As we drove up, and then back down the road parallel to Tigaki Beach, we wondered why we’d left our hotel in the first place. It might be one of Kos’s best-rated beaches — long and sandy with shallow waters — but it was hardly a secret; hence the lack of parking and abundance of sun loungers, tavernas and mopeds for hire. ‘Our’ beach, however, a few miles down the coast near Marmari might not have been a secret, but it was practically deserted.
Casa Cook, the travel giant’s latest venture, eschews the traditional package holiday it’s best known for in favour of boutique resorts; stylish properties on Mediterranean islands. It’s Thomas Cook, but not as you know it.
Our hotel, Casa Cook Kos, is the second opening in Greece, a year on from the adults-only hotel in Rhodes (with Crete and Croatia in the pipeline). It’s a more family-friendly option (12 years and up) but still within the confines of its ‘keep it distinct’ ethos.
The resort, a short (private) transfer from the airport, is the stuff of an interior design glossy — slick styling with earthy, natural tones. The 100 suites and rooms are traditionally Greek in style but ‘minimalist and contemporary’; in other words, simple whitewashed buildings just one or two storeys high. There’s a calm serenity about the place. The grey concrete floors and fittings might seem somewhat austere, but they’re practical in terms of keeping things cool in the summer heat — and are, no doubt, easy to clean — but also softened by the dark wood features, wicker mats, lamp shades and baskets, and beige, floaty curtains.
Our suite — one double room, one lounge where the sofas convert into two single beds — came with a private pool, which was a real bonus for the kids. And the outdoor features — hammock, sunbeds, palm tree — meant we spent a lot of time at our stylish base.
The Bluetooth-equipped Marshall speaker allowed us to have our own tunes by the pool. This is usually a bugbear of mine as resorts usually have either no music or terrible songs piped over the pool area. That said, the sounds throughout the resort were in keeping with its Med beach club vibe — chilled Cafe del Mar tunes during breakfast and lunch, picking up to melodic, tech house in the evening with a DJ, naturally, after 10pm.
Accommodation is on a B&B or half-board basis, the latter of which is probably preferable given the remoteness of the resort — but that’s a good thing in many respects. Breakfast offers plenty of choice at the buffet, from nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereals, honey and Greek yoghurt to bread, pastries, fresh fruit, meat, cheese and a wide variety of cooked options.
The kitchen aims for a farm-to-table philosophy, highlighting local and Greek ingredients and products. The food at dinner is the real highlight — exceptional cuisine with real depth of flavour. Half-boarders are offered much of the a la carte menu (with a 20% discount on the remainder) and we made our way though all the choices over the course of the week. Standout dishes included sea bass, roast rack of lamb and cheek of beef, alongside excellent salads.
The main pool facing the restaurant also adjoins the bar, which, along with its verandah and thatched roof, is a great place to admire the view over the Aegean Sea.
The location, view and all, is fantastic. Beyond the sand dunes is a quiet beach miles from anywhere, with comfy sun loungers, thatched sunshades and a fresh supply of towels. And the wind, which keeps the temperature down, makes it an ideal spot for watersports — windsurfing, kitesurfing and paddleboarding are all part of the hotel’s offering.
To fully embrace the coast, there’s horse-riding along the beach first thing in the morning and at sunset. There are also daily outdoor yoga and pilates sessions. The spa and gym complete the health focus, with an impressive array of equipment and treatments.
But is, as many have suggested, Casa Cook trying too hard? Does it really need a juice bar selling drinks for more than €10 (£8.87), or an outlet selling €179 (£158) robes? Still, overall it’s an impressive offering: a laid-back boutique retreat, a practically deserted beach and just about enough to occupy the kids beyond the private pool — it’s definitely a case of su casa es mi casa.
How to do it
Thomas Cook offers seven nights in Kos from £5,009 per family (two adults, two children). Staying at the five-star Casa Cook Kos on a B&B basis, in a Villa Private Pool Suite with two bedrooms and separate living room, flying from London Gatwick on 3 May 2018.
Published in the 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller – Family