7km of white sandy beaches, a private yacht marina, 24 restaurants and mind-blowing facilities – is Sani Resort the best family resort in the Med?
Trying to find a luxury hotel that caters equally for adults and children is a challenge. That perfect balance of kids entertainment (without the noisy pool games) and great family restaurants (without the obligatory pizza and nuggets) is not easy to find. Don’t get me wrong, my kids eat pizza and chicken nuggets at home, but when I am spending my hard-earned cash on a five-star hotel, I like to see quality food on the kids menu.
According to TripAdvisor, Sani Resort is one of the Top 10 Hotels for Families in the World, one of the Top 5 Hotels for Families in Europe and the Top Hotel for Families in Greece – they are some achievements!
I heard of Sani Resort’s superb reputation when I was a travel agent, and wanted to visit for many years, but until recently there were no direct flights from Ireland. Thankfully Ryanair made Sani Resort much more accessible, with direct flights to Thessaloniki from Dublin Airport. Best4Travel are one of the top sellers of Sani Resort in Ireland and were invited to see the resort first-hand. Luckily for me, I was invited too, and I tagged along with a group of travel agents for the weekend.
The airport transfer set the tone. The 10-seater minibus had sparkling wine, as well as a large TV screen showing us spectacular drone footage of Sani Resort, which is located on a 1000-acre private estate. There are five different hotels: Sani Beach, Sani Club, Sani Dunes, Porto Sani, and the top of the range Sani Asterias. Each offers a different experience and is furnished with its own unique style, although all hotels are located close together. It was great to be able to see footage of the vast resort from above, and see the location and facilities of Sani Beach Hotel, where we were staying. The excitement was building…
The WOW factor kicked in the minute we arrived at Sani Beach Hotel. We didn’t have the usual queue to check-in at reception, instead we were invited to relax in the lobby with a glass of bubbly, while we filled out our details on the check-in forms. A few minutes later one of the friendly staff arrived with our room keys.
I was staying in a standard room, which I felt was just average compared to the luxury of the resort in general, but adequate nonetheless. It did, however, have a fabulous sea view. I looked out from my balcony, gazing at the colour of the sea, the golden sandy beaches and the surrounding mountains – the view was stunning.
I have been to Greece many times, but this felt completely different. In fact this could be seen as a negative if you are specifically looking for a Greek-style holiday – not for me though! I felt like I was in the Caribbean, and not Barbados or one of the larger islands, more like a small paradise island like Tobago or one of the Grenadines. The combination of the lush green pine forests and the turquoise sea is stunning – the Sani Peninsula is a piece of paradise.
We were staying for two days. We spent one day touring the five hotels (see below) and the second simply enjoying our surroundings. The sense of wonder never left me. Everywhere I went the service was impeccable. There was someone standing at the beach handing you a fresh towel every day, no fumbling for towel tokens. There is a complimentary Babewatch system, where you can leave your child with qualified staff at the beach, while you and your partner pop in for a quick swim, or enjoy a walk on the beach – without having to book a crèche session. There are adult-only pools, children’s splash pools and a host of facilities for adults and children of all ages.
The Dine Around system (more below) is the best I have seen, and the restaurants have separate toddlers and kids menus. Everywhere I looked there was a stylish bar with sea views – probably because there are 19 of them! There is waiter service while you sunbathe at the beach and an ice-cream van touring the resort offering children free ice creams. Sani Resort anticipate your every whim.
Sani Resort have various boat trips available, but a morning cruise is one that is included in the price of your stay. Needless to say we didn’t let this opportunity pass us by, and set off early morning for a cruise around the Sani Peninsula. The views were spectacular and the Aegean Sea was crystal clear. The boat docked for an hour to allow us to time to swim and take in the views. It was perfection.
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When we arrived back, we all retreated to our favourite parts of the resort. Mine was Bousoulas Beach, a 5km stretch of white sand – it must be one of the best beaches in Greece. I enjoyed some alone time there, sunbathing and swimming before retiring to Bousoulas Beach Bar. This all-white bar overlooking the sea is the picture perfect beach bar. I watched the sunset with cocktails in hand – it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
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Dining at Sani Resort:
With a staggering 24 restaurants to choose from, it is easy to see why people rarely leave Sani Resort during their stay. Not only is the choice of dining options so vast, but the quality of food is superb. Many menus were curated by Michelin star chefs and many restaurants hold international and national awards. Sani Resort’s gastronomy flagship Water Restaurant, had its menu curated by three-Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco, while the menu at Japanese restaurant Katsu was curated by Katsuhiko Hanamure, of Nobu fame.
