As the largest of the Greek islands, Crete has hundreds of miles of dramatic shoreline — and hundreds of beachfront hotels. But Cretan beaches are notoriously rocky, and hotel-offered perks like motorized water sports and beach service aren’t the norm. Some resorts charge for use of their sun loungers and umbrellas, and others are far from the tourist sites. The point is that there are lots of factors differentiating Crete’s beach resorts. Luckily, we’ve named Crete’s top beachfront hotels and outlined their pros and cons.
This charming, trendy property on one of Chania’s prettiest sandy beaches has carved a niche for itself as one of the area’s best boutiques for families. Friendly service and an excellent restaurant serving local cuisine help make it popular with couples, too (especially out of season). All guests spend most of their time on the long sandy beach, where there are plenty of sun beds and parasols, as well as toys and a volleyball net. Stylish, minimalist rooms have plump, comfortable mattresses, although some rooms are on the small side.
The 450-room Pilot Beach Resort is an upscale all-inclusive with a village atmosphere that is attractive to families. Its beach is a long, sandy stretch with blue lounge chairs and umbrellas, as well as plenty of open space. Four pools are spread around the grounds, plus a fun kids’ pool with fountains and slides, and a small wading pool for younger children. Guest rooms are basic compared to the rest of the hotel, but they all have outdoor spaces and flat-screen TVs, while higher-category rooms offer a more upscale experience.
Set on northern Crete's Malia Bay, the luxurious Ikaros Beach Resort & Spa has a gorgeous sandy beach with ample sun loungers and umbrellas. The hotel also has multiple outdoor pools, several dining options, three bars, and a fun entertainment team. The 245 rooms range from Classic Rooms with basic amenities to seafront suites with private pools (a sea-view room is worth the upgrade). A mini-fridge, air-conditioning, coffee/tea facilities, a balcony or terrace, and free Wi-Fi are all standard.
The 680-room Creta Maris Beach Resort is a beachfront all-inclusive resort a 10-minute walk from Limenas Hersonissos village. In addition to 14 freshwater outdoor and indoor pools, it has a 350-meter beach with umbrellas, beach chairs, water sports (for a fee), beach volleyball, and beach parties hosted by the entertainment team. Most of the beach is sandy, but one section is a bit rocky. The hotel largely draws couples and families, who love the seafront location, sun and sand, wealth of fun activities, and wide array of dining options. However, despite its own luxury claims, it doesn't offer as upscale of an experience as Ikaros.
One of the most luxurious properties in Crete, Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas is a family-friendly resort spread over a seaside hill. Its private cove beach isn't as extensive or sandy as the one at Creta Maris, but it is one of the hotel's most attractive features, with plenty of lounge chairs and shade-granting parasols to go around, plus food and drink service. There is a water-sports center with water-skiing, pedal boats, canoeing, and scuba diving. A saltwater infinity pool and adjacent pool bar provide incredible views of the cove, as do the waterfront Beach Bar and the Crystal Box cocktail bar, with floor-to-ceiling windows. Many of Daios Cove's 300 rooms, suites, and villas also offer gorgeous sea views (and/or private saltwater plunge pools). The hotel's hilly grounds and bustling-with-kids atmosphere could be drawbacks for some guests. Couples looking for a quieter vibe and a less remote location could also consider the Minos Beach Art Hotel closer to town.
Blue Palace, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, is a luxury resort overlooking the Aegean Sea and Spinalonga Island. The 251-room property offers a ton of amenities, including a private (rocky) beach with lounge chairs, beach service, and a deck to jump off of into the water. There's also a beach bar with drinks, snacks, and a DJ, and one of the hotel's several food and drink venues is a beachfront Greek taverna. The Blue Palace features a PADI dive master with scuba, night diving, boat diving, snorkeling, deep diving, and underwater photography tours available. Water sports include water skiing, wake boarding, windsurfing, kayaking, and canoeing. The resort also features activities and parties such as themed Cretan nights on the beach, Cretan dance lessons, land safaris, family excursions, and caique (traditional Greek fishing boat) trips around the coast of Elounda and Spinalonga -- but some of these can be expensive.
While Ikaros, Creta Maris, and Daios are geared towards both families and couples, the quiet Thalassa Beach Hotel is adult-only. Thalassa's pool deck, grassy lawn, and lovely beach are full of comfortable, padded lounge chairs and umbrellas. There are several cabanas off to one side, plus a breezy massage station amid the loungers. There is an open-air beachfront taverna, an a la carte restaurant with outdoor seating and sea views, and a pool bar near the water. All rooms have a mostly modern design with a balcony or terrace, plus free Wi-Fi, safes, kettles, and mini-fridges. Especially noteworthy is the on-site Mare Art Gallery featuring Greek artists, which is free for guests to tour.
A 15-minute drive to Platanias, the 328-room luxury Avra Imperial Hotel has a quiet setting and an impressive array of on-site features. Its beach is pebbly but pretty, and has a bar and loungers under palapas. The striking, infinity-edge main pool is surrounded by palm trees and grassy lawns with more loungers and also cabanas. Large, elegant guest rooms have minibars, flat-screen TVs, and furnished balconies or terraces. About a third of the rooms have have private or shared pools. Two buffets with free breakfast and two a la carte restaurants are all well-reviewed by guests. This resort has it all, but for those looking for a quieter, kids-free vacation, Thalassa offers a similarly lovely experience and is adult-only.
The 254-room Minoa Palace Resort & Spa is located on the beach in Patanias, near a few restaurants and shops but farther from popular tourist sites. Its grounds are split between two buildings: The original main building is across the street from the beach, connected by an overpass to the newer, beach-side facilities. Because the resort is so large, the atmosphere tends to be quiet and peaceful, even more so on the smaller beach side. Extensive on-site features include four pretty pools, a spa with free group fitness classes, and lots of activities for kids. Five restaurants and two bars include a main buffet eatery and seaside spot for adults only. Like Avra, the beach is a mix of rocks and sand (both are pebblier than the beach at Thalassa) with free loungers for hotel guests. Cabanas are free with a purchase from the bar.
This 365-room all-inclusive resort stands out for its many features and beautiful grounds -- including a long, sandy beach. The lifeguard-supervised beach offers free loungers and straw umbrellas, plus a restaurant with a quiet atmosphere and an open-air view to the sea. The main gathering area of the hotel consists of an Olympic-sized pool, kiddy pool, waterslides, and a playground. Add music and crowds from the pool bar, and the area becomes very busy and loud, particularly during planned pool activities. Minoa Palace tends to be quieter, plus it has more contemporary rooms.
Located on Mirabello Bay and filled with artwork, the 129-room Minos Beach Art hotel is an eye-catching property, a 15-minute walk from Agios Nikolaos. Its small private beach has clear water and lounge chairs with umbrellas, though these are only reserved for only some Bungalows guests (loungers and umbrellas are free at Minoa Palace and Lyttos). Cabanas and covered seating areas are also available. Other resort features include four restaurants, three bars (one on the beach), a large outdoor pool, and a spa.
Candia Park Village is a low-key family-friendly resort on the beach, in the outskirts of Agios Niklaos. Its narrow private beach has sun beds and umbrellas, plus there are two pools (one is a shallow wading pool for children). Several on-site bars and restaurants include a buffet and a la carte international and Cretan options. All of the 222 rooms have separate bedrooms and living areas plus simple kitchenettes and furnished balconies, some with sea views. However, some are in need of updates and the resort in general tends to be noisy with children. For peace and quiet, try Minos Beach.