Where & when to go snorkeling in Crete

Blessed with an almost otherworldly magical ambience, Crete, the biggest island in Greece is a fantastic vacation destination. It offers you the finest of Greek food, incomparable history and stunning nature. The incredible beaches that encircle the coast provide visitors with top conditions for any beach activity with clear and pristine waters. Besides the exciting summer water sports, snorkeling in Crete is the most popular pastime that the whole family can enjoy. Should you be interested in exploring the beauty of the Mediterranean Sea, here we look at the top 10 spots that are worth visiting!

Crete snorkeling conditions

Crete beaches have very clear waters that are the best for snorkeling during the European summer season, between May and October. In this period, the water temperatures range from 23 to 27 C/73-80 F, the sea is usually calm while the visibility is excellent (can reach 30 m/100 ft where the seabed is rocky). If you use to feel cold, pack a thin snorkeling suit, otherwise, an UV protective rash guard should be fine.

Mediterranean sea - Crete

Although the marine life not as colorful as on the tropics, but there is plenty to see including various fish species, crabs, sea stars, sponges and sometimes octopus. There are no dangerous sea creatures, but be careful with scorpionfish and the black sea urchins that live between and on the rocks! If you don’t use snorkeling fins, make sure to wear beach shoes to avoid injuries.

Top 10 spots for snorkeling in Crete

Kolokytha Beach

Kolokytha is a small island not so far from Elounda and Agios Nikolaos near Schisma. The rocky Kolokytha beach is one of the lesser-known snorkeling places in Crete that is accessible through a little difficult, yet scenic road.

Kolokytha - Crete

To get to the beach, take the road heading to east from Elounda town. On the way, you will pass some abandoned farms, windmills and a small bridge too that create a stunning view.

Thanks to its hidden location, Kolokytha is relaxing and peaceful without the usual tourist hordes found throughout Crete beaches in the peak season. The calm, crystal blue waters make snorkeling simply fantastic here!

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Elafonissi Beach

Elafonissi Beach is not only among the finest beaches on the island, but it is also one of the best sites to go snorkeling in Crete that lies near the southwestern coast of the island in Chania region. To the Elafonisos Lagoon you can get from Paleohora (the nearest village) on a boat or by driving through from Vathi village.

Elafonissi beach - Crete

The waters here are extremely clear and shallow that makes snorkeling easy for all skill and age levels. The sand of the beach is uniquely pink and complemented by the natural beauty of the unspoiled area. Camping is permitted here, and several cantinas lie on the beach to help sustain you after your underwater adventure. If you are looking for the most stunning Crete snorkeling location, don’t miss out visiting Elafonissi!

Where to stay near Elafonissi? Check out the Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family

Chrissi Island

Chrissi Island lies on the Libyan Sea only a few miles/kilometers from Ierapetra. This beautiful unspoiled place is unique for being among the most southern lying locations within Europe. On the island itself there are only a few amenities and structures. These include a taverna, a bar, and a single chapel. The fantastic landscapes feature golden sandy beaches, cedar trees, and crystal turquoise-colored waters.

Clear waters at Chrissi Island - Greece

Once you arrive by boat to Chrissi Island, it is easy to see why this is one of the best places for snorkeling in Crete. Off the coast of Chrissi, there is a little rocky islet known as Mikronisi. Between the two islands, the water is calm and shallow offering superb conditions to explore the marine life. Thanks to the clarity of the sea here, you are able to take in the little reef where octopuses, European parrotfish, nudibranchs, and many other spectacular sea creatures can be observed.

Matala Beach

Matala Beach can be found along the southern coast of the island within the region of Heraklion. It is not only one of the best-known Greek beaches but also an outstanding Crete snorkeling location. This beach sits in a splendid setting that is bounded by tombs carved from the rock and caves.

Matala beach - Crete

These man-made creations served as a Roman and later Byzantine cemetery. In the freedom-loving era of the 60’s and 70’s they turned into a hippie colony as they were looking for a peaceful refuge from materialistic civilization. Among the artists who passed the time here writing songs were Bob Dylan, Cat Stevens, Janis Joplin, and Joni Mitchell.

The beach is also famous for its number of ancient world shipwrecks that are primarily from the Roman era. It helps to bring in the crowds of tourists who love the mystique of the place coupled with its unusual natural setting. Snorkeling is fantastic here thanks to the remains beneath the sea of the ancient Roman port. These lie on the two sides of the rocks.