There are restaurants in each of the five hotels as well as a great selection at Sani Marina. We dined at Vosporos Grill at the marina and it felt like an independent restaurant, rather than part of a hotel. There are Mediterranean, Italian, French, Asian and Greek restaurants, all beautifully furnished in their own unique style, and most with stunning sea views.
The Sani Dine Around programme allows you to dine in 22 restaurants throughout the resort as part of the half-board or full-board arrangement. Each restaurant has a set-menu that is part of this dine-around arrangement, but if you wish to choose from the à la carte menu, a meal allowance of €20 – €40 per person, depending on which hotel you are staying in, will be deducted from your bill.
We enjoyed delicious buffets, a tasty lunch at the marina and an impressive dinner at Ammos Restaurant, but it was nothing compared to the gastronomic feast we had at The Grill by the Pool Restaurant, in Sani Beach Hotel – it brought the meaning of ‘surf and turf’ to a whole new level! As well as the delicious quinoa, beetroot and goat’s cheese starter, I enjoyed a massive tomahawk steak with juicy lobster and the largest king prawns I have ever seen.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, one of their signature desserts, Armenoville, was placed in front of me. One of my colleagues had visited before, and told me it was the best dessert he ever tasted, so I had to give it a try… This ice-cream-type-cake with nougat and chocolate reminded me of an ice-cream white chocolate Toblerone. It was delicious – if you are visiting Sani Resort, you have to try it.
Entertainment at Sani Resort:
As well as the sports facilities listed below, there are group activities organised during the day, such as bird watching in the Sani Wetlands, morning cruises and wine tasting trips. Each hotel has its own spa too, offering thermal suites, various treatments and fitness classes.
There are some great evening entertainment options too. The open-air Garden Theatre shows West End-style productions six nights a week, and the choice of 19 bars ensures you can try a different one each night, and still not visit them all! Internationally recognised DJs will let you dance the night away, or if you fancy a more relaxed vibe, you can find live music in many of the bars and restaurants.
Sports Facilities at Sani Resort:
Sani Resort is one of the world’s top family resorts, so kids clubs, entertainment and sports activities are a given. What sets Sani Resort apart is the quality of these facilities. Sani Resort doesn’t just have tennis courts and football courts. Sani has a tennis academy in collaboration with Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre, and a UEFA-approved soccer pitch with football coaching sessions, in association with Chelsea Football Club. Children can enjoy a football camp with qualified coaches in various camps ranging from age four to sixteen years, and a Chelsea FC Foundation kit is given to all attendees.
I spoke to the coaches at the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre and was amazed to learn that they were flown to Spain, where they trained for a month with Rafa Nadal’s coaches, before opening the centre in Sani Resort. They use many of the same techniques when coaching, and lessons are available to adults and children, both private or group lessons.
Sani Resort also has a KTM bike club, using the Fat Bike and Go-Pro cameras, and a PADI Scuba Diving Centre offering many diving opportunities, including shipwreck diving.
Many activities are free of charge including the Sani Adventure Park, with high ropes and zip lines, archery, aerobics, hiking and paddle-board yoga. Selected sports such as waterskiing, catamaran, canoeing, parasailing etc incur extra charges, as well as the soccer camp, tennis lessons and diving.
TOP TIP: Pre book all kids clubs, soccer and tennis camps before you arrive.
Kids Clubs at Sani Resort:
Sani Resort has kids clubs for children aged 4-11 years and a separate teen club for 12-17 year olds. There is no extra charge for the kids club, but it MUST be pre-booked. I was shocked to hear of families who had paid a lot of money to come to Sani Resort, but couldn’t use the kids clubs because they were booked out. As well as the usual arts and crafts and mini discos, you can expect Olympic games, kids aerobics, banana boats, gymnastics and organised excursions.
Baby & Toddler Facilities at Sani Resort:
Babies and toddles are very well catered for at Sani Resort. The Sani Crèche Club is available for children aged 4 months – 4 years. Lunch is provided and is free for children under two years. This must also be booked in advance and an extra charge applies.
