Opting for a villa (over a hotel room) all but ensures more space, privacy, and homeyness. Here are our favorite villa hotels in the Cretan towns of Agios Nikolaos, Elounda, Malia, and Hersonissos.
Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas is an opulent, family-friendly resort spread over a seaside hill. Accommodations include rooms, Suites, and Villas -- many with private plunge pools and all with sea-facing balconies. Villas range from one-bedroom units clear up to an opulent Mansion with three bedrooms and a staff quarters. All Villas have private pools and some of the larger units have private gardens as well. Villa guests also get free breakfast service at the a la carte Ocean Restaurant, as well as access to the Cove Club, which includes special parking, a dedicated concierge, gifts for children, and an exclusive saltwater pool. Resort features, from the Greek fine-dining restaurant to the comprehensive kids' club to the elegant spa with two indoor pools, are notably modern and sleek. Add to that a gorgeous infinity pool overlooking the sea, and a bustling private beach where drinks and snacks are delivered to guests' loungers, and there's little left to desire here.
Set on large hilly grounds dotted with olive and pine trees, the seafront Blue Palace offers panoramic views of the Aegean Sea and Spinalonga Island from nearly everywhere on the property. The look of the 251 spacious villas is defined by a sharp island style. All units come with flat-screen TVs with satellite channels (including plenty of English-language channels), air-conditioning, plush beds, and twice-daily housekeeping with nightly turndown service. Villas may include some combination of private car parking, fireplaces, gardens, outdoor dining and barbecue areas, indoor pools, saunas, massage areas, fitness equipment, video game consoles, and iPod docks. Wi-Fi is free in the villas, and butler service is available on request. Hotel features include three outdoor swimming pools, an indoor pool, a full-service Thalassotherapy spa, and several restaurants and bars. The vibe throughout is elegant and relaxed, though travelers should keep in mind that the beach here is rocky and breakfasts cost a fee (they're free at Daios Cove).
Though it's one of the area's older properties, The Minos Beach Art hotel has a bright and fresh atmosphere. Its classic whitewashed buildings are striking against the vivid-blue Mirabello Bay backdrop and the lushly landscaped grounds. Stone pathways wind throughout, and modern sculptures by Greek and international artists decorate lawns and gardens. The 129 guest rooms feature a bright shabby-chic look and balconies with sea or garden views. Room options here include hotel units in the main building, as well as Bungalows and Villas, some of which have private pools, direct sea access, jetted tubs, and/or verandas. There are four restaurants and three bars, a small private beach, a large outdoor pool, and a spa offering various treatments, such as mud masks. All-inclusive and half-board options are available. The hotel is eye-catching and fresh, but Daios Cove and Blue Palace are more contemporary and luxurious.
Royal Heights Resort is a lovely resort with upscale decor in common areas, though it doesn’t always live up to the expectations of couples and families looking for the advertised five-star service. The modern property has a beautiful pool, fully equipped gym, and a relaxing spa, as well as a restaurant and cafe. All 30 rooms have whirlpool tubs, stocked kitchens, ocean views, and free Wi-Fi, while two-story villas also offer living rooms, two bathrooms, private pools, and balconies with expansive views. Note that Royal Heights' grounds are open to public, meaning that the pool can sometimes get rowdy with locals, and there is limited entertainment for kids. Lastly, there is nothing nearby and it is a strenuous walk into town. Those with mobility concerns might be more comfortable at Minos Beach Art hotel, which has a great (and less vertical) location on beautiful Mirabello Bay, with its own private beach.
A friendly, Greek-village-style resort with mature gardens, three pools, and basic accommodations, Marni Village is located on a steep hill high above the beaches and nightlife of Hersonissos. The grounds and pools have charm, but rooms, apartments, and villas (the three villas share a private pool) are dingy, badly soundproofed, and in need of some TLC. Units have kitchenettes and there are also three on-site bars serving drinks and snacks on-site. The restaurants, bars, and shops of Koutouloufari are within easy walking distance. Like Royal Heights, Marni Village is located on a steep hill, but it doesn't have many of the features found at Royal Heights, such as a spa, fitness center, and free breakfast. Also its rooms are less attractive. All in all, this self-catering hotel attracts older couples who like to stay by the pool, or cost-conscious families and younger couples who can make that steep climb back from the beach.