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Santa Marina Mykonos: Timeless Luxury On The Island Of The Winds

Mykonos: a name that conjures up images of sun-soaked beaches, a hedonistic nightlife, and a jet-set crowd that flits between here, St. Tropez, and Ibiza, living life to the fullest, shall we say?

But amid the island’s glittering party scene, Santa Marina has been redefining luxury for over 40 years – longer than any other. Don’t let its age fool you, though; the hotel has undergone an impeccable revamp, breathing new life into the property with a fresh, contemporary take that captures the timelessness and continual popularity of The Island of the Winds.

At the helm of this iconic resort is Christiana, a dynamic owner who inherited Santa Marina from her father and has poured heart and soul into crafting a genuine Mykonian experience with a sensibility that’s entirely her own. Her keen eye for design and flair for creating thoughtful moments is evident in every corner. The mesmeric windmill suite, the only one of its kind on the island, stands as a testament to her vision, while the excellent restaurants have made Santa Marina a dining destination in its own right.

The Vibe

The pulse of Mykonos permeates through the hotel – vibrant, chic, and always ready for a good time. But it’s not about surface-level glitz here. While you can certainly pop bottles and revel in the lively atmosphere at Buddha-Bar Beach, the overall feeling is one of laid-back refinement, and there’s ample space to escape entirely should you wish.

The staff have mastered the art of intuitive service, striking a balance between professionalism and warm, friendly hospitality. You’ll be treated like royalty but feel as at ease as if among friends, even if you’re traipsing back from the spa in a bathrobe, lost in a post-massage daze.

The Rooms

Standard rooms are anything but standard, with beds spacious enough to accommodate a family of four. Hanging candle lanterns and coral-inspired light fixtures add a touch of coastal whimsy, while bright, airy spaces are accented with natural wood accents that bring warmth and texture. The striking artwork on the walls is a nod to Mykonos’ creative spirit – we weren’t surprised to learn that Christiana is close friends with the most renowned art dealer in town. And the views? As you’d expect: cerulean and uninterrupted.

The resort’s pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the windmill suite, a one-of-a-kind accommodation that seamlessly blends traditional Mykonian architecture with contemporary luxury. Within the curved stone walls of a traditional windmill, this expansive suite spans three floors, creating a cavernous and romantic cocoon perfect for honeymooners. Inside, shimmering gold accents mingle with Aztec textiles and plaited-rope furnishings, while a vaulted ceiling crowns the top-floor bedroom.

The Food + Drink

At Elais, the hotel’s Greek-Mediterranean restaurant, we kicked off with traditional mezze featuring all the usual suspects – tzatziki, taramasalata, dolmades and tiropita (spinach and feta pie) – stuffing our faces and wiping the sauce from our plates with warm, crusty bread, unaware of what was to come. And boy, did it come; meatballs in rich tomato sauce, platters of pulled lamb, grilled octopus, and a whole-baked sea bass arrived tableside in a parade of Greek hospitality. This is family-style dining fit for the gods; it’s no wonder the restaurant is named after a mythological princess who could make olive trees bear fruit at will.

For a more seductive affair, Buddha-Bar Beach lives up to its hype. This sultry space serves creative Asian-fusion cuisine with a Greek twist, accompanied by a soundtrack that will coax you into staying up far longer than intended. Standout dishes include the crispy lacquered Peking-style duck or the roasted black cod with miso-truffle sauce. This extensive sushi menu is also a must, offering a kaleidoscopic array of exquisitely crafted rolls and sashimi.  It’s also available poolside, so we suggest ordering it there for a side-serving of infinity pool views on the house. A mixology class ran by the bar team left us thirsty for more (cue: staying up at Buddha-Bar Beach until the early hours). Trust us when we say that Santa Marina takes its drinks as seriously as its food.

The Spa

In a place where epicureanism rules the roost, it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends. The Ginkgo Spa is a welcome antidote to the island’s non-stop party vibe: step inside and be enveloped in the soothing scent of essential oils and the gentle sound of trickling water underfoot.

The spa’s signature massage is one of the best we’ve had, with the heated bed making it an almost transcendental experience. Yoga classes overlooking the Aegean and a state-of-the-art gym are also on hand for those seeking a more mindful way to move their body than getting down and dirty at Scorpios (though we say do both).

The Little Extras

Hardly a little extra, the resort boasts the only private sandy beach on Mykonos, a serene stretch of golden sand lapped by the turquoise waters of the Aegean. It’s a prime spot to while away the hours, with plenty of sun loungers and attentive staff on hand.

For thrillseekers, a fleet of sleek black speedboats are available for guests to rent, ideal for zipping around the island’s hidden coves and secluded beaches. As if plucked straight out of a James Bond film, they bring cinematic flair to Mykonian escapades and will attract those looking to make a splash.

Traditionalists at heart, we preferred our trip on Santa Marina’s caique, a glossy wooden sailing boat. On board, we were treated to a feast spanning ceviche, snapper and shrimp risotto, washed down with plenty of ouzo. This is a truly special experience.

The To-Do List

You’re just a short hop away from some of the island’s most famous attractions, like the ancient ruins of Delos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is the mythological birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Slather on sun cream before wandering between crumbling temples, intricate mosaics (especially those in Dionysus’s house), the Terrace of the Lions and Temple of Isis.

Back on Mykonos, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, and dancing the night away. Stroll through the labyrinthine streets of Mykonos Town, where shops range from designer boutiques to local artisans selling handmade crafts – a pair of supple, leather sandals will last you for years.

When it comes to restaurants, you don’t need us to tell you about Interni, Nammos, Bagatelle, Zuma, et al., but if you want to eat where the locals go, ask the concierge to book a table at Amades Koutouki Taverna or Maereio. Just keep the secret safe.

Of course, no visit to Mykonos would be complete without watching the sunset from Little Venice, a neighbourhood known for its colourful houses that seem to rise straight out of the sea. Grab a table at one of the waterfront cafés and watch as the sky turns a burnt tangerine, drenching the whitewashed buildings in a warm, golden glow.

All image credit: Hannah Dace

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