Located about one kilometer from the famous hippie Matala Beach, on the southern coast of the Heraklion region, the Red Beach is one of the best-hidden gems on the island of Crete. Also known as Kokkini Ammos, the Red Beach is a fantastic nudist-friendly beach that you can reach with a short but intense hike from the village of Matala. This post lets you know everything about Kokkini Beach, what to do on the beach, and how to get there.
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Red Beach Matala
Where is the Red Beach in Crete
The Red Beach is one of the top nudism-friendly beaches on Crete island. It is a secluded beach with reddish sand and incredibly clear water, and one of the favorite destinations in the Heraklion region.
This red sand beach is situated a bit more than 68 km from Heraklion, and about 900 meters from the start of the train in Matala.
Getting there by car? These are the GPS coordinates to reach the nearest parking lot: 34°59’30.5″ N 24°44’58.0″ E
You might also want to read: How to get from Heraklion to Matala.
Red Beach Trail: Hiking from Matala to the Red Beach
As you may probably know, you can either get to the Red Beach on foot or by boat. The hiking trail is fairly easy if you are in good physical shape, but it can get hard if you do it under the sun, especially if you’re not used to walking.
This is the most common road, it starts on an asphalt street that goes up quite fast. It then continues with a very steep climb on a dirt track where the asphalt finishes and a very steep approach descending towards the sea. I’ve seen locals doing it with poles, you don’t need to take them, but keep it in mind.
The first meters include walking up a very steep asphalt road that puts you directly at the beginning of the trail that takes you across the Kastri Hill on the northern side of Matala.
The road is marked with signs of different colors (yellow — not so visible — white and blue, mostly arrows), there are also several signs indicating “Red Beach” and “Mojito Bar”.
The path is very narrow in some areas, smooth at traits, but mostly has rocks of all sizes. Although some people hiked with flip flops, I don’t recommend it, especially for the descent along the steep cliff.
After about 20 minutes of walking up, more or less in the middle of the trail, and before the way down begins, you will encounter a small metal door (a shepherd’s gate opening) that you will need to pass to continue. Remember to close the door once you’re on the other side for the goats not to escape.
From here on, on top of the hill, the views are particularly beautiful as you will slowly start seeing the Red Beach. Once you’ve passed this point, you will start going down the hill, the road gets easier, but do it carefully as some rocks may be loose.
After a few minutes, you will spot the famous Mojito Canteen and the nudist beach, once you’re down, a refreshing swim is all you need to feel great again after the walk.
This trail officially takes 25-30 minutes, but most people need about 45 minutes to get down to the beach. Be sure to have good shoes and water with you.
Signs in Matala Town
There are signs to reach the trail for the Red Beach all over the city, I’ve taken a picture of a few of them.
Don’t be afraid of getting lost, there are signs everywhere and the trail is easy to follow. These are some of the signs that you will easily spot all over the village.
Where to Park to Get to the Red Beach
There are several parking spots at the entrance of Matala village, this is where we parked. But there is also a parking spot that people hiking the Matala-Red Beach trail use (the coordinates are above).
If you park here you can choose to start hiking a slightly different route which is longer but less steep, however, both routes converge at a certain point. The views are less spectacular.
Alternative Read Beach Access: Boat to the Red Beach
I never considered taking the boat as half of the fun is in the hiking, however, on our way back, I thought that the boat might have been a good alternative (Tired? Who? Me?… Yes!)
Boats depart from Matala Beach, you can ask in the village or in the different restaurants that line up the waterfront. The trip is about €6 per person.
You might also want to read: Best Beaches in South Crete.
Is the Hike Worth the Beach?
It depends, some people believe that the Red Beach is not worth the effort as there are many amazing beaches on the island which are easier to reach and have the same or even better features.
On the other hand, the beach is gorgeous, and being hard to access gives it a kind of private atmosphere as it is hardly crowded.
The beach is also the only Greek location that Sky Travel Channel included in their World’s Best Nude Beaches, which must be a good reason to visit.
The beach features very clear emerald waters, with incredible shades of blue. The sand is dark gold (not red) but pleasant and much softer than on Matala Beach. I personally find the shore more kid-friendly and less deep than in Matala.
And in case you were wondering…
- How many times did I visit the Red Beach? Once
- Would I walk the trail again? No
- Would I do it for the first time if I knew what the beach was like despite the trail? Yes
- Would I do it a second time by boat? Yes
The beach is all about the experience, the famous Mojito Bar, the hippie era vibe, the relaxed atmosphere, and the legend surrounding the area.
Just like Matala, the Red Beach was another hippie destination back in the 60s (and the 70s too). Some people love this beach and come back year after year.
Please remember that Red Beach is openly nudist-friendly.
On the northern part, there is a large limestone wall, very similar to the rocks in Matala, many of them carved with unique figures, including ancient Minoan and Egyptian designs.
Nothing fancy nor ancient about them. They are said to have been made by a frequent visitor who was in love with Matala and the surrounding area. They say his name was Gerad and he was from Belgium.
Once at the Red Beach…
- Walk along the whole beach, and check out those unique rock carvings by the sea located on the side of the beach.
- Go for a mojito (despite the obnoxious bar owner) but don’t drink it too late, otherwise, the hike back will feel even more difficult!
- Try to stay there until sunset, the views are gorgeous and the way back to Matala will feel easier when the sun is gone. You have enough time in summer from when the sun goes down until it gets pitch dark to do the trail. Worry not, it won’t be pitch dark.
You might also want to read: Things to see in the archaeological site of Phaistos.
Before Going to the Red Beach, Remember
- Take enough water and food. We bought sandwiches and drinks at the supermarket right next to Matala beach, by the parking lot. We hiked on a very hot day in September, we set out quite early (9 am), and the heat was terrible. There were not a lot of people on the trail at that hour though.
