I’ve sung the praises of TUI more than once on this blog. The British travel market seems to really love a good package holiday and about a third of the time I am no exception. I love the ease of it, the simplicity and the guarantee that if something goes wrong there is a team there ready and willing to fix what they can. Of course, it’s not the perfect set up for every holiday but if you’re after a relaxing week on the beach then TUI are my go to company.
This summer our adventures took us as far as the Greek island of Crete, in the Aegean Sea. Crete is a pretty large island so offers a variety of styles of holiday including plenty of water sports for the more outgoing among us, some stunning Venetian ruins for those of us wanting to explore history and of course it is mentioned in plenty of Greek mythology so there is a lot to entice you to Crete. Although to be perfectly honest with you, at this point in the year the real draw of Greece is the sunny beaches and stunning Greek food. I did my entire GCSE Food Tech course on Greek cuisine. I am a devotee, an obsessive, a fangirl.
Around a 90-minute drive from the airport in Heraklion is the seaside resort of Rethymnon and nestled right on the coast, mere feet from the crashing waves is the Golden Beach Hotel. It is run by the lovely Michael and his family, and every single member of staff at the Golden Beach Hotel is friendly, welcoming and dilligent.
We paid a little extra in order to have a sea-view room, which turned out to be a great option as on the Wednesday of our week away thunderstorms and rain arrived (a welcome break from the heat for redheads like me!) and we whiled away the morning in our room with the doors open enjoying the view and a good book or two. The hotel has plenty of sea view rooms but none of the rooms have a particularly bad view, as the hotel is set right on the beach and there are no high rise buildings around it.
Our room (615) was equipped with a lovely large shower, air conditioning, a fridge, twin beds and a hair dryer. Having a fridge in the Greek summer is always a blessing and a mere few hundred yards away from our room were a selection of mini-markets and supermarkets meaning we always had plenty of cold water and treats in the room. In the supermarkets food and drink was all relatively reasonably priced – we bought 12 1.5 litre bottles of water and that came to a total of €3.20. I also treated myself to one of my favourite Greek treats, the coconut filled Papadopoulou biscuits. They’re just mmmmm.
With a large, modern TV (not that we really used it but it did have Greek, German and English channels available) the room felt fresh and clean and I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been refurbished in recent years. It had plenty of room for two people and the beds were comfortable, with plenty of sheets and blankets that you could mix and match as you wished. The air-con was quiet so it didn’t disrupt your sleep, and kept the room at a pleasant temperaure. The wardrobes were vast, and there was plenty of room to stash your suitcases to keep them out of the way. Our room was cleaned beautifully and promptly every day.
The Location (and Beach)
If you’re after a classic beach holiday then really the location couldn’t get any better than the Golden Beach Hotel. You can see the sea from almost anywhere in the hotel grounds, and you can definitely hear it. The hotel also has plenty of sunbeds available on the beach directly in front, and these are charged at €5.00 per day for two sunbeds, a sunshade, a plastic chair and two 500ml bottles of water. All in all, it’s not a bad deal, especially if you are like me and need plenty of shade fairly constantly! If you’re picky about your sunbed location (i.e. front row) then probably aim to pop your towels on your chosen bed by around 9.00am but there are dozens of beds around so you can always find somewhere to enjoy the lovely beach.
The beach is vast in width and not too shabby in depth. My top tip would be to buy a pair of water shoes either before you travel or once you get there (these seemed to retail at around €6.90 pretty universally from any gift shop or mini market on the main street behind the hotel) as the ground around the shoreline is a little uneven and full of pebbles and rocks of all shapes and sizes.
If you have very small children or inexperienced swimmers in your group then be cautious of the swell and crashing waves as they can be quite large which is pretty fun if you’re a strong swimmer but intimidating if not! The beach is well covered by lifeguards and as ever, keep an eye on the flags marking the safety of the water.
You can definitely enjoy a lovely long walk along the beach every day – keep an eye out for the turtle nests which the Greek charity ARCHELON carefully mark out and protect on the beaches here.
