Luxury Family Travel: Ikos vs Sani - Which Resort is Better?

Comparison of Ikos vs Sani Resorts

After staying at Ikos Dassia in Corfu, Greece once and at Sani (in Halkidiki on mainland Greece) twice (and our third visit booked for later this year) I thought it would be useful to do a comparison of Ikos vs Sani Resorts. Because they offer such a similar product, I know that many people may like to know which of these luxury family resorts are going to be better for their family; Ikos or Sani?

If you only have five minutes to make a decision on whether you should go to Sani Resort or an Ikos Resort, then let me say this; go to any of them and you will have a fantastic holiday! Both resorts offer fantastic luxury family holidays with plenty of things for kids (and adults!) to do, lots of different dining options, and really exceptional facilities and service. So book your accommodation, get some great flights, and then all you have to do is start thinking about what you're going to pack and get excited. Done!

However, if you have a bit more time and want to know how and why the two brands are different, and then use this to help you figure out if Ikos or Sani is the one for you, stick around because that's exactly what I'm going to do. However, to begin with you may want to read my individual reviews for Sani and Ikos. Here is my review of Sani Resort (we stayed in Sani Club), and here is my review of Ikos Dassia, which is on the Greek island of Corfu.

A Short History of Sani and Ikos Brands

Before we go any further, SPOILER ALERT! Ikos and Sani are actually the same, as in they are owned by the same company. Oh, and while I have your attention, from now on all the photos will alternate from Sani to Ikos, Sani then Ikos and so on, starting with Sani resort.

Shock horror! Or not really if you've stayed in both and/or looked at each brand's website. They look VERY similar from the resort layout and accommodation decor through to the packages and products they offer.

They are owned by the Greek registered company Sani / Ikos Group which is ultimately owned by the family company that began the Sani resort back in the 1970s. The current CEO Dr. Andrea A. Andreadis is the son of one of two men who purchased the land that the Sani resort in Halkidiki now stands on. 

Before the Sani resort existed, it was a marshland and uninhabited. The land was owned by monks and two men - a public contractor and a civil engineer - bought the land from the monastery in the 1960s after seeing the bay from a boat on the water. It took eight years to drain the water and make the land habitable.

Then they began to build the luxury resort they had envisioned when they sailed past, and the Sani Beach Club - which is now incorporated into Sani Club where we stayed - their first hotel was opened in 1971.

Sani Beach as its now known followed in 1984 and by the early 2017 with the opening of Sani Dunes, following the earlier launch of Sani Asteria and Porto Sani, these five 5-star hotels plus the Sani Marina area (with several shops, restaurants, apartments, and a marina for boats and luxury yachts) now comprises the award-winning Sani resort. The Sani resort states that they have kept parts of the marshland in its original state and guests can explore it by walking, running and other activities like bird-spotting.

Plans to develop and launch Ikos as the brand we now know it to be were announced in the early 2010s and in 2015 the first Ikos all-inclusive resort, Ikos Olivia, also located in Halkidiki near Sani, was opened.

The second Ikos resort is also in Halkidiki, Ikos Oceania, opened in 2017, but it wasn't a new property or asset, it was just revamped to be aligned with the style and offerings of Ikos Olivia. In 2018, two more Ikos resorts opened, Ikos Aria on the Greek island of Kos, and Ikos Dassia on the island of Corfu (where we stayed last September).

In fact, all of the Greek Ikos resorts aren't all completely new buildings but rather existing hotels or developments that have been bought (or not if they were existing hotels owned by the group) re-developed, re-branded, and repurposed. And now the same is happening in 2020 when the group will open its fifth Ikos resort Ikos Andalusia, in Spain, the first resort of the group to be outside of Greece. Ikos too is also an award-winning brand.

How Are Ikos and Sani Different?

If the concepts are so similar and they are actually the same company, then it's a good question to ask how Sani and Ikos resorts are different. Well, having stayed in both, I can tell you that they are different. Some of the differences are very subtle (or non-existent!) but others are quite significant and may help you decide which of the two resorts you will want to stay at.

In short, and in my opinion, there are two key differences you should know about at the outset, and then there are other smaller differences that are more "nice to know" rather than essential to the way the resort is set up.

