Lizard-like I find myself outstretched on a beach chair, wriggling as it settles into the fine white sand at its feet. The sun kisses my back as soothing music from Buddha Bar Beach hums in the distance. I am in what can only be described as a state of pure bliss at Santa Marina Mykonos.
We had only driven through the Santa Marina Mykonos gates an hour before and I was already drifting off to sleep in the sun before lunch time. I notice I’m not alone. Other guests are overcome by the same feeling of relaxation – some lay in slumber in shaded day beds while others slowly wade into the calm blue waters near our feet. Up at the bar, a table of guests erupts with laughter as they order another bottle of soft pink rose and sparkling wine. Time appears to be standing still. I soon learn, that’s the way things work in Mykonos and that’s what they aim to achieve at Santa Marina, with great success.
Arriving at Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort is like stepping into an entirely different world from busy Mykonos town, just ten minutes away. The resort is, without doubt, one of the most special properties we have ever stayed at. Santa Marina is a part of the fabric of Mykonos. It has been owned and run by the Papageorgiou family for more than two decades. After the passing of her father, Christiana Papageorgiou took the reigns and has just completed a three-year, multi-million dollar renovation of the resort. The result is incredible.
The secluded property covers more than 70 acres of prime land on the peninsula in Ornos Bay. It’s southerly aspect means it is protected from the strong winds from the north (that give Mykonos its nickname as the Island of the Winds). In true Cycladic architectural fashion, the resort’s white washed buildings nestle into the hillside. The layout is clever; leisure and relaxation spaces are staggered from reception, down to the large, open lap pool on the cape and so on, until you reach the sand. Santa Marina is also the only resort on Mykonos with a private beach.
At the beach, you’ll generally only be joined on the sand by a few guests staying on super yachts that pull up anchor in Ornos Bay. Otherwise, the resort keeps the front gates tightly monitored. All of these varied spaces ensure there’s more than enough space for guests to spread out and relax without feeling overwhelmed by others. So it’s no surprise Santa Marina has long been a favourite destination for celebrities and the jet-set crowd. Richard Branson, Oliver Stone, Harrison Ford, and Denzel Washington and football star Ronaldo have all stayed at the hotel and the more than half of the resort’s clientele are returning guests.
Pure Luxury Overlooking Ornos Bay
There are 101 rooms (some with their own pools), including 11 luxury private villas. Every room in the resort has been designed to take advantage of views of the stunning South Aegean sea blues. We stayed in a Superior Sea View room. I’ll be honest, when I stepped into our room, I absolutely wished I could have transported the entire room, including every design detail, back home. It’s evident every style element brought in with the multi-million dollar makeover has been carefully thought through. From furniture and linens made from natural fibres to the decorative details that bring the ocean indoors, the room and the wider living spaces are at the same time elegant and comfortable. So comfortable in fact that I am slightly ashamed to say I went to have a nap on our first afternoon at Santa Marina and woke up 16 hours later (no wonder I want to ship that bed home!).
Our room was decked out with everything you would expect from a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel; a king sized bed dressed with top of the line linens (obviously they were a hit), a work space, television, minibar, Nespresso machine, walk-in wardrobe with dressing area and luggage hold, a large bathroom with monsoon shower head, hand carved wooden basin, stone vanity and delicious Acqua di Parma products, and of course a personal favourite, the nightly turn down service. It lives up to both the respected Santa Marina name and the coveted Luxury Collection label.
My favourite part of the room was the terrace. Big enough to hold a decent sized yoga class on, sun loungers sat at one end and a cosy table and chairs at the other. We spent a lot of time watching helicopters drop off guests on the headland, boats navigating the coastline and of course the magnificent Mykonos sunsets.
Aegean Fine Dining
Colonial Pool Restaurant & Bar
A stroll down the stairs from your room and you’ll start your day at Colonial Pool Restaurant & Bar. Serving up a buffet breakfast poolside, grab a table towards the end of the bar for a full view of Ornos Bay too. Comfortable cane chairs, great coffee and a huge, healthy breakfast spread (eggs, green smoothies and coffees made to order, fresh baked pastries and breads, smoked salmon, local cured meats, cheese and yoghurt. The list goes on), often anchored us at the restaurant for hours in the morning. How could you possibly get motivated to leave a spot like that? It was perfection. The restaurant also offers Mediterranean style lunch by the pool if you can tear yourself away from your day bed.
