One of the best beaches in central Crete is the breathtaking Melissa Cape Sandhills near Agios Pavlos, at the south end of the vast seafront of Akoumiani Gialia. The Sandhills are located around 55km south of Rethymnon city and are bounded to the south by the Cape Melissa and to the north by river Akoumianos and Triopetra beach. The deep sea is very inviting for a swim and it is quite common to see people in various states of beachwear or lack thereof owing to the area's relative seclusion and privacy offered by the coves around the beaches. The locals also call it Alatsogremi (salt cliffs).
Melissa Cape Sandhills, perhaps the most beautiful beach of prefecture Rethymnon, is a fantastic bay in a wild and majestic scenic landscape with huge sandhills. There are a few umbrellas (that’s all!), but you can find shade in the rocky caves shaped in the middle of the beach. Moreover, given its large size, the beach never seems busy and you can easily stay nude even in peak season. The beach has a rich seabed and is ideal for snorkeling. The only problem that you may encounter here is the west winds, causing large waves regularly. Additionally, the water temperature hardly falls below 15 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for swimming in winter.
The sunset of the area is stunning and the peaceful atmosphere has attracted a very good club of yoga and Tai Chi, with some of the best trainers in the world. The best sunset can be viewed from peak Thronos, directly above the beach (some 300m high, vertical cliffs). To get there follow the dirt track starting just next to the point where the roads Agios Pavlos - Sactouria and Triopetra-Agios Pavlos join and then walk to the edge of the cliff. This point overlooks Paximadia islets at the south, Gavdos island, and the White Mountains.
The easiest way to get on the Sandhills is by following for 500m the road leading to the west of Triopetra harbor (Stomio), till you meet the beach in your right hand and the Akoumianos river below you. You can leave your car somewhere there, descend to the small valley shaped near the river and walk to the beach. Alternatively, you can park your car in Agios Pavlos and then follow (for 5'-10') the path that leads behind the western edge of the beach of Agios Pavlos and go down the steep sandy slope.