Costa Navarino: sun sea and socrates
There’s something for everyone: two eco-friendly, five-star hotels (the Westin, which is family-focused, and the Romanos, its posh neighbour), a golf course and a range of restaurants – from an American-style diner to a traditional Greek meze café.
There’s an opulent 4,000m2 spa, which specialises in ‘oleotherapy’, or olive oil treatments, and 1.5k of sandy, sunset-facing beach; plus swimming pools, including a slide-laden one for kids.
There’s also an amphitheatre, shops, an open-air cinema and two state-of-the art kids’ clubs. The list simply goes on for family entertainment, providing much more than your regular flop and drop.
Who’s it good for? Golf-mad families would suit this place down to a tee! But the brilliance of Costa Navarino is that there are so many excellent activities and experiences to enjoy, there’s something for everyone no matter your age or interests, from cultural trips, roman ruins and sports, to relaxing on the beach and indulgent spa treatments.
Costa Navarino isn’t just a resort – it’s an education, and a beautiful addition to an already stunning place. It’s no myth, I promise!
The idea here is ‘children should be seen, heardand part of the fun’, which is why so much that’s on offer is directed at entertaining and educating the younger generation. They really are a priority.
While parents are otherwise engaged at the spa or on the golf course, their children can enjoy a range of facilities in one of the two kids’ clubs: Cocoon for babies and younger children (4 months-3 years), and Sandcastle for older children (aged 4-12 years), with different activities such as baking and art and crafts to stimulate every age group.
If you’re a sporty family, you’re in the right place – you could literally try a different one every day of your stay, from tennis, basketball and kayaking, to hiking, cycling and golf.
The 18-hole course ventures into olive and fruit groves, past rivers and has spectacular views out to sea, so it’s unsurprising that it has been listed in the top 100 courses in continental Europe.
Equally, if your ‘sport’ involves being pampered, Anazoe Spa is pure luxury. Body scrubs, facials and massages are just part of the mouth-watering menu of treatments available in the 21 treatment rooms. The signature ‘oleotherapy’ treatments combine health and beauty practices of ancient Greece with the science of today. There’s also thalassotherapy pools with jets to stimulate tired muscles, steam rooms and shower experiences. It’s a sanctuary of serenity.
For those families also after something entirely different, there’s more: Get out of the midday sun and spend an hour inside Navarino Natura Hall, an interactive exhibition bursting with information about the area’s unique environment and habitat. It’s as informative for adults as it is children. Astrology nights are also on offer.
Ancient Olympia, a UNESCO heritage site and the cradle of the Olympic Games, is a 90-minute drive from the resort.
There’s also the stunning medieval castle of Methoni just 40 minutes away, where filming of the film Before Midnight took place. A walk through these beautiful and wild ruins, past crumbling walls and via traditional hammams, while the sun beats on your back, is really special. (Some of the services and facilities operate on a seasonal basis.)
While away a morning olive harvesting – you are in Greece after all. Collect olives by striking tree branches with long sticks, causing them to fall into a net below. Then watch the trained harvesters skilfully separate the fruit from the leaves and neatly box up hundreds of fresh green and black olives. Don’t leave without dipping some fresh bread into the olive oil – it’s delicious and the perfect elevensies snacks and getting the kids’ taste buds tingling.
Free philosophy walks are also available. In groups, debate issues such as ‘a sound mind in a sound body’ with a professor of philosophy, while meandering past olive and grape trees (and the odd friendly golfer). It’s a pleasant, thoughtful way to spend a couple of hours away from the beach.
Don’t forget, though, you are allowed to leave the resort – and there’s plenty to explore. If you’ve somehow managed to exhaust the plethora of on-site restaurants or just fancy something different for dinner, the hotel can organise cooking lessons in a Messinian home in the nearby town, Pylos. Learn how to cook local dishes before enjoying your creations over wine in an authentic setting. Kids are very welcome too.
There are no motorised sports on the beach so it’s extremely peaceful and perfect for little ones to run about on.
The beautiful horseshoe-shaped Voidokilia beach – a 25-minute bike ride away – is a hidden gem and a wonderful location for a relaxing day with the family. The rugged mountains, dotted with tufts of greenery, form a cove and thus shelter the area from waves. This means the shallow water is calm – perfect for a dip with young children.
Be sure to pack a picnic, though, as there aren’t any shops or cafes, which adds to its wonderfully unspoilt feel.
The 445 rooms of The Westin are dotted around the extensive, landscaped grounds in low-rise villas, with views of the golf course, gardens or out to sea. All have balconies and some have private infinity pools (depth: 1.12m), accessible via a secure-lock, childproof door.
The resort is vast – the huge Anazoe spa is a drop in the Ionian ocean, so to speak – so a map is essential. If you don’t fancy walking, or can’t, the staff will happily drive you from A to B in a golf buggy. But, if you can, I’d recommend travelling on foot as your mode of transport though, to first find your bearings and also get a feel for the lovely resort.
This isn’t your usual resort. The ethos here is to promote the area while preserving its natural beauty and heritage. It has a strong commitment to environmental responsibility. As such, the resort has adapted to its surroundings, not the other way round. And you can see how.
The stone buildings of the Westin are inspired by old Messinian houses giving the resort an authentic and established feel, like a traditional Greek town. Though it can be fairly dark at night, the moonlit pavements are fun to tread, leading you past the amphitheatre, around the pools and back to your beautiful room.
Price: Family and connecting rooms are available at The Westin, and rooms start at £148 (€180) per night, including breakfast – everything from pancakes and waffles with chocolate sauce to fruit, smoothies and bacon and eggs.
The Westin Resort, Costa Navarino from £461 per person. That’ll get you bed and breakfast in a garden view room.
The kids’ clubs also offer overnight stays for an additional cost.
How to get there: Fly direct from London Gatwick to Kalamata with easyJet, return from £130.
Travel time: A flight takes 3 hours and 30 minutes, and then it’s a 40-minute car transfer from the airport to the resort.