Set on the longest beach in Crete with Rethymno’s Venetian harbour abutting your eye-line, Caramel Grecotel Boutique Resort is a delight. The decor is eclectic and idiosyncratic, the service friendly and familiar and the surrounds are the picturesque blue skies and white villas you want when you come to Greece.
Within Caramel Grecotel there are 69 villas and suites. Designed for couples, families and friends, they can accommodate up to 10 guests in some of the larger villas. The Grecotel group is family owned and employs 6,300 people across 12 destinations in Greece. Currently, they have 32 hotels across the country, eight of which are in Crete alone. This is one of the advantages of Caramel, as while staying there, not only can you dine at either of the hotel’s two restaurants, but you also have the option to visit any of the sister resorts on the island.
Glamorous from the moment you step through the doors – with its emerald-green velvet sofas and floor-to-ceiling glass walls. And flanking the reception area is the welcoming bar, with its centrepiece white piano. But perhaps the best feature here is the pool – the focal point of the resort both during the day when guests rest supine on loungers and cabanas around its perimeter and at night when it is alight in unexpected shades of mauve and fuchsia.
Within the resort there’s also a tennis court, table tennis and a children’s area, as well as a beach bar and poolside bar throughout the day. They also host weekly events, such as live music with local performers and an outdoor barbecue for guests.
There’s also a small but well-equipped fitness centre with Technogym equipment and a spa – offering a range of facial and body treatments, as well as massages. And despite being a small facility, they can also accommodate couples’ treatments. The Love Potion massage is a consistent favourite – combining a thorough body scrub followed by an oil and raki massage.
While it’s not a large hotel, there are 13 different room types, ranging from junior and bungalow suites to multi-roomed villas, some with Jacuzzis or private pools. All the rooms have the expected details one has come to desire today of any five-star hotel – coffee-making facilities, an extensive mini-bar glutted with local delicacies, king-sized beds and rain showers, and balconies or terraces. Attention to detail and hospitality is taken seriously here – for example, when you arrive a team member will be on-hand in the room to walk you through the pillow options, so you can sleep like Goldilocks and find one that’s just right. Bath product within the rooms are made by Grecotel’s own Agreco farm. A nearby working organic farm owned by the hotel group, complete with an olive press, a watermill, a wood-burning oven, a general store, a wine cellar, workshops, a church, guesthouses and a perfectly appointed restaurant.
Food is important, both in Greek culture in general and of course here at Caramel Grecotel. Breakfast is perfectly presented, laid out on long tables across the interior and can be enjoyed either inside or out. And on a sunny day there’s no contest. At night, the breakfast room transforms into the dining area and a dinner buffet is served here nightly – featuring a large selection of fish and seafood and every meat you can name – lamb, beef, pork, veal – as well as a huge number of sauces, as well as local vegetables, both raw and cooked. The A La Carte restaurant downstairs is more formal and serves artfully presented Greek dishes. Service throughout is warm and characterful. The calamari with a fava sauce served atop local pasta skioufichta is well-worth ordering.
Character is something this place has in spades – from its design to its staff. Where many five-star hotels try so hard to be professional and slick, they often lose an element of charm and authenticity in the process, but not Caramel.