Balos beach (sometimes referred to as Balos Lagoon) stands as one of the most beautiful beaches on Crete. It draws in countless visitors each year with its pristine turquoise waters and scenic landscapes.
If you’re planning a visit to Crete, Balos beach undoubtedly deserves a spot on your itinerary and you can easily spend a whole day here. However, due to its remote location and challenging terrain, visiting Balos Beach requires a bit of planning and preparation.
In this guide, I’ll give you all the information you need about how to get to Balos Beach, what to bring and everything else you need to know to plan your visit!
And if you’re planning your trip to Crete, make sure to check out my other blog posts about the island to help with your planning.
Prepare for your trip to Crete
🏡 Book your accommodation in advance – find the best hotel deals for Crete here.
🤿 Find the best tours in Crete – book your adventures in Crete in advance.
🚗 Rent a car – the best and easiest way to get around Crete is by renting a car.
☂️ Travel Insurance – make sure you’re covered before your trip! I always use SafetyWing’s Nomad Insurance which is super affordable and flexible.
💳 Travel cards – Get a Wise or Revolut bank cards to avoid overseas charges and save money on your travels.
Balos beach – One of the most beautiful beaches in Crete
Balos Beach is one of the best and most popular beaches in Crete. It is a unique natural wonder offering breathtaking views and amazing turquoise waters that you’ll instantly fall in love with.
It’s part of a protected area under Natura2000, aiming to preserve the natural flora and fauna of the lagoon. The beautiful landscape is created by the Gramvousa island in the background with a sandbar dividing the lagoon in two.
On one side you have shallow water, perfect for enjoying a walk and for young children to swim in. And on the other side you can go deeper, perfect for enjoying a swim.
Moreover, what makes Balos special is that here you’ll also find stretches of pink sand similar to the famous Elafonisi beach.
How to get to Balos Beach
Due to its remote location, Balos is a little harder to get to than most beaches in Crete.
The main two options are getting there by car or opting for a boat trip.
Depending on where you’re coming from, there are different boat trips that you can choose from. Boat trips are a great option if you don’t have a car or are not keen on driving on dirt roads.
If you’re in a hurry and want to book your boat trip to Balos without reading the full guide, here are the top picks for best boat trips to Balos.
🚤 Boat trip to Balos Lagoon from Kissamos – full day trip
🚌 Day trip from Chania to Balos – pick up by bus from your hotel + cruise from Kissamos to Balos
Here’s the full list of options of getting to Balos Lagoon.
Visit Balos Lagoon by boat
1. Boat trip to Balos Lagoon from Kissamos
The easiest and most cost-efficient way to visit Balos is by boat trip from Kissamos to Balos Lagoon.
Kissamos is a small seaside town, located 38 km from Chania. You can either drive here and leave your car at the port’s car park. Or you can take the bus from Chania to Kissamos in the morning from the main bus station.
The cruise leaves in the morning, sailing along the coast with beautiful panoramas along the way. The first stop is at Gramvousa island. Here you have two hours to swim and/or go up to the 16th century Venetian fortress.
You also have time to try some delicious Cretan food on board and enjoy some light snacks and drinks.
After that, the boat continues for another 20 minutes on the beautiful Mediterranean to reach Balos. Here you get to spend the rest of the day relaxing and swimming in the stunning turquoise waters of the lagoon. There’s sun loungers and umbrellas available for rent at the beach.
The boat then takes you back to Kissamos in the late afternoon, from where you can drive back or take the bus back to Chania.
Note: Make sure to arrive at Kissamos port at least 30/40 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
Boat trip to Balos Lagoon from Kissamos Details
🕰️ Time: 6.5 hours; from 10:30am till 5pm
💵 Cost: €29
📍 Location: Kissamos port
🌍 Extras included: Round-trip boat cruise, Visit to Gramvousa Island and Balos Lagoon
🤿 Booking link: Click here
If you’re coming by bus from Chania, it’s advised to take the bus at 8.30am from Chania Central Station to Kissamos so that you will be on time for the boat trip. The bus route lasts about an hour and a half.
The bus from Kissamos back to Chania is at 6:15pm which gives you sufficient time to make your way to the bus after returning from the boat trip. Make sure to check the bus schedules here in case of any changes.
2. Day trip to Balos from Chania
A fully organised day trip from Chania to Balos is the best option for you if you haven’t rented a car for your stay in Crete and don’t want to mess around with bus schedules and itineraries.
This trip includes a pick up by bus at your hotel or a stop nearby in the morning. The exact location and time will be shared with you via email after booking. The bus then takes you to Kissamos where you’ll take the boat to Balos.
From here, the boat trip is quite similar to the one described above (Kissamos to Balos boat trip). It includes a stop at Gramvousa island where you can swim or hike up to the fortress, followed by Balos Lagoon where you can enjoy the pink sandy beach, swim in the turquoise water and admire the natural beauty of Balos.
In the afternoon, the boat will take you back to Kissamos where your bus will be waiting for you and will take you back to your hotel in Chania.
