How to Visit Vai Palm Beach, Crete: Complete Insider’s Guide

Vai Palm Beach, Crete

Vai Palm Beach is located in the region of Lasithi, on the remote easternmost coast of Crete and it is a peculiar place to check on the island. Vai Beach (Παραλία Βάι – Paralia Vai, in Greek) is one of the most beautiful and exotic beaches in Crete and a fantastic place to discover.

In this detailed guide, I will give you all the info you need to visit this authentic slice of paradise, Vai Beach, read on!

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Tips to Visit Vai Palm Beach in Crete

vai palm beach

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In this guide, you will find all the tips to make the most of a visit to the incredibly beautiful Vai Beach, a shore in Eastern Crete surrounded by a lush palm tree forest. This guide includes:

  • Curious details and general information
  • How to get there
  • Things to do in the nearby area
  • Other beaches close by,
  • Where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and more for a perfect visit to Vai Palm Beach in Crete.

General Details about Vai Beach

vai palm beach

Vai is located in the heart of a protected natural palm tree forest known as Finikodasos (Φοινικόδασος), so you might often hear locals referring to it as Φοινικόδασος του Βάι (the Palm Grove of Vai) or simply Finikodasos.

Home to the largest palm forest in Europe, the landscape in Vai is simply astonishing.

Where is Vai Beach

vai palm beach - crete island,  greece
Vai Palm Beach, Crete.

Vai is right before the peninsula leading to the solitary Cape Sideros, about 23 km from the city of Sitia.

It’s a bit north of the small village of Palekastro (8 km), on the northeastern coast of Crete, and facing the sea of Karpathos (a wonderful Greek Island that belongs to the Dodecanese located 97 nautical miles from Vai).

  • Distance from Heraklion: 150 km (2 hours and 30 minutes by car)
  • Distance from Agios Nikolaos: 90 km (1 hour and 40 minutes by car)

Vai Beach Crete Map

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The location of Vai Palm Beach, East of Lasithi and Toplou Monastery (Google Maps-2022).
vai palm beach
The Lasithi Geopark, and the nearby beaches. (Google Maps-2022).

A Bit of History about Vai Palm Beach

Vai Palm Beach, Crete
The fenced forest (Vai Palm Forest).

Often described as one of the most prominent attractions on the island, the area remained generally unknown to tourism until the 1970s, when many hippies left the more crowded Matala Beach or Preveli, two flower-power hot spots in Crete, in search of more quiet places.

Moving on to the 80s, Vai Beach became a backpacker’s destination; travelers worldwide would stay in the forest, which unfortunately led to a mixture of chaotic campgrounds and garbage dumps (cit. Wikipedia).

vai palm beach
Vai Palm Forest.

Thanks to a decision by local authorities, the forest was then enclosed and declared a protected area, and then all the space, including the beach, was recovered.

Most of the forest is enclosed by a fence, and visitors have access only to the palms located by the sea. However, if you reach the lookout point on one of the extreme ends of the beach (south), you can climb quite a few steps to get a great aerial view of the forest.

… And a Bit of Legend

vai palm beach

Since ancient times, Crete has been an attractive place in the heart of the Mediterranean for those sailing and trading in the area by sea.

Conquerors, invaders, and pirates have coveted a piece of Crete since time immemorial.

The most isolated parts of the island, that is, the southern and eastern coasts, were particularly attractive to pirates (you can read about that in the legends surrounding Gavdos Island, too), and this is proved by the local history!

According to the legend, the palms originated from the stones of dates tossed on the floor by invaders who would spend the whole day eating this fruit.

Some say that it was the Turks (this palm variety can be found in some places on the Turkish coast), and others claim it was African pirates shipwrecked on the coast of Vai.

It doesn’t matter since we know now that these trees have been growing on the island since the Minoan times, long before pirates and the Ottoman Empire, and that their dates are inedible!

However, it is a curious and fun legend!

CURIOUS FACT: The beach belongs to Moni Toplou, one of the most important monasteries in Crete.