Firstly, Sani resort is a one-off resort, albeit with five different hotels included in the resort. But to date, there are no plans to launch any other Sani-branded resorts outside of what is already there.

Sani's location is Halkidiki, Greece. Meanwhile, Ikos is a brand with five different locations, and I would imagine more will be added in due course. The locations are two in Halkidiki (Oceania and Olivia) on mainland Greece, a resort each on the Greek islands of Kos and Corfu, and the fifth resort which opens this year, is the first outside of Greece, in Andalusia in Spain. So if you want more choice of locations - or flying to Thessaloniki (the nearest airport to Halkidiki) is not possible this may mean that an Ikos resort is the best option for you.

The second difference is the board basis you stay on at each resort. Ikos offers ONLY all-inclusive board for all guests with no exceptions, and this includes all your dining, room service and drinks, ALL OF THEM. While Sani offers different boards from full-board to half-board, but with both of these you still have to pay for your drinks.

So if you know you want all-inclusive then I suspect Ikos is going to be a better option for you. Alternatively, if you want to have more flexibility and think it will save you more money or give you more options, so would prefer a half-board option, Sani is the one.

Sani or Ikos, Which is Better?

If you've got this far, you'll know that comparing the two resorts is a bit like comparing two of your favourite films; it doesn't really matter which ones is best overall - they're both good! But I also know that different things matter more for some people than others.

For example, for us, quiet and comfortable accommodation and a good swimming pool will always be more important to us than the beach because we never spend much time on beaches. Likewise, it's more important to us that the food is good and varied than it is we have an extensive drinks menu (because we're generally happy with beer and wine most of the time).

So let's dig a bit deeper in our comparison of Ikos and Sani resorts and actually compare what they offer, like for like, so you can make your own decision which would be better for you. But be aware I am most often comparing only Ikos Dassia in Corfu to Sani rather than all of the Ikos resorts.

Best Resort for Location: Ikos (but only just!)

Living in Amsterdam we were able to easily get direct flights to Thessaloniki airport for Sani and to Corfu airport for Ikos Dassia with one of our favourite airlines for kids, Transavia.

We did a bit of research and found that the Ikos resorts in Kos and Halkidiki also would have been possible with direct flights (indeed Halkidiki is the same as Sani!) but that Kos would have been a longer flight, which is something we try to avoid with two young children.

We had free airport transfers included in our accommodation package and actually they were both just as easy as the other, but Ikos Dassia at just under 40 minutes was perhaps a little shorter (and would have been much quicker if not for the traffic). We also got to have a little drive around Corfu Town which has lots of historic monuments and a pretty old town.

Sani's location in a bay in Halkidiki is easy to get to by car in around 50 minutes, but to be honest it's not very accessible by any other means, and actually walking to and from each hotel in the resort from Sani Club isn't easy. I also talk a bit about how the beach isn't anywhere near as good as Ikos Dassia's beach, so yes, all in all, it's fair to say that Ikos Dassia was in a slightly better location from this angle too.

BUT this does NOT bother us. While our kids are so young and we are so tired, we really don't want to leave the resort much. In fact, most days we didn't venture further than the kids club or a restaurant in both Sani and Ikos resorts, but if location is important to you in terms of getting there, getting out and about, and having easy ways to explore, then yes, Ikos has the edge.

Best Resort for Accommodation: Sani

You don't need to look at many photos of our accommodation in Sani and our suite in Ikos Dassia to realise that it all looks VERY similar. In fact, I wrote in my review of Ikos Dassia that the similarity was a bit disconcerting for me. It was like being back in Sani, except we weren't...

But it was also nice and familiar and those blue and neutral tones are so calming, and so Greek, and now so iconic for the two Sani brands. And it goes without saying that with the price you pay and the luxury they promise, the decor is high quality and very comfortable too.

Enough about cushions and trimmings, let's actually talk about the type of accommodation that is available and why Sani wins. So since writing this comparison of the two brands, I've found out that most of the Ikos resorts (if not all) have been launched in buildings that already existed. In other words, they are in hotels that were already built and the company bought them and then refurbished. In other words, none of the Ikos resorts were purpose-built, albeit lots of intentional re-development and construction has occurred with some new buildings added on.

