When we had Oscar, I knew our hotel stay and travel-style would have to change. I wanted to adapt this blog to review the very best hotels that also catered for children and babies and there was one place that just kept coming up in my research both online and in real life conversations with people. The Sani Resort in Halkidiki, Greece. Every single person spoke so highly of it but I wasn’t ready to buy into the hype… I’ve never been a fan of big hotels yet it was difficult to find somewhere that had all the facilities that we were looking for. Little did I know that Sani Resort would truly offer the best of both worlds.
There is so much to cover on Sani that I have broken the review down into sections, I don’t normally do that as I like my blog posts to tell as story rather than read as a straight forward review. Let me know if in the comments if you prefer this layout and I can continue.
What is Sani Resort?
If like me you’ve never stayed at a resort like Sani you might find the concept a little confusing. The resort is five hotels each differing to suit the needs of different guests and all are based around a marina lined with high end shops and restaurants accessible to all the guests. If you’re not sure which one to stay in here are the characteristics of each hotel in a nutshell:
Sani Beach – this is the ‘entry-level’ hotel and the cheapest. It’s the biggest of the five and looks a little bit tower-block like and restaurants are mainly buffet-style. It is also the most child-friendly and includes a splash pool, play ground, creche, kids club and private beach.
Sani Club – has all the child-friendly perks of Sani Beach but the style is more luxury, less tower blocky and better restaurants. It is set a bit further out from the other hotels and the Marina which affords more privacy but less convenience in accessing shared hotel facilities.
Porto Sani – is the next level up in luxury and has all the child-friendly amenities but no private beach though you have access to other beaches in the hotel and the benefit of being right next to the Marina.
Sani Dunes – is the hotels higher end offering though less child friendly, this hotel has Michelin menus and is surrounded by a lagoon-like swimming pool and private beach. There is no kids club or splash pool but kids are still welcome to stay and guests can use creche and splash pool at other hotels.
Sani Asterias – the resort’s most luxurious offering being the smallest and most boutique. Asterias has the finest food and spa and rooms overlooking the Marina or the hotel’s private beach. Again there’s no kids club or splash pool but kids are still welcome to stay and guests can use the creche and splash pool at other hotels. We chose Sani Asterias despite this as we also had my elderly in-laws with us and we felt it was the best hotel for them and we could still easily use the facilities of Sani Beach and Porto Sani which are adjacent.
Kids under 12 stay at Beach, Club and Porto for free and at a very reduced rate eat Asterias and Dunes.
It’s worth noting flight time from London Gatwick to Thessaloniki was around 3.30 hours with an hours transfer to the hotel. The transfer was included in the booking.
About Sani Asterias and our Room
Sani Asterias is made up for 57 beautiful suites also decorated with modern perfection. There was limited availability when we booked so we felt our in laws were best suited to have the last available beach front room while we took the Marina suite. While our gorgeous ground floor lodging was called a ‘Marina front’ suite, I’d say it was also ideally suited for access to the pool.
This was the gorgeous terrace attached to our room, perfect for lounging, dining and chilling. As you can see you could simply step off the terrace and to the pool, this made life very easy with Oscar as we could get him ready in the room and take him straight out for swimming!
Our spacious suite was perfect for a family as a little bed could be set up in the living room and there was absolutely loads of storage for all our stuff. The suite came with a TV, coffee machine, fully stocked fridge and all the other essentials!
A double vanity, huge soaking tub and large shower completed the bathroom. I loved the Anne Semonin products that were used throughout the hotel.
And this was the in-laws terrace complete with private garden looking right out to sea
Back to the pool and as you can see it was a good size. There’s one main pool and one small, shallow baby pool which was perfect for Oscar to play in. Other hotels have multiple pools and splash play pools but the Asterias pool was perfect for us and we had access to the play pools in other hotels. However, guests at other hotels in the resort can’t use the Asterias pool which means it’s never crowded and there’s no fights for sun beds.
Public areas in the hotel are absolutely pristine, from the fountain at the entrance to the beautiful lobby plus gorgeous gardens constantly watered by robot gardeners. The service matches the beauty of the hotel and nothing is too much trouble and there is a what’s app system with the concierge to make booking meals and activities super easy.
