With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, a sea that stays warm through November and countless beaches, water activities and outdoor pursuits to keep the whole family riding high, Cyprus is a phenomenal choice for a year-round getaway. According to legend, Cyprus is also the birthplace of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. Here, you can visit the Baths of Aphrodite, swim in the Blue Lagoon off Akamas National Park and tour archaeological sites like the Apollo Hylates Temple, old Venetian ports and ancient amphitheaters.
Overlooking the Bay of Pissouri, Columbia Beach Resort is an award-winning all-suite property that welcomes families with an outgoing, personable staff and an array of amenities. Highlights include two pools, both with zero-entry areas for the youngest guests; an exceptional spa; a kids’ club and crèche; and three superb restaurants. If you’ve zeroed in on Cyprus as your destination, don’t look any farther: This is the place you’ll want to call home during your time on the island.
Bar none, the Columbia has recruited the most family-friendly cadre of hotel staff on the island. Our first morning exploring the resort, the lifeguard, George, immediately welcomed us with a smile and a tower of towels. He showed us around the pool area and took a special interest in my toddler. They became best buddies during our four-day stay, high-fiving and saying hello at every opportunity. This created constant smiles on my son’s face during our time at the resort.
The Columbia Kids’ Club team is full of great ideas and they are phenomenal at working with each child individually to help them design and play with what interests them most. When my daughter was hard at work on a dream catcher but knew she might not finish it by the time we were due to leave, Valentina, one of the Kids’ Club Staff, helped her by making progress on it during off hours so that we could take home that special memento. And at breakfast, one of the servers approached my 2-year-old and presented him with an array of toddler cutlery to choose from — now that is attention to the hotel’s youngest guests. Time and time again, we had fulfilling interactions with the Columbia staff, who are not only kind, but also accommodating and great with kids.
Another highlight of the resort is its stunning location overlooking Pissouri Bay. The resort sits just above a beach surrounded by dramatic white cliffs along the Mediterranean. The views of the Cypriot coastline and the ocean are a jaw-dropper from every angle of the resort. Pissouri Bay itself is like a gift from the ancient Greek gods, with crystal-clear, calm water that beckons you for a swim. Staying at the Columbia offers seamless access to this beautiful respite, where you can spend days lounging on the beach and engaging in any water-related activity your heart desires.
What’s really unique about Columbia Beach Resort is that it was designed and built as an homage to traditional Cypriot villages, with its own chapel in the style of a Byzantine church, painted by a local artist. One of the on-site restaurants, Apollo Tavern, is built to resemble a traditional Cypriot town square and hosts “Cypriot Nights” with local musicians and folk dancers. As a guest, you don’t feel like you are at a resort at all, but rather in a beautiful, relaxed Mediterranean village.
Awarded the best all-suite resort in Europe in 2021 by the Haute Grandeur Global Hotel Awards, the property offers 169 luxurious suites, many of which are a great fit for families. Our family of six stayed in two executive suites, each with a king bed, large pullout sofa, living area and generous private balcony overlooking the pool and lush gardens. The spacious suites, which sleep four, have beautiful vaulted ceilings, are airy and bright, and the decor reflects a sense of the sea. The resort also offers family suites with one or two bedrooms that sleep up to six, as well as connecting junior suites. Guests are spoiled with fresh flowers and bowls of fruit on arrival plus Kids’ Club backpacks with small gifts, which are sure to delight the youngest travelers in your party.
Variety is the spice of life, as they say, and at the Columbia there is no shortage of exceptional dining options. Our favorite evenings were spent at the Apollo Tavern, which is located in a town square setting with a small chapel, a fountain and views of the gardens and the sea. The atmosphere is warm, hospitable and relaxed, and kids will enjoy running up and down the hill while adults sip a cocktail and look out at the Mediterranean. The resort grows its own herbs and citrus fruits, and Apollo Tavern sources its ingredients from local fishermen, cheesemakers and wine merchants. On the menu is Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, including moussaka, souvlaki, kleftiko and a variety of fresh fish and seafood.
Bacchus, the most upscale of the restaurants, is truly an experience. Guests indulge in a glamorous fusion dinner, sampling Mediterranean and Asian-inspired dishes that are beautifully prepared and taste divine. Sea bass ceviche with a touch of yuzu and twist of smoked tarama and coriander; slow-cooked lamb with sun-dried tomatoes, capers and yogurt cream; pavlova with honey-glazed pineapple, basil, pistachio and pineapple ice cream … Is your mouth watering yet?
