The most popular tourist destinations are famous for something. Meteora, in Greece, for instance, is well-known for its monasteries built on top of huge rocks. Egypt is famous for the Giza pyramids and the Valley of the Kings. But what makes Chania beaches, or any other beaches in the world for that matter, special? Their size? Their fine sand? Their blue waters? The luxury beach resorts with their beach parties? It’s hard to name that one feature that makes millions of tourists and Greeks alike flock to these beaches each summer.
This is a list of the best beaches in Chania ranked by my own feelings. I’ve put on top of the list the Cretan beaches I’ve visited and tried by myself during the time I’ve lived there, as well as during my summer holidays. Feel free to add to my list and to tell me which is your favorite beach in Crete and why.
Menies Beach (Which Will Test Your Off-Road Driving Skills and Your Endurance)
Located only 45km north-west of the town of Chania, Menies beach is a tough nut to crack. First of all, you should know that a 4x4 vehicle would be much better than your average car. As long as you drive on asphalt roads, you’re going to be fine. However, once you pass Rodopos, you’ll be driving on a 23 km dirt road which is bumpy and challenging. You’ll probably need about two hours to get there, so make sure you start your trip very early and you have a full tank of fuel. My friends and I had rented a Suzuki Jimny, which was perfect for the dirt roads among olive trees, rocky hills and scattered goats seeking for grass. As for the fuel, we barely had enough to return to civilization. This made our day trip from Chania to Menies a bit tensed. Eventually, we managed to get back to our hotel without any problem, but we learned our lesson to fill up the fuel tank before such adventures.
Menies Beach is perfect for nature lovers, and for all those who hate the so-called “organized beaches” that are the norm of our modern tourist resorts in Greece and in any other seaside destinations. There’s nothing “organized” about this beach. You can’t even buy a bottle of water, so make sure you bring food and drink with you. Also, don’t forget your sunscreen, your snorkel, your umbrella and anything else you may find useful for a great day on the beach. There is no natural shade here, as everything that grows on this rocky soil are a few scattered bushes. This vegetation is barely suitable as natural toilet.
If you aren’t used to such conditions, you’ll find this spot annoying, so you’d better seek for a town beach nearby Chania Town, where you can find man-made toilets, bars, restaurants and shops. Elafonisi and Marathi beaches (see my reviews below) have sunbeds, umbrellas, food stalls, proper toilets, and they are accessible by any type of car. Stalos
Seitan Limania (Which Will Put Your Rock Climbing Skills To Test)
What we found out about Seitan Limania online was that it was one of the hidden and isolated Chania beaches. Located on the Akrotiri Peninsula, a bit closer to Chania Town than Menies, this beach is indeed in a secluded golf. You have to leave your car in a parking spot nearby the road, and test your balance and your mountaineering skills by climbing down a tiny path between steep rocks. As you can easily imagine, we were wearing flip-flops, so the descent was even more challenging. This spot surely deserves its name. Seitan comes from Turkish, and it means Devil, and Limania means Haven. I’ve walked down the path to the Devil’s Haven, but wearing my water shoes instead of my flip-flops. The descent is a crazy 10-15 minute ride, as the path is extremely narrow and the rocks are sharp. I made the mistake to wear my sunglasses on my head. At some point, they fell and I instinctively looked down. This was enough to make me stick to the rock and not want to take one single extra step. I had to push my limits very seriously to move down the path to the beach. The most amazing thing was that I saw a woman with a small baby on the beach. I have no idea how she’s managed to carry the little one on those rocks. The other amazing thing were the countless adrenaline junkies who were climbing the rocks to dive into the golf from an impressive height.
I guess the golf is very calm during most days. Nonetheless, we’ve visited Seitan Limania when the sea was rough, after a stormy day. On such weather, the waves can be incredibly powerful. Getting inside the water is a challenge, as the big waves push you towards the rocks.
Just like Menies, Seitan Limania is a natural beach, with nothing man-made on it. There is no shadow for the most part of the day, so you’ll need an umbrella and lots of sunscreen. Whatever you want to drink or eat, you have to bring it with you. Even climbing back to the car is difficult, so you should make sure you don’t forget anything up there.
Special tip: Climbing is easier on the rock by the back side of the beach, rather than on the narrow path everyone takes.
Stalos Chania Beach
If you don’t want to spend hours in a car or test your balance on sharp rocks, you can choose Stalos Chania Beach, with its fine sand, sunbeds, umbrellas, beach bars and coffee shops. The fact that it’s an “organized beach” doesn’t make it less good. There are huge portions without sunbeds, so you can enjoy laying down on your beach towel, if so you wish. Moreover, this beach is home to Caretta Caretta turtles, so there are several protected areas where the turtles nest. This beach is so long that you can walk for at least 30 minutes along the shore, on the sand. It’s perfect for morning walks interrupted by a coffee stop and perhaps a bath or two.
There aren’t any water sports on Stalos Beach. Nonetheless, ten minutes of walking or two minutes or driving will take you to the Agia Marina beach, where you’re going to find water-jets, bananas and other such stuff. Agia Marina boasts some excellent fish restaurants scattered alongside the promenade.
Where to Stay in Stalos
If you fancy the idea of a relaxing beach holiday, you can stay at the Cretan Dream Royal Hotel in Stalos. I’ve stayed here for one week and loved every minute of it. Everything is clean, the garden and the infinity pool are perfect, and the staff is very welcoming and helpful.
The beach is just in front of the hotel, but you have to cross the main road to get there. As there’s no pedestrian crossing, you may want to walk a little to the right of the hotel, and use the underground passage to the beach. If you want water sports and tavernas on the beach, walk to the left until you reach Agia Marina.
Located in the southern part of Akrotiri peninsula, Marathi Beach boasts two waveless beaches and lots of amenities such as cafes, tavernas and shops. This is the place to come to if you want to enjoy an absolutely calm and clear sea. Don’t forget your snorkel, because there are lots of fish that come very close to the shore. The shallow water makes Marathi beach a great option for families with children. As this place is only 16km away from Chania Town, there are taxi drivers willing to take you here.
The beach is crowded during the peak season, so you need to show up early in the morning, if you want to find a sunbed and an umbrella. If you want to have dinner at one of the restaurants, you’d better make a booking by lunchtime. If you hate crowds, stay away from this beach. The sea is amazing, but the sand is too full of people with children yelling and zooming around like hummingbirds. This permanent noise makes it hard to hear your thoughts, let alone reading on the beach. I’ve spent almost all the time in the water, snorkeling and swimming. This is why I don’t have a photo of this beach.
When you search the web for Chania beaches, Elafonisi with its pink sand will pop up among the top results. You’ll see stunningly beautiful photos of a pristine beach with miles of pink sand and clear waters. Don’t let yourself fooled by those images. If you go to Elafonisi in August, the first thing you’ll see will be an ocean of cars parked all over the place, on dirt, between trees and earth dunes.The place is huge, so you’ll probably find parking rather quickly. What you may not expect is to find thousands of people occupying every square inch of this beautiful beach.
The water is awesome, just like everywhere in Greece. I tried snorkeling, but I didn’t see any fish. Elafonisi beach has food and drink stalls, very clean public toilets, heaps of umbrellas and sunbeds, and some water sports opportunities. Don’t expect to find any natural shadow, though.
These are the Chania beaches I’ve tested and tried. This took me about one week. My conclusion is that a short vacation isn’t enough to explore the region of Chania. It surely deserves at least one month, preferably off-season.
To end this article in a funny note, here’s a photo of a Chania beach I don’t remember the name of. Can you name it for me, please?