Elafonissi Beach is a world-famous beach that’s known for its unique land formations and spectacular scenery. It’s also popular for its uniquely coloured sand, which has a pink appearance under direct sunlight and is an amazing site to see. It sits to the south-west corner of the island of Crete and is a must-see for any visit.
If you’re thinking of visiting Elafonossi and it’s high up on your day-trip list, you’ve came to the right place. After spending time exploring this beautiful corner of Crete, we’ve assembled a complete guide so that you can do the same.
Browse our Elafonissi Beach guide for tips on getting there, the top things to see, beach amenity information and our top tips for visiting.
Why should I visit Elafonissi Beach?
As one of the top things to do in Crete according to any guide you’ll read, Elafonissi Beach is a must-see for any visit. Here are the top reasons to travel here, and why this area of the island is so unique and captivating.
- Pink sand – around the shore of the beach and edge of the lagoon, you’ll find a line of coral pink sand. The colour is created from the shells in the sand and is a truly unique sight to behold. The intensity of the pink sand colour can change depending on weather conditions and the angle at which the sun shines.
- A beautiful warm lagoon – The hot Greek sun warms the water, creating a bath-like area to relax.
- Powdery white sand with a tropical feel – It’s soft to walk on and amazing to look at! It looks much unlike the rest of the Mediterranean.
- Spectacular scenery – From the beaches to the lagoon and sand dune viewpoints, the scenery here is amazing. It can be appreciated by those who don’t usually like visiting the beach.
How to get to Elafonissi Beach
Elafonissi Beach sits in a fairly remote location compared to the main tourist areas of Crete. It’s nestled along a small cove to the southern-west most tip of the island and involves a drive through the mountains to get there. The Chania area is one of the best place to stay if you’d like to visit Elafonissi. It is of course reachable from other city to the east; however, you may find that the drive is quite a distance.
The main route from Kissamos and Chania in the north (which is what most tour buses will follow) is one of the most scenic drives you’ll have during your time on the island. Winding mountain-side roads, cave tunnels and small local villages make up the drive. We were amazed by the scenery! Roads can be quite hazardous so drive slowly, especially around corners, and keep lane discipline.
Here are your main options for how to get to Elafonissi Beach:
Our preferred route and the quickest and most convenient option is to rent a car. Small cars are inexpensive to rent, either for the day or the full duration of your stay. You can find local car hire offices in most cities, and the island’s main airports also have plenty of options.
We recommend the following car hire companies. They all have excellent reviews and are reasonably priced. 😊 Try to avoid the large international car hire companies as they have a notorious reputation for trying to rip you off.
Here are the drive times to Elafonissi from popular tourist destinations:
From Kissamos – 1hr
From Chania – 1hr 25mins
From Rethymon – 2hr 15mins
From Bali – 2hr 35mins
From Heraklion – 3hr 15mins
From Elounda – 4hr 9mins
From Agios Nikolaus – 4hrs
Free parking is available a 2-minute walk from the beach. Spaces are plentiful but they fill up fast after 10am so we recommend arriving earlier, otherwise you might have to park on a side street.
If you don’t fancy renting a car and driving in Crete, hiring a private tour guide or transfer is a great option. You’ll get to explore the Cretan mountains from the passenger seat and can relax whilst someone else does the driving. As Elafonissi Beach is a place where you probably won’t need a guide, most people opt for private transfers. A driver will drop you off at the beach and then pick you up at an agreed time. We personally recommend checking out Cretan Taxi Service for private transfers.
View the top-rated private transfers companies in Crete on Tripadvisor here.
Group tour / tour bus
A very affordable way to reach Elafonissi Beach is by booking a group tour in the local town you’re staying in, or via your hotel reception. As Elafonissi is such a popular tourist attraction in Crete, most hotels and tourism operators offer their own tour options. You’ll be picked up at your hotel at a specific time and then dropped off at Elafonissi. You’ll then need to be at the agreed bus stop at the end of the day for your return journey back to your hotel.
Group tours generally start early morning and last the full day, so expect to be out between 8am – 6pm. If you’d like to book an Elafonissi group tour in advance, check out the options available on Viator here.
