Elafonisi Beach – All you need to know [bus, tour, map and weather]
The pink Elafonisi Beach has been constantly ranked as one of the most beautiful in the world, and for a good reason, it’s truly amazing and unique.
And besides the beach, there is also the Elafonisi Lagoon to enjoy and remember forever.
Now I promise I stop here describing how beautiful it is and I move instead to more practical information.
In this guide, you will find in fact all you need to know to get the best out Elafonisi Beach, avoiding a bad experience, and it may happen if the weather turns for the worst (more info later on how to avoid that)
But let’s dig into it
You can read also
- Top-rated places to visit in Crete [including some hidden gems]
- Where to stay in Crete (best areas and worst areas)
- Best itineraries of Crete, from 3 days to a 2 weeks stay (with maps and daily plans)
- Balos Beach – The practical Guide
- The Samaria Gorge Hike – All you need to know
- Spinalonga Tour – the island, the beach, the boat trip, a map and all you need to know for this trip
Elafonisi Beach – In a nutshell
Elafonisi Beach: heaven on earth, that’s it, no more words to describe it. Back to the practical side. The beach is connected to Elafonisi Island (Elafi=deer, nisi=island) where you can walk too (except in very high tide days). The west side of the beach tends to get more wind, it faces the lagoon. It is organised with around 100 beach umbrellas and it is usually the part that gets busy the last. The east side of Elafonisi Beach is more popular, more sheltered from the wind. There are many more beach umbrellas and it tends to get busy from the early hours. The north section (on your far left side when you approach the beach) is the best, with calmer water and tiny waves, if any. Right in the middle of the beach, you can find two small beach huts selling drinks and fast food. Right behind them, there is a taverna, the only one at the beach, which I would personally not suggest. Nice people serving but the quality is not the best, unfortunately. The Greek salad is a safe option though.
The Lagoon: absolutely amazing, like anything in Elafonisi. However, be aware that this is the windiest place to stay. Of course, this is where you want to go if you are a kitesurfer. In fact, there is a Kite Center on the west side of the lagoon (see map below) that rents gear besides giving lessons too. The lowest parking area is the closest to the kite centre. The water in the lagoon is quite shallow, around 1m high.
The Island: there is a small isthmus connecting the beach to the island. It’s good for a walk and you can find a few small coves to have a swim too. The walk is along the east coast and you will come across a cave and a small chapel commemorating the murder of Greeks in the 1824 Ottoman war.
Elafonisi hotels & resorts: there are only three options, around 15-20 minutes walking uphill from the beach. They differ in style and price. These are the Elafonisi Resort, the Elafonisi Paradise and the Lafo Rooms. You can find also a small minimarket and 2 tavernas. I personally suggest the Kalomirakis Tavern in the Elafonisi Resort, great food and host.
Where to eat in Elafonisi: unfortunately, as I already said, the choice at the beach is nothing to call home about. Drinks are overpriced and mostly fast food. You can either decide to bring your own food or I personally suggest to walk up to Kalomirakis Tavern (around 20 minutes or 5 minutes by car). You will have a true characteristic Greek experience at a reasonable price.
Why is it a pink beach: the quick answer is that the sand is actually mixed with millions of tiny pieces of pinks shells which were broken over the years by the waves. I still remember a similar colour on another beach I found in Indonesia, 1,000km east of Bali. Pink for exactly the same reason. Small world, isn’t it?
Snorkelling: it is great overall, doesn’t matter where you go. The most interesting spots are around the cave on the island and around the rocks on the easternmost side of the beach.
Beach parking: parking is organised over three levels. The top-level is the most distant one, flat and no shade, usually the last to get full. The middle level has a few trees and some shade. This is the ideal place, however, you need to be early in the morning to find a spot. The last parking area is next to the lagoon and the kite centre. Parking is free of charge but I heard talks about introducing a daily charge.
Toilette: There is one just behind the tavern. It is as clean as it can be with so many people around using it. The entrance has a fee.
