Last updated on April 24, 2023 by Wandering our World
Around 30 million tourists visit Greece every year, making it one of the hottest holiday destinations in Europe. No wonder too, as this country has a great variety of islands that offer options for all kinds of travellers – and Crete and Kos are two of the best!
Yet while both locations are known for their beautiful beaches, delicious local food and luscious natural landscapes, there are some important differences between the two…
For example, Crete is a much bigger island with a livelier and busier atmosphere, whereas Kos tends to be better for a quiet and relaxing getaway.
Each one has its perks when it comes to family trip destinations, sightseeing, exciting nightlife, and Greek cuisine. So let’s dive in and find out what location will suit you the best!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Better For Family Vacations?
- Which Is Better For Exploring Culture?
- Which Is Better For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Where To Stay
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
Crete vs Kos: A Quick Overview
Crete: A Quick Overview
This island is the largest and most populated in Greece, so it comes as no surprise that it is one of the most popular tourist destinations as well.
It truly has something special for every type of traveler – from sandy beaches, to rocky mountains, to historical heritage sites and bustling nightlife scenes.
With a total area of 8,336 square kilometers, this island is perfect for those who are lookingfor a long and active journey too! Here you will be able to enjoy the full spectrum of the Greek landscape: the island has both sandy and pebble beaches, mountain ranges and plenty of famous ancient ruins.
It’s good to keep in mind that because of the diverse landscape and the size of the island, the weather can change on different parts of the island.
Kos: A Quick Overview
When it comes to weather, Kos is similar to Crete and shares the same pleasant Mediterranean climate. However, because of its location near the Aegean Sea, it tends to be slightly cooler.
Overall Kos has a more consistent climate compared to Crete, with warm temperatures and a bit of rainfall in the summers.
When it comes to the general atmosphere of the spot, Kos has a much quieter and peaceful feel. It is a smaller island (295 square kilometers) with cozy and beautiful beaches where you can enjoy sunbathing on smooth white sand.
This place is also famous for its pristine, clear waters and lush green landscape – perfect for those who want to relax and admire nature.
Despite its small size, Kos is a great destination for those interested in history. There are many ancient ruins scattered around the island that are worth the visit!
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Crete: The Beaches
Crete is famous for its incredible variety when it comes to beaches.
Since the island is so big and the nature is diverse, visitors can enjoy all types of seaside getaways such as sandy, pebble and rocky beaches.
in fact this island is perfect for those who like to hop from one location to another and discover new breathtaking sceneries.
For example, Elafonisi Beach in the southwest is famous for its pink sand and turquoise waters.
While Balos Beach in the northwest has soft white sand and can only be reached by boat or a hike down a mountain path – giving you an unforgettable view of the beach surrounded by cliffs.
Vai Beach is located in the eastern part of Crete and has a unique feature – it’s surrounded by a grove of palm trees!
This is one of the most sought after destinations for windsurfers and snorkelers, so if you’re looking for an active day out, this is the spot for you.
Kos: The Beaches
The beaches of Kos might not be as diverse in terms of landscape, but they are a perfect match for those who are simply looking to relax.
Kos is known for long, wide and comfortable beaches with soft sand and stunning nature in the backdrop.
Paradise Beach is one of the most popular spots on the island with its long and spacious stretch of white sand. Amenities such as sun loungers, restrooms, and beach bars are readily available, so you can enjoy a full day on the beach without having to worry about anything!
Tigaki Beach is another spacious white sand spot, and its wide shallow waters are perfect for small children to play in.
While, Mastichari Beach, located in the north of Kos, has calm waters that make it an attractive destination for those who want to try windsurfing and kite surfing.
Overall though, Crete has a wider variety when it comes to beaches compared to Kos and is perfect for nature lovers and explorers.
At the same time, Kos is smaller and the beaches are easier to access, so it might be more interesting for those who prefer a more laid-back vacation.
Which Is Better For Family Vacations?
Crete: For Families
Crete is an amazing spot for children that are old enough to travel around and still have lots of energy to explore and learn. As the bigger island there’s plenty of kid-friendly activities too!
