Cretan Malia Park is a green-fingered family resort in Crete with a trio of sustainably minded restaurants, poolside cocktail bars and a creative activity club for children. In the Mediterranean gardens you’ll find light-filled suites and bungalows packed with natural wood textures, earthy tones and indoor plants, contrasted with polished copper and geometric tiles. There are water sports down at the private beach, or you can get active at the tennis court, gym and yoga pavilion. Or to keep things chilled, stick to massages at the pine-scented spa, or set yourself up in a hammock under the trees.
Get this when you book through us:
A signature cocktail each; GoldSmiths staying at least seven nights also get one €50 resort credit voucher a room, each stay.
11am; check-in 3pm, but both are flexible, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £261.54 (€302), 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-out.
Rates include a buffet of cereals, fresh fruit, local delicacies, hearty hot dishes and a Greek coffee station.
Sign up for cooking lessons and you’ll pick your own vegetables from the kitchen garden before learning local recipes with the executive chef.
Cretan Malia Park’s usually closed for winter, from around November to April.
At the hotel
Gym, free WiFi, tennis court, e-bikes, basketball court, bikes to rent. In rooms: TV, minibar, tea and coffee, bath products made with organic Greek olive oil.
Our favourite rooms
Go for a sea-facing stay – upstairs rooms have views of the Mediterranean, and downstairs rooms open onto a private terrace. Either way, you can fling open the doors and let the sea breeze flow in.
The river-style main pool flows through the lush gardens, with several lagoons and shallow child-friendly sections. There’s also a large heated outdoor pool flanked by sunloungers and parasols.
Local sea salt and extra-virgin olive oil are used in a range of holistic treatments at the Cute Spa, including the aromatherapy massage for two. There are indoor treatment rooms, but go for an open-air room among the pines – lungfuls of sea breeze are always good for body and mind. Prolong your zen with the hotel's wellness programme, which includes everything from yoga, pilates, calisthenics workouts and meditation to book reading sessions, kneading, photography and cooking.
Bring your well-thumbed copy of Zorba the Greek, the Cretan classic by Nikos Kazantzakis. Just don’t start humming the infuriatingly catchy theme tune by the pool.
All common areas have ramps for easy wheelchair access. Some rooms are adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to all suites and bungalows (from €56 per night for children over aged two on a bed and breakfast basis). Interconnecting rooms are available for €50 a night, subject to availability.
Babies and up.
Handily, each suite has sliding doors to separate the bedroom from the living room, where the children will be sleeping. Choose a room on the ground floor and you’ll have a grassy patch to play on. For larger families, there are interconnecting rooms.
The kids club – for little Smiths aged 4–12 – runs morning (10.30am–12.30pm) and afternoons (3.30pm–5.30pm) sessions, six days a week. Activities change daily, but include baking, gardening, drama and plenty of pool time. There’s also the Place, a youth area with hammocks, games and an outdoor cinema.
It’s a water wonderland for little ‘uns, with plenty of shallow sections, entry and exit points, as well as islands and bridges for intrepid swimmers to explore.
Mediterraneo has a dedicated children’s corner at the buffet, and Almyra has a junior menu; children are welcome at Mouries too. Highchairs are provided.
It’s €10 an hour, for a minimum of two hours. Book at least two days in advance.
No need to pack
Pens, pencils, paints or paper.
For a small fee, the resort offers a Baby Package that includes buggy rental, changing mats, baby beds, bottle sterilisers and more.
Sustainability is a core value here – bathroom products are eco friendly, water is recycled for the gardens and solar power provides 80 per cent of the electricity. The hotel has won several awards for its efforts, including Blue Flag certification for its private beach.
At Mouries, choose a table away from the smoky open fire. At the others, go outside on the sea-facing terraces.
Light cottons, with Cretan leather sandals.
There are three restaurants, each with its own charms. At Mediterraneo, pick slow-cooked goodness from the buffet, then take a seat in the light-filled dining room or out on the plant-lined terrace. Almyra deals in coastal Italian cuisine and pizzas baked in the outdoor oven, all using sustainable local produce selected by chef Athinagoras Kostakos; you’ll find the restaurant in a leafy nook by the pool, and there’s a kiosk just for coffee next door (the Crush). Kafenion, meanwhile, is hidden away in lush green gardens, with local mezze dishes and more (delicuous) coffee. Finally, there’s Mouries, where Cretan classics (think marinated pork escalopes) are sizzled on the open hot-coal fire.
