I wanted to explore the far western part of Crete, namely Balos Beach, Falassarna and Elafonissi, from Kissamos by scooter. However, I get conflicting information here on the island. Some say that the 50cc scooter is useless when it has to take two people uphill, and that Balos beach is a no-go with a scooter, and some say it's fine. Any thoughts on this, and on exploring Crete by scooter?
It all depends on quality of scooter, skill in driving it and your determination.
Yes, small scooters are next to useless on steep mountain roads, especially with two persons on them. Probably you will get to your destination but it will be painful.
Road to Balos Beach is an unpaved one. Generally good idea with scooter is to keep yourself to asphalt roads and ride on dirt only really short distances. If you want to travel longer distances on dirt roads try to get scoooter with 'no excess'.
Not sure if this question is still open but in general it is more safe to visit such places with either bus service or renting a car. The bus service www.e-ktel.com has many routes (nope, I don't work for them, just a local). In general a 50cc is a big no for national highways etc. As for quad bikes I agree, they can be fun to ride in the cities & suburbs but other than that again, not really, many accidents happen especially with those who are not experienced with. *No offense, a biker myself, just have seen few accidents. Hope I helped a bit.
If you are going to be riding on rough terrain, a better (and probably safer) option would be to hire a quad bike. Most places that hire scooters in Greece also do quads. If you plan on going up steep hills you'll need one of the larger engine models, they will typically do a range of sizes.
Another advantage is that because they have more than 2 wheels, they are not classed as motorcycles under EU vehicle classification, so as long as you have a B1 licence you are not restricted on power.