If you’re looking to spend a relaxing day on the beach, Elafonisi is a perfect option. Parents can lay in the sun and enjoy a book while children safely play in the shallow crystal clear waters and build castles with the famous pink sand.
But if you’re looking for a full-day adventure with young kids, the Dinosauria Park is perfect to engage young ones in learning about prehistoric times.
There they can discover all about dinosaurs through life-size animatronic figures, 5D cinema and much more! Plus, there is free parking and a baby station on site, so the park has all the facilities needed for a big family.
Another popular destination among families is the Acqua Plus Water Park. Children will enjoy the water slides while parents can sunbathe and have a delicious meal at one of the restaurants inside the park.
The cashless wristband payment system and spacious lockers make it very comfortable to get around the park.
Kos: For Families
Being a smaller island, Kos will be a bit easier to travel around with a family. Most beaches on the island will be suitable for children too, because of the ample space and safe waters.
And if you feel like having an active day, there is an amazing place called Lido Waterpark that your children will absolutely love.
The fun water rides and wave pool are a great way to spend the day in the sun, and on top of that the park doesn’t tend to be too crowded so you won’t have to wait in line for food and drinks either!
If you feel like exploring nature and the surrounding secluded beaches, going on a boat tour with your family is a wonderful opportunity to do so. The tours can take you around the island to the spots best for snorkelling, and the whole family can explore the magnificent underwater world together.
For those who want to escape the heat, Kos Natural Park is a place where all family members can enjoy the uniqueness of local nature and even observe animals in the zoo located right in the park.
There is a snack bar and a playground for children to socialise – this park is a win-win for both parents and kids!
To conclude, both Crete and Kos have a wide spread of activities for families to enjoy. Crete is a slightly more popular and busier destination with more kid-friendly activities, but it will require you to hire a car to get around.
However Kos is great for a shorter stay and especially for families with toddlers, because the attractions are much easier to access.
Which Is Better For Exploring Culture?
Crete: The Culture
Even though Crete is a big island, most of its historical attractions are located in the ancient city of Heraklion.
That means you can pay a visit to all of them while you’re in the city, and it might even be worth staying there for a couple of days because there is so much to do!
After all, this city is a unique place where ancient architecture meets the modern world. But apart from enjoying all the history the city has to offer you can also relax on the beach and go shopping.
However, the cultural sites in this city are a must-see. Immerse yourself in the culture of ancient Greece by visiting the Archaeological Museum, Knossos Palace, the magnificent Rocca a Mare Fortress with its breathtaking views, Natural History Museum, St. Menas Cathedral and much more!
Don’t hesitate to take a guided tour to explore even the rarest gems of Heraklion and to learn about the rich history of this charming city.
Just an hour away from Heraklion is another spectacular city called Rethymno – a place where you can see an extremely well-preserved 16th century Venetian Fortress.
The Erofili Theatre is located nearby, a place where visitors can appreciate traditional Greek dance in the open air.
And to discover a modern part of Greek culture, head out to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete which showcases the works of celebrated Greek artists.
Kos: The Culture
Despite its smaller size, Kos also has some fascinating historical sites.
This ancient island has been influenced by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule while also preserving its own original heritage. Each historical period has left a mark on Kos, which you can trace through its landmark sites.
Visit the ruin of the Ancient Agora – an archaeological site right in the heart of the city featuring the ruins of an ancient temple and market.
Asklepion is an ancient healing centre where you can see the way treatment rooms and bathhouses were structured in ancient Greece. While Neratzia Castle, built in the 14th century, is a place where visitors can wander around the ancient towers, fortress walls and a courtyard.
To discover the relics of Kos including pottery, coins and sculptures, head out to Kos Archaeological Museum.
Or take a trip to Casa Romana, an ancient villa located in Kos town, which features a great collection of Roman mosaics and frescoes.
Overall, Kos may have fewer and smaller historical sites than Crete, but they belong to different historical eras and have unique artefacts belonging to that time.
This variety allows visitors to see how the island developed over time, which is wonderful for those who are planning a short trip!
Which Is Better For Activities?
