Oku Kos is an adults-only boutique hotel in the Greek isles that uses a holism-with-a-wink approach to give guests a sense of wellbeing – perhaps unsurprising considering Kos’s historically alleviating tendencies (Hippocrates’ stomping ground and the world’s first hospital lie close by). There’s no calorie-counting or stringent soul-searching; simply beachy afternoons, rubdowns with fragrant herbs and olive oil in the spa, nourishing farm-to-fork meals (including vegan options) and a heck of a sunset to take with your digestif. And, the hotel’s eye for elevated rustic style (warm woods, rattan and wicker, stoneware), is yet another mood-lifting reason to stay.
12 noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from $188.79 (€156), including tax at 4 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €4.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include a choice of generous breakfast spreads, morning yoga lessons and entry to the gym.
So, we can’t all flee to a Grecian isle for good – life isn’t Mamma Mia, ya know? But, with the right stoneware pot, straw basket and stylishly whittled footstool, you can maintain the illusion of an elongated getaway. The hotel’s concept store has all you need to recreate its look.
The hotel closes annually from 3 November to 5 April.
At the hotel
Beach, spa with a hammam and sauna, gym, concept shop, small library, laundry services, free WiFi. In rooms: flatscreen TV, wireless Marshall speakers, a minibar, coffee- and tea-making kit, free bottled water, bathrobes and slippers and free WiFi.
Our favourite rooms
For the full this-is-my-life-now experience, choose one of Oku’s three villas. They have the same stylish look as all the rooms, but come with a private pool, a terrace a group can spread out on, and a separate lounge, too. There are two bedrooms, but a solitude-seeking couple would be equally comfy. Alternatively, plump for the more intimate Suite with a Private Pool.
There are two. The open-air, unheated freshwater pool has beckoning turquoise waters, pillowy day-beds lining the deck and frilly thatch parasols and a pavilion to provide shade – you’ll need to move fast to secure your lounging spot, but if you miss out you can decamp to those laid out on the beach. If temperatures lower, the indoor spa pool is bath-tub warm.
The spa may be petite, but it’s central to the hotel’s soul-restoring philosophy and it’s as stylish as the rest of the stay: the hammam has dove-grey tadelakt walls, perfumed plants grow around the entrance and attractive stone and wood elements abound throughout. Treatments use all-natural treatments, including those grown onsite and approved by the resident herbalist, and are designed to leave you feeling floaty and serene after. Try the signature Hippocratic anatripsis massage that uses a rhythmic ancient technique, or the Aegean scrub for silky smooth skin. Yoga and Pilates classes are held daily on the beach too, and personal trainers are on hand to motivate – the gym is probably one of the most chic we’ve seen with its mid-century-esque NOHrD work-out equipment.
Both active and less-active wear will come in handy during your stay.
Some ground-floor rooms are suitable for guests with mobility issues and have adapted bathrooms.
The patter of tiny feet is antithetical to Oku’s ‘hey, sit down, relax’ ambience, so this stay is just for adults – sorry kids.
Dining is duly seasonal, local and organic, and Earth-kind cleaning products and toiletries are in use. And, the hotel is aiming to be plastic-free by the end of 2021.
The sunset view is first-prize here – tables are first come, first served, but fairly well spaced out on the terrace to allow everyone a gander.
No need to dress to the nines – you could even go as low as a three or four – but do bring a cover-up for after dark when temperatures drop.
We like the as-you-like-it attitude of To Kima Beach Club, the hotel’s indoor-outdoor dining hub by the pool with a bar and lounging areas. Chef Michalis Chondrobilas (Mike to his friends) is passionately involved with local farms, whose produce he turns into delightful Med dishes in his open kitchen. There are Grecian classics and the sort of excellent fresh fish, country-reared meats, moreish dips, elegantly composed salads and fresh-as-can-be veggies you’d expect in this part of the world. We’d plump for the swordfish souvlaki, linguini pomodoro with three kinds of tomato, or the pork tenderloin with fava mousse. And, Asian flavours are infused through the menu too; nods to the hotel's Japanese name include sushi, sahsimi and ddishes from further afield. The degustation menu changes by the day, there’s a dedicated vegan menu (and gluten-free choices) and desserts, such as baklawa cheesecake, will thrill.
Surrounded by squishy sofas, the poolside bar sits in a pavilion with sea views. It’s as easy-breezy as the restaurant; just waft in when you get thirsty. Barkeeps have a range of potent sippers in their repertoire: say, the Highball Oaxaca Tribe with mezcal, lime and ginger beer; or the Sea Breeze with rum, rhubarb bitters and cranberry juice. However, they’re happy to work on the fly and whip you up something bespoke – we very much enjoyed our refreshing mix of vodka, basil and lime.
Breakfast runs from 7am to 11am, lunch from 12 noon to 6pm and dinner from 7pm to 11pm, but staff are fairly free with timings. The bar is open from 7am to 1am.
