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The Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino

Christine Drinan, Founder

Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino Sunset scaled

Speaking of the best – which is the theme of this week at Galavante – we have to give a special shoutout to the Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino. They opened in August 2023 in an area of Greece that may inspire you next year to skip the flight to the Isles. Set in one of the most historic parts of Greece (Mount Olympus is nearby), it’s an area that was completely undeveloped, until now. This is the Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino review for where to book now. Before you know it, it’ll be summer.

Atmosphere

There are two aspects of the atmosphere at the Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino. The first is at the hotel itself, which is within the brand-new development on the mainland region of Messinia. The Costa Navarino includes hotels, residences, shops, restaurants, and a golf course. It’s actually hard to believe that these 2500 acres were largely undeveloped for almost 4,500 years. Of the luxury hotels in the development, the Mandarin Oriental is the most luxurious, as it’s hard to beat the MO.

Having been a “Fan”, (the MO’s version of the Aman Junkie) for many years in their city hotels, the resort experience is a newer one for me. However, the components of their signature service and Asian minimalist design remain intact. In this case, though, the service and design are integrated with a Grecian sensibility throughout the resort. There’s a warmth from the moment you arrive, (along with some stunner views) and it’s not just the weather. To me, that’s the beauty of the MO. These are clearly luxury hotels but there’s not one bit of pretense. Set right on the water with its own private beach, the vibe is a resort with the MO polish throughout.

Outside the Mandarin Oriental and Costa Navarino

I know that many of us go to resorts and barely leave, which is easy to do in the Costa Navarino. It’s a fully self-sufficient development with all the shopping and restaurants you could need for two weeks. For foodies, there’s olive oil harvesting and tasting, cooking classes, and wine education. Although the Mandarin has some of the best restaurants, the Marriott properties include a W Hotel as well as The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort, where the shopping and food are also tops.

However outside of the Costa Navarino, this area has over 4,500 years of history. You could easily spend a week or more at the MO and use it as a base of exploration, including Mount Olympus, which is two hours away. The closest town is the historic town of Pylos, the site of the historic battle in 425 BC. For those who are into history and culture, you can not only work on your tan but expand your knowledge.

Close to the hotel, I would be remiss not to mention the charming fishing village of Marathopoli, which is right next door. This little town of fish restaurants on the sea is one of the reasons you come to Greece. No frills, just locals and simple food that make for a perfect afternoon. The area outside of the resort has authentic Greek tavernas filled with more locals than tourists, even during the season. That’s hard to achieve in any part of Greece nowadays. Voidokilia Beach is renowned throughout the area for its perfect horseshoe-shaped calm sand beach. If you want to crank it up a notch, there’s kite surfing in the area. Additionally, there are waterfalls within 45 minutes for a challenging hike and exploration.

Rooms

I’ll cut to the chase on the rooms; they couldn’t do much better on the design and appointments. This is where the Asian-inspired Mandarin Oriental aesthetic intersects with Greek design the best. The foundation may be minimalist, but rooms have rugs, art, and other design touches from local artisans. Even an entry-level room in the main building is ample in size for two to comfortably share. Almost every room also has a sea view and outdoor space.

The rooms that shine the most of course are the pool villas that all have a view of the water. These stand-alone homes are about 1200 square feet with outdoor showers and large outdoor terraces with pools. They also have some of the best sunsets you’ll see in Greece.

Dining

I know I talked about leaving the resort because there is so much authenticity to discover in the area. But that’s also why I suggested staying longer, as the resort itself has 8 lounge and dining options. There’s the traditional Greek Olivera, which also serves one of the best breakfasts in Greece. In lieu of a buffet, they bring out a selection of at least eight traditional Greek dishes your grandmother would make. From there you choose as many as you would like, in addition to a la carte menu items. I still dream of this breakfast, and it makes my personal top list of those I’ve had around the world.

Two other notable restaurants are the Levantine restaurant, which is a fusion of Lebanese, Syrian, and other Mediterranean Middle Eastern influences. I had just spent my summer vacation in Syria and Lebanon but could not get enough of the giant grilled prawns and the Mezze. There’s also Pizza Sapienza by Daniele Cason, which hails from the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. This is the famed pizza course tasting menu, where they bring something out like 15+ courses. There are only something like 12 seats, so this is a restaurant to reserve well ahead of time.

Spa + Gym + Pool

This is a case where I’m not sure what was the X Factor in having me try to move heaven and earth to extend my trip. I know my room was incredible, and that I loved the food and service. But it may have been the gym, pool with private beach, and spa that made me want to stay for at least a week. Wellness when I travel is part of my routine, and the gym they have is nicer than my Equinox at home. That’s not to say it’s five stories but the equipment is tops, the space is large and there’s an outdoor boxing studio. Their trainers are also professional-level as if this were a dedicated wellness center. They offer complimentary classes in the mornings that are not resort level, but rather a proper workout.

Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino

The beach and pool club are a slice of heaven. I had my 2023 moment walking along the water wondering what I ever did to deserve this experience. The beach has the perfect thatched roof loungers and the water is calm for swimming and a stand-up paddle. For those who are into pools, this is probably the largest pool of the luxury hotels in Greece. Maybe Cali Mykonos matches it in length, but in square meters, the pool is massive at the Mandarin Oriental Costa Navarino.

Service

When I was in Japan for work about 12 years ago, I stayed at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. It was the last stop on an exhausting trip to Asia, where I needed some TLC. I will never forget the gentleman who chatted me up and took my extremely heavy duffle bag up to my room with me. When I tried to leave him a small thank you, he elegantly refused and said, “It’s just Mandarin Oriental”. In other words, their basic service is considered above and beyond anywhere else.

That DNA is the foundation of the MO, and the MO Costa Navarino is no different. Every touch point from the moment you arrive, a ride to the beach club in a buggy, to housekeeping just works like a beautiful orchestra. That’s what I’ve always admired about the Mandarin. They thread that balance of polish with genuine warmth and sincerity. People seem to love working at their properties and know how lucky they are to come to a place every day that’s a dream vacation for guests.

Overall: 8.5/10

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