At the beginning of the summer I escaped to Costa Navarino in the Greek region of Messinia for a few days. The resort (though it is much more than ‘just’ a resort) is perfect to experience Greek culture and gastronomy, in a rustic yet luxurious environment that is naturally integrated in the natural surroundings.
Costa Navarino features two 5-star hotels (The Romanos and The Westin), a spa, two golf courses, a private beach, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and over 20 restaurants. As a holiday destination, it appeals to couples of all ages as well as families with young children.
We were in Costa Navarino for a long weekend packed with activities, from cycling to spa, from wine tasting to cooking class. I would highly recommend booking a stay of at least a whole week.
Costa Navarino is not just for people who want to lay on the beach all day long. They offer a wide range of outdoor activities and sports such as mountain-biking through wetlands and climbing up the path to Nestor’s Cave.
Of course, there is golf! Costa Navarino offers a world-class golf experience with two 18-hole signature courses. The Dunes Course is open to runners in the early morning and in the evening. I took advantage of it to go for a 5k run with spectacular sea views.
My husband and I hired bicycles and cycled to Voidokilia Beach, which was a fantastic way to spend a day outside the resort.
Costa Navarino opened in 2010, bringing to life a dream project by founder Vassilis Constantakopoulos, known as the ‘Captain’.
Constantakopoulos spent thirty years working on the development and construction of Costa Navarino, driven by a genuine desire to protect, preserve and promote the region and cultural heritage of Messinia.
Sustainability is important for me and I was pleased to learn that is is highly valued at Costa Navarino too. They strive to minimise the use of natural resources and preserve the local biodiversity.
Two water reservoirs were constructed to meet the irrigation needs of the resort. An extensive recycling program for paper, plastics, glass, used oil, batteries and organic waste is in place.
How To Get There
Costa Navarino is located on the Ionian coast in south west Peloponnese, in a beautiful and unspoilt landscape. It is easy to reach from Kalamata airport (about 1h drive). Aegean Airlines offers daily flights from London Heathrow to Athens. It takes around 3 to 3 1/2 hours from the airport and the taxi transfer costs approximately €280 (one way).
The Romanos Hotel
We stayed at The Romanos, a Luxury Collection hotel, which built to resembles the ancient Greek palaces of this area. The building features white marble columns, open-air spaces, mosaic floors, high ceilings and water fountains.
We stayed in one of the suites with private infinity pools overlooking the golf course and olive groves (there are also suites with sea views). Our room was bigger than a studio flat in London!
The suite is divided into bathroom, bedroom and living area, with a large outdoor patio. The room was furnished with elegant dark wood items and a gorgeous marble desk.
The bathroom was spacious, with separate toilet and shower rooms, plus a bathtub overlooking the bedroom (there are sliding panel for privacy). I also loved when bathrooms have two sinks, so I don’t have to argue with my husband about who can use it first. The range of bathroom amenities is from Costa Navarino Anazoe Spa.
The 4,000m² Anazoe Spa is a unique wellness destination in this Greek region, offering a full range of beauty and relaxation treatments.
There is a high density saltwater pool which helps to deeply nourish the skin and alleviate dry skin conditions. And also two Thalassotherapy warm pools with hydrotherapy jets to stimulate the muscles. I had a lovely 60-minute facial, followed by a session in the pools and steam room, which was incredibly relaxing.
The Dunes is a private beach with soft golden sand and turquoise water. Apart from a restaurant and a few rows of sunbeds and umbrellas, the beach is mostly wild and unspoilt. Every evening before sunset the beach is closed (no lights are on) to protect the local wildlife, particularly the turtles who build their nests on the beach. The protection program of Caretta sea turtles is a cooperation between Costa Navarino and “Archelon”, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.
Dining in Costa Navarino
Costa Navarino offers many dining options to satisfy all tastes and cravings. Some restaurants are part of the two hotels (but open to all guests) while other are located in the Agora, the market place, the heart of the resort.
There are casual or fine dining restaurants, pool bars and cafés, a souvlakerie, an ice-cream parlour, several boutiques, a wine cellar and even a church.
We loved Barbouni beach bar and seafood restaurant, where we ate freshly caught fish complemented by a glass of fruity 1827 Rosé Syrah wine by Navarino Vineyards.
The vineyards are located in a hilly area covering 55 hectares and planted with a range of varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay. The grapes are harvested by hand and pressed at the winery in October every year.
Wine tours and tasting experiences are available all year long. If you visit during harvesting months, you can also take part to the harvest, which I am sure would be a lot of fun!
We had a tour of the vineyards with the Navarino winemaker and sommelier, followed by a wine tasting of the 1827 label (named so after the historic Battle of Navarino). The 1827 Chardonnay white wine was my favourite and I was happy to discover it is sold in UK as well.
One fact I love about Costa Navarino is that only 10% of the total land area has been built. The majority of the land (90%) is dedicated to natural and planted greenery. Guests really get a feeling of being immersed in the natural Greek landscape.
The region of Messinia is well know for Kalamata olives which are used to produce one of the world’s best cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil. 16,000 olive trees were removed from an existing olive grove and replanted in the Navarino Dunes to preserve the location’s natural beauty. The Costa Navarino olive oil has a perfect balance of fruitiness, bitterness and spices so it complements any kind of ingredients, but it’s also delicious on its own.
We tasted the olive oil with traditional homemade Messinian dishes at Taverna, a Greek restaurant in the Agora.
I love Greek food and I was happy to eat so much of it in Costa Navarino. At Flame restaurant I tasted talagani for the first time, a cheese speciality from the region of Gargaliani. It similar to Cypriot halloumi, though talagani is made entirely with sheep’s milk (rather than a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s).
Flame is specialised in grill dishes made with locally sourced meat and fresh fish. The herbs and vegetables come from the restaurant’s gardens.
We had breakfast every morning at Pero restaurant at The Romanos hotel, choosing from an extensive buffet featuring continental dishes as well as Greek produce. I became obsessed with all the sesame seed, pistachios and honey biscuits on offer.
Greek Cooking Experience
I still can’t believe we managed to pack so many activities in Costa Navarino in just a few days, but yew we did and we also attended a cooking class! I absolutely loved the experience, as you can imagine.
I learnt how to make fresh Greek pasta noodles (hylopites): the dough is stretched very VERY finely and then sliced in strips that are cooked in boiling water for a few minutes.
The pasta is served with fresh mizirithra cheese and cinnamon. It is a sweet and savoury dish that is delicious. Just look at this wonderful Greek lunch spread!
As you can tell, I had a great time in Costa Navarino and I would highly recommend is as a luxury holiday destination. The resort is impressive and their commitment to sustainability and preserving the territory is to be admired. There is a lot to love about Costa Navarino, primarily the vast choice of outdoor activities, experiences and dining options.
I would also say that a resort of this size is not the right choice for everyone. Despite having beautiful small areas for guests to have intimate holiday experiences, the fact remains that Costa Navarino is huge. I used a golf buggy to get around and save 10 minutes walking from one point to the other. There are thousands of guests, so the resort feels more like a small village than a hotel at times.
Costa Navarino is an all-year round destination. With average temperature of 20-25°C in October-November, there is still plenty time to enjoy the last bit of summer in Greece!
Rates at The Westin Resort Costa Navarino start from €190 off-peak season, and from €345 in peak season. Rates at The Romanos Hotel start from €335 off-peak season, and from €430 in peak season. For further information and reservations visit www.costanavarino.com. Prices are for a deluxe garden view room on a bed and breakfast basis, based on availability.
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Costa Navarino as part of a press trip. All opinions are my own.