Vai beach is one of the best known beaches on Crete, famed for being surrounded by a forest of palm trees — often marketed as Europe’s last palm forest. The beach itself is on the east coast and is fairly isolated from most resorts but it is easy to reach by car and coach trips also run there.
Many pictures show a beautiful sandy beach, however be warned that in peak time it will be covered in beach umbrellas, will be very busy. There is a large car park but this is not free so make sure to take some change if you drive yourself. Parking on the road is free so if you go outside of peak season you’ll have no problems
Once at the beach there are facilities there, with a cafe/restaurant that serves a range of hot and cold food and drink. Prices aren’t too bad but you are a captive market so expect to pay “tourist prices”. Next to the cafe there are steps up to a viewing point which is where the 2 pictures above were taken from.
There are also water sports facilities for thrillseekers, although many beaches offer these so it isn’t worth travelling a long way just for these. The water is beautifully clear as is visible in both photos above, and the sand is finer than on many beaches in Crete which does make it appear more like a paradise beach than many. The trees provide shade to the rear of the beach, and if you want shade near the water you can opt to pay for an umbrella, or if you have room in your suitcase you could take a pop-up tent (there are many options — e.g. this one from amazon). In summer months the sand on the beach will get uncomfortably hot between 11am and 5pm so take some suitable footwear.
There is actually more than 1 beach near Vai, but only the main beach is immediately accessible from the road. This second beach is called Psili Ammos Beach. To reach Psili Ammos you need to walk around 500m , starting by climbing the steps to the viewing point above the cafe/restaurant. The path continues south along the top and slopes down at the far end. Psili Ammos is much quieter and so far is unspoiled. You can see a 3D view of the path in a photo on google maps
If you decide to drive to Vai yourself beware the confusing road signs! There is an old road and a new road to Vai and the signs have both roads shown as going to Vai! The older road is shorter and more scenic but slower so if you’re exploring this is the route to take, but if you have kids in the back and just want to get to the beach the new road is the better option.
The journey to Vai takes around 30 mins from Sitea, 1 hour from Makrys-Gialos or Xerokampos, and around 90–100 minutes from Ierapetra or Agios Nikolaos. The roads aren’t too busy even in peak season and are of good quality, but some routes can have a lot of twists and turns at times.
A trip to Vai can be combined with a visit to Toplou monastery, Sitea, or the beaches at Itanos. If you are travelling from the south coast a visit could be combined with a visit to Xerokampos or Zakros on the south-east, and there is a Venetian villa at Etia. If you are travelling from the north coast Richtis Gorge is another possible stop off. Doing any of these additional visits will make the trip into a full-day event.
For more information and opinions, we recommend looking at the Vai beach page on Trip Advisor