The Palm Grove of Vai Beach

vai palm beach
Road to the Palm Beach of Vai.

The natural grove, which starts a few kilometers before reaching the shore, and you see as you drive from Sitia to the beach, ends right by the seaside.

The palm grove boasts about 6000 palm trees covering 20 hectares (200,000 square meters).

But don’t expect the regular palm… trees in this grove to be really thick and ancient, granting plenty of natural shade and a cooler atmosphere even during the very hot summers typical of eastern Crete.

vai palm beach

The beach, which has been awarded the Blue Flag for its clean waters, may be one of Crete’s most exotic and beautiful beaches.

How to Get to Vai Palm Beach

vai palm beach

There are no important villages or towns near the beach, something that adds a touch of mystery to this magnetic area.

The best way to get there is by car from the closest bigger city, Sitia, which is 23 km (about 25 minutes) west of Vai Beach.

The beach is about 15 minutes from Palekastro and one and a half to two hours from Ierapetra, depending on your chosen road.

If you pick the eastern coastal Ierapetra-Vai, the road is 105 km, while driving from Ierapetra through Sitia, staying closer to the northern coast, the road is about 85 km.

As you approach the shore, the hundreds of palm trees on both sides of the road mean that you’ve almost arrived. The road is well maintained, and signs are enough to avoid getting lost.

There is a parking spot in the area; try to arrive early, as it gets really crowded!

Driving from Heraklion to Vai Palm Beach

vai palm beach
The old NationalRRoad from Heraklion to Agios.

This unique road trip along the island’s north coast can take more than 2 hours…

…or much more if you stop at any of the exciting landmarks of Crete along the way, including Agios Nikolaos and Sitia, the Mirabello Gulf, and Richtis Gorge, among others.

If you wish to stay close to this spectacular beach, there are plenty of accommodation options in the villages 10-20 km south.

Vai Beach is easily accessible as a road goes right there. There is also an ample parking space south of the beach, where a bar and tavern can be found.

There is no public transportation to this destination, and the only option would be to take a bus to Sitia and take a taxi or find other means of transportation, but this is quite difficult compared to having your own rental car at all times.

Getting to Vai Palm Beach by Bus 

vai palm beach
Empty roads in East Crete (road from Vai to Ierapetra).

You can also get to Vai Palm Beach by public transport. It is not really convenient, though, and hiring a taxi from the start might be much easier.

However, if you are on a budget, a bus departs from  Sitia bus station to Vai twice daily.

The bus does not reach the access to the beach, and there is a portion of the road to be done on foot or by taxi until you actually arrive at the beach.

Best Time to Visit Vai Palm Beach

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The beach of Vai from the observation point.

Eastern Crete has arguably the best climate on the island. It rarely rains and tends to be sunnier more days per year than in other regions.

I don’t suggest going to Vain in January, but any time from April to late October will be fine. I also visited on a hot November day, and sunbathing was okay, but swimming was out of the question (at least for me, other people were swimming!)

July and August are the peak months of the tourist season, the weather is fantastic, but the crowds are too big. Spring (May and June) and late September and October are good moments to visit.

The weather is more pleasant too.

Keep in Mind for a Visit to Vai Palm Beach…

  • Vai Palm Beach has been awarded a Blue Flag, which says a lot about the sea’s and shore’s cleanness and quality. Vai is also very calm, making it great for swimming and certain water sports.
  • The beach is organized, and you can rent loungers and umbrellas.
  • There is a parking lot (free)
  • Water sports are available
  • The observation point on the south of the beach grants a great panorama of the palm grove and the beach

Have you ever been to the gorgeous Vai Palm Beach?

Things to Do Near Vai Palm Beach

vai palm beach
Promotional signpost with all the things to do in the area of Vai.

You can spend days exploring the region of Lasithi, only focusing on the isolated area near Vai. If you choose to spend a few days in one of the villages near the beach, I suggest you devote some time to these highlights.