Bacchus’ menu is created by the Columbia’s award-winning, Michelin Star-trained executive chef, Ioannis Giakoumidis, who is as kind as he is talented. After a gourmet dining experience, he came out to meet us, tell us about the dishes and talk with the kids. Again, the Columbia knocks it out of the park with an incredibly warm staff who takes the time to interact with the resort’s guests.
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The third restaurant, Cape Aspro, sits on an outdoor terrace overlooking the sea and has a relaxed alfresco atmosphere. It offers seafood platters to share and “street eats” on select evenings — collections of small plates that are cooked under the stars over a fire pit-centered BBQ.
The extensive buffet breakfast includes decadent Greek yogurts and fresh fruit, danishes, charcuterie, cheeses, fresh vegetables and plenty of Champagne for the adults, as well as the ability to order omelets, pancakes, French toast and more.
All restaurants welcome children, and every restaurant offers a children’s menu. The servers at every location went above and beyond to accommodate families, making sure children’s meals came out quickly, helping them with their heaping plates of goodness at the buffet and engaging them with smiles and friendly conversation.
The Columbia proves it is possible to have it all on vacation: a stunning location, gourmet food, luxurious and spacious accommodations, a hospitable staff and excellent amenities. What’s fantastic for all guests is that there are two large pools: one extra-long infinity pool that swims right into the spa, which is designated as the “quiet” pool, and a second pool made for spirited family pool games and splashing. Both pools overlook the ocean, have a separate zero-entry area for young swimmers, and include swim-up bars. Our family migrated from one pool to the next depending on our mood (and noise level).
With families always at the forefront of their planning, the resort offers the Den, a kids’ club for ages 4-12, and Cub Life Crèche, a supervised safe space for ages 4 months to 3 years. The Den is every little artist’s dream, with hundreds of crafts to undertake, heaps of materials and, best of all, two caring, attentive staff members who make sure every child has the chance to do what interests them most. Much more than just an art space, the Den has a miniature bowling lane, several Nintendo play stations, a library, a play kitchen, tons of puzzles, board games, Legos and building materials. They also have a daily schedule of activities like nature walks, mini Olympics, pizza-making, ladder toss, and much more. And a huge perk of the Den? It’s open year-round and complimentary for all guests.
In a separate space, Cub Life Crèche opens upon reservation and costs between 28€ and 35€ per child per session, depending on age. The Crèche offers a schedule of activities such as treasure hunts, relay races, biscuit-making and more. In addition to the kids’ clubs, the Columbia offers babysitting services (for a fee) and the “BabyEase” program, which allows guests to pre-order baby items such as diapers, strollers and other necessities so they are ready and waiting upon arrival. Talk about making family travel easy!
And lest you think I was focusing only on what the Columbia offers for its youngest guests, they also have a multilingual sports and leisure specialist on hand, who designs weekly activities including tennis, basketball, darts, Greek lessons and cooking for kids of all ages and abilities. If that is not unique and special, I don’t know what is.
When you are ready to hit Pissouri Beach and Bay, Columbia Watersports Center is at your service. Located on the beach in front of the resort, the center offers water-skiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, kitesurfing, tubing, SUP and sailing for adults and children. Guests can also hire pedal boats or go for a banana boat ride in the bay. There is no shortage of fun on this beachfront, trust me. The hotel also has a floating dock from which you can jump into the water for a swim or a snorkel. It’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon exploring the local marine environment.
Last but certainly not least, the award-winning Hébe Spa provides signature treatments including massages, facials and body treatments. My husband and I both left our massages raving that they were some of the best we’ve ever had. In a nod to Cyprus’ role in Greek mythology, the spa is named after the Greek goddess of youth. The facility also offers an indoor pool, Jacuzzi and sauna.
An EU country, Cyprus is a divided island, with the eastern portion managed by the Turkish Cypriots and the western portion managed by the Greek Cypriots. During our visit we stayed on and explored activities on the Greek-controlled portion of the island, where the Columbia Beach Resort is located (in Limmasol). The area surrounding the resort is excellent for cycling, swimming, water sports and hiking. Guests can also explore ancient sites nearby, such as the Kourion Ancient Amphitheater, Kolossi Castle and the Apollo Hylates Temple. Farther afield in the northwestern part of the island, you can visit the spectacular Akamas National Park, the Blue Lagoon and the Baths of Aphrodite.
Editor’s Note: Loren was hosted by Columbia Beach Resort in order to review the property. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Loren Braunohler.
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