Luxury Family Travel: Review of Sani Club Resort, Greece
A Review of Sani Resort
We were originally planning on going to Sani Resort in Halkidiki, Greece in late July or August, but then we saw how much cheaper prices for June were and despite not getting back from our Ibiza family holiday at Gran Palladium just over a week before, we flew to Thessaloniki in late June and made our way to Sani Resort, still feeling surprisingly ready for another holiday. I guess having a two-year-old and a 20 week baby bump will do that to you!
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Getting to Sani Resort
With such a short transfer time, and a car transfer included in the price we paid, the journey to Sani Resort looked fairly easy once we'd done the 2 hours and 50 minutes flight to Thessaloniki from Amsterdam. And it was... except our plane was both a bit delayed and then we also sat on the tarmac at Schiphol for forty minutes before taking off. Also, I don't know if it's just Transavia flights or just bad luck, but we were once again at a gate that required a bus transfer from the terminal, which always adds an extra bit of stress and what I like to call "faffing" to our journey.
To be honest, I wasn't quite prepared for the chaos at Thessaloniki. It's a small airport but it took us ten minutes to find the Sani Resort reception area (turn right once through the arrivals doors FYI!) because of a swelling crowd of people in the arrivals area. None of these were huge problems, at all, but added up to me feeling pretty bloody exhausted by the time the car was on the motorway heading to the beach. (I also have to add that we experienced a really long, slow queue once to check-in for our return flight so be prepared for the airport to not really run as quickly or smoothly as you may expect!)
However, as we pulled into the main gates of the Sani Resort, a sense of calm descended. Yes, the many signs for all the many Sani complexes were a little confusing and overwhelming, I could definitely feel my holiday getting closer so that helped me breathe a little slower.
Staying at Sani Club
We stayed at Sani Club, the resort at the far eastern edge of the bay. It was actually the first of the resorts and hotels to be built back in the 1970s and there are some photos floating around of a cluster of the holiday houses on the hillside looking out over an otherwise empty bay. Now development dominates the whole curve of the bay, but not in an all-consuming way.
There is only one so-called high rise building, and even that wasn't too tall or tower-like by many modern standards. The colours of the buildings are all very similar and this blends in well with the landscape and the beach. Sani Club underwent considerable renovation and building work during the winter 2017 - 2018 so everything felt very new, modern and fresh when we were there.
Next door to Sani Club within the resort is Sani Dunes, which has a quieter, smaller and more adults-only feel. Then there is the Porto Sani and Sani Marina, which does have accommodation but is really dominated by the marina it is named after (where some huge and luxurious yachts were docked!) and the shops and restaurants that line the water's edge.
Then comes Sani Beach, arguably the largest resort in the complex, and the only one with a hotel building (that not-quite high rise), and finally at the very peak is the more intimate Sani Asterias which has a beautiful, more private beach and fewer facilities for families. The other resorts all had more holiday house or apartment style accommodation spread out around a swimming pool, or as in the case of Sani Club, scattered along the hillside.
To get from one resort to another was a bit more complicated that just walking, though we did end up doing this on one or two occasions (which I'll get to later). There is a shuttle bus travelling around all the resorts taking guests from one to another, running every 15-20 minutes throughout the day and into the night. Guests have access to all resorts and their facilities but additional charges may apply depending on what board you are staying with.
We chose Sani Club because it was the only resort with private pools and we split our week there between staying in a Deluxe Double Room with a Sea View, and a One Bedroom Bungalow Suite with a Private Pool. I have to say our first room was so spacious and comfortable and had such beautiful sea views that I did worry a little that we'd made a bit of an expensive mistake spending more on a villa with a private pool.
There were a total of three swimming pools, two in the main pool complex including a large kids pool that was very shallow so perfect for toddlers and babies, and the other pool was big enough to accommodate lots of families and swimmers. Our favourite pool was actually the one in front of The Pines restaurant which wasn't shallow or especially designed for kids and families but it was a little quieter than the other pools and it also had a great view of the sea and we made good friends with the serving staff.
UPDATE FOR 2019 - For our 2019 stay we went for the full week in a Two Bedroom Bungalow Suite with a Private Pool so that the kids (or at least one child) could have their own room. We chose our dates tactically - in May but not during school holidays!) - so that we could take advantage of off-peak prices, which while still not cheap we noticed that the price for the following week was double what we paid!
We also requested a Bungalow Suite that had a beach/sea view and was positioned on the far side of the resort, rather than looking out over the main swimming pool. This was a really quiet location (which we wanted because our kids like to have early nights and to be honest, so do we!) and we had a huge grass space between us and the beach so our boys could also play on that if the sand and pool bored them (which almost never happened!). Our pool was fantastic and we were still less than five minutes walk from all the restaurants.