- There is only the Mojito canteen which is good just for that, a mojito. From them, you can also buy refreshments, beer, other alcoholic drinks, and snacks, but the prices are high and it’s not worth it. You can find some (not much) shade if you place your beach towel close to the rocks, especially on the northern side if you don’t want to rent an umbrella. There are not many in any case.
- If you arrive early, it is also possible to rent an umbrella and sunbeds, also from the Mojito Bar, they are overpriced too.
- The south side of the beach is the nudist part, but not exclusively. Some people don’t get undressed in the area and nobody will say anything. As long as you don’t feel uncomfortable, choose the place you prefer.
- The northern side of the beach is considered family-friendly (AKA not so much naturism), but there are more rocks and pebbles on the shore. I believe the southern part is way better.
- If you’re not used to hiking but still want to give the trail a try, do it calm and slow, take as many breaks as you need, and sit and rest if you feel like it. There’s no race to get there or to get back. I am a smoker but I walk a lot, however, I found the way back to Matala hard and tiring. I had to make a few stops for water and catch my breath.
What to Pack for the Red Beach
Sunscreen, a lot, and not just for the beach, do wear sunscreen during the hike because there is no shade at all, and it is here where you will easily risk a sunburn.
Wear a hat for the hike, and please do not attempt it with flip-flops the terrain is rough and if you fall, slip (especially on the descent), or sprain an ankle, getting back to the village will be painful.
Trainers or tennis shoes are a good option, hiking boots are even better. The three of us wore tennis shoes and they were fine.
Pack a swimming suit and a cover-up to go and sit at the beach bar for a mojito, a towel, and a photo camera. And if you’re into snorkeling, the sea bottom at the Red Beach is gorgeous, pack your equipment or your action camera as well.
And if you don’t want to walk back to Matala with a wet swimming suit, pack a change too.
You might also want to read: What to pack in your beach bag.
Everyone talks about this famous mojito bar for a reason. First of all, it is an unusual venue, colorful, filled with signs and flags and great music.
The mojito is good and very strong, Giannis, the bar owner, presents it as “the authentic Cuba style mojito” as well as “the best mojito in the world”. I wouldn’t go as far as that, but it is good.
There are tons of online reviews of the place and the beach bar owner, he is not the most pleasant person in the world, or the more smiling one, but you don’t need to interact with him, so ignore that and get yourself a mojito.
When the beach gets too hot at about 2 pm, find a place on his veranda, a colorful not-so-large terrace where you can order a mojito, enjoy the music, enjoy the views and then go back to the beach for another swim.
Curious Facts About the Red Beach
- If you reach the Red Beach with a boat, you will be able to see a marine cave where wild pigeons and Mediterranean seals find shelter, it is known as Kouroupi, and it has been carved by erosion.
- The Red Beach is also one of the few nesting sites for sea turtles Caretta Caretta.
Where to Spend the Night
The best place to sleep in the area is Matala or the nearby villages, including Pitsidia, Kamilari, and Kalamaki.
Some people camp at the Red Beach. Remember though, that the Red Beach and its surrounding area are part of the Natura 2000 international program, so it is a protected area where you shouldn’t spend the night.
You might also want to read: Best Matala Hotels.
Where to Eat Once you’re Back in Matala
Get to the main square of Matala for a refreshing lemonade after the hike, sit and rest your legs. Or go for a souvlaki or gyro wrap if you’re hungry.
You will find more info about Matala here: Things to Do in Matala, Crete.
Best Matala Hotels
It’s pretty difficult to find accommodation in Matala if you show up without a reservation, especially during the high season. For that reason, I’ve written a special guide to the best hotels and rental homes in Matala.
But if you plan to book in advance, one of the best places is Matala Caves. These are apartments right opposite the caves of Matala with a great view of the sea and the bay.
You can also check these places:
Please, help us protect the beaches in Crete. Respect the environment and don’t leave any trash on the beach.
Have you ever been to the Red Beach in Crete?
Let me know in the comments below!
You might also want to read these guides for a trip to Crete:
- Gay Travel in Crete – A guide to the top gay-friendly spots on the island!
- Practical Crete Travel Tips – A guide with tips to plan a trip to Crete.
- Best Places to Stay in Crete for Young Couples – A guide to the best resorts for a romantic escape in Crete.
- How to Visit Vai Palm Beach, Crete – An insider’s guide to Crete’s most famous palm beach.
- Heraklion or Chania: Which Cretan City You Should Visit – A guide to discovering which Cretan city is the ideal place for you.
LAST-MINUTE PLANS FOR CRETE?
– Use Ferryhopper and Skyscanner for the best ticket rates.
– Find great accommodation deals on Booking.com.
– Compare car rental prices with Discover Cars.
– Check the best tours with GetYourGuide.
– Visit Elafonisi, discover Balos Beach, hike Samaria, or explore Knossos.
– Pack the Lonely Planet Guide to Crete or get my digital guide to Chania.
Best Hotels in Heraklion
Affordable: Candia Studios & Rooms or Rea Hotel in the city center.
Mid-range: Capsis Astoria and Veneziano Boutique Hotel in town.
Luxury: GDM Megaron H. M. Hotel or Galaxy Iraklio in the center.
Check also Heraklion Accommodation Guide and Best Places to Stay in Crete.
Pin Before you Leave! Everything you Need to Know about Red Beach Matala in Crete
About the author of this blog:
Gabi has been living in Crete for the last five years. Here, she juggles being a solo mom, hosting culinary tours in the summer, translating, and writing for The Tiny Book and her other blogs.
She’s written for Greek Reporter, published three travel guides about Greece, and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person would be able to handle.