Me and 3 friends are going to Crete in Oct 2010 and staying in Heraklion for 4 days. We are not renting a car, but would like to explore the islands beautiful beaches. I have already researched the local buses and none of them seem to have direct routes to the beaches we want to explore. Does anybody have a recommendation on how to get to either Vai Beach or Elafinissi Beach if we are staying in Heraklion?
It would be very helpful if you were to mention which villages/towns these beaches are close to.
Vai beach is near the town of Siteia on the North East coast of Crete in the Lasithi region, and Elafonisi beach is near the town of Paleohora on the South West coast in the Hania region.
I also welcome any advise on other beaches to visit in Crete that we can access by bus, taxi, boat, etc.
To get to Paleahora you will need to change in Chania. It would be quite a trek though. Over 3 hours each way at a rough guess.
I don't know if you've seen this site which shows bus times from Heraklion to Sitia and then on to Vai?
Rethymnon makes a nice trip from Heraklion. About an hour by bus. Between Rethymnon and Chania is pretty much solid beach. Georgopolis, half an hour on from Rethymnon, is nice. Two rivers coming down to the sea, one quite small curved beach and another long one. It's a reasonably modern town so not particularly atmospheric but there are good cafes and tavernas.
You could check out Matala, on the South coast, almost straight south of Heraklion. A couple hours to get there, probably best done overnight, but a nice beach in town, another to the East (Red Beach) and a long stretch of beach to the west. Matala has lots of Hotel rooms and a nice array of eating places. If I recall, the bus from Heraklion gets there with no changes.