While I didn’t get to use the Anne Semonin spa, it did look very inviting and is exclusively for Asterias guests. Massages, facials, body wraps and beauty treatments are all on offer as well as a spa menu for teens and a special couple’s suite.
There is one main restaurant space for breakfast, lunch and dinner and it’s absolutely gorgeous with views of the yachts. The alfresco restaurant is called Water and is the gastronomic flagship restaurant of the entire resort serving a menu of Mediterranean food in partnership with 2 Michelin-starred chef, Stéphanie Le Quellec. Breakfast is a choice between an elegant buffet or something hot off the menu. For lunch there are ceviches, salads, fresh meats and fish and dinner is the ultimate in fine dining. Water restaurant is a child-friendly restaurant. Inside and upstairs is the hotel’s other restaurant Over Water which is only open at dinner and only allows children over 12. I will say I had the impression that Water and Over Water were two totally different restaurants so I booked them for two of our night but actually the menu in the evening is the same. Fortunately it was one of our favourite restaurants so we didn’t mind eating there twice.
Sani Asterias has a small private beach only accessible to Asterias guests and no one else on the resort. This beach is a small slice of heaven with soft white sand and beautiful clear sea! There’s even a ‘Babewatch’ service where a nanny will watch and play with your child for free for thirty minutes while you soak up the sun!
Childcare at Sani
Families and children are where Sani really come into their own. In fact their reputation for being one of the leading family-friendly hotels is probably one of the main reasons why people book and come back again and again.
Let’s start with the kids clubs! When I was researching hotels, I discovered many of them included clubs for kids over 4 or 5 but there were very few that had a club for very little ones. But Sani covers absolutely every base! The Sani Creche for four months – four years is available at Sani Beach, Club and Porto Sani but Asterias guests are welcome to use the facility at Porto or Beach (Club is too far away) and we made use of the Porto Creche several times during our time. There are three sessions per day, seven days a week including 10am – 1pm/ 1pm – 3pm /3pm – 6pm and they are bookable in advance.
Now I know kids clubs aren’t for everyone but what worked for us both here and at Domes of Elounda was booking Oscar in for a couple of hours in the afternoon. This meant he could have a slow morning with us with swimming, followed by lunch and then two hours or so in the creche where he could explore new toys, do crafts and play with qualified child care providers. The facilities operate to UK OFSTED standards so you can relax and know that your little one is in safe hands. I honestly think it’s a win win for both parents and child and Oscar was happy going in and produced a work of art every day from his time there. There is a charge for the creche due to the extra staff needed but other kids clubs are free of charge.
For 4 – 12 year olds there’s another kids club, of course we’re yet to use this but the website promises a fun and action packed time with ‘Mini-Olympic Games on the beach, short trips, picnics and parties.’ For Teenagers there’s complimentary hangout in the Sani Marina called Ozone with activities such as cooking classes, hip hop dance, canoeing, volleyball, archery and console gaming.
If you want even more flexibility with childcare, there are private nannies available during the day and evening babysitting. While we didn’t use the former, we did have babysitting three times during our ten night stay which allowed us a hassle free evening out with Mr S’s parents.
If you have a baby, guests of Porto Sani are offered a complimentary session with Carol Mae Consulting to help with issues with sleep etc and advice on travelling with a little one in order to make the most of your stay. Sani can provide just about everything you can think of for a little one such as a cot, night light, white noise machine, a video monitor, sterilisers and toiletries.
Accessibility was also an important factor for us, travelling with both a toddler and two elderly people. Firstly Sani was brilliant and provided a wheelchair for my mother in law to use for the duration of our stay, this was invaluable as the resort is large and there’s lots of ground to cover. The hotels also operate a buggy system and guests can easily call a buggy to take them to restaurants and other locations. I have to say the system was very quick and our buggies arrived within ten minutes, much quicker than other places we stayed. Most importantly, Sani is very flat so it’s easy to walk around and push a wheelchair or pram / push chair. Domes of Elounda, where we stayed earlier this year, by contrast was very hilly and people needing easy accessibility would struggle.
