Whether you’re travelling with your partner, best friends, or multiple family members, there often comes a tipping point on a holiday when individual preferences diverge. It could be the pace, the choice of activities, or the balance between exploration and relaxation that splits opinion. To manage those moments, a resort that can do it all – and well – is a rare gem to find. If there ever was such a marvel, it’s Elounda Peninsula in Crete, says Eva Ramirez.
Review: Elounda Peninsula Resort
On the eastern side of Crete is Elounda Peninsula: a health-giving sanctuary, a watersports playground, a romantic enclave; a kaleidoscope of experiences with something for everyone. The family-owned resort is located in the Lesithi region, which is where luxury tourism first took seat on the island. The 1960s saw a boom of resorts in the area, turning this once small fishing village into a lively, cosmopolitan destination that’s known today as one of the most visited, and loved, in Greece.
The waterfront location ticks both privacy and proximity boxes. Under an hour from Heraklion Airport, it’s sprawled across a stretch of land that’s framed by the Sitia mountains and lapped by Aegean waters.
Last year saw a lengthy refurbishment for the resort, with all 52 suites and villas refreshed with new interiors. They also unveiled a 440 square-metre seaside diamond residence with a private saltwater pool, spacious verandas with panoramic sea views of the Cretan coast and direct access to the sandy beach. The two-bedroom Peninsula Collection Suite I checked into had a large terrace with a pool, shower, dining area and steps right down to the coast. Even more impressive was the closet space, with a walk-in wardrobe the size of a London studio flat.
The resort has a unique charm about it that, as I learned from a couple who’d been visiting for years, has stayed true over time. The service is sincere as opposed to unnecessarily ceremonious – something that’s often grated me about some 5-star hotels. In looks and atmosphere there is a genuine simplicity that’s a far cry from the sterile, trend-focused design hotels popping up across the Greek islands.
Unsurprising considering the location, the majority of my days revolved around water, reading by the pool on my terrace or lounging by the sea and taking dips straight off the jetty. The private beach is idyllic, with gentle waves and sandy shallows that make it safe for children and swimmers of all abilities. The resort’s curved seafront pool is the largest in Crete and posting up here means you won’t have to move an inch for the entire day, with smiling waiters bringing you cocktails and food until sunset. The resort’s private sailboat is available for charter and, when not in use, bobs majestically in the waters, making the whole scene look all the more picturesque.
By way of activities, there’s plenty to do, and guests can also enjoy the experiences and restaurants at Elounda Peninsula’s two nearby sister resorts, Elounda Mare and Porto Elounda Golf & Spa Resort. For families, there’s a kids club and crèche at the nearby Porto Elounda, just a short walk away. Little ones won’t just be plopped in front of a screen; they’ll enjoy their own roster of seasonal fun and games, like storytelling, baking and gardening. There are indoor and outdoor play areas (much needed when the midday sun is beating down), along with two supervised shallow pools. Youngsters and teens can also take part in an array of sports and even waterskiing and sailing lessons.
Tennis courts, a nine-hole golf course, morning yoga, pilates classes and a plethora of watersports will keep you busy. When it’s time to wind down, the Six Senses Spa is a destination in itself. It’s a mammoth hillside retreat that has won several awards since opening in 2006, including World’s Best Spa. While the decor feels slightly dated, the facilities are definitely up to par. An array of massages, facials and body treatments are to be expected, but just as pampering is the huge thalassotherapy pool and thermal suite. A thermal journey takes you from sauna to steam room, to the ice cold plunge pool, before culminating in a stunning infinity pool that spans from indoors to outdoors with views out to sea.
My four-night stay wasn’t long enough to try all the restaurants across the three resorts, but I’d happily have eaten at the most recent opening, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, every night. Just opened in 2023, it’s a waterside Italian eatery from the Ferragamo family, with outposts in London, Dubai and Tuscany. I’d typically laugh at the thought of eating Italian food in Greece, but with ingredients this fresh, paired with organic olive oil and wine direct from the Ferragamo family estate, it’s truly delicious.
Another big name restaurant, Sumosan, also opened on the resort as part of the renovations; the sushi and cocktails are fabulous and the glass-bottomed floor even better. Calypso is where breakfast is served each morning, which is a beautiful spread of typical fare alongside Greek specials and the most delectable honey pancakes I’ve ever tried. The resort also has an impressive wine cellar that caters to private dining for up to eight guests.
Elies serves typical Greek dishes beneath the shade of ancient olive trees. Right by the beach, it’s as busy in the day as it is in the night, when it hosts (plate) smashing Opa and Cretan-themed nights. At the sister hotel Elounda Mare, Old Mill is a timeless fine-dining option and The Yacht Club is a stylish spot for local seafood, which of course is in abundant supply.
THE FINAL WORD
Sprawling, secluded, and with ample opportunities for fun, Elounda Resort Peninsula is a delight for couples, families, or solo travellers. The resort will reopen on 15 May 2024 for the summer season.
A Junior Suite Sea View at Elounda Peninsula ranges from €400 (May – October) and €790 (end of July – August). eloundapeninsula.com
Eva Ramirez flew from London Gatwick to Heraklion return, with a carbon footprint of 809kg of CO2e. ecollectivecarbon.com