Red Beach Matala Crete: Everything about the Stunning Kokkini Ammos

Red Beach Matala Crete

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

Red Beach Matala

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Where is the Red Beach in Crete

Map matala - red beach
Hiking trail Matala-Red Beach (Google Maps 2022).

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. You can read this article to learn how to get from Heraklion to 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

Red Beach Trail: Hiking from Matala to the Red Beach

Red Beach Mojito Bar
Mojito Bar at the Red Beach Matala, Crete.

As you may probably know, you can either get to 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.

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Red Beach Matala trail starting point.
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red beach matala
The very first part of the most popular trail.
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Remember to look back for a great view of the Bay of Matala.

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. 

red beach matala

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 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), and there are also several signs indicating “Red Beach” and “Mojito Bar”.

red beach matala
red beach matala
The kids ahead of me… of course!
red beach matala

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. 

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The terrain on the trail.
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In some parts, the trail is a bit narrow.

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).

You will need to pass the gate in order to continue. Remember to close the door once you’re on the other side for the goats not to escape. 

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Getting to the shepherd’s gate.
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Shepherd’s Gate.
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Shepherd’s Gate.

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. 

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The views from above.

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.

red beach matala
red beach matala
red beach matala
When you’re almost there, the views are gorgeous.

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

red beach matala

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.

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On these steps is where the trail beings.
red beach matala
red beach matala
Starting the walk to the Red Beach.
Red Beach Matala Sign

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).

red beach matala
Parkin near the beginning of the trail.

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?

red beach matala
The view of the Red Beach from above the trail, about 80 meters asl.

It depends, some people believe that Red Beach is not worth the effort as there are many amazing beaches on the island that 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.

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Sculptures on the sand.

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.

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The beach.

And in case you were wondering…

  • How many times did I visit Red Beach? Once.
  • Would I walk the trail again? No… well, maybe…
  • 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, 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.

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Naturist area.

Please remember that Red Beach is openly nudist-friendly.

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A mojito break is a must on Red Beach.

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 or 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 Gerard and he was from Belgium.

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Egyptian sea figures and sculptures by the sea.
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Maybe the guy carved on the big stone is Gerard, the Belgian that made the sculptures???
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A Minoan octopus.
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You will find sculptures on this rock.

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!
Gianni’s mojito.
  • 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. 
Arriving at the red beach matala
We were almost there… who had the time to check if the horizon was straight?
  • 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.
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This was my resting point on the way back, that tiny bit of shade was so welcome!
  • If you’re not used to hiking but still want to give the trail a try, do it calmly and slowly, 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.
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After the hike up and back to the starting point, dead tired!

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 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.

red beach matala
We wore tennis shoes.

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.

Gianni’s Mojito

red beach matala

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.

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A nice break from the beach, in the shade, and with a mojito!

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.

red beach matala
red beach matala
red beach matala
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The bar and the trail behind.

Curious Facts About the Red Beach

  • If you reach Red Beach by 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

street art Matala Crete
Matala main square.

Get to the main square of Matala for a refreshing lemonade after the hike, and sit, and rest your legs. Or go for a souvlaki or gyro wrap if you’re hungry. 
Have you ever been to the Red Beach in Crete?

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:

red beach matala

🏖️ Please, help us protect the beaches in Crete. Respect the environment and don’t leave any trash behind.

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More resources to enhance your Crete adventure

Start by checking out my ultimate guide to planning your trip to Crete, packed with helpful essential information. Explore the articles on prices in Crete, common mistakes to avoid, and insider secrets for an unforgettable experience.

Use this comprehensive Crete packing list to ensure you have everything you need. Explore the best places to visit on Crete Island, discover my tours and activities, be amazed at Crete’s incredible beaches, and check out the best times to experience its beauty.

If you are exploring specific areas like Heraklion or Rethymnon, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Heraklion

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these hotels in the city:

More useful travel resources

  • Check out all the digital travel guides I’ve specifically written about Crete. They are affordable and practical to check from your mobile.
  • Find convenient ferry tickets with Ferryhopper.
  • Welcome Pickups offers a convenient pre-paid airport transfer service, while Discover Cars is the engine I use to find a rental car on the island.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin Before You Leave! Everything You Need to Know about Red Beach Matala in Crete

Red Sand Beach Matala Crete

About me:

Gabi Ancarola | The Tiny Book

Gabi Ancarola

I have lived in Chania, Crete, since 2016. As a local, I have an intimate knowledge of the Crete. I host culinary and concierge tours and experiences in Crete and write about the island for several travel media. During the last five years, I have helped many travelers plan the perfect holiday in Crete. I co-authored DK Eyewitness Top 10 Crete and had more glasses of frappe than any regular person could ever handle.

4 thoughts on “Red Beach Matala Crete: Everything about the Stunning Kokkini Ammos

  1. Jen says:

    HI Gabi,
    Thanks for the fun article. Any thoughts about whatever happened to Gerard?
    He was there in ’93 and had all of Red Beach to himself. Just interested in the rest of his story.

  2. Jay says:

    Went to Matala in early ’80s when there was only one narrow, bumpy road to get there. Not many tourists–mostly locals; some folks, like us, who just stumbled on it (we were old hippies who had heard about it from friends) and decided to stay longer than anticipated. Hiked over the hill to Red Beach– nude and remote was the draw, although I do remember there was a small cafe of sorts to get snacks and drinks. Fond memories.

    • Gabi Ancarola says:

      Kokkini Ammos and Matala are both gorgeous in their own way, and I believe they must have been an untouched paradise back in the 80s. I hope you are thinking about visiting again soon?

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