Elafonisi or Balos? they are similar and at the same time very different. It’s really hard to give a preference. The boat trip to Balos is gorgeous but the pink beach of Elafonisi is unique. And I could keep going. If you have only one spare day and you need to decide, then I suggest checking the weather on the website below and make a decision based on that. You can even think to book tours to both destinations on the same day and then cancel one based on the weather (cancellation is usually free of charge up to 24 hours prior to the start of the day trip). July and August tours get full very quickly and you may miss out on both if you do not reserve in advance.
Tour length: the whole organised tour takes around 10 hours if you leave from Chania, 12 hours from Rethymno and up to 15 hours from Heraklion. Tours usually start between 7 and 8am (5-6am from Heraklion and Hersonissos). If you drive yourself, I suggest leaving Chania by 8-8:30am. The drive takes around 1.5 hours.
Weather: the weather in Elafonisi is mostly sunny during the summer months, nice and warm. What it can be annoying and it can really spoil your day is the wind. Most of the time is fine, however, on a rare occasion, the beach becomes a sandblast experience. You can always try to find repaired areas, however, there are not as many available and obviously, most of the people try to stay there. My suggestion here is to check the weather in advance, 2-3 days prior to your day tour. This website is very reliable. I use it for windsurfing usually. If a strong wind is forecasted (red icon) then you should think to reschedule your day trip. Most of the tours have free cancellation up to 24 hours prior to the start and if you rent a car you can easily plan another destination (see my post on the best places to visit in Crete, with a few hidden gems).
For example (see picture above), I would personally avoid visiting Elafonisi on Sunday, the 6th. The main problem is not just the wind (between 20 and 22 knots, or roughly 40kmh) but the gusts of wind (up to 32 knots or around 60kmh) that will ruin your day.
Families and kids: this is an ideal place for kids, they will love it. The water is also shallow, ideal for small kids. It’s a no worries experience. The bigger energetic children can have some kitesurfing or windsurfing lessons, or have a walk on the island. Bring some food with you if you want to avoid the fast-food from the small beach huts or the beach tavern
What to bring with you: plenty of sun cream as well as a hat and possibly lycra shirts for kids (strong sun). Snorkelling gear is also recommended as well as plenty of water.
Facts and tips: yes, Elafonisi Beach has been ranked in the top 10 beaches of the world. It’s an amazing beach except in the very windy days and now you know how to avoid them. Food at the beach is not great but you can go to the Kalomirakis Tavern for some real Greek homemade dishes. Kitesurfing is in the lagoon meanwhile for windsurfing, you should go to the easternmost side of the beach where you will find a tiny windsurfing centre giving lessons and renting gear. There is not much wind at the beach, however, once you are out you will have a ton of fun. Bring some beach shoes if you decide to walk on the island, there are a few sharp stones around. July and August are the two most popular months and you should book your tour or car well in advance.
Elafonisi from Chania: The Platano Tours is one of the best options from Chania. They will stop also for some proper food in a proper taverna which is great. There is a guide providing also information along the route which is a fantastic bonus.
From Rethymno: you have two possibilities. You have a more economical option travelling on a big bus or you can join a much smaller boutique group that will pick you up from the hotel, however, it is more expensive.
From Heraklion: it is going to be a very long day. The tours usually start picking up people in Hersonissos and finish in Heraklion and then leave for Elafonisi Beach. Cretan Spirit is one of the most popular options. You may also think to drive yourself there and you should make it in 3.5-4 hours
Although I love Elafonisi Beach, I would personally not consider it as a day trip from the Hersonissos area. The drive alone can be up to 5 hours, one way. You should consider instead a day trip to Chrissi Island, much closer and equally amazing.
Drive yourself there: this option will allow you to stop by in any village or interesting spot along the way. You will be more flexible, however, keep in mind that roads are small and quite often with sharp changes of direction. Roads are not dangerous as such but they may be challenging, especially if you are used to driving on the left side. I usually hire my vehicles with the best prices on the website DiscoverCars.com. It’s a comparative website and it never let me down.
By KTEL public bus from Chania: this is another good option although much slower as the busses stop in most of the villages and towns along the route. You can check the KTEL website for the timetable
You can find more suggestion on where to stay in Crete here
Elafonisi Beach map
Photos of Elafonisi Beach & Lagoon