The water is warm and inviting in the summer, and even in winter the water temperatures are mild enough for paddling. Beaches on the north coast are generally shallower, warmer and more family friendly, and have lifeguards. South coast beaches are less crowded, but wherever you venture around the island, most beaches have facilities such as sun beds and beach umbrellas for hire.
For snorkeling, head to Elounda, Bali, Plakias and Paleohora, and for the best windsurfing, target Kouremenos north of Palekastro on the island’s west coast.
Starting with family beaches not far from the capital, Heraklion, try Kalives or Amyirida on the west coast, where the water’s shallow, the beach is sandy and there are facilities and beach equipment for hire. Sandstone cliffs ring Agia Galini, another family-friendly resort town, with water sports equipment for hire and secluded spots on its long stretch of sand.
Agios Pavlos and Triopetra are more remote, tranquil beaches around 53km (33 miles) from Rethymno, complete with sand dunes and cliffs. Directly south on the south coast, Makriyialos is the choice for long stretches of sand away from the resorts. Preveli, also on the south coast, is considered one of the island’s prettiest beaches, with its mix of flowering oleander and palm trees.
Hania is perhaps the best base for nearby beaches. Living up to its name, Golden Beach has something for every beach bunny. It’s close to Hania, the waters are shallow, there are water sports and plenty of amenities. Platanias is similarly popular, with the added enticements of some great tavernas and bars.
And to dance on the beach where Zorba the Greek kicked up his heels, head to Stavros on the Akrotiri Peninsula near Hania.
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