Sani, however, has grown from being one main building with some villas as Sani Club to purpose-built villas, bungalows, and in the case of Sani Beach Club, a purpose built high-rise hotel.  This means the company have had slightly more control on the layout and logistics of Sani resort. This does give it a slightly better feel in terms of how well it works practically and also how much more private and elegant some of the rooms were.

For example, in Sani our two-bedroom private pool suite was in a short row of villas all next to each other but with privacy walls and no footpaths close to the gardens. We had our own private entrance and exit to the outside. We really did feel very self-contained and like we had plenty of privacy.

At Ikos Dassia, our room was also a two-bedroom private pool villa and it had an almost identical layout, and plenty of space, but it wasn't independent from the main hotel building. This meant our interior exit and entrance was down a hotel corridor. This wasn't a big deal, of course, but it was a little odd to have such a huge (and gorgeous!) apartment but to then exit and enter the property down a hotel corridor. And with two footpaths almost immediately at the end of the garden, it also just didn't feel as private.

So yep, Sani wins over Ikos in terms of the accommodation.

Best Resort for Kid's Clubs & Family-Friendly Facilities: Same

Having excellent facilities for children is one of the central pillars of both the Ikos and the Sani brand. They are all about taking care of the children so the adults can relax too.

And both brands deliver. They also offer almost exactly the same kids clubs, creche and babysitter services as they are managed by the UK-registered company Worldwide Kids. 

In short, kids clubs that run for three sessions a day - morning, lunch and afternoon - are complimentary from 4 upwards. There is a creche with the same sessions available for 3 months - 4 year olds, but this is not included in the board price you pay. In 2018 and 2019 at both Ikos and Sani, we paid €30 for a session (which were 3 hours in the morning or afternoon and shorter for lunch), or €45 for two sessions a day. Babysitters were charged at €10 an hour and you had to pay this in case to the babysitter who was nearly always a member of creche staff, 

We found the quality of care, professionalism of staff, and range of activities and facilities to be excellent at both Sani and Ikos. The facilities were slightly bigger at Ikos Dassia (and quite a bit newer because they were only in their second season) but we actually preferred the proximity of the Sani resort as it was close to the beach and very central to the whole resort, while the Ikos Dassia kids club location was on the other side of the resort to our accommodation.

And speaking of the beach, both resorts have the Babewatch service where kids club/creche staff have a station on the beach or near a swimming pool and you can leave your kid there for up to 30 minutes for free while you go for a swim, a cocktail or a snooze on your sun lounger!

Best Resort for Swimming Pools: Ikos

Man, it's hard to say that one resort is better than the other with swimming pools because honestly, both resorts have multiple excellent swimming pools. It would be impossible to get bored of the swimming choices at either.

Sani Club has two large swimming pools and a kiddy pool, and then an indoor pool too. Ikos Dassia (pictured above) also has two large swimming pools (both bigger in size than those at Sani if you want to be detail-specific) for all, two adults-only swimming pools, one Deluxe Collection and a kiddy's splash area too. Both resorts have pools in their spas too. So yep, Ikos Dassia wins just because it has SO many more options and being pedantic - more water to swim in! The best thing about swimming pools at all Ikos and Sani resorts is that they are heated, all year long - another good reason to go to an Ikos resort or to Sani in low season like we did (May and September).

The private pools were really exactly the same in terms of size and cleanliness, but we definitely noticed that our pool at Sani was warmer than Ikos and when we asked if the temperature could be increased at Ikos, we were told this wasn't possible, while we remember at Sani that they talked about the possibility of adjusting pool temperatures although we didn't actually need it there.

ALL this being said, Sani Club (and other Sani hotels in the resort) had a large indoor swimming pool just in case the weather turned nasty, while Ikos didn't aside from the small half-in and half-out swimming pool in the spa.

Best resort for beaches: Ikos (although can only comment on Ikos Dassia!)

We are not beach people so please do not consider me the oracle on this topic, at all! However, we did prefer the beach at Ikos, and most likely this is because it's a natural beach with lots of space, while Sani is man-made and much smaller.

The sand is softer and whiter at Ikos Dassia and during our first stay at Sani Club, there was a storm and we saw actually just how much of an operation it is creating the beach at Sani Club with trucks and tractors moving and spreading sand that had been displaced in the storm.