Day trip to Balos from Chania Details
🕰️ Time: 10 hours; from 8am till 6pm
💵 Cost: €25
📍 Location: Your hotel in Chania
🌍 Not included: Boat ticket to Gramvousa island and Balos lagoon (20€ aged 12+, 10€ for those aged 4-11, and free for those 3 and under)
🤿 Booking link: Click here
3. Day trip from Rethymno to Balos Lagoon
If you’re staying in Rethymno, then there’s also the option of booking a day trip from Rethymnon to Balos Lagoon.
The trip is similar to the one from Chania detailed in the previous point, with the difference that you get picked up from your hotel or nearby meeting point in Rethymno.
The bus ride from Rethymno to Kissamos offers some beautiful views along the way of the bay of Souda and a glimpse of Chania. Once at Kissamos, you’ll board the boat which will take you to Gramvousa island and later to Balos Lagoon, where you’ll have plenty of time to swim in the stunning waters and enjoy the views.
The trip ends by going back to Kissamos by boat, where you’re picked up by your bus and taken back to your hotel.
You can book your trip from Rethymno to Balos here.
Note: Again, the boat ticket isn’t included in the price of this ticket and the fee will be collected on board the bus (€30 per adult or €15 cash per child aged 5-12). Make sure to bring enough cash!
4. Day trip from Heraklion to Balos Lagoon
There are also day trips from Heraklion to Balos if this is where you’ve made your base in Crete.
This is the best and most hassle-free way to visit Balos from Heraklion, without having to worry about the distance and added logistics.
This trip is quite similar to the one from Chania and Rethymno, and includes a pick up from your hotel in Heraklion and a drive to Kissamos by bus, followed by a cruise from Kissamos to Balos.
A stop at Balos Lagoon and Gramvousa island are both included in the trip with plenty of time to soak in the Mediterranean sun and swim in the crystal clear waters before returning back to Heraklion.
You can book your trip from Heraklion to Balos here.
Note: The trip includes the bus from Heraklion and the boat trip to Balos. What’s not included is your lunch, so make sure to bring some cash if you’d like to savour some delicious Cretan specialties and definitely bring some snacks and water for the journey.
5. Private cruise to Balos
If you want to avoid the crowds and have a trip that is tailored to your preferences, you can also book a private boat trip to Balos Lagoon from Kissamos. This is my best pick for a private trip, but if you prefer to have your transport from Chania or Rethymno included then you can also check out this trip.
This is a great option if you’re travelling with your family or friends, and want to have a more special experience and create some amazing memories on board your private yacht!
After about an hour and a half of sailing on the crystal clear waters, you reach the stunning Balos Lagoon where you have a couple of hours to swim and sunbathe in one of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.
Snorkelling equipment is also provided should you want to explore the underwater life.
After that, you’re in for a treat! A delicious Cretan lunch is served to you on board with local wine, beer and soft drinks.
The next stop on the trip is Gramvousa island where you can take the hike up to the Venetian fortress which treats you to some incredible views.
On the way back to Kissamos, you can either rest in the covered cabin, chill in the dining area or even take a shower in the onboard bathroom.
This trip is perfect for special occasions like birthdays and celebrations, or even if you just want to enjoy the luxury of having a private yacht on your vacation.
You can book your private boat trip from Kissamos to Balos here.
6. Rent a boat in Kissamos
Another super exciting way to visit Balos is by renting a boat from Kissamos and driving it there yourself. But before you get too excited, please note you can only do this if you have a boat licence!
If you do have a licence then you can rent a boat at the port in Kissamos or pre-arrange online for a hassle-free experience from SamBoat.
Here you can find lots of different boat options and companies and decide which ones fits your preferences best. Renting a boat gives you the ultimate freedom to make up your own itinerary and enjoy a day at sea visiting Balos Lagoon at your own pace.
Rent your boat here.
Benefits of booking a boat trip to Balos Beach
Boat trips to Balos are a great option for anyone looking for a full day boat cruise that includes stops at both the magnificent Gramvousa island where you can hike up to a castle and swim in the crystal clear waters at the Balos Lagoon.
There are numerous different day trip options depending on your preference and your budget, from group boat cruises to private sailing trips.
One of the main benefits of booking a boat trip is that you don’t have to worry about buying boat tickets at the port or driving on dirt roads to get to Balos.
Not to mention, that most of the boat trips to Balos have a restaurant on board the boat so you can enjoy a delicious Cretan lunch on your trip. This is a big plus as there’s no restaurants in Balos Beach, only a small snack bar selling a limited number of packed sandwiches.
Driving to Balos Beach
You might be wondering, can you drive to Balos? The short answer is yes, you can certainly drive to Balos. However, you can’t drive with just any car and you need to be prepared if you decide to do the trip there.
The drive from Chania to Balos Lagoon takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes for 53 km. Most of the trip is on the main road and easy to drive along. However, the last 7 km are on a dirt road alongside a cliff, which required a lot more careful and slow driving (taking half an hour of the total drive).