You can pick and choose your in-room feast from the full menu during restaurant hours.
Oku Kos lies by the beach on the north shore of its namesake Dodecanese island, surrounded by grassy fields with a mountain backdrop.
The hotel is just a 20-minute drive through a picturesque cross-section of the island from Kos International Airport. Transfers can be arranged for €60 each way.
You can drive the length of Kos in around an hour and conditions are good, so it’s worth hiring a car if you need entertainment beyond flopping and dropping. There’s free parking at the hotel.
Blue Star ferries run four services a week from Athens to Kos; but, be warned, the journey is a drawn-out nine hours plus.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel went to a lot of trouble to make its wellness area as aesthetically pleasing as its rooms, we love the hammam and the gym’s Scandi-style NOHrD equipment and the spa is the kind of spot where you’ll wonder where they got, say, that bronze bowl or woven hanging as you’re pampered. When you’re done head on over to the concept store to lay down some serious Euros on homewares. The bar and restaurant’s open-plan layout make it a good watch-the-world-go-by spot, and the terrace is in prime position for sunset-watching. Kos isn’t as party-hard as some of its Ioanian and Cycladic cousins, but it’s certainly where you’d want to come when you’re looking to rest and recuperate. Wellness is embedded in its bedrock – a vast healing site, the world’s first hospital, was erected here in honour of the god of healing and medicine Asclepius, and the island was home to Hippocrates, the legendary doctor whose do-no-evil oath is still sworn to. The ruins of Asklepion are some of Kos’s most impressive with colonnaded temples, former hydrotherapy baths and the medical school. But, those aren’t the only rows of weathered columns you’ll see while you’re here. Paleo Pyli’s crumbling Byzantine churches, the well-preserved steps of the Roman Odeon theatre and the ancient shrines and basilicas of the Agora are just a handful of the ancient sites giving dramatic historical context to an even more dramatic landscape. The hotel has a beach almost all to itself, but stretches of heavenly coastline are the sort of thing Kos does very well, and they don’t have names like Paradise and Magic beach for nothing. Inland, the salt lakes at Alykes and Plaka Forest with its preening peacocks are wonderfully diverting. Next door to the hotel, Erika’s Horse Farm organises unique ‘ride-and-swim’ excursions where you’ll trot along the beach and wade out flank-deep into the surf. And if you prefer a more traditional restorative, wallow in Therma Hot Springs on the south coast. Of the dinky isles orbiting Kos, Kastri is worth visiting to pose by its pretty blue-and-white church – it’s close enough to swim to – and further afield, volcanic island Nisyros has mighty hilltop monuments and intriguing regional delicacies: try chickpea meatballs, a stiff shot of koukouzina spirit, or cherry-tomato spoon sweets.
Oromedon’s bougainvillea-strung roof terrace has quite the panoramic view and is especially romantic after dark. The menu errs towards traditional dishes; expect fat buttery prawns, tender pork in couscous, salads with crunch and generous blocks of feta. For languid meals till late try Barbouni, whose sun-kissed terrace overlooks the sea. Pescetarians will fare well here, because sushi, seafood platters and just beautifully cooked catches of the day are the most tempting choices. It has a deli with fine Greek produce too. And if you’d like to get dressed up, book a table at the restaurant in the Albergo Gelsomino hotel, where the likes of tuna tataki with peach and chilli and pork spare ribs drizzled in ponzu sauce are served with artistic flair.
Sitar cocktail bar in Kos Town is low-key and romantically low-lit – twosomes should order up a flower-garnished sharing bowl of tropical punch – or a whisky flight, or one off a long list of tasty libations.
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 artfully conceived design den in the Greek isles and unpacked their wine-soused krasotiri cheese and jar of glykotomataki (sweet tomato preserve) to drizzle over ice-cream – yes, really – a full account of their hip holistic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Oku Kos…
Oku Kos, a serene retreat on the north coast of the Dodecanese isle, is dedicated to slow living and mindfulness, which feels very on-brand considering its locale’s healthful history – native son and father of modern medicine Hippocrates would approve; after all, a massage in the spa, inspired by ancient practice, is named after him. Our prescription for your stay is to kick back on the pretty-much-private beach, toast the sunset with zesty highballs and even hit the gym where stylish Scandi equipment makes a work-out feel like an arthouse movie montage. It’s all part of the down-to-the-minutiae know-how of the hotel – its cubic white villas nod to the traditional, but interiors with earthy hues, warm woods, stormy grey stone and tactile linens take a detour from typical all-white rooms. They’re so confident of their taste that there’s a concept store stocked with many covetable things on site too. And there’s substance to that style, with Grecian cooking that somehow manages to be healthy yet irresistible, gardens planted with herbs to ensure sweet-smelling walks and a location within marvelling distance of important ancient sites – a tonic, indeed.