Crete is the largest island in Greece and as such, there are an endless amount of activities for families to enjoy. It’s easy to reach from Athens since the island has two airports, Chania (CHQ) and Heraklion (HER). They are both less than an hour flight from Athens. But what is there to do in Crete with kids?
Honestly, there’s more in Crete than you can cover in a few days, but it’s an essential stop on any family holiday to Greece. Plan on spending at least 4 days on a Crete family vacation and you will see just enough of the island that you will want to book a return trip.
Why You Should Spend Your Family Holidays in Crete
1. Welcoming locals
There is nothing better than a destination that truly knows how to welcome its visitors. From the person who welcomed us at the airport (thank you Crete Lux Travel!), to the hotel staff, to the waitstaff at the restaurants, and taxi drivers, everyone was always eager to make us happy. No request was too big and customer service was always front and center. In Crete you are treated as a friend or family member, and that’s one way to guarantee return visitors.
And if you’re looking for a local tour company, we would highly recommend Travel ID. They are locals who can arrange tours, activities, lodging, and more. You name it, they can do it!
2. Delicious food in Crete
Hands down the best food we ate during our two week vacation in Greece was in Crete. Everyone in the family would agree. We ate delicious meals with copious amounts of food. It was hard not to order everything on the menu.
Some of our favorites included the bougatsa we had in Chania, a cheese pastry served warm and sprinkled with sugar. After spending the day at the beach is Falarssana, we had the most amazing meal at Gramvousa Restaurant in Kaliviani. We ordered at least 10 dishes and every one was magical, and the setting had the most wonderful views overlooking the valley and the sea beyond.
In Heraklion, we had a lovely lunch with our local hosts, Dimos and his family. There was too much food to eat once again, but we made an effort to sample every dish because they were all delicious.
Another memorable meal was our breakfast at Cretan Malia Park in their Cretan restaurant, Mouries. There was yogurt (the best yogurt), honey, nuts, cheeses, meats, omelets, anything you could want, they would make it for you. I could have easily enjoyed a meal here every day of our trip because the food and service was simply outstanding.
3. Crete is kid friendly
We have been fortunate to travel the world with kids, but very few destinations stand out as being truly family friendly. Crete is made for families, whether your kids are infants or teens. There’s something for all ages and locals always make them feel just as welcome as their parents.
4. It’s easy to explore Crete by car
When I told my husband we were renting a car in Crete, I probably wasn’t his favorite person. We’ve had a few issues over the years with renting larger cars for 5 and driving on small, narrow streets in Europe. Thankfully, we didn’t need to worry in Crete. The host of our hotel arranged our car rental through My Car Away, and they delivered the car right to the hotel property! Talk about easy.
While city driving can be a bit intimidating (scooters passing on all sides), the major roadways were extremely easy to navigate. We were always able to find public parking on the edge of town or at the beach which made it very manageable, even with a larger car that fit 5 adults.
I have heard it is easier to drive east to west versus north to south in Crete as the roads running north to south tend to be winding and not good for people prone to car sickness. We didn’t have any issues driving from west to east and found roads to be fairly straight and easy to navigate.
What to Do in Crete with Kids
5. Spend time at stunning beaches in Crete
I’m not sure I’ve seen beaches as breathtaking as the ones in Crete. They have the clearest waters and the beaches are sparkling clean. Most have beach chairs and umbrellas available to reserve as well as snack and beverage service. All you need to bring to the beach is your swimsuit, towel, and some toys for the kids.
We visited Falassarna Beach which was one of the closest to where we stayed in Chania (Agave Suites). The water was an amazing turquoise blue color and the sand was super soft. It was even pink in some areas due to the crushed seashells that are washed to shore.
The famous Elafonissi Beach (pink beach) is about two hours from Chania, and while it is truly unique, locals told us it can be extremely crowded and it is better to visit Falarssana. We were happy we did.
Other famous beach areas in Crete are found on the east side of the island, near Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. We stayed at Cretan Malia Park in Malia and found the beach here was also clean and perfect for a day at the beach. This family friendly resort is one of many that can be found in this area.
6. Visit charming small towns
Easily one of our favorite places to visit was Chania, a city that dates to the 14th century with a beautiful Venetian harbor. Restaurants and shops line the tourist area, but the best part was exploring the narrow alleys and streets away from the water. There are picture perfect scenes and ancient ruins everywhere you look. We even had an archaeological dig site across the street from our hotel!
Another favorite small town was Rethymno, often referred to as one of the most beautiful places in Crete (we liked Chania more). This is also a harbor town, with a Venetian fort and lighthouse. In all fairness, we only stopped here for a few hours, but felt like we were able to visit everything we wanted to see.
7. Stay at a stunning family friendly resort in Crete
Many people take a Crete holiday so they can enjoy one of the many resorts on the island. Elounda Bay, Agios Nikoloaos, and Hersonissos are popular destinations for families, but we really enjoyed our stay at Cretan Malia Park.
