Isabel Conway schmoozes with the A-listers at the Nikki Beach Resort in the Peloponnese
Sexy backless boho-chic at its best, the blonde’s slinky romper with an all-over bandana inspired print turned heads as she glided through the chic minimalist lobby of Nikki Beach Resort and Spa at Porto Heli on the “Greek Riviera”, a hidden gem of the north-eastern Peloponnese Coast.
Sadly, I was not the babe who turned heads, despite my high hopes of attracting the odd glance in my yellow lemon print emblazoned sundress and boho-chic multi beaded sandals. My companion accidentally struck the right fashion note in his teeny weeny juvenile trunks -the only swimwear he could find at a shop on our way here – having forgotten his old fashioned bathing shorts. The most fashionable swimwear for incredibly toned males around here were skimpy slips.
Known as the Hamptons of Greece, dating back to when shipping tycoons like the Goulandris family and foreign royalty built their enormous villas, hidden from view along the coast, the once quiet fishing village’s top hotel the 5 star Nikki Beach Resort and Spa has its own sandy beach and boardwalk. A half-sunk yacht lies offshore where various water sports are on offer beyond the luxury beach club pool. One of the less- strenuous activities includes paddle boarding out to the wreck.
The Nikki Beach Resort concept, developed in the late 1990s in the US, includes a chain of luxury beach clubs around the world, made popular by supermodel Naomi Campbell and other A-listers who have partied here. Other Greek locations include Mykonos and the very newest hotel property on party island Santorini as well as elegant Porto Heli.
A trawl of social media reveals that a glitzy well-heeled partying crowd, favouring designer labels, even in flip flops, serious watch brands and high-end jewellery are regulars here and the parties have been ‘legendary’.
On arrival at Nikki Beach Resor tin Porto Heli after a few hours on the road, the staff’s warm welcome stopped less trendy dusty Nikkis like myself from feeling out of synch.
Back in 1998 US entrepreneur Jack Penrod introduced the world to Nikki Beach, the first and original luxury beach club concept, combining the elements of music dining, entertainment, fashion, film and art into one destination by a now global multifaceted lifestyle hospitality company. Their growing stable of beach clubs, hotels and resorts in eye-watering locations are united under the banner’ Celebration of Life’.
Leaving the searing August heat and traffic congestion of Athens behind, we took to the twisting uncrowded roads of the Peloponnese, passing through ravishing landscapes with spectacular views, stopping here and there to admire ancient ruins and landmarks, including Epidaurus where we paid homage to the healing god Asklepios. The journey to Porto Heli can be via a three-hour ferry ride from Athens or somewhat shorter for the 175 km drive by road via Corinth.
Nikki Beach Resort and Spa at Porto Heli turns out to be one of Greece’s best-kept secrets, a combination of serenity, style, fun, faintly hedonistic, famous for its clubby beach club DJ sounds and great cocktails.
Guests looking as if they dropped off the pages of glamour and society magazines, perched on high stools at the submerged pool area or lounged by the side of the infinity pool sipping cool drinks. Others chose comfy beach beds on the water’s edge, attended by waiters ferrying fresh towels and topping up their iced water jugs.
Porto Heli had suffered the predictable dramatic drop off in tourism when I wandered around its portside passing empty terraces in late summer 2020. But optimism is in the air again. A Jack Nikolas designed 18- hole golf course at nearby Kilada, becoming the largest golf resort in the eastern Mediterranean, is bound to get this stunning unspoilt corner of the Greek mainland noticed.
Due to the absence of overseas visitors because of the pandemic restrictions, last year’s Nikki Beach prices were reduced sufficiently to attract the Greek domestic market. The hotel soldiered on without shedding jobs or skimping on its high-quality service, though the number of guests were reduced, late nights were a little earlier and the breakfast buffet was a thing of the past.
They have sixty-six bedrooms in the hotel’s signature white and light aquamarine colour scheme, all with views over the gorgeous bay. I met with an army of cleaners, dressed from head to toe in white, camouflaged against the brilliant snowiness of my bedroom, busy signing off on strict safety protocols. Bedrooms feature open-plan bathrooms, with different lighting moods – key to the brand’s philosophy.
A mirror that runs the entire length of the room adds to the sense of light and space. Suites have their own private plunge pools and sunbathing decks.
Café Nikki is where Mediterranean favours abound and at lunchtime tapas and salads are popular if you missed mimosa breakfast-brunch. In the evenings upscale dining features great menus prepared under the command of Nicos who talked of his passion for the slow organic food of the region and less well-known wines.
The relaunch of the rooftop restaurant with its panoramic sunset views over the bay has been under Apostolos Trastelis, a renowned restaurateur with 2 Michelin Star Chief Arnaud Bignon at the helm of providing diners with an exciting gastronomic experience.
Eleni Skafida, the marketing and public relations dynamo at Nikki Beach recommended we take the resort’s taxi boat to nearby Spetses, slicing through the crystal-clear waters of the Aegean on the Saronic gulf to watch the sunset whilst visiting the tranquil island. Cars are forbidden on historic Spetses so we took a horse carriage tour (€10) circuit of the port and hilly interior.
Another popular activity which she has organised for guests wanting to see the ‘real Greece’ is an authentic glimpse of local life, visiting a farm family in Kranidi where little or nothing had changed over the centuries.
The Daouliaris family showed off their livestock and fowl and told visitors of their lives before preparing a traditional breakfast of kayanas, a delicious Greek version of scrambled eggs, spinach pie, and zucchini balls mixed with egg and onion among other dishes served with home-baked bread and lashings of fig marmalade and exotic jams all from fruits grown on the farm sitting under their fruit trees.
Time felt suspended here, surrounded by olive groves on the prow of a hill watching the sea sparkling in the distance as we savoured Greek hospitality through simple and delicious food, listening to stories of the past via 14-year-old Manos, a brilliant translator.
Tell me more about Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Porto Heli, Greece.
Nikki Beach Resort & Spa, Argolis, Peloponese 210 61 Greece
T: +30 27540 98500 E: Info.Portoheli@Nikkibeachhotels.Com
Overnight rates Double room with balcony and sea view starts from approx €206, inclusive of a free breakfast