The water is beautiful and warm in both resorts, but at Sani Club it's not possible to swim at all points on the beach, and in fact one of the "beach" sections with loungers is actually a raised up area. So for direct access and a more "traditional" beach, Ikos Dassia is the one and from the photos I would say it's the same story at Ikos Aria on Kos.

Best Resort for Staff & Service: For us, Sani

After two one-week-long stays at Sani and one week at Ikos Dassia, we did notice quite a big difference in the level of service. Yes, everyone is friendly. Yes, every staff member is very professional. But the service at Sani was just a bit slicker, and our personal concierge was much more professional than the one we had at Ikos Dassia, although he was very friendly and helpful.

There's a good reason for this. Sani has been going a LONG time while when we were at Ikos Dassia the resort was only in its second season. The personal concierge at Sani was more experienced and in general, Sani's reception and customer service staff were quicker to respond to our requests and seemed more knowledgeable. 

We will say, however, for one and all there were really only a few staff that we connected with in terms of having conversation that lasted longer than a few minutes, but THIS IS OKAY FOR US. All the staff did their jobs well and that's more than enough for us! We don't necessarily go on holiday to make friends with the staff or form long-lasting bonds. I know for some people this will feel a bit impersonal and I'm also confident that for other people when they return to either resort again and again then yes, firmer bonds may be formed.

Food & Dinning: Pretty much the same in terms of quality, but Ikos is the winner for other reasons!

I'll be honest and say that the main reason Ikos has the edge here is because of the all-inclusive set-up. It was SO nice not to have to think about money at any stage with food be it at the buffet, ordering cocktails, going out for dinner or ordering room service. It was much more relaxing than I actually expected, and to be honest when we go back to Sani next, we have decided to go full-board during our stay. We will still need to pay extra for drinks, but I think we'll survive!

The reason this has the edge is because, to be very frank, the food at both Sani and Ikos is very similar. The buffet has similar offerings and variety, and while Sani has more options included in the Dine Out menu (read more about that in my Sani review), it's also true that we didn't really maximise this because we didn't want to venture too far away either with the kids or without them leaving them with a babysitter.

To be honest six restaurants, plus two buffet restaurants, plus an extensive in-room dining menu is MORE than enough choice for us for a week which is what Ikos Dassia offered, and I believe all the other Ikos resorts also offer this..

The Best Resort for Drinks: Ikos

Again my reason for choosing Ikos as definitely having the edge over Sani is because of that all-inclusive element. Free drinks, all day, every day for 7 days? What's not to like?!

The good thing, as well, was that the drinks were really good, which is often not the case with all-inclusive resorts. The wine menu was really very good, with tastefully chosen bottles from all over the world, as well as some excellent local wines and other Greek offerings. So yes, there's really no comparison here. Ikos all the way if having a great all-inclusive bar menu to choose from is a priority.

In fact, my one big bug bear with Sani was that I really begrudged paying for water because it's actually essential to drink only bottled water in Greece and yet they charged us for any bottled water we drank in the restaurants, but they did thankfully give us plenty for our room.

It was so nice at Ikos to not have to think about ordering more water and this inflating our bill every time. And yep, it was even better ordering wine, beer, cocktails, and even Champagne and not worrying about having to pay that too!

Alcoholic drinks at Sani were expensive (€10 - €20 for cocktails, for example), and weren't any better or any worse than those poured at Ikos Dassia, And furthermore, Ikos had a much more extensive wine list, including a wine bar that you could go spend an evening in and do some tasting, featuring a menu of up to 300 different wines.... all inclusive!

Best Resort for the Luxury Factor: Same

It's no surprise that both resorts are luxury. Serious luxury. They are 100% confidently 5-star resorts, and to achieve this when you have several if not hundreds of kids, running around all the time, is definitely something to shout about for them and for parents to fall in love with when they travel to Sani or Ikos. This alone is the main reason we will keep on returning to Sani and Ikos resorts!

But did one of them deliver more luxury than the other? Nope, not really. While Ikos Dassia's facilities and decor was a bit fresher because it was newer, you really couldn't for a second say that Sani is a tired resort. I believe that during the closed winter season both Sani and Ikos plough lots of money and time into revamping whatever they need to to keep the resorts looking as good as new. It sounds obvious but you would be surprised how many so-called 5-star resorts don't do this.