Crete: The Activities
There is an abundance of choice when it comes to activities on Crete – and far more options than on much smaller Kos.
Once you’re done with palaces and museums in Heraklion and Rethymno, head out to the southeast of the island to discover the Samaria Gorge – a rare and unique natural landmark.
This spot is one of the best in Greece for hiking, and you will be mesmerised by the beauty of the cliffs, waterfalls and the surrounding forest.
In fact hiking fans will absolutely love the Imbros Gorge and the E4 European long-distance path which runs for 500 kilometers through some of the most picturesque scenery in Europe. For hiking, Crete is hard to beat. (Recommended: The Best Trails In Crete).
For those who enjoy sports and water activities, Crete has countless options to offer including snorkelling, diving, windsurfing, kitesurfing and even horse-riding.
Or take a day trip with Safari Club Crete to enjoy the wildlife and nature of the island, take a journey through time and history at the Greek Mythology Thematic Park, explore marine life at the CRETAquarium and visit the Aegeo Spas for a day of full relaxation.
And these are only a few of the activities and tours you can explore on this magnificent island!
Kos: The Activities
Kos is a wonderful destination for sports enthusiasts, with many opportunities to enjoy a whole spectrum of different activities.
The island is a favoured spot for those who love cycling, with many scenic routes and trails to explore. Visitors can rent bikes locally and take solo tours as well as guided group tours to explore the beautiful terrain of Kos.
The beaches here provide excellent conditions to try out a lot of water activities too, such as windsurfing, kiteboarding, sailing in addition to snorkelling and diving.
Local vendors offer equipment for hire and coaches for visitors of all ages. If you’re planning to have an active and sporty vacation, the island also has many private and public tennis courts that rent out rackets to guests.
Other activities such as hiking and horse-riding are also readily available, so you will definitely not be bored while visiting Kos!
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Crete: The Nightlife
Crete is famous for its electrifying nightlife, which offers tourists a long list of options to fit all tastes and preferences.
Whether you are looking for an energetic night full of dancing or a more relaxed and laid-back outing with friends, Crete certainly has the right location for you.
If you’re into seaside venues, the resort town of Hersonissos in the north is the perfect destination. It is a hotspot for many bars, restaurants and clubs with magnificent views of the sea.
Malia is a coastal town favoured by young party goers with many vibrant and exciting nightlife spots. The Zig Zag Club and Candy Club are among the most popular locations that feature different types of music including R&B, techno and hip-hop.
Or visit Rethymno if you’re in the mood for a cozy evening of delicious food, drinks, and live music. Visitors can enjoy local specialties at venues like Bricks Beers & Tales and Avli Lounge Apartments.
In general, Crete has a greater variety of nightlife options than Kos, but is also a busier and more crowded destination.
But as we’ll show you below, Kos is popular among younger people for its lively and bustling night clubs, although it also has plenty of quiet and charming spots for a more casual evening with friends.
Kos: The Nightlife
Kos is also an exciting destination for nightlife, especially among younger crowds.
Bar Street in Kos town and Lambi Beach are prime spots for bustling parties that go on late into the night, and they can get very crowded during peak season.
In particular, young visitors frequent the The X Club and other venues on Bar Street, many of which are free to enter.
For those who want to experience the vibrance of a Greek beach party, Lambi Beach is the best location on Kos with Coco Beach Bar and Artemis Heaven Beach Bar amongst the best bars to visit for night-out by the seaside.
But for a quieter evening consider Mylos Beach Bar for delicious cocktails by the beach with a view of the sea and a garden sitting area.
And as you leave the main town and head to Kardamena, you will likely see more bars and clubs favoured by partygoers. For the busiest and most popular events here, go out to Status Club, or if you’re in for a relaxed evening and great cocktails, head out to The Garden Cafe & Cocktail Bar.
Which Is Better For Food?
Crete: The Food
This island is one of the most unique gastronomic destinations in Greece, and foodies will surely appreciate the authenticity and richness of the local cuisine.
All of the ingredients are fresh and locally sourced, with high-quality olive oil produced right at the island’s own plantations.
