kids snorkeling in the shallow waters in Elafonissi beach

Elafonissi Beach, Crete

    Discover the Cretan “Caribbean”

    Elafonissi beach (or Elafonissos or Elafonisi) is located in the southwest end of the prefecture of Chania, approximately 76km from the city of Chania.

    What makes Elafonissi so special and a must-place to visit with the family in Crete is its exotic topography and natural beauty (Elafonissi is included in the Natura 2000 Protection Program).

    Specifically, Elafonissi is a long and narrow peninsula with white sandy beaches on both sides. It feels like being on a small island with a natural lagoon around it. Seawater at this natural lagoon is very shallow, which makes it ideal for younger kids. To reach the island you have to walk through the sea which all kids love since it is like an adventure.

    White lilies, sea daffodils, junipers, and sand dunes, create a natural environment of unique beauty. At Elafonissi beach several rare species of animals, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (commonly known as Caretta Caretta), find shelter. This is why visitors are not allowed to remove any plants, animals, shells, and sand from the area.

    Elafonissi beach for families aerial view

    Kids simply love Elafonissi Beach

    All kids love the untouched dunes, the little sand islets, the long stretches of fine white and pink sand (made of crushed shell powder), the little coves ideal for snorkeling, the rocks full of sea life to observe, and certainly the shallow turquoise water which looks like a lagoon.

    There are many smaller and bigger beaches and islets, and to reach the other side of the lagoon you may need to wade through its waters carrying your bags on your heads. Your kids will love it!

    The whole area feels like a summer playground for young and old alike. We guarantee that once you reach the first turning, one thing is for sure – you and your kids will be left speechless! A truly heavenly landscape that you should definitely visit if you happen to be in southwest Crete.

    Elafonissi beach kids lying in the lagoon

    An exotic paradise for all tastes

    The part of the beach in front of the lagoon is well organized and usually more crowded. Here you will be able to find umbrellas and sunbeds, showers, changing rooms as well as small beach bars offering refreshments and snacks. There is also a lifeguard as well as a spacious parking area nearby.

    On the other hand, the beaches on either side of the island are more wild and natural. The unique beauty of the landscape offers visitors a sense of absolute relaxation away from the crowds.

    boy running in shallow waters Elafonissi  beach Crete

    A beach full of stories and legends

    According to Greek Mythology, the ancient Greeks had built a beautiful temple right on Elafonissi beach. The temple was dedicated to the Olympian God Apollo, lord of the 9 Muses, goddesses of poetic inspiration, and the creative arts. Based on the legend, the 9 Muses used their divine music to calm down the marine deities and the wavy sea. This is why the seawater at Elafonissi beach is always calm and peaceful.

    Other legends mention that the island took its name from pirates who once occupied it. Locals sometimes refer to Elafonissi as the “Treasure Island” since it is believed that pirates stored many of their valuable treasures in the area.

    pink sea shells in sandy Elafonissi beach Chania

    Best time to visit Elafonissi beach

    The best time to avoid the crowds of tourists is in late September and October. The weather in early Autumn is still beautiful, mild, and usually less windy. The water temperature makes it pleasant to swim, snorkel and play all day long!

    Elafonissi beach is also less crowded in April and May. Since however the area is exposed to strong winds, the windblown sand can become quite unpleasant if you visit the beach on a windy springtime day.

    Although Elafonissi is an amazing place to visit any time of the year, we would advise you to avoid going to the beach in July and August. During the peak of the summer season, the area tends to get overcrowded, with locals and coach tours.

    elafonissi beach and forest Chania Crete

    How to get to Elafonissi beach

    By car:

    The easiest and fastest way to get to Elafonissi beach is to drive or take a taxi.

    The most direct route from the north coast passes through Topolia and Elos. Since the roads in most parts of the route are quite narrow and winding, it will take you around 90min to 2 hours to reach Elafonissi beach from Chania Town. The beautiful views of the Cretan nature along the way, with olive groves and scenic gorges, will make this long drive feel more pleasant and adventurous.

    By Bus:

    In case you do not want to drive, you may reach Elafonissi Beach by bus. There are public buses departing from Chania to Elafonissi and other west Cretan villages. You need to keep in mind that public bus services to Elafonissi beach only run during the summer season and not off-season.

    For more information on the timetable: Public Bus Services Chania – Rethymno.

