The late autumn sun shrouds the olive groves of Messinia in a picturesque soft light, drawing long shadows on the dry farmland. We have already turned into the area of Navrino Dunes, still the road is lined on both sides exclusively with old and bony olive trees. Perception is somewhat deceiving, however: many of these trees have not been at their current destination for decades: in Europe’s largest olive tree replanting campaign, some 16,000 olive trees and 8,000 citrus trees have been (and are being) replanted. I will find out later that the success rate is just under 100%.
Slowly you can guess the golf course that frames the hotel complex. Bernhard Langer is responsible for the design of the championship course. The vegetation gently blends into the greens, fairways and bunkers. In between, more olive trees everywhere and finally the sea, to which the par 71 course offers a wonderful view.
But we (unlike many other guests) did not come to play golf at all. Rather, I want to explore the region, try the culinary and cuisine, and experience more about the two hotels in Costa Navarino: The Romanos, a Luxury Collection Resort and The Westin Resort. Both are nestled in the grounds of Navarino Dunes. With 130 hectares, it impresses with its vast, hilly landscape and a kilometer long sandy beach. But above all by the immense generosity and spaciousness. More than 90% of the landscape is preserved for native flora and landscaped green areas. In general, sustainability and ecological, as well as social responsibility, are in the foreground in many areas.
So we hear a lot about the founder of Costa Navarino, Captain Vassilis Constantakopoulos. A successful shipowner (Costamare) who originally came from this region. It took almost twenty years to acquire the many small estates that today form the basis for Navarino Dunes, as well as the two new hotel projects. They would have laughed at him for this crazy idea to build a luxury resort here. And even more so for the ecological practices that are applied everywhere. Much of this is registered at first glance, while other measures remain hidden at first. For example, the installation of the largest geothermal heating system in Europe. Underground pipelines extend below the golf course with a total length of 123 km, achieving a significant reduction in energy consumption and CO2 emissions in Costa Navarino. Outside the plant, two huge water reservoirs were created, which are filled by the rain in winter and ensure the water supply in summer. Costa Navarino has also participated in the development of a solar system. Water and electricity have been the region’s biggest problems in the past. Now, the hotel also feeds both into the local grid during times of high demand to support the entire region.
Fortunately, we are upgraded at check-in and move into a spacious suite with private infinity pool in the Westin complex. Directly at our feet is the Morias Restaurant, which serves a breakfast buffet in the morning and cooks and grills on changing themes in the evening.
Our first dinner takes us to the Agora. The resort’s center, modeled after a traditional marketplace, is adjacent to both the Westin and Romanos Hotels. Already in advance I had made some reservations, because at this time of year the hotels and accordingly the restaurants are well attended. The restaurant Da Luigi, in the middle of the village square, offers sophisticated Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. We share various appetizers and antipasti, some pasta and then a Tagliata di Manzo. It’s all fresh, well seasoned and based on obviously very good products. Especially, of course, great tomatoes, which always inspire me in southern spheres. Ripe, sweet and full of aroma…
Only at noon you can eat fish and Mediterranean delicacies directly on the beach at Barbouni. And in one of the most beautiful settings imaginable. While the waves break over the sandy beach directly in front of the restaurant, you sit in a dining room that is completely open on all sides. Only upwardly stretched parallel fabric panels protect against the sun and are repeatedly set in motion by the wind, creating wave-like patterns. We opt for a light lunch with a Greek salad and zucchini balls. Accompanied by a bottle of rosé. One of my favorite places on the site.
The Flame is the name of the restaurant in the clubhouse of the golf course. From the large terrace you can overlook the fairways, look down to the sea and enjoy a wonderful sunset in the evening.