In fact, Cretans are famous for their lamb, pork and chicken dishes as well as some seafood delicacies. Vegetarians will find plenty of amazing options too, with locally grown tomatoes, zucchinis and aubergines and the delicious Cretan cheese.
Don’t miss out on trying Dakos (special barley bread topped with ripe tomatoes and olive oil), Saganaki (deep fried cheese), Keftedes (lamb meatballs with mint), Souvlaki (meat skewers marinated in red wine) and a whole array of local Greek pastries that you can find at any bakery on the island.
Crete has virtually an endless list of options when it comes to food, and you can even go on a food tour if you would like to learn more about what makes the food on this island so unique.
The majority of famous food spots are located within city centres, so it is very easy to go through them all.
On top of that, Crete has a variety of restaurants and cafes for any taste and budget, so when it comes to food, it’s one of the most affordable and diverse destinations!
Kos: The Food
Kos has some rare local specialties that foodies will absolutely love to try.
For example, the island is famous for its krasotyri cheese (made of goat or sheep milk and processed with vine leaves). This staple of Kos cuisine is truly a must-try for all visitors, along with the local fresh tomatoes and olive oil.
Kos is also known for its own take on lasagna – this one is boiled in meat broth, which gives it a special and unique flavour.
Other delicacies include stuffed zucchini flowers, katimeria, Pasha macaroni and, of course, the delicions Kos honey (which would be a great souvenir to bring home!).
There are so many meat, seafood, vegetarian dishes and desserts that are unique to this island, and due to the small size of the place it’s really convenient for trying a new delicious meal every day!
Overall, both islands offer exquisite local cuisine options suitable for meat eaters, seafood fans and vegetarians. Both have their own staple foods that reflect the unique culture and nature of the island.
Crete usually tends to be a more affordable destination when it comes to food and has more local options, but Kos has some unique dishes that are worth trying too.
Where To Stay
Crete: Our Recommendations
In Crete, Anemos Luxury Grand Resort (see photos and rates) is a great family friendly option right by the beach with a beautiful pool and world-class service.
They also have a certified childcare service and a kid’s club and play area, which means parents can easily get a well deserved break!
Another worth looking into is Agapi Beach Resort (see photos and rates) which is an all-inclusive resort set that has almost everything you can think of – spa sessions, a private beach, several pools, tennis, and even cooking classes are all included.
If you’re looking for complete relaxation and everything to be taken care off, this is a great option!
Kos: Our Recommendations
It’s rare to find a nice hotel near the beach that doesn’t have astronomical prices attached to it, but Kalimera Mare is the budget option you’ve been looking for.
With a fantastic pool, rooms that have sea views, and situated just steps away from the coast, it’s no surprise this place is often booked up. See photos and rates!
Meanwhile, set in Marmari, right beside a private beach so you can expect gorgeous sea views, is where you can find OKU Kos.
This five-star, adults only, luxury resort is renowned for its service, facilities and on-site activities. See photos and rates!
Which Is Cheaper?
When it comes to budget traveling, Crete tends to be a bit more affordable than Kos.
Being the biggest and one of the most visited Greek islands, it has a well connected infrastructure and more public transportation options than Kos.
Plus, it also has a wider range of hotels and accommodations to offer for any budget.
Daily expenses for food and entertainment also tend to be lower on Crete with a lot of more affordable cafes, bars and street food.
Overall, with the same type of budget you will be able to stay at more expensive hotels and experience higher level restaurants in comparison to Kos.
However, if you only plan to stay at the hotel and relax by the sea, Kos is still a very good and convenient option that will be similar to Crete in terms of the price, but instead will likely be a quieter and much more peaceful getaway spot.
Overall though, Crete offers more value for your budget when it comes to the variety of places you can visit.
Crete vs Kos: Which Is The Better Choice?
It’s very difficult to pick between these two gorgeous Greek islands – both of them are very unique and have a lot to offer!
However if you are still not sure about whether you want an active or a quiet vacation, Crete might be the safest bet for you as it offers a wider variety of options when it comes to accommodation, food and entertainment.
But if you want to have a secluded and relaxing getaway with visits to cultural sites, Kos will definitely fit the bill.