Beat a retreat to Crete’s stylish beachfront stays


Beat a retreat to Crete’s stylish beachfront stays

Sun, sand, and the warm Aegean Sea – stick to the classics with our pick of wave-lapped Cretan stays

Amy Martin

BY Amy Martin18 June 2024

The shores of Crete aren’t short of claims to mythic status – birthplace of gods, site of ancient civilisations… You would’ve thought the island’s sublime scenery and Unesco-recognised culinary heritage would have tempted Daedalus and Icarus to stick around.

And not to ruffle any more feathers, but surely if they’d got their hands on a guide to the island’s best beaches, they’d have happily stayed put. Learn from their mistake and make your getaway more than a flying visit with our list of the best luxury Crete hotels on the beach…


Sun loungers looking out to sea

Artemis – goddess of the wilderness, among a sizeable CV of other epithets – has been a big deal in Crete since the Minoan days. Looking at Numo Ierapetra Beach Resort, on the island’s quieter southern coast, it’s not hard to see her feeling at home here.

The hotel’s sultry interiors match their palette to the volcanic sands, and tamarisk and olive trees; beyond, the mountains make a cinematic backdrop.

Two Cretan restaurants put the pastoral setting to splendid use, each working near exclusively with traditional, locally sourced ingredients. Days here are spent idly slipping between the sea-facing pool and striking grey-sand beach, with the odd interlude at the spa to indulge your inner deity. Come evening, things are livened up by craft cocktails and DJs spinning deep house by the beach.

But with pretty villages, mountain tavernas and traditional coffeehouses in easy reach along the coast, it might be worth making time in your schedule to mingle with the mortals after all…

Nearest beach Unsurprisingly for somewhere with the words ‘beach resort’ in its name, you’re never far from a stretch of sand at Numo Ierapetra. Head east and you’ll reach Koutsounari Long Beach after a 30-minute stroll; head west and Peristeras Beach is even closer, 15 minutes away on foot.

Beach restaurant Thalassa Sea Side Bar lets you enjoy the spoils of the Aegean, while admiring a view of it. If you ask nicely, you’ll even be able to order some seafood straight to your cabana on the sand.


Sun loungers on the sandy beach looking out to sea

These days, Malia might be known as Crete’s party capital, but in centuries past it was the island’s kitchen garden. Family-friendly stay Cretan Malia Park throws things back to the city’s green-fingered past with lush Mediterranean gardens and three restaurants making ambrosial use of the hotel’s home-grown produce.

Horticulturalists of all ages can get hands-on with cooking classes with the head chef (pick your own ingredients, of course) or workshops led by the resident gardener.

But if you’d rather leave all that to the experts, it’s perfectly possible to appreciate your surroundings from a mani-preserving distance. The river-like pool snakes through the greenery, with secluded lagoons and little-Smith-safe paddling spots.

At the spa, opt for a massage out among the pines, enriched with local sea salt and olive oil. Or take the toes-in-the-sand approach on the private beach; after a splash in the sun-warmed Aegean and a locally brewed beer or three, you’ll be feeling at one with nature in no time.

Nearest beach As the name suggests, this hotel is close to party hub Malia, but don’t let that put you off. Away from the cocktails served in watermelons, you’ll be able to find a quieter patch of Malia Beach to unfurl your towel. It’s a 20-minute walk away from the hotel.

Beach restaurant Potamos Beach Restaurant in Malia is the sort of simple, open-air beach shack holiday dreams are made of. It’ll also be on hand with the cocktails come sundowner o’clock.


Sun loungers on the beach in the afternoon sun

If you’re looking to minimise your bed-to-beach distance, you won’t do better than Minos Beach Art Hotel. This retro rule-breaker was built back in the Sixties, before regulations came in requiring accommodation to be set back a certain distance from the shore, so the rooms are right by the water along two kilometres of private coast. Some even have private pontoons, so that’s your sneaky midnight dip sorted.

The hotel has plenty more tricks up its sleeve to lead you astray: private sunset dinners on the water, spa treatments rich with pomegranate and olive oil, late-night bonfires and languid DJ-spun beats. But there’s depth to this boutique beatnik, too; specifically, an art collection, a 200-label-strong wine cellar and three restaurants, including a sea-facing fine-dining spot.

And before strait-laced readers start to fret, this rebel has taken up its community and environment as its cause, using entirely Greek-grown produce, ensuring energy is used efficiently and working regularly with local charities.

Nearest beach The namesake stretch of shoreline is only a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel, with a dive centre located a little further up the coast for anyone in search of underwater adventures.