If you’d like to see a different side of Elafonissi Beach, away from the shore, you can take a boat trip from the nearby town of Palaiochora. Due to the remote location of Elafonissi, this is the only port for boat trips, so you’ll first need to travel to the town on the south coast. Boats depart daily, with several different independent operators available to choose from. Either book a trip at a tour agency where you’re staying, or venture to the south coast, stay overnight in Palaiochora and speak to one of the boat trip organisers at the port area.
Boat tours to Elafonissi Beach vary in itinerary, but expect to tour the entire south-west coastline in a day trip. Whilst visiting Elafonissi Beach, the boat will drop you off a 10-minute walk away from the main beach.
What time should I visit Elafonissi Beach? How long should I spend there?
If you love beaches, you’ll want to spend the full day here. You’ll catch the hot sun and glimmering pink sand during the day, eagerly awaiting the beauty of sunset early evening. Equally, if you’re not a huge fan of the beach but still want to experience the beauty of Elafonissi, a few hours/half a day is perfect. You can walk around the beaches and lagoon in a couple of hours, but you’ll also want time to relax and grab a drink.
The best things to do at Elafonissi Beach:
The highlight and very best thing to do in Elafonissi Beach in our opinion, is the vast Elafonissi Lagoon. Transparent water and a depth of less than 1 metre make the lagoon an idyllic place to relax. Wade in the pool, take some scenic photos or lie back and catch some rays. As the lagoon is shallow, it quickly starts to warm up and has the temperature of a warm bath as the afternoon arrives. It’s quite a large lagoon that has formed and you’ll find sand banks, rock formations and powdery sand beaches surrounding it.
Relax on one of the many beaches
As its name suggests, Elafonissi Beach is exactly that, a beach. In fact, it’s an accumulation of multiple beaches. The first beach is where you’ll arrive, directly facing the car park and with plenty of sun loungers and food and drink facilities.
The second beach is just along from the main beach, on the other side of the lagoon. This is a much quieter spot that also has loungers. It’s is the best place to relax in our opinion.
Along from the above beach, you then have a walking trail through the sand dunes and onward to Elafonissi South Beach. This is a much longer stretch of sand, with the far end being a clothing optional beach. No sun loungers are on this beach, so you’ll need a towel to lie down.
It costs 10 euros for two sun loungers and the accompanying palm umbrella, and you’ll get to use them for the full day. If you’d like to rent a sun lounger, simply park up on an empty set of loungers, then place your towels and bags over them. A member of the beach staff will pass by and take payment.
Part of the adventure at Elafonissi Beach is simply walking across the lagoon, hiking the sand dunes and uncovering the hidden beauty spots of the area. We found a beach hut, quiet rocky region and some amazing viewpoints as we trekked past the lagoon. Put on some water shoes and have fun exploring!
Rent a paddleboard, bring along your own water toys or join a wind surfing tour. The waves here are brisk due to Elafonissi’s location, so you’ll find that it’s a great place to surf. We recommend checking out Aquaholics for all your water sport’s needs.
Food and drink
If you get hungry or just want to enjoy a refreshing drink on the beach, Elafonissi has some very good food and drink options, especially as the beach is so remote. During our visit we found two or three large beach shacks on the main beach, right near the entrance.
Drinks included soft drinks, water, coffee, juices, beer, mixers, coffee, tea and any other cold beverage you could think of. Food-wise, expect cold sandwiches, hotdogs, crisps, ice cream, chocolate and other sweet treats. You won’t find any restaurant food, but the snacks sold are sufficient to keep you going on busy beach day. We found the prices to be quite reasonable.
You’ll find a block of 5 or so toilets at the entrance of the beach, right next to the car park. They cost 50 cents to use, and we found them to be well maintained and clean.
Small individual changing booths are located across the beach, near both the toilets and food and drink cabins. They’re free to use.
Umbrella and sun lounger rental
It costs 10 euros for two sun loungers and the accompanying palm umbrella, and you’ll get to use them for the full day. If you’d like to rent a sun lounger, simply park up on an empty set of loungers, place your towels and bags over them. A member of the beach staff will pass by and take payment.
