Malia lies in a gently curving bay stretching from Stalida (aka Stalis) in the west to nearly Sissi in the east. Virtually all of the bay is beach and although mostly sandy varies in quality.
The bay can be regarded in three sections, Stalida-Malia, Malia ‘central’ and Malia eastern (Potamies).
Starting with Malia ‘central’, the beach lying to either side of the bottom of the ‘strip’ road: follow the signs ‘to the beach’ to the right (1st turning) and then as the road crashes into the sea (going left). The beach here is well supplied with sun beds and umbrellas at around 5e/day, some being offered free if your custom is spent at their bar. You might however be hard pushed to actually see the sand, the beds going right to the sea and are pretty close to each other.
A short way from the beach is the islet of [..] swimmable but beware its rocky shore.

looking towards Stalida-Malia bay from the east

If you fancy walking along the water line you can go either way towards the other beaches, coming up to paths when the beach is interrupted by rocks. Turn left to leave the strip road at the bottom crossroad, heading west for a kilometer or so and look out for signs for bars on the beach – paths run from the road to the sea. This is an enjoyable, if slow, way to approach the more sophisticated Stalida (Stalis) beach, the shoreline dominated by mostly Russian filled 4 and 5 Star hotel complexes.
Going right you find where the previous turning (above) would take you.

Potamies Beach

looking west across Potamies towards Malia

Potamies beach, a couple of kilometers to the east, past the port, is probably mostly reached by those with cars or quad bikes, a 5-10 minute drive from the centre. A very pleasant sandy bay but rocky at each end. Well supported with toilets and lifeguard, some sunbeds yet plenty of space to lay yourself out.
To the farthest east side of the beach, as the road goes inland, you’ll find a particularly good taverna, if fact the only one, and better than would be expected for its position.
Continuing inland from Potamies beach, the road takes you up to the Minoan excavations of the Malia palace. A footpath also runs along the ragged coastline to Sissi, some 45-60 minutes walk away.

Surf & Stormy Weather

As in many places along the north coast, windy days can create a lot of surf in Malia bay – the gentle sandy bottom makes for good play area but deeper water can be dangerous if you try to swim out with strong currents with an untow catching the weaker swimmers. A warning flag system is in use, watch out for it! Sharp rocks, especially at the beach edges, create another unwelcome hazard.