The beaches on the island's south shore have the best sand, views, and wind protection. However, these days they are so popular that you'll have to navigate through a forest of beach umbrellas to find your square meter of sand. A few (Paradise, Super Paradise) are known as party beaches, and guarantee throbbing music and loud revelry until late at night. Others (Platis Yialos and Ornos) are quieter and more popular with families. Psarrou has gone from being a family beach to being perhaps the trendiest beach of them all (for visiting Athenians mostly). With all the south-coast beaches, keep in mind that most people begin to arrive in the early afternoon, and you can avoid the worst of the crowds by going in the morning. The north-coast beaches are less developed but just as beautiful. Because the buses and caiques don't yet make the trip, you'll have to rent a car or scooter; you'll be more than compensated for the trouble by the quiet and the lack of commercial development.
For those who can't wait to hit the beach, the closest to Mykonos town is Megali Ammos (Big Sand), about a 10-minute walk south -- it's very crowded and not particularly scenic. To the north, the beach nearest town is 2km (1 mile) away at Tourlos; however, because this is now where many ships dock at the new harbor, it's not a place for a relaxing swim. Ornos is popular with families; it's about 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) south of town and has a fine-sand beach in a sheltered bay, with extensive hotel development along the shore. Buses to Ornos run hourly from the south station between 8am and 11pm.
With back-to-back hotels and tavernas along its long sandy beach, Platis Yialos is extremely easy to get to from the town and has pristine aqua-blue waters and a variety of watersports. Due to its proximity to town however, it is always crowded and lacks character. It's ideal for a swim if you're too hung over to make it to farther beaches. Here you can catch a caique to the more distant beaches of Paradise, Super Paradise, Agrari, and Elia as well as a small boat to Delos. The bus runs every 15 minutes from 8am to 8pm, then every 30 minutes until midnight. Nearby Psarou is the first stop on the bus from town to Platis Yialos and it is a much higher-brow version of its neighbor. It is actually a beautiful stretch of beach, with white sand and greenery, overlooked by the terraces of tavernas and hotels. The excellent N'Ammos restaurant is right here, as is the sublime hotel Mykonos Blu, of the Grecotel chain. A rowdy beach bar here has patrons dancing on whatever free inch of space they can find. During high season, and especially during the weekends when the trendy Athenians flock to this beach, even chaise longues require reservations. Psarou is also popular when the meltemi winds strike the island, as it offers protection in its bay to many yachts, boats, and swimmers. Its watersports facilities include Diving Center Psarou, water-skiing, and windsurfing. Paranga, farther east, is small and picturesque and can be reached easily on foot via an inland path from Platis Yialos; this small cove is popular for nude sunbathing and doesn't get too crowded, but is never too quiet either as the loud music from the neighboring beaches can be heard. From here you can take a hill path that will lead you to another beach, Agia Anna (St. Anne). Agia Anna is a pebbles beach with a beautiful landscape and sweeping views from the top of the hill.
Reach Paradise, the island's most famous beach, on foot from Platis Yialos (about 2km/1 mile), by bus, or by caique. The more adventurous arrive by moped on roads that are incredibly narrow and steep. Seeing how very few leave this beach sober, it is in your best interest (even if you have rented a moped) to get back to town by bus. This is the island's original nude beach, and it still attracts many nudists. A stand of small trees provides some shade, and the beach is well protected from the predominant north winds. Lined with bars, tavernas, and clubs, Paradise is never a quiet experience -- it is the premier party beach of the island and shows no signs of stopping. The Tropicana Beach Bar and the Sunrise Bar are both havens for the party crowd that goes all day, long after the sun has set. On top of the hill, the popular and internationally known Cavo Paradiso Club is a large, open-air nightclub with rotating international DJs and doors that do not open until after 2am. In fact the "cool crowd" begins to arrive only after 5am. On the beach, Paradise Club is the club destination from 6pm to midnight, reopening from 2am to 6am. One beach party on Paradise you shouldn't miss is the Full Moon Party, once a month. The only other party that compares to it is the Closing Party every September that has become an island institution. As in most of the island, the water here is breathtakingly beautiful, but hardly anybody comes to Paradise for the sea.
Mykonos Beach Notes
Activity on the beaches is highly seasonal, and the information here pertains only to the months of June through September. The prevailing winds on Mykonos (and throughout the Cyclades) blow from the north, which is why the southern beaches are the most protected and calm. The exception to this rule is a southern wind that occurs periodically during the summer, making the northern beaches more desirable for sunning and swimming. In Mykonos town, this southern wind is heralded by particularly hot temperatures and calm in the harbor. On such days, those in the know will avoid Paradise, Super Paradise, and Elia, heading to the northern beaches of Ayios Sostis and Panormos -- or choose another activity for the day.
Super Paradise (Plindri) is in a rocky cove just around the headland from Paradise; it's somewhat less developed than its neighbor, but no less crowded. You can get to the beach on foot, by bus, or by caique; if you go by car or moped, be very careful on the extremely steep and narrow access road. The left side of the beach is a nonstop party in summer, with loud music and dancing, while the right side is mostly nude and gay, with the exclusive Coco Club providing a relaxed ambience for its chic clientele until after 5pm, when things get rowdy and loud. On the right side, there are similar party bars for the straight crowd. The waters here are beautiful but very deep, so it isn't the best swimming option for families with small children. Farther east across the little peninsula is Agrari, a lovely cove sheltered by lush foliage, with a good little taverna and a beach that welcomes bathers in all modes of dress and undress.