And also from a culinary point of view, the visit is highly recommended. Our dinner on the second evening was certainly one of the highlights. I opt for a sautéed foie gras served with a fruity, slightly tart sauce and raspberries. And with a black brioche under gold leaf. If guests have any questions about culinary standards, this ensemble will answer them. Although the gold leaf looks a bit artificial and is dispensable for me, this does not change the fact that this plate is indeed extremely good and testifies to a very intensive training of the kitchen team. You can feel this striving for perfection on the plate on the other side of the table as well: The Casears Salad with grilled chicken breast does come with a good, classic dressing – but it’s far too cold. So cold that not much can develop in terms of taste. This is mostly due to the strict processes and the continuous compliance with the cold chain, and in the end, of course, serves food safety. For enjoyment, a much less chilled presentation would be highly desirable. But that is just in the nature of things. Anyone who has ever made the mistake of ordering sushi on a cruise ship knows what I’m talking about….
We continue with a small tenderloin of Uruguayan beef. Grilled to the point and medium rare. Served with a chimichurri sauce and some sweet potato fries. Simple, but also very good.
Another evening we visit Armyra by Papaioannou, a seafood restaurant located above the pool at Romanos Hotel. The ambience is airy and classy, and the service here is also professional and cordial. And there is also a lot on offer in terms of culinary delights. I choose smoked eel from the grill and a fillet of sea bream. Again, the implementation is excellent and the products are of good quality.
There are many other restaurants in the area. They range from small open restaurants around the village square, to an American Dinner next to the water park, to a very chic Japanese-inspired restaurant – the Onuki. However, at the time of our visit, this was already closed for the end of the season. The Kooc restaurant serves modernly interpreted Greek and Mediterranean cuisine on a lively terrace.
Navarino Dunes offers a wide range of culinary options and varieties. In addition, a beautiful and very spacious facility according to the highest ecological standards. Next to all the paths and partly on the roofs of the buildings are the natural plants of the region. In between everywhere fruit trees, shrubs and herbs. During an interesting botanical tour you can get acquainted with it in detail.
Inevitably, the journey is connected with a flight, which of course does not so primarily underline the idea of sustainability. Ultimately, however, this is no longer the responsibility of the hotel. The best connection is the small airport in Kalamata. From here it takes a maximum of 35 minutes to reach the hotel. Aegean Airlines, for example, offers direct flights from Düsseldorf and Munich, and from 2020 presumably from other German airports. Alternatively, you can fly to Athens and reach Messinia from there by shuttle or car in about three hours.
For travelers with children, the Westin is certainly particularly recommended. Especially because there are many rooms and suites with connecting doors. Things are even more luxurious at The Romanos a Luxury Collection Resort. The area is somewhat smaller overall, and the number of units is correspondingly lower. In addition to the suites with private pools, I was particularly impressed by the detached villas. Of course, it’s all a matter of individual travel budgets. An annual vacation doesn’t get much more luxurious than this. In particular, the complete privacy that can be enjoyed in these units is a relevant criterion for many VIPs. The properties are completely secluded and out of sight, have their own pools and private access to the beach. The integrated butler’s pantries mean that all culinary catering can also be provided separately from the resort’s restaurants…
The opening of another resort is scheduled for the year after next. Next to the new Navarino Bay Golf Club, an absolute premium hotel is currently being built. The approximately one hundred units are currently being built as Earth sheltered homes, which means that they are virtually fully integrated into nature and the surroundings. All suites and villas will have an immediate view of the sea at the foot and direct access to the golf club. The new clubhouse has been in operation for several months. Of course, we also visited this for lunch.
The view over the eighteenth green down to the sea is impressive and the architecture and decor sensational. The food could not quite live up to these high standards – but this will certainly continue and quickly reach the high level of the other restaurants of Costa Navarino. Incidentally, in the summer, the two Michelin star restaurant Funky Gourmet from Athens resided here in the Glofclub for two months.
For golfers, a trip to Costa Navarino is an absolute recommendation. The places are wonderful and with the shuttles you can also reach them quickly from the other hotel. But also for families with kids there is a lot to discover. And for travelers without children, Romanos is a must-visit. And from a culinary point of view, you are in the best of hands. There is also much to discover outside the hotels. But more about that in another article.