Greece

Forget Paris, future Olympians are in training at Costa Navarino this summer

Last updated 12th July 2024

On a recent stay at The Westin Costa Navarino Resort, Katja Gaskell and her kids put the Costa Navarino sports’ camps through their paces. Here’s what your little Olympians need to know.

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The Westin Resort Costa Navarino

“Keep dribbling, don’t stop,” coached Jim Koustenis, an enthusiastic Greek American and head of the NBA Basketball School at The Westin Resort Costa Navarino. “You keep playing like that and we’re going to have a great season!”.

It was our first morning at The Westin Costa Navarino Resort, located in the Greek region of Messenia in the southwest Peloponnese. Travelling with my two younger children, my 14-year-old daughter Tess and 9-year-old son Sam, we had arrived late the previous evening, flying from London into Athens and then making the easy three-hour drive to the resort by taxi under the cover of darkness.

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Sea views, The Westin Resort Costa Navarino

Beaches are our nearest neighbours at The Westin Resort Costa Navarino

When we woke the following morning, the bright, China-blue bolt of sky revealed dozens of low-rise buildings built with local stone and wood, linked by gently curving stone paths framed by olive trees and lush borders filled with native plants. We found the beach a short walk away, a grand stretch of sand and a dazzling deep blue sea.

Until 2010 this corner of Greece was largely ignored by international visitors; a (pre-highway) long drive from Athens and sparse flight options to nearby Kalamata meant that travellers preferred easy-to-access destinations in the Aegean.

But then Costa Navarino appeared, the vision of local entrepreneur Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos who dreamed of establishing a sustainable holiday destination on his home turf. Today the region is home to some of the country’s most luxurious resorts including The Romanos, the W and the Mandarin Oriental.

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NBA Basketball School, Costa Navarino

The NBA school at Navarino Dunes is now in its second year

Our home for the next few days was The Westin Resort Costa Navarino and, after a hearty breakfast in the Morias Restaurant, the kids were courtside, working on their dribbling and shooting skills. Basketball is a big game in Greece, second only to the national sport of soccer.

The NBA school only opened at the Navarino Dunes last year and proved such a success that it has returned for a second summer season, offering holidaying children aged between six and 18 the chance to shoot hoops with some of the best.

“We’ll also have NBA coaches visiting us from the US during the summer months,” said Jim as my daughter Tess practised her free throws. “So, you guys will have to come back.”

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Golf course, Costa Navarino

Costa Navarino Summer Sports Camps start in mid-July 2024

Basketball is far from the only activity offered at Costa Navarino. This is a resort known for its excellent – and exhaustive – sporting facilities. And, with the start of the Paris Olympic Games fast approaching, the resort wants to encourage and inspire more children to do sports.

From July 15 to August 16, Costa Navarino is holding five-day Summer Sports Camps where kids aged 6 to 15 can try their hands at 10 different Olympic sports including golf, basketball, tennis, gymnastics, archery, football, sport climbing, beach volleyball, swimming, and water polo.

Not long after finishing on the basketball court we were at the Mouratoglou Tennis Centre, the first European academy location for the famed French-Greek tennis coach – and former coach for Serena Williams – Patrick Mouratoglou. There we met Alex Karvelis, head of operations at the tennis centre.

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The right tennis coach, The Westin Resort Costa Navarino

Finding the right coach revives our passion for tennis

So much about enjoying sport is about having the right coach, someone who can deliver lessons that are fun and inspirational as well as technical. When my eldest two children were aged seven and five, they took tennis lessons every Sunday for 18 months. Every week we would wave them off to meet their tennis coach and they would walk, shoulders hunched, and heads hung low, as if being sent to detention rather than somewhere fun.

If only they’d had Alex back then, things could have been very different.

Tasked with teaching the three of us some tennis basics he set about playing a series of games all the while shouting words of encouragement. It was perhaps the best hour of tennis that any of us have ever played, and we all came away thinking that we just might be inclined to pick up a racket when back in London.

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Indoor climbing wall, Costa Navarino

The kids try everything from rock climbing to gymnastics

It’s this quality of both sports facilities and coaches that really sets Costa Navarino apart. During our time at The Westin Resort Costa Navarino, the kids tried half a dozen activities and enjoyed every one of them, including time on the driving range with golf pro Adam.

The resort is particularly known for its golf courses (it was crowned “World’s Best Golf Venue” at the 2023 World Golf Awards) and enjoys four 18-hole golf courses. Among these is the world’s only International Olympic Academy Course that, in April, hosted the Olympic Flame following the lighting of the torch ceremony in nearby Ancient Olympia.

Another day, Tess and Sam learnt the basics of rhythmic gymnastics led by former Olympian Ioanna Samara, who competed in the 2008 Beijing Games. And on another afternoon, they were encouraged by Dinos from Navarino Outdoors, to try increasingly challenging routes on the indoor climbing walls.

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Pool, The Westin Resort Costa Navarino

The Westin Costa Navarino Resort does downtime too

In the brief moments when the kids weren’t doing sport, we squeezed in time by the resort’s pools, particularly the Aqua Park.

One afternoon was spent on the Dunes Beach, indulging in a generous meze platter and a fresh octopus and tomato salad at beachfront Barbouni restaurant before splashing in the sparkling sea, washed in sunshine.

On our final evening, we dined at Da Luigi, an Italian restaurant set within the newly opened Agora. Modelled on the meeting place and market where citizens would meet in ancient Greece, this central square links The Westin Resort Costa Navarino with the Romanos resort and is edged with restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and an ice cream shop.

As the sun began to set, and the cacophony of sparrows at roost in the Agora’s towering oak tree began to settle, we clinked our glasses and said cheers to the start of a very good season.

How to plan this Costa Navarino holiday

How to get there

Direct UK flights to Athens from 3 hours, 35 minutes

Athens Airport to The Westin Resort Costa Navarino by road, from 3 hours, 25 minutes

Flights from Athens to Kalamata Airport, from 55 minutes (during summer months only)

Find out more from Aegean Air

Where to stay

The Westin Resort Costa Navarino, Messenia, southwest Peloponnese, Greece

Rooms from £238 per night, B&B

Find out more and book