Experiences and Activities at the Sani Resort
Experiences are another area where Sani really comes into their own, there is absolutely something for everyone. Something I loved about Sani was that you could download their app before arriving and everything single experience could be booked on there in advance – along with childcare and restaurants. And if you’re not organised enough to book it all in advance it can be organised very easily with the concierge.
If you’re the sporty type Sani offers a number of different academies such as the Rafa Nadal Tennis Centre for over 5s using training methods employed by Rafa himself in the resort’s world class facilities. There are 8 clay courts and there are adult and children’s packages on offer. I won’t go into to detail about all the academies especially as we didn’t actually try them but there’s also a Chelsea FCF Football Academy, a Bear Grylls Survival Academy, Scuba diving, sailing, biking, water skiing and triathalon. Other sporting pursuits include an outdoor gym, treetop adventure, guided jogging and bike trails, archery, football and watersports. There’s plenty of opportunity for swimming lessons for all ages.
There’s VIP section on the app that suggests special experiences such as helicopter rides, fishing trips, personal shopping, photos sessions, wine tasting and private dining.
Being located on a Marina, another thing Sani offers are different options for cruises. All hotels include a complimentary cruise daily or at sunset but we decided to do something really special and charter our own boat. The app lists all the boats available so it’s very easy to see what they have and how much it is and then book your boat at the touch of a button.
We were there for a really relaxing holiday and mostly just wanted to do nothing! But Mr S’s family love boats so we decided to do a half day cruise in a private boat.
Guests can walk around the Marina and easily view the boats available for the day cruise. We chose one that was easily accessible for Mr S’s parents who struggle to walk on a gang plank and it was honestly the perfect choice.
The hotel provide champagne and wine as well as fruit and cheese platters and we had the most relaxing time bobbing around the Aegean. We’d been planning to take Oscar for a swim during the stops but he was so relaxed that he fell asleep for most of it!
As we’d chosen the latter part of the day, we were able to take in a gorgeous sunset right at the end!
Actually there was other activity that we did and that was shopping! The Sani Marina was the perfect place to stroll around window shopping or actually shop and with everything open until late, it doesn’t need to cut into your day in the sun.
There’s designer stores such as Vilebrequin, Missoni and Melissa Obadash as well as boutiques selling a selection of high end brands. You can find fashion, swimwear, accessories, art and jewellery and more! Practically, there’s also a super market where you can pick up food, toys and baby supplies don’t worry there’s nappies and formula should you run out!
Of course every hotel has a pool or more than one and Beach, Club and Porto have a splash pool and playground. All the hotels except Porto have their own beach.
Honestly, this is not a resort where you can possibly get bored! Sani bring in top entertainers to give you the best of experiences. A few weeks before we came they even had Andrea Bocelli in for a concert! In the hotel’s Garden Theatre they have all sorts of themed nights, from Motown, to musicals and Michael Jackson! The cast are absolutely top notch and we really enjoyed all these shows. Not to be left out, the Garden Theatre also hosts the Little Guests Big Night Out called Pure Imagination or as Oscar called it ‘the Baby disco.’
I was a little bit put out that the baby disco was the same music and costumes every night but of course Oscar didn’t care and he absolutely loved it!
Elsewhere the hotel bars and restaurants host live musicians, singers and DJs which makes for a lively atmosphere. One of the hotel’s signature nights is the White Night held at the Bousoulas Beach bar. Now I have to admit the old me would have loved partying at a White Night but we popped up to take a look and the early October night was so cold, we decided it was better to just go to bed! But it did look very fun!
Now if you’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you’ll know I basically go on holiday to eat… and Sani is the place to go for this! Now the old me who disliked big resorts would have thought, 27 restaurants? That’s way too many? Surely the quality can’t be good across the board… well Sani isn’t like most big resorts. As it is five smaller hotels in one, each can focus on the quality of their own restaurants.