Mezze the pool bar is exactly what a pool bar should be – a relaxed, barefoot-friendly zone serving soft drinks, snacks fresh from the barbecue grill and adventurous cocktails by in-house mixologist Telis Papadopoulos. Down on the sand, there’s the Beach Shack, which has a menu of light tapas and local beers that pair perfectly with sunset. For sophistication and sommeliers, hang out at the Lobby Bar, Melissi, a sociable indoor-outdoor lounge peppered with potted plants.
In Mediterraneo, breakfast is from 8am to 11am, lunch is from 12.30pm to 2.30pm and dinner is from 6.30pm until 10pm. Almyra serves lunch from 12.30pm until 4pm and dinner from 7pm until 10pm. Dinner at Mouries is from 7pm until 10.30pm.
You can order breakfast to your room, from 7.30am to 11am. Then there’s an all-day menu of salads, snacks and main courses including pork souvlaki, available until 10pm.
The resort is just outside the town of Malia, on the north coast of Crete.
Fly into Heraklion – British Airways and Easyjet go direct from Gatwick, and there are nonstop routes from Manchester and Edinburgh, too. The resort is 34km from the airport, which takes half an hour in a taxi (it’ll cost about €40); the hotel can arrange transfers on request (prices start from €60 a way).
If you’re intending to explore the beaches, mountains and archaeological treasures of Crete, you’ll need a car to get around. Hire from the airport, and park for free at the resort.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s a lot to be said for staying put in a swinging hammock by the pool but, if you can summon the energy, there are plenty of other options. Join daily classes in yoga, Pilates, aqua yoga and meditation, play tennis, basketball and beach volleyball, take canoes and pedalos out on the water, or just work out at the gym. Then reward yourself with cooking classes led by the executive chef and wine tasting in the gazebo with an expert sommelier. There are regular evening events, including Cretan Soul (a celebration of local culture and cuisine) and themed tasting menus served alongside performances of traditional folk dancing. One morning, join the head gardener on a tour of the grounds and get the lowdown on how the hotel’s conservation efforts help local flora and fauna.
Rent a mountain bike and head for the hills… or if you’d rather pass on pedalling, join an off-road jeep safari instead. Crete is packed with myths and history – Malia Palace is a 3,500 year old archeological site just 2km from the resort, or you can drive 40 minutes to the island’s star cultural attraction, the Palace of Knossos. On the way, you’ll pass the wine-growing region in the foothills, so it’d be rude not to stop at a couple of vineyards. For a day trip to the beach, the locals love the palm-shrouded Vai on the east coast.
Head up to the Lassithi Plateau for the best views on the island – of rugged mountains, sparkling sea and white-sailed windmills dotted across the landscape.
For your taverna fix, head for Ston Prodromo in the hilltop village of Kastelli and tuck into home-cooked favourites on the flower-lined patio, or go for a multitude of Greek meze at David Vegera in Piskopiano. Saradari is in prime position above the port of Heronissos, with sea views from the lime-washed wooden tables; the focus is on fish, naturally, and don’t forget the shrimps in ouzo sauce. On the waterfront in Hersonissos, go for contemporary Cretan cuisine with a Japanese twist at Kymata Restaurant – options include super-fresh sushi, miso sea bass and chicken teriyaki.
Drive 10 minutes along the coast to Stalis and you’ll find Beachcomber, a cool beach club serving fresh-fruit cocktails and crisp local wines in a sprawling waterside lounge. Further west in Kokkini Hani, there’s Nirou Terra, a chilled-out beach bar with straw parasols, cushion sunloungers and teepees made from bundles of branches.
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 beachside hotel in Crete and unpacked their thyme honey and graviera cheese, a full account of their Greek island break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Cretan Malia Park in Crete…
When you go to a family-friendly resort in the Mediterranean, you’re always running a risk – that you’ll get home after a week in the sun, and promptly get scalded by your in-laws. ‘What’s the point of going away just to sit by a pool?’ goes the common accusation, but contrary to the cliché, not all resorts are created equal. Sure, Cretan Malia Park has multiple pools, restaurants and bars to choose from, but it doesn’t feel like an impersonal, mass-market resort. The executive chef lends his expertise to cooking lessons, yoga classes have a community feel, and you’ll get to know the sommelier, too – either at a wine tasting tutorial or over a glass of retsina at the bar. The little Smiths, meanwhile, will be making friends at the outdoor cinema, or in workshops with the house gardener. This, you can tell your in-laws, is anything but an identikit beach hotel.