Abaton Island Resort & Spa is a low-lying, all-white building on the north coast of Crete. The Minotaur would love roaming this particular labyrinth, where the white-cube structures lead down to the shore; within, you’ll discover five restaurants to keep you busy, and a host of dazzling all-white bedrooms (most with a sea view). There are plenty of chances to make a splash: pools abound at Abaton, whether you opt for a room with a private Jacuzzi on the deck or retire to the curvy communal pool at the heart of the resort… its view is one of the best on the island, especially at sunset.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, also flexible.
Double rooms from £285.60 (€315), including tax at 13.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-in.
Rates include a full Cretan breakfast buffet (it's amazing).
There’s a 365-metre stretch of coast on your doorstep with sunbeds and parasols studded along the shore. Pick your patch wisely: three areas are sandy and the rest are rocky. Staff are poised ready to swap towels and serve snacks and drinks.
1 November until the day before Easter Sunday.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, beach, gym, tennis court, car park. In rooms: flatscreen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, air-conditioning and Elemis (Hermès in some room types) bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Nearly every room has a sparkling sea view, but there are a handful that don’t – if it’s a dealbreaker, speak now. The decor is bright, white and simple, letting blue waves out the window do the talking. If you’re travelling en famille, some rooms can be connected – but we’d recommend the Royal Villa, which has two bedrooms. Splash out on a private-pool-enhanced room if your holiday goals are a bit more grown up – some categories share their pool with the neighbours.
There are two pools: an unheated infinity-edged pool outdoors, with a bar and restaurant, and a heated pool in the spa. The former is open from 7am until 7pm; the latter’s hours are 9am to 7pm.
The Elemis spa has a Turkish bath, nail bar and tempting treatment list, which includes various rituals, scrubs and massages. A personal trainer is on hand and the gym has top-spec equipment.
Sturdy slope-tackling gladiator sandals, billowing breezy linens and an imagination-sparking book on Greek mythology – Crete is the home of the Minotaur’s Labyrinth.
The hotel is on a slope, which may be tricky to navigate in a wheelchair, but there are four specially adapted rooms.
Extra beds and cots can be added to rooms. There are mini bathrobes and slippers, bath products and bottle sterilisers. Babysitting can be arranged for €20 an hour (two-hour minimum; a week’s notice is required) and the restaurants have children’s menus.
F-zin Ivy League is perfectly positioned for sunset so be sure to get to the terrace in time. Sit on the deck by the water’s edge in Bony Fish. Watch the chefs at work from the kitchen-facing communal table in Wow Steak.
Greek gods and goddesses. If you’ve packed heels, bust them out at Wow Steak. F-zin Ivy League at dinner has the smartest scene.
There are five, so all bases are covered. Breakfast – a spread of local (Cretan sausages, feta and yoghurt) and the usual international suspects – is best taken on the sea-facing terrace of the inexplicably named F-zin Ivy League Restaurant. By night the deck is transformed into a smarter set-up, with white tablecloths and a more formal vibe, but the same sea views intact. Beachside Bony Fish is one of the finest seafood spots on the island, serving only that day’s catch at lunch and dinner. Elemes Cretan Cuisine specialises, unsurprisingly, in locally sourced classics with seasonal ingredients from the island’s farmers served in a trad taverna setting in the centre of the grounds. Breakfast is also served here and lie-in lovers can capitalise its midday finish. Wow Steak House serves – you guessed it – expertly grilled steaks accompanied by delicious sides, salads and desseers.
The Buddha Bar beach club will see to all of your snacking and sundowner needs throughout the day. Soak up the ocean views as you order delicious sushi, sashimi and robata dishes right to your sunlounger or cabana. Signature cocktails include The White Princess (gin, lemongrass-infused Sake and fresh mint) and the Boracay Spicy Mango (rum infused with Thai chili, mango and lime juice). A second bar in the lobby, Ladies and Gentleman, has a terrace looking out to sea and an elaborate cocktail list that riffs on the classics; we loved the Caramel Oak Manhattan, which was as sweet and smoky as it sounds. Both bars call time at 1am.
F-zin Ivy League is open from 7am until 10.30am and 6.30pm to 9.30pm. Bony Fish: 12.30pm and 5pm; 7pm to 11pm. Elemes: 8am to 10.30am; 7pm to 11pm. Wow Steak serves dinner from 7pm until 11pm. Buddha Bar: 10am to 1am.
The breakfast menu can be ordered in-room between 7am and 10.30am. After that, a selection of burgers, sandwiches, salads, pizzas and pastas takes over. A late-night menu is in operation between 11pm and 7am.
Abaton is on the northern stretch of Crete, just along the coast from Heraklion.
The island’s main air hub is in Heraklion, which is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. Mercedes transfers can be arranged by the hotel for €60 (for up to six passengers).
The drive into the centre of Heraklion will take about 25 minutes. There’s a car park at the hotel.
There are plenty of direct flights into Heraklion, but sea-faring sorts will be pleased to know there’s a ferry linking Greece’s biggest island with its capital (though, at seven hours, it’s not the swiftest sailing).
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel has plenty of land-based activities to keep you happy, whether it’s a treatment and swim at the spa, a session with the personal trainer at the gym a round of tennis – but, as with most gorgeous Greek isles, this is also a place for water babies. Water sports on offer include sailing on the resort's yacht, diving and snorkelling. Then, it's time to venture out and discover Crete's fabled history and beautiful beaches. There’s one on your doorstep (literally), but other sandy spots include Agia Pelagia (it even rhymes), Lygaria and Agiofarago (though this one’s a two-hour drive, so it depends how much you like gorges). Set off for a walk around Piskopiano village to up the romance levels – and for buzzy bars and restaurants, head into Hersonissos for the evening. The fortified Kera Kardiotissas Monastery has murals dating as far back as the 14th century – and it’s thought a monastery has existed on this site since the 9th, but the exact date is unknown.
For brunch with a bougainvillea backdrop, try Iokastiin Koutouloufari. In the centre (right on the square) of Hersonissos’ old town, don’t miss the traditional Zachos Taverna for seafood and stuffed tomatoes. Since 1987, Galini has been keeping Cretan cuisine alive – and its old-world wine list is an impressive effort, as well.
Heraklion is the place to head to for a party (unless you really mean business and could do with a punch-filled watermelon with giant straws in Malia) – the curiously named Dish Bar Party does great cocktails and helpfully turns into a club if you fancy a dance and don’t want to move. And if you’ve visited Agia Pelagia, stick around for cocktails at Almyra.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this resort hotel in Greece and unpacked their feta and filo, a full account of their beach break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Abaton Island Resort & Spa on Crete…
Meet Abaton Island Resort & Spa, a beachside bolthole with blinding white walls and regular glimpses of the sparkling Sea of Crete (starting from the moment you check-in, thanks to the vast windows that provide a watery backdrop to the carved-wood desk). Five restaurants will keep you ensconced within the hotel’s contemporary confines if you don’t want to leave – a simple seafood shack, a trad taverna, a snazzy steak joint and a be-tableclothed terrace to watch the twinkling lights out at sea while you dine. Bedrooms continue the serene scene, with all-white decor that passes the baton to the bright blue behind the windows. Good times are guaranteed.