    By Boat:

    Another way to reach Elafonissi Beach is by boat from Palaiochora. Small boats from Palaiochora usually leave around 10 am and depart from Elafonissi beach around 4 pm. The boat trip lasts approximately an hour.

    Getting to Elafonissi by boat is more relaxing than driving and also gives you the opportunity to admire the beautiful views of the coastline along the way. Since however, Palaiochora is around 1.5 hours drive from Chania Town, it is worth taking the boat to Elafonissi only if you happen to stay close to the area and not in Chania.

    You also need to keep in mind that since the waters around Elafonissi are quite shallow, boats usually drop passengers off at a landing stage, approximately 10 minutes walk from the beach. In addition, boat trips to Elafonissi do not usually run on windy days so it is highly recommended that you cross-check the weather the evening before your scheduled boat trip.

    Boats departing from Palaiochora to Elafonissi beach are in most cases run by independent boatmen and timetables tend to change regularly. That said, planning your boat trip through a local boat agency based in Chania, would be a wise and safer choice.

    pink sandy beach at Elafonissi Beach Chania

    Best spots to visit near Elafonissi Beach

    The secluded paradise of Kedrodasos Beach

    Kedrodasos is an amazing beach only 1km (around 11min drive) east of Elafonissi. Although its name in Greek means “cedar forest”, the beach is full of juniper trees and white sand dunes. If you are a family that likes adventures, Kedrodasos is really worth visiting.

    The beach has white sand, smooth flat rocks at some points, and crystal clear waters. Kedrodasos is a completely secluded paradise, so if you decide to visit it don’t forget to pack some snacks and water.

    Kedrodasos beach is not that easily accessible. After you park your car, you will need to walk for around 10 minutes to reach the beach. The walking path is a bit tricky but the amazing beach it leads to will totally reward your efforts.

    The Monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalithisa

    About 5 km north of Elafonisi sands the beautiful Monastery of Panagia Chrisoskalithisa. The monastery, dating back to the 17th century, is built on top of a rock and offers breathtaking views of the Cretan sea.

    Its name in Greek means golden steps. According to the legend, the last of the 98 steps leading up to the monastery was made of gold but can be only seen by true believers.

    The picturesque village of Elos

    Elos is a quite small, traditional Cretan village located around 30 min drive from Elafonissi beach towards the north. The natural landscape is really beautiful, with chestnut trees, olive groves, plane trees, and small water streams surrounding the village.

    The village is a great stop for lunch or dinner, on your way back from ELafonissi Beach to Chania.

    If you happen to be in the area in late October, you do not want to miss the Chestnut Festival, a local celebration dedicated to Autumn’s arrival.

    Looking for family-friendly accommodation near the scenic Elafonissi Beach? Check out a list of our top picks for families and BOOK you STAY now!

    Families should know

    • In low season the boats and buses getting there are not very frequent, so bring your picnic and enough water with you as the local beach bars will probably be closed.
    • Bring beach parasols and sun hats for your children as there are not many shaded spots.
    • If you decide to use the boat services to see around, pay attention to the timetables. If you miss the boat, you may have trouble returning back.
    • You might get annoyed by the rows of sunbeds on the east side of the beach. If you want more isolation, it is worth walking further along the beach to discover the quiet sandy corners opposite the island located within the sea.
    • In summer time during the weekends Elafonissi can get really crowded. Week days are definitely less busy.
    • If you decide to get to Elafonissi by car, the roads are narrow and full of turnings. The majestic landscape will certainly compensate though.
    Address: Elafonissi, Chrisoskalitissa, Kissamos


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    Kids will love

    • Examining the pink sand and making pink sandcastles. Your children may want to carry some home but as it is a protected area, this is not allowed
    • Getting on a small traditional boat that can take you to the nearby village of Paleochora, where you can stay overnight in one of the many family-run hotels, or be back the same day
    • Exploring the bathing pools and coves to spot sea urchins and octopuses

    Parents will love

    • Elafonissi is a nature reserve, it is clean and the landscape is simply stunning
    • The lagoon waters are shallow making it a safe place for children to swim and play
    • The spectacular views from the island as the sun sets into the sea
    map Explore the map

    Best season to visit

    • summer
    • autumn
    • winter
    • spring
    • All
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    • If you get lucky, you might discover footprints of baby turtles that find refuge at the beach.

    • The best way to get to the lagoon is by a small boat that leaves from Paleochora. Takes an hour one way but it’s super fun for kids and very relaxing for parents.


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