Updated: October 17, 2017
- Santorini beaches are composed of volcanic sand and pebbles. Very unique and beautiful to look at but they’re not the idyllic golden sand beaches that are found elsewhere in Greece.
- Visitors shouldn’t come to Santorini primarily for the beaches – they should come for the volcano, boat tours, incredible views, wine, hikes, nightlife, and great food.
- Swimming in the crystal clear blue water is refreshing and wonderful. (Since the beaches have coarse sand there’s little dust to cloud the water.)
The Best Beaches in Santorini
My favorite beaches in Santorini are Kamari and Perissa. Great places to swim, many places to rent beach chairs, and lots of good places to eat. High quality 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 getting around 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 sea water around Santorini the most clear and refreshing I’ve ever swam 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. So when deciding where to stay it’s either along the caldera with incredible views of the volcano or 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 does take 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 so if you’re not staying in Fira.)
If you’re looking for nightlife you’re best to base yourself in Fira as that’s where all the clubs are found on Santorini. But the beaches of Kamari, Perissa, and Perivolos do have restaurant/bars that stay busy late into the night. But for clubbing, that’s Fira.
The most upscale and touristy of the beach towns. The path along the beach is a fun and relaxing place to stroll in the evening. Lots of places to eat and drink. Kamari has a very fun vibe and one of the most family-friendly towns on Santorini. Close to the airport (but not so close as to worry about noise). It’s the closest of any of the beaches (with hotels) to Fira and the caldera. If I were to stay at a beach town it would be Kamari.
Recommended Beach Hotels in Kamari: Santorini Kastelli Resort (luxury) • Tamarix Del Mar Suites (luxury) • Sigalas (moderate)
Perissa and Perivolos Beaches are essentially one very long beach that caters to the backpacker crowd and party scene (beach style, not clubs) but still has a wide range of accommodations and restaurants. The beach becomes progressively quieter as you move south towards a third beach, Agios Georgios. (It’s much farther from Perissa or Perivolos to Fira than it is from Kamari to Fira.)
Recommended Beach Hotels in Perissa: Aqua Blue Hotel (moderate) • Meltemi Village Hotel (moderate) • Sellada Beach Hotel (moderate)
At some point as you move south the name changes from Perissa to Perivolos and then to Agios Georgios) but the sand and the vibe is essentially the same. The density of hotels and restaurants declines and it’s possible to have long stretches of beach to yourself.
Recommended Beach Hotels in Perivolos: Smaragdi Hotel (moderate) • Sea Sound White Katikies (moderate) • Hotel Sea View (moderate)
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 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.
Recommended Hotels: Astarte Suites (luxury)
Monolithos Beach (a few km north of Kamari) has the nicest sand and most family-friendly beach on Santorini (unlike other beaches you can make sandcastles here). Very quiet with a small collection of hotels and restaurants. The shallow slope of the seafloor make it better for kids than the steep drop-offs at Perissa and Kamari. There’s a small play area for the kids on the sand. It’s nice here (but I wouldn’t recommend staying here), so don’t be expecting a lot of action. If you have a rental car and a few kids it might be worth an afternoon but most people would probably describe it as “dead”.
The best swimming spot on Santorini – but not a beach. Take the path down from Oia to the Ammoudi port (where the restaurants are) then turn left and walk along the water’s edge for 5 minutes. (You can also drive down and park near the restaurants.) Then jump from the rocks into beautiful 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.
Recommended Hotels in Oia (near Ammoudi): Esperas (luxury) • Fanari Villas (luxury) • Art Maisons Oia Castle Hotel (luxury)