Koudoumas is on Crete's south coast, more or less at the same point on the south coast as Heraklion is on the north coast. Although the distance in a straight line between the two places is less than 50 km, the twists and turns and switchbacks involved in traversing the rocky spine of the island make it an 84-kilometer, 2.5 hour journey. Of special interest is the final, unpaved, 25 km through the Asterousia mountains, which drop precipitously to the monastery on the seaside after scaling Mt. Kofinas, which, at 1231 meters, is the range's highest.
But the trip is worth it, if not just for the pleasure of driving through the Cretan countryside and experiencing the barrenness and weird formations of the Asterousia mountains. The monastery was built at the outlet of the Kataraktis (Cataract) gorge, just 40 meters from a beautiful beach. There are a lot of caves in the area. You can take a hiking trail from Koudoumas to the cave of St. Anthony, about 90 minutes' walk to the west.
The monastery's history goes back to at least the 1200's AD. The name "Koudoumas" is likely a surname, and is found in Venetian-era documents about the area. The current complex of buildings, built over the ruins of older versions, was erected in 1870. Since Koudoumas is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, her feast day, the August 15th Assumption (and Greece's 3rd most important religious holiday after Easter and Christmas), sees many visitors descending upon the monastery to stay in its guest rooms or camp out on the beach, which has a few shallow caves of its own. You can also stay in the mountain village of Sternes, about 8 kilometers to the north. The monastery houses The Virgin of Kykkos (painted in Kykkos, Cyprus), a famous icon which was found in the house of Ali Pasha in Ioannina after the despot's death in 1822.
The hospitable monks of the monastery are happy to give you accommodations for the night, if there is room. Some people stay longer. The rooms are small and austere, but, after all, this is a monastery.
Koudoumas is the only monastery in Crete near the sea, and the pebbly beach is a favorite with bathers and campers. It is one of the most secluded corners of Crete. It's a great place for contemplation, for a quiet swim, and for star gazing at night, where all the velvety heavens are laid out and undiminished by man-made light.