I barely noticed the trip to Messini; you see, the new motorway that takes you to Kalamata with tunnels, overpasses, and also many tolls, makes it comfortable and easy, though I must say that the curves of the last part are tricky. But not too tricky, because by the time you’ve had enough, you’ve reached Costa Navarino.


The neat golf courses among the olive trees are the first to welcome guests. Seeing them made me think, for a moment, about wearing white trousers, a polo shirt, and a hat, and taking a gold-club to go golfing. But as soon as I saw the hotel ahead of me, I completely forgot about it. Beautiful two-and three-story buildings appeared among the greenery, in total harmony with the surrounding environment. In fact I learned that the trees that were uprooted to build the hotel have been slowly replanted around the grounds of the resort. My room was at the Westin. Large, spacious, and fully equipped, with a huge bathroom – I really enjoyed the bathtub – and a balcony overlooking the sea. I did feel a bit jealous of the small, cute pool of my downstairs neighbours, but with the Ionian sea so close, it was a ‘blow’ I could take. The Westin is more family-oriented than its neighbour, the simple and modern Romanos. It’s a bit louder, more cheerful, more alive. And if you head towards the waterslides, the laughter and the happy voices of the young visitors will surely make you smile. And be jealous of their age that permits them to enjoy the water and the slides – I know I was. But, for us, the ‘more experienced’ ones, there is the Anazoe Spa, perhaps the largest spa I’ve ever come across in a hotel. Over 4.000 m² in size, it’s a pampering paradise where you can spend countless hours of relaxation.

However, Costa Navarino has 21 restaurants, bars, and lounges, enough to cater to all needs. Of course, during a two-day visit one can’t try them all, but you can get a good idea about what’s on offer here. And I can tell you: it’s good. To begin with, regardless of the philosophy of each restaurant, what the land has to offer has been fully utilized, and the resort uses local products and collaborates with local producers, reinvesting in the area. We must not forget that Costa Navarino was one of the first places in Greece to implement a “Farm-to-Table” philosophy. They also have their own vegetable garden that keeps growing and becoming more varied, which provides vegetables, fruit, and herbs. And of course, you can visit said vegetable garden.

During the two days I was at Costa Navarino I had the time to visit four of the restaurants. The first I visited was Barbouni, which is literally on the beach. Apart from the simple wooden design (by K-Studio Architects) what will impress you is the floaty fabric roof that creates the illusion of waves. This year, chef Panagiotis Tziourtzioumis is in the kitchen, and he has created a menu of mostly seafood. The yellowtail ceviche with green apple, agretti, avocado and chili made an impression for being pleasantly sour and spicy, as did the marinated anchovies served with wild greens, crumbled carob, and yuzu oil, as well as the fried squid – a great summer mezze to have with wine. The crawfish orzo with light but flavourful seafood bisque was also interesting.

Perovino offered a different and quite interesting concept. There, Costa Navarino’s executive chef, Thanasis Karathanasis, playfully approaches Greek flavours and recipes in dishes that are served all together, as if it were a Sunday family meal. The salads were more than lavish, the Greek salad even included a whole small loaf of bread; the meatballs are served with a sun-dried tomato sauce and grilled volaki cheese from Andros, while the Sifnos revithada (traditional chickpea stew) is served with octopus, the spanakorizo (traditional dish with spinach and rice) turns into a risotto with a variety of herbs and berries (I thought this was a great idea) and the lamb shank that just melts off the bone is served with a delicious mushroom fricassee.

I also spent a night at Onuki, the Asian restaurant above the spa. The cosmopolitan air and the nice view make for a pleasant setting. Chef Stamatis Skriapas oversees the kitchen and with his team they’ve created a menu with balanced dishes and tasty sushi.

The truth is, that night I was overzealous with the rolls, but I must mention the Wagyu beef that was grilled to perfection, quite juicy and all you need to do is add some coarse salt.

I saved my visit to Kooc Taverna Secrets, run this year by talented chef Giannis Parikos, for last. I’ve had many meals prepared by Giannis and, to be honest, I’m fond of his cooking. So, here, at Costa Navarino, he mixes tradition with modern techniques and local ingredients in a very delicious way. He serves, for example, mullet inside courgette flowers (amazing idea) that he collects from his vegetable garden; grilled calamari on top of a cream made of rice stuffed tomatoes with a feta mousse, as well as a traditional triangular meat pie with crunchy filo dough with a buttermilk sauce and mint.

I must mention the panko breaded poached egg with the potato cream, the wild mushrooms from mount Taygetus, and the San Michali cheese; a dish I didn’t want to end and in which I caught myself dipping bread, again and again. Giannis’ desserts are also delicious, like baklava and rice pudding that is served with a scoop of jasmine ice cream made using the flowers on the hotel’s ground. Like I said at the beginning, in the culinary paradise of Costa Navarino you may forget your name, but you’ll remember how wonderful life is.