Not, as the name might suggest, on the Costa del Sol, but overlooking the Ionian Sea on Greece’s lesser-known (and rather enticing) Epirus Coast, MarBella Elix is a striking stack of contemporary rooms and suites – many with private pools, all with sea views. A photoshoot-worthy infinity pool and prime patch of sand on Karavostasi beach are catnip to sun lovers in search of somewhere new. Between days reclined by the pool, return to vertical with walks in the Epirus hills or out on the Ionian, courtesy of paddleboards or sailing dinghies. This is a resort in the truest sense, with fine and casual dining, bars beside the beach and pool, and pretty nearby towns – in this case shipwreck-strewn Sivota and picturesque Parga – a short drive away.
Get this when you book through us:
In-room breakfast the day after arrival and a bottle of sparkling wine; GoldSmiths get €50 to spend in the spa.
Double rooms from £145.02 (€170), including tax at 13 per cent.
Rates include breakfast. and dinner at the main buffet restaurant.
The hotel can whip up a day cruise on a private yacht to the idyllic coves of Antipaxos and the Blue Caves at Paxos. Beyond the Room Service menu, breakfast in bed, cakes baked to order, cocktail gatherings and small dinner parties can all be arranged.
Annually between November and March.
At the hotel
Pool, spa, gym, fitness studio, tennis court, choice of restaurants and bars, boutique, deli market, beach section, beach-to-hotel funicular, watersports. In rooms: private or sharing swim-up pool (depending on room type), flatscreen TV with music channels, free WiFi, Nespresso coffee machine, kettle, minibar (at extra cost), free bottled water, Gilchrist & Soames bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Its sizeable pool and terrace and gorgeously grand bedroom make the Deluxe Suite Private Pool a winning choice, with special commendation going to the terraced Junior Suite Panorama Sea View. Prize for the biggest pool goes to the Junior Suite Panorama Private Pool.
The freshwater infinity pool has incredible sea views and is open 10am–6pm daily. There’s a pool bar team to ferry drinks and snacks to your parasol-shaded lounger. Alongside the main pool, there’s also a Jacuzzi and a covered shallow pool for children. There's a lifeguard at each of the pools, though of course, little Smiths need supervision.
A relaxing retreat of cool tiles and calming aromas, Elixir Spa has three treatment rooms and a menu which includes couple’s massages and uses the award-winning spa brand Ariadne Athens spa products, merging unique bio-actives with natural Greek and Mediterranean ingredients.
Rotating selection of swimwear, smartish options for dinner and shades, shades, shades (you can never pack too many sunglasses for a stay on the sparkling Ionian coast).
Laundry and ironing services available (extra cost). Inaccessible communal areas and the stepped layout of this clifftop hotel make it impractical for wheelchair users.
Very welcome. Extra beds and cots are available in all but standard rooms; there are menu options for children at Saffron, Indigo and Azure Beach Bar; and the hotel has a kids’ club, crèche and babysitting service.
Over-4s and pool-proof Little Smiths (or static babes in arms) are best suited to the terraced layout and pools-everywhere design at MarBella Elix.
The decadent dimensions of a Family Room Swim Up are hard to beat. All family suites and rooms come with a screened-off bedroom and sofa beds in the living area. If travelling with toddlers, be aware that Swim Up room options do not have pool gates.
For children aged four months to three years, there are two crèche sessions, morning and afternoon, from €35 a session, featuring bubbles, craft, sensory play and treasure hunts.
Tennis court rental is free. Kids club for four to 12 year olds is free and has sessions morning and afternoon, with the option to book a lunch session at extra cost. Activities include craft, drama and storytelling, plus sports and water fun. Intrepid older children and teens will love the watersports, boat trips and hikes at Adventure Club, which runs during July and August at extra cost.
Adjacent to the main pool is a shaded, shallow pool ideal for babies and toddlers. Both pools have a lifeguard.
Highchairs are available and there are kids’ menus at Saffron, Azure and Indigo. The kitchen will heat baby food or milk on request. All rooms have a minibar fridge but no kitchenette.
Must be booked ahead and costs €15 an hour for a minimum of three hours – maximum three children to one sitter.
No need to pack
There are baby phones available on request for free.
From 7pm, you can order dishes from Pearl’s glorious Greek menu to come to your room, creating a sense of occasion over dinner without the babysitter.
The hotel has reduced its energy bills by 75 per cent through a combination of installing solar panels to heat its water, water-regulation valves and a desalination system. LED bulbs are used across the hotel. Local residents make up 75 per cent of staff at the hotel.
Indigo’s cushion-scattered benches, facing the pool but shaded from the Ionian sunshine, are a picturesque spot to linger. Any table on the terrace at Pearl feels special, particularly if you’re there in time for sunset.
Trousers and shirt for Mr Smith, a chance to flaunt a fine dress or top and skirt for Mrs Smith. Sports or swimwear, flip-flops included, all mean you risk being turned away at both Saffron and Pearl.
