Best Beach Hotels
- Istoria Hotel is the best beach resort in Santorini. A fantastic luxury hotel steps from Perivolos Beach.
- Santorini beaches are composed of volcanic sand and pebbles, full of rugged charm and often striking landscapes. But they are not at all like the great, white sand beaches Greece is known for. The idyllic best beaches in Greece are located elsewhere.
- However, swimming in the clear blue water of Santorini is wonderfully refreshing. Since the beaches have coarse sand, there’s little dust to cloud the water.
- Don’t come to Santorini primarily for the beaches – come for the volcano boat tours, incredible views, wine, hikes, nightlife, and great food. Spend time at the beaches if you have extra days here.
- Most of the best Santorini beach hotels are located at Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos Beaches.
The 8 Best Beaches in Santorini
My favorite beaches in Santorini are Kamari, Perissa and Perivolos. Great places to swim, many places to rent beach chairs, and lots of good places to eat. Good beach resorts are plentiful, though there are very few hotels located directly on the beach – most resorts are across a small road from the sea.
Santorini is not known for its beaches. They are good but not great – so don’t be expecting those idyllic stretches of sand you’ve seen in pictures of Greece. That said, many people love the beaches of Santorini and find their unique sand and natural setting to be more memorable than “just another sandy beach.”
Most of Santorini’s beaches are composed of dark volcanic sand that gets searingly hot in the mid-day sun. Beach sandals or water shoes are recommended for walking on the sand.
But what the beaches lack in typical sandy splendor they make up for with breathtaking views and scenery. The cliffs that loom around some of the beaches and the nature of the sand itself make a surreal setting for swimming and sunning.
Perhaps it’s just in my head but I find the seawater around Santorini the clearest and most refreshing I’ve ever swum in. It’s really wonderful.
The caldera is found on the west coast of Santorini. The beaches are on the east and southeast side of the island (except two). So when deciding where to stay it’s usually a choice between staying along the caldera with incredible views of the volcano or staying at one of the beaches.
It’s an easy drive or bus ride from Fira (the main town on Santorini) to get to the beaches (Kamari is the closest) so as much as I love the beaches I still recommend staying in Fira, Firostefani, Imerovigli, or Oia as these towns have the stunning caldera (volcano) views that make Santorini so unique.
It takes an extra bus journey to go from Firostefani, Imerovigli, or Oia to the beaches as it requires changing buses in Fira. Renting a car is the best way to explore the island, and this is especially true if you’re not staying in Fira.
If you’re looking for nightlife, it’s best to base yourself in Fira, as that’s where all most bars and all clubs are found on Santorini. But the beaches of Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos do have restaurants/bars that stay busy late into the night. But for clubbing, that’s Fira.
1. Kamari Beach
The busiest, most family-friendly of the beach towns is Kamari. The beach is pebbly, so the water is extraordinarily clear. There are a number of affordable, all-ages beach clubs along the main path offering beach chairs and umbrellas. The path along the beach is a fun and relaxing place to stroll in the evening with lots of casual places to eat, drink, and shop. Farther in from the beach, there is an open-air cinema, a mini-golf course. Kamari is close to the airport, but far away enough that it’s not noisy. It’s the closest of any of the beach towns to Fira and the caldera with great bus service; buses take about 15 minutes between Fira and Kamari. Kamari is separated from Perissa Beach by a hill called Mesa Vouno, but the two beaches are connected several times a day by water taxi. It’s also possible to hike from one beach over Mesa Vouno to the other. There are some small, ancient ruins on top of the hill and a spectacular, sunrise view. If I were to stay at a beach town it would be Kamari.
Perissa and Perivolos Beaches are essentially one very long beach, with Perissa at the north end turning into Perivolos to the south. Perissa is separated from Kamari by Mesa Vouno, as mentioned above, but connected by water taxi and a hiking trail. Perissa is also well-connected to Fira by bus, albeit with fewer buses running here per day and a longer bus ride (about 20 minutes). The beach at Perissa is a pebbly, sandy mix, which gets sandier farther south. This is a mostly family-friendly beach but with a little more of a party vibe at the beach clubs here, though the parties typically don’t get too crazy and the bars close earlier than they do in Fira, so it’s quieter at night. There is a wide range of accommodations and restaurants here, especially toward the north end, where the main village, bus stop, and water taxi stop are found. The beach becomes progressively quieter as you move south.
3. Perivolos Beach
Moving south along Perissa for a kilometer and a half, the beach changes its name to Perivolos (and then to Agios Georgios even farther south). Perivolos, especially the Agios Giorgios end, is the most upscale beach in Santorini with a good number of luxury hotels, high-end beach clubs, and fine dining restaurants. The sand is slightly finer, though still pebbly, and the hotels and restaurants are a little more spread apart. It’s possible to have long stretches of beach to yourself the farther south you go. Perivolos is pretty well connected to Fira, operating on the same bus schedule as nearby Perissa. There is no water taxi to Kamari here.
4. Red Beach
The pebbly sand here is red and the backdrop is stunning. There’s not a lot here besides the unique scenery (though ancient Akrotiri is 5 minutes away and definitely worth a visit in its own right). Red Beach is a 20-minute drive south of Fira, and the walk down to the beach can be steep for some. Warning: There have been reports of some falling rock on the path down to the beach so … uhm, watch for falling rock as you walk down to the beach … or just take pictures from a distance and skip actually walking to the beach. The beach is also accessible by boat.
Kamari is the most family-friendly beach town, but Monolithos (a few kilometers north of Kamari) is the most kid-friendly beach with shallow water and the nicest sand – unlike other beaches, you can make sandcastles here. Very quiet with only a handful of hotels and restaurants. There’s a small play area for the kids on the sand and a kitesurfing school/rental shop at the north end. It’s nice here and incredibly quiet for most of its length, but may feel remote for some.
Recommended Beach Hotel in Monolithos: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa (luxury, adults-only)
6. Ammoudi Bay
The best swimming spot on Santorini – but not a beach. Take the footpath down from Oia to Ammoudi Bay where the restaurants are (or drive/taxi down), then turn left and walk along the water’s edge for 5 minutes. From here, jump from the rocks into the gorgeous blue water. There’s a small island that you can swim out to that has glorious views of the caldera. The walk along the sea edge can be tricky in spots, and there have been reports of falling rock. Many caldera cruises either begin or end at Ammoudi Bay.
7. Vlychada Beach
One of the more unusual beaches in Santorini, Vlychada is a long stretch of coarse black sand with white, moon-like, volcanic cliffs looming behind, shaped over millennia by the wind, sand, and sea. This is a semi-organized beach, with umbrella and sunbed rentals and dotted with a few tavernas. Like Ammoudi Bay, many caldera cruises begin or end here. Adding to the scenery are two large chimneys formerly used by an old tomato canning factory, now converted into a museum and cultural center. The end southern end of the beach has a small port. At the far north end of the beach, a good hike away from the sunbeds and restaurants, there is a nude-friendly section popular with gay travelers and locals.
8. Caldera Beach
Caldera beach is one of only two beaches located in the caldera (the other, Gialos Beach, has only recently been made accessible via a dirt trail). Caldera Beach is one of Santorini’s best-kept secrets, offering gorgeous caldera views, great swimming, a wonderful taverna, a tiny port, and a dive shop, while still being incredibly quiet. There are no beach clubs or sunbed rentals, and very few visitors to the beach itself (most people come here for diving or sailing). The beach is a mix of black pebbles and sand, and because it’s right on the caldera it gets very deep very close to shore. The eastern part of the beach is wider and quieter than the western part near the port and taverna.