A sociable stay on the Ionian island of Zakynthos, Contessina Hotel is one long pool party in hotel form. Most of the rooms are set around the water, and the pool has an unsurprisingly open-till-late bar. The restaurant celebrates the divinity of Demeter and her harvest, and (less in keeping with the gods, but just as bountiful) the drinks keep coming via QR code, served straight to your squashy charcoal sunlounger.
Double rooms from £136.32 (€159), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast.
The hotel is open between April and October.
At the hotel
Free WiFI throughout. In rooms: Nespresso coffee machine, TV, air-conditioning, fridge, free bottled water and Argan Source bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Most of the rooms have a view of the pool, so guests can ensure they’re not missing out on any fun. For swift access to a shared pool with day-beds suspended above it, book a Swim Up Pool Suite. Families will love the ground-floor Garden Suites, each of which has its own pool, terrace and space to sleep two adults and two children.
The freshwater pool (and its bar) is the centrepiece of the hotel, and there’s a separate children’s pool, too – they’re open daily from 8am to 8pm.
In-room treatments can be arranged, and guests can book in at the spa at sister hotel Contessina Suites & Spa around the corner.
Bring standard-issue Greek-island attire: bright, breezy linens, wind-withstanding hats and lots of suncream.
The communal areas have ramps for wheelchair access, but there are no specially adapted rooms.
All ages are welcome, but the pool area is more suitable for grown-up guests. Cots for babies are free.
Even at the hottest time of the day, there’s always a breeze-giving spot to be found on the terrace by the pool.
In Arcadia (and we don’t mean Topshop).
Named for the happiest point of the wine calendar (harvest), Vedema serves Greek and international favourites: expect classics like saganaki, souvlaki, Grandma’s stuffed vine leaves and island-produced cheese with marmalade – along with more refined dishes such as octopus carpaccio with truffle oil. Anyone really committed to their sunlounger will be pleased to hear that poolside refreshments can be ordered via QR code, with no loss of sunbathing time involved.
There’s a bar by the main pool – sun-worshippers can select from a two-pages-strong cocktail list, impressive whisky selection and, since this is Greece, 15 types of coffee.
Breakfast hours are 7.30am to 10.30am. Lunch is served between noon and 5pm, when dinner service takes over until 11.30pm. The bar is open until midnight.
Salads, sandwiches and pastas can be delivered to your room between 10.30am and 11.30pm.
The hotel is in the Zakynthos (AKA Zante) resort town of Tsilivi (confusingly sometimes called Planos), on the island’s north-east coast and steps from the shore.
The hotel is a 20-minute drive from the island’s international airport. Direct flights here land from all over Europe. Hotel transfers can be arranged on request.
This is the definition of a fly-and-flop destination, so you’ll be able to get by without a car – staff can help sort taxis and drivers. The furthest most visitors get is up the coast to Zakynthos/Zante Town, three miles away. Parking is available right next to the hotel.
For guests arriving from another island or the mainland, the port is a 15-minute drive from the hotel – transfers from the harbour can be arranged.
Worth getting out of bed for
Local musicians arrive for jazz and traditional ‘kantades’ nights, and staff arrange tea parties like the nobility of old enjoyed, picnics for days at Tsilivi beach (100 metres away), and send you on photo safaris to local beauty spots, say Navagio (AKA Shipwreck Beach), a turquoise cove with majestic limestone cliffs. They’ll also charter yachts for trips along the coast. Kalamaki Beach is another picturesque spot for laying your towel, or indulge your childish side with a visit to Tsilivi Water Park. Zante Town is a short drive away and it has a few interesting museums to nose around (the Byzantine Museum and the Museum of Dionysios Solomos & Andreas Kalvos will provide a good grounding in local history). Spot sea turtles and seals at the Marine Park in the south. But really, your time here is best spent soaking in a pool, being pampered in the sister hotel’s spa, or hopping from white sand to gold sand beaches.
On Ampoula Beach, To Ladofanaro serves simple grilled fish, lobster pasta, lamb kleftiko and more Grecian favourites on a sea-facing terrace. Bohemian Avli was the first restaurant in Zakynthos to offer a wide choice of vegan and gluten-free dishes. The owner Giota was once a personal trainer: there’s a creative selection of salads and less-healthy choices, too.
The nightlife in Planos errs towards unnaturally hued cocktails and shots o’clock. For something sleeker, head into Zakynthos Town. Base Cafe and Roof Cocktail Bar is a slick modern space with a DJ and a selection of craft cocktails to kick things into gear. Movida, perched atop Bochali Hill, is more romantic, thanks to its Ionian panorama and lanterns in the trees.
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 boutique hotel in Greece and unpacked their sun cream and swimwear, a full account of their island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Contessina Hotel in Zakynthos…
Greek hospitality is alive and well at Contessina Hotel, where staff recreate traditional tea ceremonies favoured by the nobility, pack you off with picnics for beach days or charter yachts so you can see the coast in style (with another picnic). At this sociable stay on the Ionian island of Zakynthos (Zante if you’re aged 18 to 30), days are centred around the pool, which is lined by squashy charcoal sunloungers that you won’t want to leave – luckily, poolside catering is ordered via QR code, so you can enjoy cooling cocktails on tap. The sister hotel’s grotto-like spa is open for guests in search of treatments, naps in a hanging poolside pod and a dip amid the cavernous concrete walls. The Vedema restaurant is an elegant affair, but for those who want to relive their youth, garishly coloured cocktails (and watermelon receptacles) can be found a swift drive north in Zante Town.