Elia, a 45-minute caique ride from Platis Yialos and the last regular stop (also accessible by bus from the town), is a sand-and-pebble beach with crowds nearly as overwhelming as at Paradise, minimal shade and bamboo windbreaks. Nevertheless, this beautiful beach is one of the longest on the island. The beach is surrounded by a circle of steep hills, has an attractive restaurant/cafe/bar, and offers umbrellas, sun beds, and watersports. There is also a gay section to this beach that is clothing optional. Despite its popularity, there is no loud bar/club here, so the atmosphere is more sedate than the Paradise beaches. The next major beach is Kalo Livadi (Good Pasture). Located in a farming valley, this long, beautiful beach is about as quiet as a beach on Mykonos's southern coast gets. There's bus service from Mykonos town's north station. Adjacent to the beach are a taverna and a few villas and hotels on the hills.
The last resort area on the southern coast accessible by bus from the north station is Kalafatis. This fishing village was once the port of the ancient citadel of Mykonos, which dominated the little peninsula to the west. A line of trees separates the beach from the rows of buildings that have grown up along the road. This is one of the longest beaches on Mykonos, and its days of being uncrowded are, alas, over. The waters are pristine, however, and the hotels offer water-skiing, surfing, and windsurfing lessons. Here you will also find a good beach restaurant and bar and many boats to take you to Dragonisi, an islet that has caves ideal for swimming and exploring. You might also catch a glimpse of rare monk seals at the islet; its caves are reportedly a breeding ground for them. Adjacent to Kalafatis in a tiny cove is Ayia Anna (not to be confused with the other beach of the same name, by Paranga beach), a short stretch of sand with a score of umbrellas. Several kilometers farther east, accessible by a good road from Kalafatis, is Lia, which has fine sand, clear water, bamboo windbreaks, and a small, exceptional, and shockingly low-priced taverna.
Most of the north-coast beaches are too windy to be of interest to anyone other than windsurfers and surfers. Though windsurfing has always been extremely popular in Greece, surfing is a relatively new sport here and Greece is a newly discovered destination for many surfers.
All over the country, from Athens to beach towns and villages that line both coasts and many islands, surfers are realizing Greece with its many coasts has more to offer than clear waters that aren't shark-infested. Though Mykonos doesn't appear in the top 10 list of favorite places to surf in Greece, it should; already many of the island's wind-battered north-coast beaches attract many European surfers in the know. When the north winds hit the island relentlessly, waves can swell up to impressive sizes and the lack of competition provides an uninterrupted haven for surfers and windsurfers alike. In order to enjoy this scene, however, you have to either have a car or a moped, as public transportation, regrettably or not, hasn't made it here yet.
Fokos is a superb sandy beach that has only recently begun to get noticed by tourists. The scenery is raw, wild, and beautiful, and there is a small taverna here that is quite good. Fokos was the first beach to get noticed by the surfers. The huge Panormos Bay has three main beaches. The one closest to town is Ftelia, and it is a long fine-sand beach, easily one of the best on the island, but for the force of the north wind, which has made it popular with surfers and windsurfers. There are, however, two well-sheltered northern beaches, and because you can only reach them by car or moped, they're much less crowded than the southern beaches. Head east from Mykonos town on the road to Ano Mera, turning left after 1.5km (1 mile) on the road to Ayios Sostis and Panormos. At Panormos, you'll find a cove with 100m (328 ft.) of fine sand backed by low dunes. Another 1km (3/4 mile) down the road is Ayios Sostis, a lovely small beach that sits just below a village. There isn't any parking, so it's best to leave your vehicle along the main road and walk 200m (656 ft.) down through the village. An excellent small taverna just up from the beach operates without electricity, so it's open only during daylight hours. Both Panormos and Ayios Sostis have few amenities -- no beach umbrellas, bars, or snack shops -- but they do offer a break from the crowds. Ayios Sostis is wild, windswept, and beautiful, as are all north-coast beaches, offering a completely different landscape than their far more popular southern counterparts. When the meltemi winds are at their strongest, during July and August into September, the waves can be awesome and unrelenting and the water is filled with surfers. Ayios Sostis, however, is becoming the new "in" beach during the high season, when the visiting Athenians escape here when the winds aren't too strong.
Beaches to avoid on Mykonos because of pollution, noise, and crowds include Tourlos and Korfos Bay.
With so many sun worshipers on Mykonos, local merchants have figured out that they can charge pretty steep prices for suntan lotions and sunscreens. You probably want to bring some with you. If you want to try a Greek brand, the oddly named Carrot Milk is excellent.
Mykonos is known throughout the Aegean as one of the places for diving. Scuba diving on many islands is prohibited to protect undersea archaeological treasures from plunder. The best month is September, when the water temperature is typically 75°F (24°C) and visibility is 30m (98 ft.). Certified divers can rent equipment and participate in guided dives; first-time divers can rent snorkeling gear or take an introductory beach dive. The best established dive center is Mykonos Diving Centre, at Paradise beach (tel./fax 22890/24-808), which offers 5-day PADI certification courses in English from about 500€, including equipment. Psarou Diving Center in Mykonos town (tel. 22890/24-808) has also been around for a long time. As always, before you sign up for lessons, be sure that all instructors are PADI certified. The Union of Diving Centers in Athens (tel. 210/411-8909) usually has up-to-date information. In general, certified divers can join guided dives from 50€ per dive; beginners can take a 2-hour class and beach dive from 60€. There's a nearby wreck at a depth of 20 to 35m (65-114 ft.); wreck dives run from 60€.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.