Speaking of ARCHELON – if you’re staying on a beachfront hotel anywhere that turtles nest please mention to the management that turning off as much outside light as possible during nesting and hatching seasons (probably May to August) is a massive help and where lights need to be on if they could be a red bulb (which turtles cannot see) then that is brilliant as we can still enjoy ourselves without disrupting the wildlife. The other big thing is if your hotel has sunbeds out on the beach, ask if these can be stacked up toward the back of the beach at the end of the day as otherwise they will get in the way of any nesting turtles and if the female is spooked or blocked from laying her eggs she will eventually just abort the eggs into the sea. Now, with egg to adult survival rates being around 1 in 1000, every possible little egg needs a chance if possible, right?
The Golden Beach Hotel boasts two great pools as well as smaller children’s pool on top of its beachfront location. I used the rectangular pool every morning for a few pre-breakfast laps before hopping up to the room to change and enjoy the breakfast buffet overlooking the ocean.
There aren’t many sunbeds around the pools, and these are charged at the same €5.00 per day as those on the beach and include all the same perks.
The larger main pool is a great option for children and those wanting to avoid sea. The main benefit of these areas of the Golden Beach Hotel is that at no point does anywhere feel crowded. I enjoyed beginning and ending my day with a few laps in the smaller pool and it made me feel less bad about enjoying all the incredible dishes available in the restaurant every day!
Now, as a veggie abroad I am sometimes a little apprehensive about food options but the Golden Beach Hotel buffet is beautifully varied with some tasty dishes. I enjoyed tzatziki and olives every evening followed by a variety of delicious food – largely of Greek or Cretan origin including my absolute favourites, stuffed peppers. They also offered some scrummy baklava and similar desserts. Nobody rushed you through your food and you could have as much or as little as you wanted. You do need to buy drinks with your evening meal and a 1 litre bottle of still water comes in at €2.20, or a 500ml bottle of Mythos is around €2.80.
Breakfast is invariably my favourite meal of the day when I go on holiday. There’s something so fun about being able to take time over a meal that I generally just spoon into my mouth at my desk when I have a chance. The breakfast buffet offers up classics such as Greek yoghurt with honey and fruits, cereals, toast, hams and cheeses as well as omlettes made to order, and plenty of other hot options such as pancakes, eggy bread, grilled tomatoes, bacon, eggs, and pastries. Plus as much tea and coffee, hot chocolate, various squashes and iced teas as you can shake a stick at. You’d be hard pushed to find nothing to eat here – and almost everything is labelled as Gluten Free where possible to make life easier for coeliacs abroad.
There’s something so jolly about having your dinner and then all slowly, heavily, relocating a mere 15 metres away to settle down with a cocktail or a Cola Light and enjoy the evening’s entertainment. With everything from Greek dancing lessons, a belly dancing group who have most recently been seen on “Greece Got Talent” and a really interesting and enlightening talk from the team at ARCHELON about local sea turtle preservation the hotel really does cater to everyone but in a rather charming and under stated way. This isn’t Benidorm, the party scene here is pretty limited but everyone has a mutual goal to have a relaxing and enjoyable break and everyone at the Golden Beach Hotel seems to be more than happy to help that happen.
What always amazed me each night was how the hotel carefully decorated their taverna/bar area to fit with the theme of the evening’s entertainment. It was all done with such devotion and created a beautiful atmosphere as well as a beautiful location to enjoy what the hotel had to offer. I also noticed that a few families were celebrating anniversaries and birthdays during their holidays and the hotel took great care over them, creating small, slightly more private nooks for them to enjoy a birthday breakfast in for example. They really do go above and beyond for every guest!
I would absolutely recommend this hotel to anyone wanting an escapist holiday where you don’t need to think about too much, but still feel like you’re getting a taste of Greek culture. The main town of Rethymnon is just a bus ride away and there are many trips available to archeological sites such as Knossos. If you’re in the mood to see the sights from above then try parasailing or maybe just have a lovely big breakfast and enjoy reading a good book on the beach. You decide, it’s your holiday after all.