Buddha Bar Beach
Buddha Bar is synonymous with experiential drinking and dining. Buddha Bar Beach at Santa Marina Mykonos, is the world’s first beachside Buddha Bar; Picture world-class mixologists designing your cocktails from the best pours and fresh fruits, herbs and spices, a world-class chef creating dishes that look as beautiful as they are delicious, while a world-class DJ plays a chill-out set on the decks, all while you sit just footsteps from the sand. It paints a pretty special and uniquely holistic dining experience.
During the day, guests wander up for a reprieve from the sun in search of a refreshing drink, coffee or a snack. With sandy feet they get comfortable in the cushioned chairs with the perfect vantage point for a little people watching and a view over the beach beds to the sand and sea. Most settle in for the afternoon as the beach club gets busier and the music a little louder (just a little). The staff are friendly and playful and help set a relaxed, casual vibe.
The lunch menu caters consciously to the healthy traveller – with green smoothies and juices to help preempt a few night time wines, delicious and allergy friendly selections from seafood to simple salads. We ordered salads to our loungers for a beach picnic – a Greek Salad (with melt-in-your-mouth feta cheese, olives, capers, sweet tomatoes and cucumber), and a Quinoa Salad (with avocado, fresh mint, goji berries and cherry tomatoes). A cool coffee frappe to finish and we were full and satisfied, without any guilt.
For dinner, Buddha Bar Restaurant makes use of the abundant local seafood, serving up perfectly prepared sushi and Asian fusion dishes. We got down to the restaurant early to watch the sunset over the bay while we ate. The restaurant sits perched on the hillside above the beach club so the view extends out across the beach to the sea. It’s a lovely time of the day to be down at the bay – there’s no one left at the beach (only a few boats in the bay) and the restaurant was nice and quiet. We chose the spicy tuna maki roll, some fresh salmon sashimi, steamed bream Asian style and Black Pepper Wok fried Beef. We couldn’t resist trying a sake with the meal too.
Things to do at Santa Marina Mykonos
The best way to spend your mornings at Santa Marina is to simply relax on a beach bed on the sand. The beach club setting is the ideal place to catch up on your holiday reading, flick through a magazine or newspaper and of course if you’re brought the office with you in the form of a laptop there’s wifi on the sand.
There are also two pools at the resort; the upper pool which is great for those who want a bit more space to splash out or as a workout destination for your morning laps in. The other pool sits next to Colonial Pool Restaurant and Bar. It’s there you can absorb the beauty of the panorama during a dip. It’s also located just around the corner from the Kids Club in case you need to check in on the family.
The truth is you’ll find it difficult to leave the resort grounds. But that’s where the staff can help. If you want to take a boat tour around the coast, they can organise a boat that will pick you up on the jetty.
We decided at the very last minute that we would spend a day exploring the island by car. Within 30 minutes, the hotel had arranged car hire for us (at a very reasonable rate), the car hire company had the car on site, we’d signed the paperwork and we were driving out the gates with several great tips for towns and restaurants to visit from the front desk. With valet parking we simply handed over the keys on our return. That is just one example of the level of service we experienced during our stay. Incredible!
The Lotus Spa
The Lotus Spa is where you’ll go for anything from a facial or nail touch up to a Turkish Bath or a massage with your better half. Massages are also available closer to the sand in the Beach Spa Room so you can peek at the water while you drift off to sleep.
Stay Active at Santa Marina Mykonos
We started each day at the Fitness Centre for a morning workout. The space has been designed as a multi-functional studio for circuit style training, including a treadmill, power plate and free weights at one end and top of the line cardio equipment at the other (treadmills, cross-trainers and stepper).
For those who prefer to sweat it out in the water, the lap pool is a great place to get moving in the morning. You’ll most likely have it to yourself and you’ll beat the strong summer sun if you dive in before breakfast. If you’re a tennis fan a full sized court is at your disposal with floodlights for a late afternoon match up. SUP and kayaking off the jetty is also a great way to cool off. The hotel can help meet any fitness needs from equipment to trainers or coaches. They have a strong focus on both wellness and service which is great for anyone trying to maintain their training habits on holidays.
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Santa Marina for this stay. As always, the opinions, images and words are authentically our own
Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.