In no particular order, these are some of the best things to do in the area of Vai when you visit.

Itanos Beach and Archaeological Site

vai palm beach
The ancient city of Itanos by the palm trees.

Maybe the closest place to visit is the beaches in Erimoupolis, or Itanos, a walking distance towards the north of Vai Palm Beach (just under 3 km).

This series of different small but relaxing shores have a hidden position and are protected from waves or winds.

The main beach of Itanos is shallow, has fine sand, and it’s ideal for families.

On one of the extremes of the coast, there’s a secluded naturist area. The beach has no organization; the closest places to buy drinks or food are the canteens on Vai Beach.

Beach of Itanos, Crete
Itanos Beach.

Itanos lies right behind the ruins of the ancient town of Itanos, an influential Dorian settlement, very powerful in East Crete. The ruins include ancient temples and early Christian churches.

Much of Itanos ruins continue underwater and can be explored with essential snorkeling equipment.

Moni Toplou

vai palm beach
Toplou Monastery.

Toplou Monastery is one of the main monasteries on the island, located between Sitia and Vai and about 9 km from Vai Palm Beach. The beach of Vai is part of the land belonging to the monastery. 

Due to its isolated and somewhat vulnerable position and the continuous attacks it went through, Toplou stands behind solid fortification walls, which are about 10 meters high.

Although the monastery is not as big as the monasteries of Arkadi or Preveli, it’s undoubtedly one of the prettiest religious buildings on Crete.

On the premises, visitors can check the rare collection of icons, the war museum, and the on-site winery that produces some of the best wine labels on the island.

Ruins of Ancient Roussolakkos

vai palm beach
Roussolakkos (EinarB – Wikimedia Commons.)

Roussolakkos is a former ancient settlement located near the village of Palekastro that flourished during the Minoan times.

Among the ruins, you can check the harbor, outlying settlements, and quarries that have been preserved under sediments accumulated over more than 2000 years.

The most important place to visit is the ruins of the temple honoring Diktaian Zeus. According to the myth, this is where Jason and the Argonauts confronted Talos, a giant automaton made to protect the Phoenician princess Europa.

Kouremenos Beach

vai palm beach
(O. Tausch – Wikimedia Commons).

Less than 1 km away from the small eastern settlement of Palekastro, Kouremenos is a wide bay bathed by unique turquoise waters. The beach is shallow with fine, yellow sand, ideal for families with kids.

Kouremenos is almost 2 km long and is usually not too crowded. Its unique marine landscape makes snorkeling a favorite activity, while the most popular thing to do is windsurfing.

The beach is partially organized, and you can opt to rest under the tamarisk trees if you prefer not to rent an umbrella.

Chiona Beach

chiona beach
Chiona. (O. Tausch Wikimedia Commons).

Another beautiful shore in Eastern Crete is Chiona, a favorite for those visiting Lasithi every year and a secret place for naturists.

You can visit different coves in the area, which is also close to the village of Palekastro.

Palekastro is an important village in East Crete and the perfect place to find accommodation in the area when visiting Vai Palm Beach.


vai palm beach
Kato Zakro Beach (O. Tausch – Wikimedia Commons)

Located 35 km from Vai, Zakros includes smaller villages and hamlets. Zakros is often divided into Epano Zakros, the portion higher up on the hillside, and Kato Zakros, near the ruins of a significant Minoan Palace.

In the area, it is also possible to check the Gorge of the Dead, which runs through both the upper and lower parts of the ancient site, named after the numerous burials that have been found in the caves along its walls.

In the area, excavations brought to light an ancient built-in winepress and a storage jar with linear A inscriptions (Minoan).

Near the lush springs of Zakros village, the Museum of Water and Hydraulics is a thematic museum that showcases the importance of water in Cretan life through ordinary objects of the past.

The museum is housed in one of the eleven watermills that used to supply water to the whole of East Crete.