Bottle warmers, sterilisers and baby phones are supplied free of charge to your room, just advise your travel agent at the time of booking that you require them. There are special baby, toddler and children’s menus at most restaurants, and buggies, bikes and trikes are available for hire. As previously mentioned, the Babewatch babysitting programme is complimentary on all beaches for 30 minutes each day. There are also baby swimming lessons from age 6 months – 4 years (extra charge) available at the indoor pool in Sani Club.
Sani Resort – What is the difference between all five Sani Resort hotels?
We were brought on a full tour of the five hotels in Sani Resort, so we could fully assess the differences between each one. All hotels are 5-star but all are built in their own unique style. Each hotel has a choice of restaurants, bars, swimming pools and its own spa. I felt the decor in Sani Club was a little dated, but we were told it was being completely renovated during the winter time! Sani Resort only opens from April – October each year, so all refurbishments and new amenities are added during the winter. Everywhere is freshly painted and gardens are fully maintained, so you will never see work being carried out during your stay.
Sani Beach Hotel:
This is the largest of all Sani Hotels (392 rooms) and one of the lowest in price. This is where we stayed and I would very happily stay here again if I was to return with my family. I loved its proximity to Sani Resort’s best beach – Bousoulas Beach. There are also two other beaches, four restaurants, six bars, plenty of entertainment and a spa on-site. As well as standard double rooms, there are junior suites and one- and two-bedroom family suites, with various views and locations throughout the resort. It is the liveliest hotel of the group and not as exclusive as the others – perhaps that is the reason for the lower price point.
Sani Club is a little more discrete than Sani Beach. It is still a large hotel, with 253 rooms, although it is located on a hillside, a little further away from the other hotels. Rooms are more spacious here and they have a great selection of garden bungalows too. There are three bars, four restaurants, and a superb fitness studio with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the sea.
This is an all-suite hotel, located right beside Sani Marina, so it’s the best choice if you are holidaying as a couple – or if you happen to have your own private yacht! Actually it has some great family suites too, but it is more suited to families who are looking for relaxed elegant surroundings. It has a feel of a private club, with only 99 rooms. There is an adult-only pool here, and you also have access to the Sani Suite Collection service.
Sani Dunes is Sani Resort’s newest hotel. It was built in 2017 and has 146 rooms. It actually felt brand new when I walked inside, with contemporary and stylish decor. Although this was my personal favourite, it felt almost felt like an adult-only resort – I didn’t see many children splashing about in the pool area. It has the largest heated swimming pool in Greece that comes with luxurious mattresses and king-size umbrellas. There are three restaurants, three bars and a state-of-the-art spa.
Sani Asterias is the most exclusive of all Sani Hotels. With just 57 private suites, a private beach and home to the famous Water Restaurant – this is the place to go if you can afford it. We saw the three-bedroom deluxe suite with private pool and all I can say is WOW! Can I sell my house tomorrow and move in? The furnishings are exquisite, there is a walk-in-wardrobe, a TV that pops out of a table at the end of the master bed, the private swimming pool is enormous, and as for the bath…
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Is Sani Resort worth the expensive price-tag?
Sani Resort is without a doubt the best family-resort I have been to in Europe. There is a reason it has been voted one of the top 10 hotels for families in the world – it really is that good! If I had the means, it would, without a shadow of a doubt, be my go-to place for a week in the sun every summer. It has everything I could possibly wish for. It felt like I was somewhere exotic, yet was only a short flight away from Dublin Airport.
Yes it is expensive, and it is certainly not for everyone. The prices in low-season are better value, and there is an early booking offer with free upgrade to full-board, which is worth looking at. However, it is not the type of place you visit if you are price conscious. It is a top-class resort in a beautiful setting, with amazing facilities and superb dining options. If this is what you seek, then book it, you won’t be disappointed.
Where to book Sani Resort:
I travelled with Best4Travel, who were invited because of the level of business they give Sani Resort. They have rates up to 20% lower than what you will find by booking directly with Sani Resort. Eight of their staff travelled on the trip so have first-hand knowledge of all the hotels and will be able to recommend the right hotel for you. Call them on 1800 814 000 or visit their website for more details.