If we go back again we will almost certainly stay in the same suite and at the same off-peak price. The weather was also perfect for young children - not too hot, and because the pools are heated, even on the two rainy mornings we had, we could still splash around in the water! The one thing we definitely noticed as being different from mid-May to July was that the evenings were much cooler and the sun set a bit earlier too (again making it cooler) so I needed to dress the kids in trousers and bring a jumper if we went out for dinner and sat outside.
The Kids Club at Sani Resort
Sani Club is also one of the resorts with a kids club, which we found downstairs in the main building, where the lobby, buffet restaurant and mini-market was found. The entrance to the kids club was also directly on the beachfront too so if you were going to spend the day on the beach, you would be very close to your little ones enjoying the kids club. If you've read my other family resort reviews you'll know by now that we love a resort with a kids club and I have to say this one really had the most professional set-up and staff of those we've experienced yet.
Employees were international, but mostly British or Greek, and it felt extremely well set up with lots of paperwork, policies and a very logical but varied environment both inside and outside for both the creche (kids aged 0 - 4) and the general kids club (4+).
For under 4s there is an additional hourly cost for putting your kiddo in the creche, and you could only sign up to 3 hour sessions at €10 per hour, in the morning and/or the afternoon. Alternatively, you could sign up for the lunchtime session and your kids would go to lunch with the staff so parents could have a little lunch date by themselves.
If you signed up to two sessions a day you then received a discount with both sessions costing only €40 total for the day. We were informed we needed to pre-book the sessions in advance (this was organised by email prior to our arrival) but we found there was some flexibility once we were there with changing and confirming dates while there.
UPDATE FOR 2019 - When we went back to Sani Club in 2019 we had one extra child - our 5-month old second son and he was also welcome at the kids creche (I believe babies have to be over 3 months) - and while our eldest was only a few months off 4, he too went to the creche, rather than the (free!) kids club! We look forward to going back when at least one will be free!
We fell into the routine of taking our son (who was then a month off turning three) for a 3-hour session in the morning after breakfast together. We did book one or two other afternoon sessions but ended up cancelling them (without having to pay) because we wanted to spend afternoons together in the pool.
There were other kids activities happening at other locations within Sani Resort, but because getting there involved getting on a shuttle bus or a long walk (see below!) we stuck to just using Sani Club's kids activites and facilities, which were more than good enough with a playground also available.
There is one very cool thing that the Sani Resort offers, which we didn't actually use in the end, they offer a complimentary "Babewatch" service, where you can leave you little ones in an area near the beach (just outside the kids club) or at a table in the shade near the main pool for up to 30 minutes, completely free.
This was available only during certain hours but you didn't have to pre-book in advance. We absolutely cannot fault the kids club. It was fantastic and we'd go back to Sani Club (and our kiddo was toilet training at the time so they had to manage that but did without even blinking) almost for that reason alone as we felt huge peace of mind when he was there and we were able to relax during our time off!
Eating at Sani Resort
We were staying at Sani Club on half-board, meaning we had breakfast and lunch or dinner included. However, it wasn't quite that simple. Here is also where I felt it all got a bit more complicated than I would like on a holiday - what can I say, I like to relax my brain as much as possible on holiday! - as there was a buffet restaurant in our resort where we could have our second meal for free - but all the other restaurants were a la carte and there we could either have a limited-choice set menu for free or we could choose from the other menu and then have a €20 discount per person.
Now considering most main meals were around the €20 mark this wasn't the best deal in the world, however, I have to say that the set menus we were offered in most restaurants were more than adequate. My other bug bear with the eating situation was that drinks weren't included, even with the buffet deal, including water. While plenty of complimentary bottled water was provided in our rooms it felt quite steep to charge €5 or more for water at mealtimes.
We also had a problem using the Sani Resort app that was designed to help you make reservations at restaurants, which we were advised you must do. It worked fine for the first two days but then when we changed rooms it didn't like our reservation details anymore so we had to rely on calling reception or our concierge service which was a bit tiresome as this involved them calling us back to confirm and we didn't always want to be waiting by the phone.
As for lunches, we mostly shared one or two meals between three of us from the pool bar menus at The Pines or by the main swimming pool as we weren't always very hungry but rather we just needed something to keep us going until dinner.
We tried a number of restaurants for dinner during our stay including all the Sani Club restaurants, plus two others around the Sani Marina area. As it happened our favourites were The Pines and Cabana, two of the restaurants in Sani Club. The Pines is an organic restaurant that sources all its produce from within a 100km radius, and Cabana was a Mediterranean themed restaurant with beautiful views of the ocean.
One evening we tried Ouzerie, the Greek taverna style restaurant at Sani Club, but were a little disappointed with the food - there was a meatballs dish which was so salty we couldn't really eat it. We tried another Greek restaurant on Sani Marina which was also not the best Greek food I've had. This was a little disappointing as we were so looking forward to having some decent local food, but I suspect that may be the problem of such a large scale resort that is really more focused on offering variety rather than specialising in local delicacies.