If you are an experienced driver the road isn’t too difficult to navigate, provided you are careful and driving slowly. It gets more difficult if it’s in peak season and there’s more cars coming both ways.
However, you also have to keep in mind that most car rental companies only allow driving to Balos if you’re renting a 4×4 car. If you’re renting a regular small car you’re most likely to have a clause that forbids driving to Balos, making you liable to a fine if they found out you drove there.
There are many people who disobey this rule but in my opinion it’s not worth risking the fine if you get caught driving there!
✨ Entrance fees: After you’ve driven most of the way, there is an entrance point where you pay €2 fee per person to enter Balos Lagoon. Shortly after you’ll find a big open space car park where you can leave your car. Make sure to come early if you’re visiting in peak season as spots get filled quickly!
Balos Lagoon Hike
From the car park, it takes approximately a 30 minute hike down to Balos Beach. There’s a 300 metres decline down some well built stairs, and the views over the Balos Lagoon make the dirt road drive and the hike worth it.
Keep in mind that there’s no shade whatsoever the whole way down, so coming here early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the midday sun is recommended.
Another benefit of renting a car and driving to Balos is that you get to spend as much time as you wish and don’t have to worry about boat schedules. Balos is a truly stunning place and once you arrive, you’ll probably never want to leave.
The hike back up definitely kicks your cardio back up but once again the views over the lagoon make it all worth it!
Facilities at Balos Beach
As it’s a fairly remote beach, there aren’t that many facilities at Balos Lagoon. There are no shops and only a small stall restaurant, so come prepared with anything you need for the day.
Food & drinks at Balos Beach
There’s only one small snack bar on the beach open from mid-April until the end of October. Here they serve packaged sandwiches, soft drinks and some alcoholic beverages.
The options are very limited and sell out quickly. There were also no vegetarian options available when we visited. They’re fairly overpriced for what you get, so I’d definitely recommend you bring some packed lunch and snacks with you.
There are two bathrooms close by to the restaurant a little bit uphill. They’re usually locked and you need to get the key from the restaurant and pay €1 to use them.
Umbrellas and sun loungers in Balos Lagoon
There’s plenty of umbrellas and sun loungers for rent on the beach. However, in peak season those do tend to sell out quite quickly.
The cost for a full day rental of one umbrella and two sun loungers is €20 for first row and €10 for second row onwards. This is based on prices in October 2023 so these may differ depending on when you visit.
Your boat from Kissamos may also have umbrellas available for rent so it’s worth asking on board. These usually cost €7 for the umbrella plus €5 deposit that you get back when you return the umbrella to the boat.
What to bring for your trip to Balos Beach?
No matter if you’re driving to Balos, joining an organised tour or taking public transportation, here are the things you should prepare to make sure you’re ready for your trip to Balos!
➔ Snacks, packed lunch and water – there’s limited food available at Balos beach.
➔ Cash – only cash is being accepted for the sun loungers and at the snack bar. You’ll also need it to pay for the car park (if arriving by car) and for the toilet (€1).
➔ Swimwear – so you can enjoy swimming in the beautiful sea.
➔ Reef friendly sunscreen – don’t underestimate the strong Greek sun!
➔ Trainers – recommended if you’re arriving by car so you can hike down comfortably.
➔ Towels – there’s no towels available to rent at the beach so bring some to help you dry off after swimming in the turquoise waters.
➔ Hat – super important especially if you’re driving and hiking down to the beach in the peak summer months.
Frequently asked questions
Is it worth going to Balos Beach?
Balos is definitely one of the must visit beaches in Crete that is worth seeing at least once on your trip. What sets Balos apart from other beaches in Crete is its
Is Balos better than Elafonisi?
Both Balos and Elafonisi have stunning crystal clear water and soft white sands with stunning landscapes in the background. They also both have stretches of pink sand, making them some of the most beautiful beaches in Crete.
One of the factors that makes Balos better than Elafonisi is that Balos has both a shallow beach area and a swimming beach area. So depending on what you’re looking for, you can do both.
At Elafonisi, you only really have a very long stretch of shallow water so it’s not ideal for swimming unless you go very far out from the beach.
So even though both beaches are absolutely beautiful, for me Balos was better as it was perfect both for swimming and chilling on the beach. And you also get the magnificent Gramvousa island in the background that makes Balos one of the best beaches in Crete.
However, they’re both definitely worth a visit so you can see and decide for yourself which one wins the Balos vs Elafonisi battle.
Can you swim at Balos Lagoon?
Yes, you can swim in Balos Lagoon. In fact, Balos is one of my favourite beaches in Crete for swimming. The water is mind-blowingly beautiful and combined with the mountains in the background it creates a truly mesmerising view.
Whether you’re visiting Crete for a few days or a couple of weeks, Balos Lagoon should definitely be part of your itinerary. Balos is undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Crete and combined with a stunning boat ride to get there, it makes for the perfect day trip in Crete.
Enjoy your trip and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments or on Instagram @voyagewithmel. Happy exploring!