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Beach lodging advice -- Crete

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We fly to Crete in early October with two 15 year old boys and need advice about reasonably priced lodging for four that is on the beach, not up the hill away from the seashore. We have 4 nights and want to stay within an hour taxi ride of Heraklion airport, but have been told to avoid Malia!

Originally we were going for one of the large all inclusive places, thinking that would work well for the boys (since their buffets allow lots of food choices) and the many in-house entertainment/recreation activities would be good. But the well-priced big all-inclusive places all seem to either be located on top of a big hill removed from the beach, or have lots of bad reviews due to what sounds like cut-rate management.

My current thought is to find a smaller place on a sandy beach (not sand&shale or rocky) that is organized with vendors for water sports the boys can try (kayaks, windsurfers, etc), and umbrellas & loungers for the moms, with a pool & table tennis at the hotel, and hopefully breakfast onsite and lots of restaurants/tavernas within easy walking. Local bus transport is a plus since we won't have a car. Too impossible of a wish list? Any suggestions for places that you have tried?

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