Beach restaurant Take a taxi or walk the 20 minutes to Agios Nikolaos and be spoilt for choice by the array of tavernas and cocktail bars that await there. Achinos at the water’s edge is a great place to start. Try classic Greek dishes such as prawn saganaki, ouzo-marinated catch of the day and smoked pork chop with spicy fava.


View of the hotel, beach and sun loungers from the sea. The restaurant is in the background.

It’s news to no one that Crete’s buzzy and beach-blessed north coast is a holiday hotspot, but few resorts do it in finer or more full-works style than Amirandes, where sleek, minimalist design meets a maximalist approach to summer-hols spoiling.

Beaches are, understandably, a serious business here – there are three, all Blue Flag certified, with a watersports section and a dedicated sunbathing stretch, complete with romantic canopied day-beds. There’s a lagoon, too, lantern-lit and flanked by a laidback cocktail lounge. Throw in three pools and water babies won’t know where to start.

Several days could be spent just doing justice to the globetrotting septet of restaurants. Any lingering refrains of ‘I’m bored’ from the little Smiths will be cut off at the pass by the 24-hour concierge. Have you hit the golf club yet? Headed out on a boat safari? How about horse-riding or a tour of the hotel’s farm?

And while you’re all essential-oiled-up in the Ayurvedic spa, the kids’ club can take the reins, with activities from scuba diving to treading the boards in an actual amphitheatre.

Nearest beach To reach the beach at Gouves, it’s a 20-minute walk from the hotel. If you head a little further up the coast, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts by a signature Greek blue-and-white church, Saint Konstantinos.

Beach restaurant White chairs, wooden tables and decking, hanging wicker lamps and dreamy views of the water form a classic Greek beach restaurant at Island Gouves. If you stick around till the evening and it’s Wednesday, your sunset might be soundtracked by a violinist.


Sun loungers by the sea in the early evening light

Sitting pretty on the sands of Crete’s most charming city, Domes Noruz Chania is a romantic adults-only stay that takes its wingman duties seriously. Here, the mood-setting starts at sunrise – there’s an MP3 player in every room, ready loaded with music specially chosen to soundtrack different phases of the day. Each room has a private pool or Jacuzzi, too, so leaving the love nest is entirely optional.

Allow yourself to be seduced by the resort beach, though, and you’ll find the scene set for a superior canoodle – the golden sands, come-hither waves and super-size bean-bags made for snuggling see to that. Steps from the shore, a swoon-inducing dinner of fresh-caught seafood and sunset views awaits.

For the final flourish – the hotel equivalent of the yawn, stretch, and arm around their shoulder – there’s an Elemis spa, two Aegean-facing pools and a swim-up bar with a resident master mixologist.

Nearest beach The hotel has its own beach, or you can venture along the coast to Agii Apostoli, a sleepy cove with restaurants lining the shore. When you can muster the energy, the promontory has two churches to visit, including the Chapel of the Holy Apostles at the tip.

Beach restaurant Siroccos in Agii Apostoli can see to all of your calamari and Greek salad needs, with local beers and wines to wash it all down.


The bright idea in question at this beachfront hotel in Crete is living the good life, whether that means embracing the Med’s famously healthy, longevity-giving diet, sailing the Aegean Sea or just locating a sunlounger to lie down on for the foreseeable. It won’t take you long to fall into the Island Concept’s laid-back pace of life. And since there are just 15 rooms and suites, the hotel feels more like your own villa and even at the communal pool, the vibe is more like a gathering of a group of friends.

When you are vertical and ready to take on some sightseeing, the island has mountains, gorges, fishing villages and ports to explore. First stop should be Agios Nikolaos, which may have once been a sleepy seaside town, but is now one of the most cosmopolitan places in Crete. The helpful hotel staff can pack you off with gourmet picnics (no trail mix in sight) for your sailing or hiking trips.

For peak romance on your return, book a meal at the private dining spot and enjoy dinner with a side of sunset, sea and mountains.

Nearest beach The closest patch of sand is on the hotel’s doorstep. To reach Almyros Beach, you just have to stroll around the nature reserve to the mouth of the namesake river.

Beach restaurant There are some tavernas along the beach in Almyros, or you can venture a little further in search of seafood – the stroll to Agios Nikolaos should take around 45 minutes.

Continue your odyssey with our complete collection of Crete hotels

Amy Martin is a writer, actor and travel buff, based between London and Cornwall. When she’s not lurking around a theatre or scribbling in a notebook on the Penzance to Paddington line, you’ll find her at the cinema, on a long coastal walk, or watching Pride and Prejudice (1995 or 2005 is fine).