So as I said there are 27 restaurants, of course we couldn’t try them all during our ten day stay but we made a good go of it! Sani operates a Dine Around scheme for the half board and full board guests. 11 of the restaurants have a dine around menu and if you choose this you won’t incur to extra costs on top of what you’ve already paid. Or you are free to choose a la carte which means you have a meal allowance deducted from the bill as follows:
- Sani Beach: €20 p.p. (children €10)
- Porto Sani, Sani Club & Sani Dunes guests: €25 p.p. (children €12.50)
- Sani Asterias: € 40 p.p (children 20€)
The food and drink at Sani is expense but really you can save or splurge as much as you like. Some days we went whole hog on big lunches with a bottle of wine, other days we’d have a small room service snack or small bite on the beach. There are so many different options for dinner too that you can opt for every cuisine from Japanese to Peruvian, Italian, Spanish and of course Greek! Some restaurants offer a more formal dining experience others are casual. Most welcome children but others prefer you to leave the little one at home.
Every hotel in the resort has multiple restaurants (we visited each hotel for a meal at least once) plus there are lots on the Marina too. Note Sani Club is a 10 minute drive away – in one of the hotel’s complimentary Volvo transfers – so we ended up going there only once.
We honestly didn’t have a bad meal, of course some were better than others both in terms of food and atmosphere but we still had a good time where ever we went. They only one I’d probably avoid was Katsu, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant on the Marina. The food was totally fine but the atmosphere was lacking and the food very expensive for what it was.
I couldn’t list every restaurant that we went to, this blog post is already really long! But here are our favourites:
Lunches were usually seafood sharing dishes by the beach or at the Marina with a bottle of Whispering Angel on the side.
Our first day lunch was one of our favourites dining at Psaryannos, a Greek-style restaurant on the Marina.
Another favourite was the Mediterranean food at the Beach House at the Sani Dunes hotel.
Another favourite where you could choose a whole fresh grilled fish was Ammos, located at Sani Beach hotel but only a minute’s walk from our hotel.
The Bousoulas Beach restaurant had the best view with some delicious International dishes to choose from.
The majority of the restaurants offer a special children’s menu (some are child free but most welcome children) created by none other than children’s food guru Annabel Karmel. Really little guests can enjoy a free meal with lots of options for purees for weaning littles. And there’s plenty of options for bigger kids too! In this resort where everything revolves around children and families, high chairs are easily available.
Here are some of favourite evening restaurants:`
I already mentioned Water, located at our hotel which was an amazing elegant fine dining option.
Our favourite of them all was Lima, located at Porto Sani. We chose to eat at this restaurant for Mr S’s birthday, and it was a great choice.
Elia was a modern Greek restaurant at Porto Sani and provided an elegant take on traditional dishes and Tomat was a hearty Greek restaurant on the Marina.
There are also 13 bars around the hotels and Marina for pre dinner cocktails etc. Plus there are cafe-type restaurants in the Marina for light bites – the Marina patisserie is great for a coffee and croissant if you’re late for breakfast!
You’re probably thinking wow, this is paradise … is there anything actually bad about it? And actually this is the very thing that was my only issue with Sani… it’s too perfect! Mr S commented that being there was a bit like the Truman Show … basically you’re in a bubble and everything is a bit to Stepford- perfect. But what’s wrong with amazing food everywhere, pristine beaches, incredible service? It honestly feels a little inauthentic … the Greek taverns aren’t really Greek Taverns, they’re recreations of them. The Marina isn’t an actual port, it’s created to service the hotels and the Marina is nothing like a traditional Greek village. The decor is (dare I say it) bland, though very beautiful, you could be anywhere, it could be Dubai! This inauthenticity would have bothered the old me but honestly when you’re a tired parent, a resort that affords this level of luxury and help with children means you really won’t care if the taverns aren’t rustic enough for you. My advice would be don’t over think it and just enjoy!
Great for Kids
More activities and entertainment than you can imagine to choose from.
Great fun at the kids club.
Splash pools, playgrounds and beaches all designed with kids in mind.
Great for Adults
Absolutely everything you could possibly need for your littles!
What isn’t there? Great food, spa, entertainment, pools and more!
Total peace of mind that you and your child will be well looked after.