There are no doubt better beaches on Crete, but if you want to spread your towel in town, head to the main beach, with coarse grey sand, in the centre of town. Many waterfront cafes rent sunloungers and umbrellas or let you use them for free if you consume something.
Worth a Trip: The Coast East of Ierapetra
Much of the coastline east and west of Ierapetra sits enveloped by plastic-covered greenhouses and haphazard tourism development, but there are still appealing places. Only 7km east of Ierapetra, Koutsounari Beach is one of the longest in Crete (4.5km) and ideal for walking and escaping the crowds. Keep going for another 8km or so for a dip at lovely Agia Fotia Beach. Around 10km further on, a new stretch of road bypasses Koutsouras, but turn off the main road for Taverna Robinson, housed in an attractively renovated Venetian-style building. The pink interior is hung with an installation of light bulbs, while the menu features innovative dishes and the owners' own organic wine.
Just beyond, the fine white sandy beach at the eastern end of Makrygialos is one of the best on the southeastern coast. It gets very busy in summer, but the beachside promenade is cheerful and there are plenty of cafes and eating places.
Near Makrygialos, just above Analipsi on the road to Pefki, is Aspros Potamos. Here 300-year-old stone cottages have been lovingly restored as guesthouses by owner Aleka Halkia. Potamos uses a solar system to generate electricity for lights and hot water. Rooms have no electrical sockets, but you can plug in (and access the internet) in the reception area. Stone floors, traditional furnishings and winter fireplaces add to the warm ambience. It’s the perfect spot for nature buffs and walkers, since you're close to the 2km-long Pefki Gorge here.