Located in Malia, about a half hour by car from Heraklion, this resort is perfect for families. There are three pools, a tennis court, restaurants, a library, a beach, bikes for rent, and even a fitness center.
We stayed in a Family Suite, which was perfect for our family of 5. There was a king size bed for parents and in the kids’ room there were full size bunk beds and a twin. Each room had its own full size bathroom and balconies too.
There are two areas specifically for children at Cretan Malia Park; the Little Explorers Kids Club and The Place for teens. Little Explorers offers arts and crafts, a play area, a small organic garden where kids can learn about the resort’s green program, and even a cooking/baking area. This is for children between the ages of 3-10.
The Place is exclusively reserved for teens. There are hammocks, ping pong, darts, and pool. At night there is even an outdoor cinema.
Delicious food can be found at every restaurant at Cretan Malia Park. As I mentioned, Mouries serves traditional Cretan cuisine. Mediterraneo is an all day buffet with Mediterranean food. There’s Pool Bar & BBQ which is perfect for a quick bite to eat.
The Beach Shack serves light lunches and dinners and offers a large variety of vegan options. Our kids’ favorite spot was The Crush where they could order gelato and pastries. And The Lobby Bar is perfect for an evening cocktail when mom and dad need a break from the kids.
The resort was extremely child friendly and there were families with young children everywhere. We will definitely stay here again on our next visit to Crete.
8. Try all of the outdoor activities
If your family likes to spend time outdoors, there are plenty of opportunities for adventure. Don’t miss hiking in Samaria Gorge, rock climbing, snorkeling in Chania, riding quads in Rethymno, and sailing tours around the island. No matter what your family loves to do, you are sure to find it on Crete.
9. Learn about Crete’s history
Crete’s history is long and complicated at times, which is why we would recommend speaking with locals or taking a guided tour. Crete was the home of the ancient Minoan civilization, and has been occupied by the Romans, Venetians and the Turks.
The island also saw serious fighting during WW2 when it was attacked by the Germans and eventually came under their control. Crete was important as it was strategically located between Europe and Africa.
History lovers won’t want to miss the Minoan Palace of Knossos dating to 1950 BC. The complex is the size of two football fields and easy to reach from Heraklion. Be sure to visit the Heraklion Archaeological Museum to learn more about the Minoan civilization.
Other historical spots include the old towns of Chania, Rethymno, and Heraklion, Phaistos Minoan Palace, and Psychro Cave (said to be the place where Zeus was born).
10. Gorgeous sunsets
No matter where we were in Crete, we always found sunset to be the best time of day. Whether it was the harbor in Chania or the beaches in Malia, the sunsets in Crete are hard to beat.
Crete bonus: Unique products and souvenirs
There are so many unique products and souvenirs in Crete. Be sure to sample the local honey, Cretan olive oil, raki (alcohol served after a meal), Cretan wine, and Graviera cheese.
Great gifts to bring home for friends include ceramics, hand made lace, worry beads, or Cretan leather goods. No matter what you choose, you are sure to enjoy it and remember your trip to Crete for years to come!
Europe Travel Tips
Book Your Flights
You can find discounted fares using sites like Momondo or Skyscanner. If you want to keep an eye on discount fares, we suggest signing up for Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter with flight sales around the world.
If you travel frequently, consider investing in a Priority Pass for airport lounge access. It’s nice to have a space where you can relax before your flight.
Book Your Accommodation
We regularly use Expedia.com and Hotels.com to find lodging when we travel. It’s a great way to compare vacation rentals, hotels, and resorts.
If your family knows they want to stay in a vacation rental, we recommend looking at VRBO and Plum Guide.
Book Your Transportation
For rental car agencies, try Rentalcars.com. We tend to use Hertz simply for the quality of service.
When traveling in Europe, we use AutoEurope to make our bookings. They find the best rates and allow you to compare different car rental agencies. Europcar is another option.
If you would prefer to travel by train in Europe we recommend Eurail who offers discounted packages for rail travel.
Book Your Tours and Travel Photos
We regularly used companies like Viator and GetYourGuide to book tours when we travel. Both have great communication and a large variety of activities that work for all ages.
If you’re visiting a city with multiple attractions, be sure to check out a discount pass, such as CityPASS or Go City. Both are worthwhile investments.
Context Travel is another option and they offer more educational based activities. The former teacher in me loves their tours.
One of our favorite things to do annually is take photos with Flytographer. They have photographers around the world and we’ve used them on four separate occasions. This is our favorite travel souvenir.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
With the state of travel these days, it’s important to have some type of travel insurance to cover any unforeseen accidents, illnesses, threat or cancellations. We always travel with insurance and would recommend SquareMouth, Travelex, or Medjet as good options. And if you want to compare different insurance options, use Travel Insurance Master to find the best policy for your group.