I have always been a big fan of Greek Mythology, the gods, goddesses, heroes and rituals – so I was in my element to find out that this small peninsula is rumoured to have associations with Hercules, Helen of Troy, Paris and Nestor.
Messinia is in the southwestern corner of the Peloponnese, on the Greek mainland and is surrounded by unspoilt landscapes, stunning beaches and miles of olive groves.
Costa Navarino was founded by Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos, a local who had made money in the shipping industry. He had a vision to create something sustainable and authentically Messinian whilst boosting the local economy of his homeland. Having seen the result with my own eyes, what he has created is simply remarkable.
Costa Navarino opened in 2010 with two five-star luxury resorts; the Westin and the Romanos with another two still in development. They appeal to slightly different markets with the Westin being more family orientated. Only local materials were used to create these architecturally stunning buildings which allow them to remain in keeping with their natural surroundings.
As well as the Costa Navarino, Captain Vassilis also established the Navarino Environmental Observatory which is dedicated to research and education on climate change and the environment of the Mediterranean region.
This passion for the environment continues down by the beach, where guests are asked to leave at six so that the region’s loggerhead turtles can continue to nest by night. The beaches are lit up sensitively so that baby turtles can find their way back to the sea.
Today the destination employs around 1,500 staff, the majority of whom are from the local area. They spoke to us frequently during our stay about the work the Captain had managed to achieve but expressed sadness in the fact he only got to see it completed a year before his death in 2011. His life and work is still very much celebrated and the business is still family run.
There is no doubt about it – this resort is huge! You will see many golf buggies doing their rounds, helping visitors get from place to place, in fact, it’s probably the quickest way to tour the complex.
We stayed at the Westin, where its 445 rooms and suites suit families with children. This was our first family holiday with Leo and, to be honest, I don’t think we could have picked a better hotel.
Our premium infinity room came complete with its own pool overlooking the turquoise Ionian Sea, there was a cot for Leo, a spacious bathroom with shower, bath and double sink plus a huge bed, to which I confess ended up with the three of us in.
The one thing I will say about the resort, is that there isn’t much it doesn’t have. The Westin and the Romanos share 13 eating destinations and four bars and boasts a golf course and spa as well as many activities to partake in.
Geared up for kids, it has its own water park, bowling alley, fast food restaurant and during ‘non Covid’ times a kid’s creche and babysitting service. Leo loved the Water Park although the big kid in me was a little caught out by one of the slides!
Cycle hire is available from Navarino Outdoors located next to the Westin, so during our stay we decided to hire some bikes to visit Voidokilia Beach, nicknamed Omega Beach, nearby. The beach is an area of natural beauty with a bay sheltered from the wind mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, it was assumed the beach was used by King Nestor in ancient Greece.
It was great to hop on a bike again; it has been a while! We had a little trailer for Leo which was perfect for storing equipment and nap time. Next to the beach is Gialova lagoon, a protected nature reserve where you can spot migrating birds such as flamingos.
For the golf lover, Costa Navarino is steadily raising its profile as a prime, sustainable destination in the Med offering a world-class golf experience on two signature golf courses. There are also another two currently under development, scheduled to open for play by spring 2022 and there are golfing packages available, so if this interests you then take a look.
For the more adventurous type there is also a diving centre and water sports on offer including kayaking and kite surfing, the only thing you will struggle with is finding the time to do it all.
Food and drink
As previously mentioned, the Westin shares its bars and restaurants so guests can enjoy a variety of delicious cuisines. Breakfast is served daily at Morias and buffet style Covid measures have been put into place to avoid contact by staff serving you your selection.
Most evenings we dined at Da Luigi, which is the resort’s Italian restaurant. Here, Leo scoffed down his first baby Margarita pizza, whilst we enjoyed fresh fish, truffle risottos and bruschetta. We also really appreciated the local wine from the Navarino vineyards, which was called 1827.
During our stay we were invited to the farm to table experience. Messinia’s rich soil and favourable climate prompted the playwriter Euripides to name it ‘the land of the good fruit.’ It was such a treat to be able to pick our own food from the vine, collect it in a basket, and then have it prepared and cooked for us whilst we watched and enjoyed the countryside, listening to the sounds of the crickets. There was definitely more food served to us than what we picked, so we did not go hungry.
If the countryside is not your thing, then a visit to Flame could be an option, this restaurant overlooks the luscious green golf course. The name says it all – here you can eat locally sourced meats and fresh fish, and there is also a good vegetarian menu. The terrace is a beautiful setting to watch the sun set whilst sharing a Flame salad and sipping on a delicate white wine.
Barbouni was a favourite of mine, it is the beachside restaurant but only open until 6pm to avoid disturbing the turtles. Designed by architecture firm K-Studio, Barbouni, it features one of the coolest ceilings I have ever seen and was mesmerised by the sails, especially when a gust of wind blew through.
It is meant to represent the waves on a beach and offers rhythm to the restaurant, just like breathing. The architects’ aim was to create a multi-sensory architecture that sits in harmony with the environment, creating an exciting, sociable atmosphere. I absolutely loved it here, and that’s even before we tasted any of the food.
Being on the beach, you can select your own fish and lobster, my husband enjoyed black squid ink spaghetti with fresh scallops in their shells and prawns, whist I tucked into deep fried courgette balls admiring Leo with his rather messy spaghetti and tomato sauce.
Service is at an impeccably high standard across all restaurants, there was no difference between them, whether you were private dining or dining in the main restaurants, staff are all friendly, helpful and seem very happy in their work.
Please can I go back? It’s a resort that not only promotes Greek culture, but everything feels like five-star luxury. As a first family holiday it was perfect, Leo has just turned one which means he is now old enough to dine with us, experience the activities and splash in the hotel’s many pools.
Travelling with Covid was a concern but we made our own risk assessments and stayed safe by taking all the precautions we could. Before entering the resort we all had our temperatures taken and all staff wore masks and gloves at all times. There were plenty of sanitising stations, but to be honest escaping there felt a little safer than in many places of the UK.
I love Costa Navarino and everything it stands for; I genuinely can see me and my family returning for another special and memorable family holiday. We even managed to bump into a couple of celebrity ‘Love Islanders’ who were also enjoying the Westin resort.
The resort is around 180 miles (three hours) from Athens airport, and 26 miles (one hour) from Kalamata airport. We travelled from London Gatwick to Kalamata, although two days later than planned as EasyJet overbooked our flight, but I can tell you confidently as soon as we arrived at the resort the stress of the journey quickly dispersed!
Address: Costa, Navarino Dunes Messinia, Pilos 240 01, Greece
Phone: +30 2723 095000
Check out my YouTube channel to watch videos throughout my stay