Palekastro Village – Folklore Museums

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Palekastro (M. Ryckaert – Wikimedia Commons).
vai palm beach
The village (C. Messier- Wikimedia Commons).

Also known as Palaikastro, Palekastro is a relatively important town which, extending back to prehistoric times hosted different significant settlements extending back into prehistoric times.

During the Minoan period, this was a remarkable commercial center with Roussolakos and the port of Itanos.

The whole region was an important trade center during the Minoan Times. In fact, the ruins of a Minoan sanctuary can be seen on Mount Petsofas above the town.

The Minoan Moulds of Palaikastro were discovered by a farmer 150 meters from the town. The Kouros of Palekastro can be seen today in the Archaeological Museum of Sitia.

In the village, you can also check the Folklore Museum of Palekastro will give you a glimpse into the lifestyle of ancient Cretans.

Your visit will start with a perfect view of the authentic Cretan home, filled with furniture and utensils of the past.

You might enjoy: The most interesting museums in East Crete.

Beaches of Xerokampos

Xerocampos beach, southern Crete.

The extensive region known as Xerokampos is about 35 km from Vai; it features a group of varied and beautiful beaches on the extreme southeastmost tip of Crete.

Remote and hard to access, and far from every local airport, Xerocampos is the place to go for complete isolation and total relaxation.

You will find more info about this unique collection of shores in this article about the best beaches in East Crete.

Where to Stay Near Vai Palm Beach

vai palm beach
Selfie moment by the palms of Vai.

When visiting Vai, it’s essential to remember that it is quite an isolated spot, far from towns or villages, so renting a car is the best way to explore the whole area.

If you plan to stay near Vai Palm Beach and visit all the places listed above, then you should consider staying in Sitia or – even better and closer – in one of the small settlements further to the south.

However, don’t trust Vai being a remote place in order to find accommodation last minute.

The beach is stunning and, therefore, very popular; booking in advance is really important to be able to find the right place to stay for you and your travel partners.


  • Onar (Palekastro) is a rental home in Palekastro, about 5 minutes from Kouremenos Beach and 2 km from Chiona Beach.
  • The home hosts up to 4 guests and has one bedroom, a fully equipped kitchen, and a patio with pool views.
  • There is also free private parking.
  • Click here for more information and the latest prices.

Villa Aiolos

Grandes Apartments Kouremenos

  • Grandes Apartments Kouremenos (Kouremenos) is a beautiful villa apartment located only 5 km from Vai Palm Beach and Forest, perfect for up to 4 guests. It has a garden and free private parking available.
  • The property has a terrace, dining area, seating area, and a kitchen with an oven, toaster, and fridge.
  • Guests can enjoy the on-site bar and restaurant, while the property also offers packed lunches.
  • Activities on the property include beekeeping lessons nearby, and car hire is available at the property too.
  • Click here for more information and the latest prices.

Best Places to Eat Near Vai Palm Beach

Palm Beach Vai Restaurant

One of the best places to eat in the area, the restaurant is privileged to overlook the gorgeous beach of Vai.

But it’s not only about the views. The restaurant serves traditional Cretan dishes (Certified Cretan Cuisine) and seafood dishes.
Read reviews here.

Rizoviglo Restaurant

Located by the beach of Kouremenos, this is an excellent place for food in the region.

It serves fresh and delicious food, with great views over the sea. It enjoys excellent reviews for the friendly staff, perfect landscape and atmosphere, and incredible cuisine.
Read reviews here.

You might enjoy: Best restaurants in Agios Nikolaos and the rest of Lasithi.

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Have you ever been to the gorgeous Vai Palm Beach?

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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. Remember to 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 Lasithi or Heraklion, I’ve got detailed guides to help you make the most of your time.

Suggested accommodation in Lasithi

No time to read all my accommodation guides? Check out these places to stay:

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.
  • To book adventures, tours, and cultural experiences, I recommend Get Your Guide.

Pin this Useful Visit Guide that will Help You Discover Vai Palm Beach!

vai palm beach

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.

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