Balos Lagoon is one of the most famed beaches on Crete with it’s west coast location offering great sunsets. It is located off the peninsula at the north west of the Island a little over an hour from Chania near the Gramvousa islands which often feature on boat trips to Balos.
There are 2 ways to reach Balos. One option is driving which includes a long drive on unpaved road and in peak season parking a long way from the beach with a 30 min or so walk to reach it. If you prefer the water to the land you can take a boat trip from Kissamos which give you 3 hours at the lagoon and 2 hours at Gramvousa island with costs around €25 per person. The 2 main operators are Balos Travel and Cretan Daily Cruises
Balos has been somewhat a victim of its own success with so many visitors in peak season that it is much harder to recommend than it used to be. If you drive you can set off early enough to beat the boats, or alternatively you can stay at the end after many people have gone, but you will then get back to wherever you are staying quite late. Otherwise, if you go during the main part of the day then expect there to be hordes of people in both coach trips and on several large ferries. When I last drove in August I stayed until after sunset to take a photo to show the number of people still present after dark!
To get to and from the beach you will need to talk a dirt track that takes around 20 minutes each way, plus any time walking to the start of the path from wherever you manage to park which it likely to add another 10–15 minutes. The road up the peninsula is unsurfaced and so makes for slow driving. As a result the drive from Kissamos takes around 40 minutes with the last 30 minutes of this being the 5 miles of dirt-road. Driving from Chania takes an extra 30 minutes, so a little over an hour in total.
The beach itself is lovely, large, and sandy, although the lagoon is very shallow and has quite murky water that isn’t especially appealing to swim in. Fortunately there is plenty of sea available to swim in which is very pleasant. Although there are lots of breach umbrellas and sunbeds there is still plenty of empty sand for those who prefer to take their own kit.
If you take the boat trip you will miss out on the sunset but you are likely to get a visit to Imeri Gramvousa, which is home to a Venetian fortress that has been used be Cretan independence fighters on a number of occasions (independence from the Ottomans, and the Germans, not the Greeks I should say!). Imeri Gramvousa also has a beach, that is quieter than Balos as only boat trippers can reach it.
There is a “beach bar” at Balos which provides basic snacks and drinks. There are also some basic toilet facilities. The prices are not too bad for a captive market with items like pringles, water, sandwiches, tea and coffee ranging from €1 to €4 in 2019.