For fine dining, Pearl has tables indoors and out. The menu pairs modern Greek and Mediterranean influences with palate-pleasing results. Enjoy regional specialities such as Batsaria goats’ cheese and spinach pastries, grilled octopus and wine-braised Paramythia beef cheeks at lamp-lit dark-wooden tables. Saffron is the hotel’s casual all-day dining option: it’s here you’ll find breakfast, family-friendly buffet spreads and a choice of cooking stations. Cuisine-themed nights ensure the menu stays brilliantly varied. Shaded poolside eatery Indigo has an extensive drinks menu as well as lunch and dinner menus that tick cherished burger, pizza, sandwich and salad options alongside Greek favourites such as souvlaki and beef kebabs. In similar style, Azure beach bar serves drinks, salads, sandwiches and hot lunchtime staples, for refreshment by the sea.
The high-ceilinged lobby, with its floor-to-roof windows and tabled terrace, is home to Ruby, an all-day lounge bar. As idyllic for sunset drinks as it is for escaping the midday sun, poolside Indigo has a comprehensive Greek wine list alongside more familiar European fizz and signature pink gin cocktails. At the beach, Azure serves surfside coffees and soft drinks, as well as classic cocktails and cold, cold beer.
Dine at Pearl between 7pm and 10pm. Saffron is open 7am–10am for breakfast. Lunch is served 1pm–3pm and dinner between 7pm and 10pm. At Indigo, drinks and snacks are served all day; for lunch, it’s 12.30pm till 4.30pm, dinner is served 7pm–10pm.
A selection of light bites, Greek and Italian dishes is available 11am–7pm. After that, a potted version of Pearl’s Mediterranean menu is on offer until 11pm.
MarBella Elix perches above the broad sands of Karavostasi, not far from Sivota and Parga, two postcard-pretty coastal towns in north-west Greece, on the Ionian coast.
Preveza International Airport (also called Aktion) has direct flights from across Europe and is an 80-minute drive from the hotel. Corfu International Airport is less than three hours away by car and ferry. Airfield Margariti, 40 minutes away, is the nearest private runway.
Cars and ferries tend to dominate in this mountainous country: the limits of Greek rail infrastructure mean taking the train makes little sense.
This is a mountain region with dramatic cliffs and rugged coastline – all of which means driving is breathtaking but not easy, with hairpin bends and sheer roadside drops fairly standard. The hotel has on-site parking and valet parking.
The hotel can arrange private boat transfers from Corfu Town to the hotel, taking around 45 minutes, from €500 each way. With ferries to Corfu, Igoumenitsa is the nearest port, a 45-minute drive from the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
There’s so much to do without wandering far at MarBella Elix, from stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking, learning to sail, mountain biking to hiking. Charter a yacht for the day to see Paxos and Antipaxos, or book a private transfer to Corfu to explore the largest Ionian isle. The delights of seaside resorts Sivota and Parga warrant an excursion or two. Back at the hotel, don your Tennis whites for a few serves under the sun, at the property's free to use court, and for little ones, a children's playground is in the works.
At nearby Perdika, Fork and Knife serves hearty burgers and super-fresh pasta alongside artily presented Greek plates and seafood – just the thing for a night out of the resort. A regularly changing menu of steak and fish from the grill and Mediterranean fare are on offer at The Crabs tavern in Perdika, where pots and pans are strung from the beamed ceiling; especially good for fresh fish and other seafood. Tables on the terrace overlook pretty Sivota harbour at Filakas Hotel restaurant, where you can dine on seafood dishes such as calamari and linguine with clams, as well as mezze plates of hummus, melitzanosalata and Greek salad – a great spot for lunch.
Right by the beach in Sivota, Charlie’s is nominally an all-day coffee spot, but proves especially popular for brunch – with locals and visitors alike, all lured by its tempting menu of toasties, pancakes and omelettes. The Green Bakery in Parga has an enticing, vine-shaded terrace, and serves freshly baked bread, fruit juices and coffees with a worth-a-browse brunch menu.
Cocktails at VR Bar in Parga are best enjoyed over ice as the sun sets; this beachside drinking den is at Villa Rossa hotel, at the easterly end of Kryoneri Beach. Margaritas, daquiris and harbour views all feature at Amigos Cocktail Bar, part of Pargas Distillery; pull up a stool at the carousel outdoor bar or take a wooden table on the terrace.
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 on the Ionian coast and unpacked their olive-wood tableware and hand-painted ceramics, a full account of their coastal break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside MarBella Elix near Parga…
Glinting through the lobby’s full-height windows at MarBella Elix is the Ionian Sea – a fitting first glimpse of the kind of dream marine views you can expect at every turn at this cleverly designed hotel, be it from your balcony or terrace, from the stunning infinity pool or over dinner and drinks. MarBella Elix has the qualities you’d expect of a beachside resort – plenty of pools, watersports and fitness facilities and of course a fine choice of places to dine. However, it also has the kind of luxury touches you’d expect of a boutique stay: attentive service, thoughtfully curated furnishings; flexible dining that allows you to enjoy breakfast in bed or even a cocktail party from your suite. Then there are the experiences on offer… charter a yacht to explore the clear teal waters around Paxos, book a couple’s massage at the spa, or enjoy a celebration of Greek flavours at fine-dining restaurant, Pearl.