When Greece starts to sizzle, there's no better way to beat the heat than to hit the beach. So keep your cool and make a splash by savoring these top beaches—Greece has no greater liquid assets.
GOOD BEACHES FOR KIDS
Santa Maria, Paros, Cyclades: Windsurfers love the winds here, and parents will welcome the warm, shallow waters and those beautiful dunes that are irresistible to the sandbox set.
Ayia Marina, Aegina, Saronic Gulf: Shallow waters, paddle-boat rentals, and other amenities make this beach outside Aegina town especially popular with Athenian families.
Elafonisi, Crete: Turquoise waters, pure-white sandbars, with a sea shallow enough to create a beautiful wading pool for youngsters. Young explorers love to wade across the "bathtub" to Elafonisi islet.
BEST PARTY BEACH SCENES
Super Paradise Beach and Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Cyclades: Greece's celebrated party island lives up to its reputation at a string of bars that line these soft sands, where an international crowd lingers until dawn.
Aegina town, Saronic Gulf Islands: A party scene prevails at a parade of bars on the coast just outside of town, where a spectacular sunset kicks off a night of cocktails and notched-up music.
Skiathos town, Sporades: For those who prefer drinking and dancing next to the sea, come evening the lively harbor front becomes a big party, one long row of hopping clubs and bars.
OUT-OF-THE WAY BEACHES
Ayios Georgios, Rhodes, Dodecanese: Shaded with heavenly scented cedars, this pristine strand is the loveliest beach on Rhodes and well worth the harrowing, four-wheel drive down a cypress-lined track.
Psili Amos, Patmos, Dodecanese: A caïque ride or half-hour hike are the ways to reach the island's most beautiful stretch of sand.
Red Beach, Matala, Crete: A beautiful hike from Matala allows you to plunge in the surf at this delightfully isolated strand. Nearby caves have sheltered everyone from prehistoric nomads to hippies.
BEACHES WITH A PAST
Olous, Elounda Peninsula, Crete: Strap on a snorkel mask, dive into the crystal clear waters, and regard the Roman settlement on the sandy seafloor—finds from this seafloor are on view at the nearby archaeological museum in Agios Nikolas.
Kommos Beach, Matala, Crete: This mile-plus-long strand of golden sand is justifiably popular with sunbathers, who would be humbled to know ancient Minoans once inhabited this now-being-excavated spot.
PRIME SPOTS FOR WATER SPORTS
Chrissi Akti (Golden Beach), Paros, Cyclades: The long stretch of golden sand is Greece's windsurfing capital, hosting the International Windsurfing World Cup every August.
Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Cyclades: Mykonos is considered to be the diving center of the Aegean, and Mykonos Diving Center is the place for serious instruction and rewarding dives.
Paleokastritsa, Corfu: This stretch of sand-rimmed coves and seaside grottoes rewards divers and snorkelers with crystal clear waters. Korfu Diving and other outfitters provide all the necessary equipment for underwater fun.
THE MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
Plaka, Naxos, Cyclades: The most beautiful beach of all on an island of beautiful beaches is backed by sand dunes and bamboo groves, an exotic setting enhanced by a predictably spectacular sunset almost every evening.
Vai, Crete: A grove of palm trees provides an MGM-worthy backdrop to a beach that even the ancients raved about.
Mavra Volia, Chios, Northern Islands: A "winedark sea" washes the black volcanic shores of a cove nestled between sheltering cliffs—little wonder the hauntingly appealing place is aptly called "Black Pebbles."
Kolimbithres, Paros,Cyclades: Smooth boulders whimsically shaped by the wind create a string of coves backed by golden sands. The calm, warm waters are ideal for swimming.
Myrtidiotissa, Corfu: Sheer cliffs shelter soft sands backed by olive groves; Lawrence Durrell was not exaggerating when, in Prospero's Cell, he described this spot as "perhaps the loveliest beach in the world."
Lemonakia, Kokkari, Samos: Beauty and the Beach describes this winner, with its perfect half-moon crescent magnificently framed by rocky promontories green with pine trees.
Photo credit: Vai beach: istock/Emmanouil Michelakis