We also can't compare the spa as for some reason we have never used the spa Sani, but we hope to change that when we return! But I can also confidently say that the Anne Semonin spa at Ikos Dassia was also a 5-star experience.

Best Resort for Value for Money: Ikos

If you want to feel like you're getting A LOT for your money, and let's be honest, neither a holiday at an Ikos resort or at Sani is going to be cheap, then I think you'll get this feeling easier and quicker at an Ikos resort. I certainly did. There's just something so relaxing not worrying or even thinking about how much your hotel bill is going up with each room service order or sundowner drinks session, not to mention all the extras our kids enjoyed.

The only thing we had to add up during our stay at Ikos Dassia was the kids club fees for our under-4-year-old and the babysitting fees, which we paid in cash anyway.

As we're talking about getting a good deal, it's worth knowing each resort offers you a 10% returning discount BUT this is not interchangeable between the two resorts, sadly. 

So looking at all the above, you would think that Ikos "wins" for us in any Ikos vs Sani comparison, however, this is not the case! You'll note from the introduction that we're planning our third visit to Sani, although I have to say that this is partly because the accommodation we wanted for the dates we need wasn't available at any of the Ikos resorts. Either way, we plan on having another Ikos holiday again in the future, for certain!

The Things Sani Does Better

To summarise we felt that Sani resort did the following things "better" than Ikos:

  • The general level of service and experience of staff.
  • The variety of activities, things to do, kids entertainment, and facilities when taking into consideration that you can access the offerings of five other resorts or areas when you stay at one Sani resort hotel.
  • Both hotels had pamphlets and promotional material about sustainability, but I personally felt that Sani was doing more, not least after I noticed they ditched plastic bottles between summer 2018 and the following season.
  • Catering JUST to families. This is an important point because that I haven't really touched on before but during our two stays at Sani Club we have noticed that the vast majority of guests are other families. This will either make you say "Yes!" or it will make you panic a little at the thought of being surrounded by tons of other noisy, messy kids. But for us, it's a huge plus. We never feel worried about our boys making a ton of noise because the chances are another family are experiencing the same thing. For the record, Sani resort does have an adults-only hotel - Sani Dunes - so that is where you should go if you want to go to Sani and have a kid-free zone. Ikos Dassia had a much wider range of guests with some large groups of adults, couples, and all ages, as well as families with young kids.

The Things Ikos Does Better

And these are the things we think Ikos Dassia did better, in comparison to Sani resort.

  • If you hadn't yet got the message, if you want to eat and drink as much as you want and not pay any extra, the all-inclusive board basis of Ikos is THE ONE.
  • The drinks menu, despite being all-inclusive was significantly better at Ikos, especially in the Deluxe Collection bar.
  • We felt we enjoyed much more value for money at Ikos too, again based on that all-inclusive board basis.
  • The beach at Ikos was prettier, easier to access, better for swimming and had pretty amazing sunsets too.
  • In line with what I wrote above, if you're travelling with older kids or no kids, Ikos would possibly be a better bet as you basically wouldn't be swimming in kid soup in the pools, and also you would have more adults-only options on your doorstep.

So, Let's Decide! Sani OR Ikos? Which One Should YOU Stay In?

Honestly, I can't answer that for you and your family. It really does depend on what you are looking for in your holiday. What I do hope this comparison of Sani and Ikos has done is help you decide which one is going to be the best fit.

I also hope, perhaps most importantly of all, that regardless of which resort you choose - Sani or Ikos - you now feel reassured you are investing in a wonderful luxury family holiday for you and your family!

FURTHER READING: Want more luxury family travel content? These posts may be worth checking out:

The Best Resorts for Families in the Maldives // World's Best Resorts for Luxury Family Travel // The Best Airlines for Flying with Kids // Best Toddler Travel Essentials // Tips for Flying with an 18-Month-Old // Tips for Helping a Baby or Toddler with Jet-Lag // The Best Pushchair/Stroller for Travel // Packing List for Travel with a Baby // Tips for Flying with a Baby //  Packing List for a Ski or Snowboard Holiday with a Toddler // Tips for Visiting Singapore with a Toddler // Travel Activities for Kids (to Do at Home!) // How to "Teach" Travel to Kids // Best Books About Travel for Babies // Best Books About Travel for 2 - 6 Year Olds

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Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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