Best places to stay at Matala Beach: Matala Caves Seafront Apartment or Thalasso resort

Dragon’s Beach

The famous Ammoudi beaches are situated to the southeast of Agios Nikolaos and the east of Ierapetra close by the road that connects Goudouras to Makry Gialos. The primary beach in this area is the Dragon’s Cave Beach.

Dragons Beach - Ammoudi

The name comes from a huge cave lying 500 meters to the beach’s north side and the tavern of the same name that sits beside it. You also have two other private coves that are to the west of Dragon’s Beach, accessible only by foot along a dirt-covered track.

The beaches here are encircled by tall cliffs and limestone white rocks. It is an easy place for snorkeling in Crete thanks to the sandy seabed that is not so deep. After your day admiring the underwater sea life, you can break off pieces of the clay from these cliffs. When you mix the clay with water it makes a beneficial skin tonic.

Iguana Beach

Less than three kilometers from Chania city lies Agioi Apostoli and its Iguana Beach, only several meters from the Chania-Platanias road and is adjacent to Golden Beach.

Iguana Beach is stunning and extremely popular with foreign tourists and locals alike thanks to how close it is to Chania, the second town of Crete. The beach is covered with a beautiful golden sand while the waters are perfectly clear, making it ideal for snorkeling. When you finish taking in the aquatic life you can refresh yourself at one of the many restaurants found here.

Best places to stay near Iguana Beach: Mossa Well Being Hotel or Xenios Dias Luxury Apartments With Sea View

Vai Beach

Vai Beach is one of the more famous places for snorkeling in Crete that has been prominently featured in the Bounty chocolate advertisement on TV with good reason. The golden sand and crystal-clear waters make it feel like it was separated from the Caribbean islands long ago.

Crete Vai beach

Besides the beach, visitors enjoy the incomparable encircling palm forest. Many thousands of tourists come to see the unusual nature of this beach and area. Expect huge crowds of visitors in season.

The beach also bears the distinction of having a blue flag award. To the south and north are rocky hills that surround it and provide a beautiful backdrop for snorkeling around the rocky islet just off of the beach. Divers can also check out the scuba diving club found here.

Plakias Beach

Plakias Beach lies along Crete’s more remote Southern coast within a tourist resort area that carries the same name as the beach. Around 25 miles (40 kilometers) to the south of the Venetian city Rethymnon, the beach delivers the goods with pristine waters, powdery sand, and even facilities that help to make your day a pleasant one.

Plakias beach - Crete - Greece

Besides the excellent Crete snorkeling to be had here, diving lessons are also offered. You can count on great beach bars and seaside tavernas to enjoy fantastic food and drinks after your day admiring the submarine life. If you are traveling with children, beware of the eastern side of the beach that is reserved for naturalists.

Recommended hotel to stay here: Plakias Resorts

Bali Beach

Bali in Crete is an ancient world city site of Astali that used to be the port city for Axos. These days, the area has grown into a thoroughly modern resort complete with restaurants, tavernas, bars, dance clubs, boutique shops, pharmacy, clinic, and a diving school.

Bali beach in Crete with mountains in the background

Bali boasts four different beaches, all of which lie along sandy coves that are graced with green-colored water. Novice snorkelers will do well here as the beaches and coves are nearly always tranquil due to the fact that the area is facing the west. With shallow and calm waters, these beaches are safe for small kids too making Bali Beach a great choice for your Greece family vacation.

Unusual features here are the springs that bring fresh cool water into the sea out of the Psiloritis Range. It should come as no surprise that there are many crowds of tourists enjoying the snorkeling and beach activities of such a lovely beach resort town.

Best hotel at Bali Beach Crete: Blue Bay Lifestyle – ex Bali Blue Bay

Frangokastello Beach

Frangokastello Beach stretches along the remote southern coast of Chania region. It is actually comprised of three individual beaches. On the west there is a pebble covered beach with its rocky seafloor that is fantastic for snorkelers. A sandy beach fronts the castle of the same name as the beach here. Families love the pristine and shallow waters here as well as the unusual white and pink color sand.

The last of the Frangokastello Beach scene is the powder-sandy beach of Orthi Ammos. You can reach it by walking leisurely for 10 minutes from the castle. Many consider this to be among the top beaches on the island of Crete.

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Best Crete snorkeling places

Anett Szaszi

Anett is a certified scuba diver, freediver and an expert in snorkeling with more than 10 years experience. She fell in love with the ocean when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea in 2008. Since then , she is traveling all over the world to discover our waters. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. Visiting mega-cities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. She is interested in sustainable traveling and marine conservation. She is hoping to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!