So Much Drachma: Santa Marina, a Luxury Collection Resort, Mykonos
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To The Point
The Santa Marina Resort, an SPG Luxury Collection property on the island of Mykonos in Greece, is a stunning, idyllic escape away from the daily grind. Pros: beautiful decor, friendly staff, amazing private beach and infinity pool. Cons: expensive extras, complicated lighting, and I can’t live here forever.
When I decided to visit Mykonos, I wondered if The Points Guy’s opinion of this popular Greek island would ring true: Would Mykonos really be Cancun of the Mediterranean? To play it safe, I decided to visit in mid-June to avoid high season, which doesn’t really begin until July.
When picking which Starwood Preferred Guest hotel to stay at, I chose the Santa Marina Resort & Villas, a Luxury Collection property. While Mykonos has several SPG properties, Santa Marina is the only SPG hotel on the island with a private beach, meaning if the island did have a crowded feel, at least I’d have a quieter experience. If Santa Marina was good enough for celebs like Linda Evangelista and Sharon Stone (both have reportedly stayed there), I knew I’d enjoy it too.
If I’d booked through SPG, my three-night stay would have cost 478 euros (about $560) per night for a superior room (the standard room). Instead, I chose to book using my Platinum Card® from American Express for the benefits that come with the Amex Fine Hotels & Resorts program, like noon check-in (when available), room upgrade (when available), daily breakfast for two people, complimentary Wi-Fi, guaranteed 4:00pm checkout and more. Since I booked via Fine Hotels & Resorts, I ended up paying 519 euros (just over $600) per night, but it was a better value because my husband and I both got free breakfast, a 40-euro ($47) value per person per day. Since free breakfast for SPG Platinum members wasn’t offered at this resort, paying the extra cost for FHR benefits was more than worth it.
FHR also gave me a 100-euro hotel credit, which was amazing. Normally in the US, it’s a $100 credit and, in Europe, 85 euros, but in this case, it was worth about $117 or so, depending on the exchange rate. The credit came with a couple regulations: We could only use it to eat dinner, not lunch, at the hotel’s Buddha Bar Beach, and we couldn’t use it on room service.
I have SPG Platinum status and used three of my suite upgrades (sadly, with the coming changes in the SPG/Marriott program, 50-night Platinum members will only get five, not 10, per year). The upgrade was confirmed five days prior to arrival: I would have a sea-view suite for all three nights, a value of 1,130-euro ($1,320) per night. I’d hoped that I would be upgraded on top of this for having SPG Platinum status and booking using FHR, and I was rewarded upon arrival: I was upgraded to a deluxe sea-view suite, which cost 1,625 euros (about $1,900) per night, the nicest suite (that’s not a villa) at the resort. I also got 500 SPG points as a welcome amenity thanks to my Platinum status.
Had I booked with points, a superior room would have cost 35,000 SPG points per night. This definitely wasn’t worth it for the rate I paid, but during high season, regular room rates can skyrocket to $1,500, making the 35,000-point redemption seem not so bad after all, especially if you can swing an upgrade.
As an SPG Platinum, I earned 6,515 SPG points from my stay, equivalent to $175.91, according to TPG’s most recent valuations, where SPG points are valued at 2.7 cents per point. I also earned 2,232 Amex Membership Rewards points for using my Platinum card, a total of $42.41 at 1.9 cents per point.
When booking, don’t forget to add in the VAT. I made the mistake of thinking that the VAT was included in my room rate, which it wasn’t. That was a costly error, considering the VAT was 24%!
Situated on a gated peninsula with a private helipad, the Santa Marina in Ornos Bay was only a 15-minute drive away from Mykonos Island Airport (JMK). I took advantage of the free airport shuttle offered by the hotel (more on that later).
While there was a small village just outside the resort’s gates with a few shops and restaurants (a 20-minute walk or five-minute drive), the old town of Mykonos was just a little farther, 10 minutes by car or the hotel’s free shuttle. I skipped the free shuttles into town, which restricted me to specific times, and instead rented a car, allowing me access to the entire island. The hotel also had free parking (yup, free) directly in front of the hotel, convenient and very rare at hotels these days.
A week before my trip, the hotel reached out to me and said I could either have free transportation to and from the airport, which I’d have to share with other guests, or a private car for 45 euros. Once I got my bags at the airport, I was immediately greeted by a hotel representative and was happy to see that we were the only people being transported by the hotel’s Mercedes van, which meant I got a private ride for free anyway.
The hotel’s three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation was completed in May 2017. The lobby had gorgeous decor, but I was tired after my 6:00am EasyJet flight from Geneva (GVA) and wanted to get to my room rather than bask in the fresh design. Since I booked with FHR and had SPG Platinum status, I was hoping to get early check-in. But because I’d upgraded again to the deluxe sea-view suite, the room wouldn’t be ready until 3:00pm. I asked if there were any other options (full disclosure: I was fishing for a villa upgrade), and the manager came out to tell us a deluxe sea-view suite could be ready in 30 minutes. I happily accepted.
I had previously checked the price for villas when booking, and with rates up to 23,000 euros (almost $27,000) per night, I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t been offered an upgrade to one!
The deluxe sea-view suite was about 540 square feet and featured a living room, bedroom, bathroom and beautiful balcony with gorgeous sea views.
The air conditioning was extra strong and had in-room controls and separate units in the master and bedroom. (I love it extra cold.)
The decor was updated and fresh, and the bed was very comfortable.
The suite was well-insulated and fairly soundproof, and a perfect, expansive sea view was visible from both the living room and bedroom windows.
