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Crete's Best Beaches
With hundreds of miles of dramatic coastline, Crete serves up an almost endless supply of beaches. Many are soft and powdery, some are action-packed with water sports, and others are blissfully untrammeled. The very best bookend the island: palm-shaded Vai to the east and Elafonisi to the west, where white sands ring an islet just offshore.
Lovers of sand and surf quickly discover that there are really two distinct types of beaches on Crete: the highly developed strands on the north coast and the rugged getaway beaches on the south coast. Northern beaches stretch along the flat, sandy coastal plain between the island's major cities and are easily reached by the east-west national highway, as well as by an extensive bus network. Most are packed with umbrellas and sun beds and backed by hotels, including some of Greece's most luxurious resorts. Beaches on the south coast are tucked into coves and bays, often at the end of poor roads; a rental car is a must to explore the south coast beaches.
Good to Know
All you need on Crete's north shore beaches are a bathing suit and towel—everything else, from beach lounges to umbrellas and snorkeling gear, are available for rent at most.
Beaches at Rethymnon and Malia are even equipped with lifeguards, a rare species in Greece, making these sands especially safe for kids.
On the south coast, equip yourself with a good map to find tucked away coves and remote beaches.
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