With stunning white sand beaches and a beautiful turquoise lagoon, Balos Beach is considered one of the top beaches in Greece. For many travelers, driving is the best way to get there from other points on the island of Crete — having your own rental car allows for the most flexibility, but it's also possible to arrive by ferry or private boat.
Driving from Chania
Distance: 35 miles (56 km) / Duration: Around 1.5 hours
The drive from Chania to Balos is pretty straightforward. The roads are in great condition; the only thing to be aware of is that the last several miles of the road are unpaved. As you enter the unpaved section, there's a gate where you will need to pay a small entrance fee (cash only). This last section of the drive is beautiful. You'll pass along a steep cliff, enjoying amazing views of Gramvousa Island in the distance. You'll notice herds of goats on the mountain, and at times, they may be sharing the road with you.
In the high season, it's best to arrive at Balos early — the parking lot near the beach fills up and it's harder to navigate the narrow road when it's full of parked cars. Once you reach the parking lot, be sure to pack and prepare all the things you'll need for the day (including food and water), as there are no vendors on the beach. The walk from here to the beach takes about 25 minutes, and you'll pass lovely viewpoints over the beach on the walk down.
Driving from Chania to Kissamos: 25 miles (38 km), 40 minutes. Ferry time: 1 hr
You can also get to Balos on a convenient ferry that leaves from Kissamos each day around 10:30 am (the exact departing schedule depends on the season). The ferry journey first takes you to the island of Gramvousa, where you can go for a swim, visit the old shipwreck offshore, or hike to the ancient Venetian castle at the highest point of the island. Together with the castles of Spinalonga and Souda, Gramvousa played an important role during the Venetian resistance against the Ottomans. The steep hike to the castle takes about 25 minutes each way. Then you will continue onto Balos Beach (another 30 minutes by boat). One benefit of traveling by ferry is that you can buy food and drink onboard. Just be aware that the boat can get crowded in the high season. Read more about the ferry excursion to Balos.
By private boat
If you'd rather travel on a private boat, just walk along the old port of Chania to see who's offering trips. Most private boat rides will include stops on Gramvousa and other nearby attractions. You'll have some input on where to go (and how long to stay at each location). Private boat tours typically also include a private meal cooked just for you and your friends.
Driving from Rethymno
Distance: 69 miles (110 km) / Duration: 2.2 hrs
Traveling to Balos from Rethymno, you can choose to go by car, ferry, or private boat. If you're driving, get an early start to avoid the crowds. If you arrive at Balos later than 9 am, you might have difficulty finding a place to park.
Driving to Kissamos and then Ferry
Distance: 59 miles (95 km) / Duration: 1.5 hrs. Ferry time: 1 hr
The ferry ride takes about the same amount of time as by car. Similar to the trip from Chania, the ferry leaves from Kissamos port.
By private boat
A private boat tour from Rethymno is also possible. This is definitely the most expensive option of the three, but it is also the most relaxing. You won't need to worry about driving or parking, and you'll have a private skipper and boat to take you to the best parts of the beach for swimming or snorkeling.