Were you taken in by the romantic Greek backdrop in Before Midnight, starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? Are you looking for a luxury beach resort in Europe that is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and sleepy towns worth exploring? The Romanos Resort in Messinia may be exactly what you are looking for. Home to the famous Kalamata olives, juicy watermelons and sweet figs, the fertile region was rightfully named as the land ‘of good fruit’ by an ancient Greek god.
Costa Navarino is a large tourism development project – promoting its (disputed) environmental credentials – by a Greek tycoon and its first two sister properties are Starwood hotels. The Romanos mainly caters to people looking for a quiet and luxurious getaway while its neighbor, the Westin, serves families and more active travellers. Guests staying at both properties can use each other’s facilities.
Nevertheless, The Romanos resort area retains an intimate feel about it and doesn’t feel crowded. Except during the weekend when Athens’ socialites seem to flock to the hotel, but even then this is only noticeable at breakfast. The rooms (we stayed in the deluxe) are spacious, and freshly decorated in shades of crème and turquoise. The infinity pool rooms were right below our balcony and therefore didn’t have any privacy so would not recommend you book those (also reducing your water footprint).
While the common pool area is pretty spectacular, the real draw for us was the golden sand beach. Without any neighbors in sight the resort seems to have the whole beach to itself, which is very clean as a result, and lovely for sunset strolls. There are more than plenty of lounge chairs so no need to worry about them running out or people reserving theirs before breakfast. Barbouni, the perfectly designed beachfront café, is excellent for some fresh fish or a Greek salad for lunch. The only downside is that it is closed for dinner.
There are plenty of other restaurant options within the Costa Navarino resort, I think there are more than ten, but as is expected they are on the expensive side. Several of them are housed in the main square connecting The Romanos with Westin, and this is where it becomes obvious that you are, in fact, in a large corporate resort. Time to get in your rental car and explore the neighborhood.
Off the road heading to Gialova you will see a few signs, follow them to 4Thalasses and Ammothines. The first serves a good hamburger and looked like a spot for evening drinks, maybe even dancing. On the next beach, Petrochori, is cute Ammothines. It has a cosy, open-air setting with thatched umbrellas and their own vegetable garden separating their terrace from the beach. Go for a sundowner and their fresh calamari! They also have loungers in case you are looking for a place to hang out on the beach.
Gialova, the next village over, is a nice surprise. It has a small waterfront promenade with a few restaurants and shops. At the end is Aplo Bistro. Owned and managed by a young couple from Athens, it has a downplayed metropolitan flair to it. Free WIFI, a shelf of travel guides and a small international menu, this is the place to come on a cloudy day. At the beginning of the promenade is Ionis, a nice taverna to enjoy a delicious traditional Greek meal while listening to the waves lap against the pier.
The weekly Saturday-morning market in Pylos is a good reason to visit this quaint town, which is also the setting for Ethan and Julie’s late night make-up scene, and the largest of the area. Take a stroll around the square, stop for a coffee and walk up to the pretty Greek church.
If you continue south on route 9 for about 10 km you run into picturesque Methoni. It is home to the remains of a Venetian fortress, which juts out into the Ionian Sea. There are various eateries on the main square and a seafood restaurant, Agrokiali, on the beach (to the right), which looked like a pretty ideal place for lunch.
Voidokilia beach is a perfect crescent-shaped cove, with the Gialova Lagoon on its other side, and another great spot to view the sunset (BYO drinks). Apparently The Romanos has a good bike tour there, which we, unfortunately, missed. We did make it out by car, don’t worry, that dirt track is indeed the right way there. Be warned, when night falls the mosquitos come out in swarms!
Two last tips to top off your stay at The Romanos: enjoy a sunset cocktail to the sounds of their live saxophonist at the Anax Terrace and splurge for a superb steak at Flame. But the real the attraction of Costa Navarino is that it enables you to have a luxury beach retreat without being bound to the resort. Thanks to its wonderful Messenian neighbors there is plenty of enjoying to do in the area.
The Romanos, A Luxury Collection Hotel (by Starwood)
Either fly into Kalamata or Athens. From the first it is about a 45 minutes drive and from Athens there is now a new highway, which should take about 3 ½ hours. Perhaps worth considering to combine your trip with a few days in Athens?