Tucked into the northwest shore of Crete, Greece’s largest island, lies a wonderful gem for families: Ammos Hotel. This family-friendly boutique property is welcoming and laid-back as well as unassumingly cool. With only 33 rooms and an attentive, congenial staff, the mini-resort feels like home upon arrival — if home were on the beautiful Aegean sea, complete with a sandy beachfront, an outdoor heated swimming pool and an exquisite selection of Cretan cuisine served throughout the day.
The most striking thing about the Ammos, other than its clean whitewashed walls and vibrant blue guestroom doors, is that guests truly feel as if they belong here. It is a relaxed community of people (many of whom return each summer) whose kids find all-day enjoyment in building sand castles on the beach, swimming in the sea, jumping in the pool with bright pink flamingo inner tubes, indulging in ice cream sundaes or chilling out during an evening movie. They come to unwind, be among friends and make friends.
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The Ammos staff is warm and accommodating. Owner and manager Nikos Tseptis holds an encyclopedia’s worth of knowledge about the island — its most authentic tavernas, scenic trails, and stunning beaches — and readily shares this treasure trove of information with his guests. The boutique-chic architecture, inspired and designed by Nikos, has color, character and flair. Don’t wait to book a room; if you wait too long, you won’t get one. The hotel fills up quickly, particularly during Crete’s high season (April to mid-October) … not only because of its fantastic location and attitude toward families, but also its spectacular value for money.
Rooms at Ammos Hotel are minimalist, clean and refreshing with Scandinavian-style interiors, color-blocked walls and design details that stand out. Mosaic-tiled bathrooms with walk-in showers keep company with African-print stools and fisherman’s-knot door stoppers. Rooms have either an ocean view or a garden view, and all are equipped with furnished balconies or terraces.
There are four room categories: Sea and Garden View Studios, Deluxe Sea View Studios, and Garden View Suites. All of the studios are the same size, but the Deluxe versions have a different layout to maximize unobstructed ocean views and are located exclusively on the upper floor of the hotel.
Studios can accommodate a third person and are ideal for families with one child. The three suites, which accommodate up to four people, each offer a spacious bedroom with a queen bed plus a separate living and dining area with two sofas that double as single beds. Our family of six (three adults, three children) comfortably stayed in two studio rooms.
Room amenities include kitchenettes, fluffy bathrobes, cotton slippers, turndown service and delicious Greek chocolates on your pillow in the evenings. For families traveling with young children, the hotel can provide cots, high chairs, baby baths, blankets, towels, monitors, bottle sterilizers and blenders.
Breakfast at the Ammos is a true highlight. There is an impressive spread of the island’s freshest cuisine, including rich Greek yogurt with thyme-infused honey; orange cake; barley piled with feta, tomatoes and olives; homemade granola; Cretan cookies and seasonal fruits. Breakfast is served until 11:30 every morning, allowing guests ample time to sleep in and still enjoy a mouthwatering spread.
If you are poolside or beachside, the restaurant staff will happily deliver cocktails, fresh smoothies, ice cream, Greek salad and much more straight to your sun bed. Now that is service.
The beachfront restaurant serves throughout the day and is open late. Guests can choose from an array of Greek classics, from stuffed tomatoes and crispy calamari to souvlaki, lamb and moussaka. Of course, the restaurant also serves kids’ favorites, including pizza, sandwiches, pasta and more.
The Cretan summers can be hot, and guests will find relief by cooling off in the sea or in the beachfront swimming pool. A small portion of the pool is shallow and set apart, allowing the Ammos’ youngest guests to enjoy themselves with some freedom. Floats, inner tubes, scuba masks, watering cans and diving sticks make the pool experience that much more fun for kids.
When children need a break from the sun, they can retreat to the playroom, which is equipped with plenty of toys to entertain young ones. Older kids might enjoy the foosball table and the playroom’s movie selection. The playroom is largely parent-supervised, although the Ammos offers two hours of complimentary childcare every Monday through Friday during cocktail hour (talk about perfect timing). Babysitting outside those hours can also be pre-arranged.
For parents, the Ammos offers a selection of 60- and 90-minute massages in its dedicated treatment room. The hotel also has a small gym, equipped with a treadmill, an elliptical, a bench press, free weights and TRX equipment.
While the beach in front of the Ammos is suitable for families, it pays to make your way (via rental car or guided tour) to the beaches of Elafonisi, Balos and Falasarna on the west coast if you have extra time. These beaches are truly magnificent and will give you a better sense of all this island has to offer.
If you are traveling with older children, you may want to venture to Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains. With vertical walls soaring up to 1,500 feet, the gorge was carved by the river that flows between the peaks of Mount Avlimaniko and Mount Volakias. It is a 10-mile hike, so be prepared with the right shoes plus food and water. You can also visit the Manousakis Winery for a day of leisure, wine and cheese tasting; the winery is only a 15-minute drive from the hotel.
One thing that we found extremely helpful and informative at the Ammos is the giant chalkboard that lists daily activities in the area (hikes, triathalons, boat excursions, etc.), along with the day’s weather, what’s on in the kids room and restaurant specials. If you are looking for things to do around the island, the staff is there to help in more ways than one.
Editor’s Note: Loren was provided a media rate by Ammos Hotel in order to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Loren Braunohler.
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