Palm trees wherever you look! The palm beach of Vai on Crete, where the largest natural palm grove in Europe provides pleasant shade, exudes a tropical holiday feeling.
The Cretan date palm gives the idyllic beach of Vai its fame. The elegant tree makes the bay one of our top 10 sights of Cre te and one of our 10 most beautiful beaches in Crete. Emerald green palm fronds sway here over fine sand and crystal clear sea, inevitably evoking thoughts of the Caribbean - a real rarity in Europe!
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Getting to Vai Palm Beach
Crete's most beautiful palm beach is located on the east coast of the island at the bay of Grandes about 30km east of Sitia and about 1.5 hours by car from Heraklion. The village of Vai, after which the golden sandy beach is named, is about one kilometre from the coast.
Tip: From the small viewing platform on the island opposite, you have the very best view of Vai's palm beach. However, swimming across (approx. 50 metres) is only recommended for good swimmers due to dangerous currents!
Bathing on the palm beach of Vai
The palm beach of Vai is perfect for a relaxing swimming holiday on Crete. The shallow water and practically non-existent waves are also ideal for families with small children to splash around.
However, you will rarely be alone here. Countless buses come to the beach every day and with the rental car holidaymakers there are thousands of visitors who enjoy the beauty of Crete's Caribbean in the high season. With water skiing, windsurfing, jet skiing and banana boats, there is also plenty of action.
Camping is no longer allowed on Vai beach, but sunbeds and umbrellas are for rent. The car park is also subject to a fee, but is equipped with toilets and showers. Tavernas and snack bars serve regional cuisine at rather high prices - but you are happy to pay for a meal under palm trees.
How did the date palms get to Crete's beach?
According to legend, pirates from the Middle East left their date seeds on the approximately 300m long beach on the east coast of Crete. Over centuries, the largest date palm grove in Europe developed with several thousand trees - enough to be used as a film set for the Bounty commercials!
The fruits of the Cretan date palms are inedible, however, so either the pirates were not choosy about their meals or the legend has little truth to it.
Cretan Caribbean under nature conservation
The Cretan date palm (Phoenix Theophrastii) is also rather rare on Crete. Apart from the palm beach of Vai, it is only found in a few other bays. A palm grove also thrives on the beach of Preveli, but it is nowhere near as large.
Since the hippies of Matala also settled in the bay of Vai in the 1970s, the palm beach became increasingly famous. Much to the chagrin of the palm trees and the beach, which soon degenerated into a chaotic rubbish dump thanks to careless campers.
Today, the palm beach of Vai is protected and fenced off. Camping is no longer allowed, the palm forest, which belongs to the Toplou monastery, may only be partially entered, and at night the beach is closed off altogether.
Tip: If you want to grow a Cretan date palm in your garden, you can buy seeds on Amazon.co.uk!