Things to do near Elafonissi Beach – Make a daytrip of it!
If you plan on visiting Elafonissi Beach for half a day and arrive early, you may wish to make a day-trip out of your visit. It is quite a long drive after all! Here are some excellent nearby attractions that are worth checking out.
Chrysoskalitissa Monastery – View on map
Chrysoskalitissa Monastery is a 17th-century Orthodox Christian monastery that’s perched on the edge of the mountain side. It’s a great stop off point on your way back from Elafonissi, especially if you manage to catch the stunning sunset views. Walk around the old monastery and admire the scenery at your leisure.
White Lake beach – View on map
Another untouched cove with golden sand is White Lake Beach. This scenic location has a turquoise cove where you can swim and relax in the hot Crete sun. Jagged rock pools and formations are scattered at the cove entrance and the surrounding natural scenery is gorgeous. Stop by for an hour of swimming.
Voulolimni Cove – View on map
Go for a swim in a peaceful, turquoise lagoon and marvel at the beautiful scenery. Boulólimnē is a hidden gem in Crete’s south-west and is a spot that many tourists don’t know about. If Elafonissi Beach is crowded during your visit, end your day early and check out this place.
Kedrodasos Beach – View on map
Kedrodasos is a short drive east of Elafonissi and is a much less frequented beach location. Enjoy the spectacular scenery and the turquoise ocean to yourself, with very few tourists in sight. It’s remote, untouched and displays Crete nature at its best. Parking is available right next to the beach.
Can I stay overnight at/near Elafonissi Beach?
Whilst there aren’t any accommodation options at Elafonissi Beach itself and camping isn’t allowed, there are few accommodation within a short walk or drive. Most people visit on a day trip and stay to the north of the island, but the south coast is well worth checking out. Here are the best places to stay in the south of Crete, all of which are close to Elafonissi Beach.
Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family – View on Booking.com
Elafonisi Resort by Kalomirakis Family – The best accomodation option in the area and a 10-minute walk from the beach. This 4-star hotel is family-run and has excellent Tripadvisor reviews.
Lafo Rooms – View on Booking.com
Lafo Rooms – A small hotel with a unique modern architecture façade. Rooms are nicely decorated and have plenty of amenities.
Elafonissi Paradise Apartments – View on Booking.com
Elafonissi Paradise – The Elafonissi Paradise self catering apartments are basic, but they’re well equipped and very affordable. Use them as a base to explore Elafonissi Beach for a longer period.
Our top tips for visiting Elafonissi Beach
- Arrive early (before 10am) to get the best sun lounger spots. They fill up very quickly after 10am and it’ll be tough to find a place. You’ll also find it easier to secure a parking spot in the car park if you arrive earlier.
- As tempting as it is to grab a sun lounger right by the beach entrance (where the food and drink stands are), we recommend walking further across the beach and past the lagoon. Here you’ll find more secluded sun loungers with less people and more scenic views.
- Bring along plenty of snacks and drinks in a cooler bag. It’ll save you buying them at the beach.
- Bring water shoes if you have them as some areas of the lagoon and beach are rocky. You’ll find it a lot more comfortable to get around in water shoes, especially if you want an adventurous walk along the beaches.
- Bring cash with you. You’ll need it to pay for toilet access and if you want to rent a sun lounger.
- As tempting as it is to relax on a sun lounger all day, make sure you go for a walk and explore the other beaches, lagoon and walking trails.
Now that you’ve read our complete guide to Elafonissi Beach, all that’s left to do is visit for yourself! Don’t let the long drive put you off, it’s well worth the trip to the south of Crete if you’re staying in the north. Have fun exploring one of the best beaches that Crete has to offer and enjoy a relaxing day in the sun. If you have any questions about Elafonissi Beach, or Crete in general, let us know in the comment section below. 😊
By RickyAuthor bio:
An adventurer at heart that loves anything outdoors. Beaches, mountains and amazing scenery is everything I love about travel! I also enjoy home comforts and need a nice place to relax and re-charge after every trip.