I typically love having an in-room Nespresso machine, but each coffee pod cost a shocking $4.70 at this hotel! I didn’t want to use them, but my caffeine addiction wore me down and I ended up paying the ghastly price for one to two per day. Considering I got that 100-euro FHR credit, I suppose it evened things out.
The rest of the minibar was expensive, though more in line with other luxury hotels. Still, at $7 for a Coke, I preferred to get my drinks elsewhere.
The suite had a beautiful, spacious bathroom with double sinks, but no bathtub.
The shower was large and passed the TPG shower test with flying colors.
In contrast to the pricey Nespresso pods, the Acqua di Parma bath amenities were free and replaced twice daily. I loved them so much I took a few home.
The bathroom also had soft, fluffy towels, bathrobes and slippers.
The closets were large, and I could see myself staying in this suite for a very long time (I’d bring my own Nespresso pods, though).
The first day, I received a welcome amenity that consisted of a bottle of rosé and nuts and fruit.
The main problem with the room was that you needed a PhD to operate the light switches — after three days I was still pressing all the wrong buttons. The lack of tub was disappointing, too, though I later heard from the locals that there was a water shortage and reconsidered my position.
Although both rooms in my suite came with flat-screen televisions, I didn’t turn them on once! The magic of the Greek Islands is that you’ll be so busy eating, drinking and beaching that you won’t bother with Netflix.
I never once ran into the cleaning staff, but my room was magically spotless each day, and turndown service was efficient. I loved the smell of the lemon air freshener they used and looked forward to returning from late dinners to a clean room filled with lovely scents.
Food and Beverage
This particular location was actually the first Buddha Bar Beach, and the food was pretty good, though pricey. We spent over 100 euro ($117) on two entrees and an appetizer there — the same price as a hookah! (More on that below.)
Food at the resort was expensive, so I was so happy that I rented a car to have more local and less costly dining experiences. I highly recommend the shawarma and gyros at Marko’s Falafel, a five-minute drive or 20-minute walk from the hotel.
Free breakfast was also a solid FHR perk at Santa Marina. It’s worth noting that while some properties include the buffet and a la carte items in the FHR free breakfast, this location only included the buffet. This was plenty for me, though, as the buffet was fully stocked and had plenty of hot foods like eggs, meats, pizzas, fresh fruit, pastries and local specialties like Greek salads. Eating al fresco was pleasant, as it wasn’t too hot yet.
Although I spent most of my time eating off the resort, I did indulge in a few Greek salads poolside, which consisted of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and delicious, crumbly feta cheese.
Most of the amenities at the Santa Marina were truly luxurious. As I previously mentioned, the heliport was a cool touch, though I didn’t see a helicopter during my stay. The private beach was heavenly — so tranquil and idyllic — and well-maintained.
The cabanas were comfortable and provided shade. The resort was at full capacity but didn’t feel crowded. Even both pools seemed serene, but the infinity pool was a clear winner for me, as it was just gorgeous. I loved the sunken cabanas, too.
I noticed the attention to detail that was put into every inch of the resort. For example, each pool and beach area had its own color for towels — orange for the beach, blue for the infinity pool and beige for the regular pool.
The hotel also had grass tennis courts, a chapel, a boutique and a children’s playground (set far away from everything else so as not to be bothersome to other guests).
Elevators were everywhere, but they were well-hidden. Carts were used to transport guests to some of the villas located up the mountain, but my suite was centrally located, so I didn’t need to use them.
One negative was that some of the extras at the resort were more expensive than they needed to be — even at a nice resort. For example, hookahs at the Buddha Bar Beach started at 100 euros each (about $117)! If you really wanted a hookah, you could find a place downtown that would charge 12 euros ($14).
Paddleboards and beach equipment were only available by rental and not included. In contrast, cabanas at the beach were included, as was parking, so I wasn’t sure how they chose which amenities were included and which weren’t.
Like I said before, the entire property was beautifully designed and well maintained — look at that gorgeous nighttime lighting!
I was also pleased with the excellent and dependable Wi-Fi coverage. I got a signal everywhere, even out by the pier. Unlike many hotels that make you log in daily or have the pop-up on the iPhone (that doesn’t always pop up), Wi-Fi was just password-protected, like most of us have at home.
The staff was consistently friendly, always greeting guests with a smile without being overbearing. Every time I signaled to someone, they would immediately come over, and whatever I ordered always arrived promptly.
The hotel was full of stylish guests, and my husband was infatuated with the megayachts anchored in front of the resort daily — if you’re a boat lover, get ready to drool! Many of these yacht owners stayed at the resort while their crews rested on their vessels. Be warned, if you have a boat less than 100 feet long, it may be the smallest anchored there overnight.
The sauna and steam rooms were free to guests as was the gym.
There was also a hair salon and spa.
Security was top notch, and no one without a dinner reservation or room was granted access to the resort.
The Santa Marina is stunning, with beautiful decor and a totally private, luxury experience. The suites were comfortable, and the views and location were amazing. That being said, I felt it was ludicrous to charge for things like Nespresso pods and I found the lighting system to be confusing. As food, drinks and extras in the hotel are expensive, taking a cab (I was told it was 10 euros to town) or renting a car is a great way to explore the island but also to eat and drink at a much more reasonable cost. (Though, judging by the constant scrum of guests waiting for cabs, you should work in a little extra time to get anywhere if you do take one.)
However, if you want a true escape, the Santa Marina is a dream spot. Mykonos wasn’t the Cancun of the Mediterranean in my experience — at least not if you stay at the Santa Marina Resort during midseason! It remains one of my favorite hotels ever, and I only wish I could have stayed longer.
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