One of the most visited places in Crete is beyond doubt the Vai beach with its heavenly palm grove planted in a wide valley watered by the local river. This exotic sandy beach with whitish sand and flat turquoise waters and backed by the edenic palm forest, is reminiscent of African and Caribbean seascapes. In the 1980s Vai was decreed a protected area and was cleaned up. Today it is considered one of the most beautiful parts of Crete and the beach has been awarded a Blue Flag by the European Union. The beach and palm forest of Vai are also fascinating for their biodiversity, as many migrating birds stop here on their voyage to and from Africa. The entire region is owned by the powerful Toplou Monastery, which is the largest landowner in eastern Crete. The beach is organized (whatever the protection scheme allows) with umbrellas, showers, water sports, canteens and a tavern. You can also try watersports at Vai, including banana boat, jet-skiing and wakeboarding. Keep in mind that the closest rooms to let, hotels or villas to rent, are located outside the protected area (15'-25 'walk).