Ever since the national road along the northern coast opened in 1972, the coast between Iraklio and Malia has seen a frenzy of unbridled development, particularly in the seaside towns of Hersonisos and Malia. Hotels deal almost exclusively with package-tour operators who block-book hotel rooms months in advance. For independent travellers, the chain of villages above Hersonisos (Koutouloufari, Piskopiano and Old Hersonisos) are the most appealing places to stay in this area.
While Hersonisos has some family-friendly attractions, including fun water parks, Malia is primarily a party town. A bit incongruously, it’s also home to the area’s only significant historical site, the wonderful Minoan palace.
Buses link all the coastal towns along the Old National Rd at least every 30 minutes. If you want to avoid this area altogether, whoosh right past it on the E75 highway.