hike. You’re distracted on the way down, because it is the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen, but know that what you hike down, you will have to hike back up (and you may yell at your significant other/friend in the process because its is 90 degrees, sunny, and you’re hiking up a mountain).
The hike back up though is absolutely worth the most amazing beach I’ve ever been to. The water is so clear and blue and warm, and there are chairs, umbrellas, and a small snack shop. It’s simply an amazing place to spend the day. Just remember to bring some water shoes or sneakers for the trek back up, and this place should be number one on your list during your visit.
Since we picked Balos as our main road trip, we didn’t get to make it to Elafonisi, the pink sand beach, which is about four hours away from Rethymno, but if you get the chance, we heard it was beautiful.
Another perk of staying in Rethmyno? You’re so close to so many other beaches (and there’s one in the city!). All you need is a rental car, and it’s a quick 30-40 minute drive through an amazing gorge to a handful of beaches on the other side of the island to make a great day of it. And if you head out to Balos, you’ll pass a handful that you can swing by and take a quick dip, especially on the way back.
One of the most unique beaches on the southern side of Rethmyno is Prevali Beach. A short yet steep hike down (don’t wear flip-flops!) will take you down to this gravel-esque beach that has a palm tree grove you can wander in. There’s plenty of parking and a small snack shop there that makes this beach the perfect pitstop.
When you’re ready to grab lunch, jump in the car and head fifteen minutes down the road to Damnoni Beach. This beach has larger facilities, plenty of restaurants, and lots of umbrellas and chairs to relax in for the majority of the day.
And if you’re willing, top of the beach day with a quick stop at Ammoudi Beach, next to Damnoni. This beach is much more secluded than Damnoni and is nude-friendly in case you feel like showing off the girls.