We also tried the Italian restaurant at Sani Marina, and it was good, but we didn't feel the need to head back to the Marina after that. We also found the shuttle bus - which departed at the top of a big hill in Sani Club - a little annoying to get to as it either involved getting a golf buggy up there (which were available on demand from reception so easy enough but it's just not always easy to make your little boy walk up and down stairs to actually get to the reception) or we'd have to walk up the big hill which in the late afternoon sun wasn't much fun for anyone!
In fact, I think it was more to do with having a hungry two-year-old in blazing hot heat so for us it was just easier to stay at Sani Club. On our two visits to the Marina we actually also walked back, via the beach of Sani Dunes and past a camping site/beach club that wasn't owned by the Sani Resort. It was very strange to see this as it was a completely different vibe to the rest of the Sani Resort so I suspect that's why they didn't advertise or advise guests to walk that way to and from the Marina, but it was actually fun to see a more laid-back vibe, although we're really not campers so we were quite happy to go back to our villa!
One thing we only learned after the first few mornings of our stay was that going to breakfast at either The Pines or Cabana was also complimentary, providing your had a reservation. For us, this was a much nicer experience as there were less crowds, less choice (which for us was a good thing!) and some delicious and healthy (or not so healthy) a la carte options.
Once we knew we could do this we alternated between the two each morning and had a much more relaxed and calmer breakfast experience; not that there was anything wrong with the buffet, we just sometimes prefer to be away from the crowds, also our villa was closer to these restaurants so you could say we were also being lazy!
UPDATE for 2019 - Again, we chose to have all our meals in Sani Club. I did go for a walk to the other hotels a few times during the day (pushing my baby in his stroller to try get some sleep!) and I actually was pleasantly surprised by the coffee on offer at the Marina deli, but honestly, not having to travel to far for meals is what we like so that's what we did.
Fortunately for us, Sani Club have added a new restaurant to their portfolio. The Grill was housed where the Pool Bar was last year (and indeed it is still the pool bar during the day, it's just now also open in the evening) and we had a few meals there but unfortunately these were when we noticed the weather is not the best for kids at night - very chilly - and this restaurant is all outside.
We had much better meals at the Greek restaurant at Sani and The Pines and Cabana still didn't let us down. I will say that the buffet was very good quality and still excellent value if you are just going to stick to what's included in your all inclusive, but it can get very busy and quite noisy in there with a lot of families with young children. Also, the sun would often be setting during dinner time and so there was a lot of sun in your eyes which you had to navigate!
Other Facilities at Sani Club and Sani Resort
While we didn't get up to too much while staying at Sani Club, it's safe to say there is plenty to do if you have older children or your the kind of person that likes to keep busy while on holiday - I believe these people exist, although I don't know many myself! During our week I did aqua aerobics in the main pool most mornings and one day when we woke up and the sea was almost as calm and flat as a mirror, my partner booked a wake-boarding session. The staff there were great at helping my pregnant self accompany him so I could watch and take some photos and feel incredibly jealous!!
We saw lots of people on rented bikes, and I was tempted by the mapped out running routes, but not enough to actually lace up my trainers. I did however do so to visit the gym a few times, and there was an indoor swimming pool for those days when it rained (which apparently it had done shortly before our arrival) or you just wanted to hide from the sun. There was also a spa to use but we didn't even get a chance to do so as we loved our private pool and villa so much.
We also found out that younger kids staying at Sani Beach could hire push along scooters to get around, there were organised activities for kids (lego-building, games sessions) and adults (local market visits and painting lessons), and there was evening entertainment every night in the form of shows and live performances. We didn't use it in the end as all the restaurants we visited were very kid-friendly, but there was also a babysitting service available,
And before I forget, I would say, if you want to minimise your exposure to children while holidaying at Sani Resort (which I fully understand!), then I believe Sani Asterias and Sani Dunes are the two hotels you should look at, while Sani Club and Sani Beach are the best for kid-friendly facilities and options.
What we loved about Sani Resort... and what we kinda didn't
Overall we loved Sani Club and the rest of what we saw of Sani Resort for its blend of family-friendly style and luxury. The whole resort was geared up for everyone to have relaxing, luxurious holidays, but that then meant that there were plenty of options to keep kids busy and even adults active, if they wanted. Again, we loved the kids club and it's a serious reason we're thinking of returning to Sani again next summer.
One thing I haven't really mentioned here, but is definitely a highlight of Sani Resort, is the beach. The water in the bay that Sani Resort dominates is simply beautiful. I've not seen such clear blue waters in Europe since, well, I guess possibly my last visit to Greece all those years ago. It was crystal clear in places and on many mornings we woke to see it looking as still as a mirror.
The beach at Sani Club is man-made, or at least man-maintained so it's not as good or as typically beachy as those by Sani Dunes or Sani Asterias, but the beach area at Sani Club was always very popular (so popular it was a little too busy for us) and you can enjoy lounger-service for drinks and food.
I would quickly add that while we feel we got value for money, the Sani Resort is not cheap to stay at compared with other resorts offering similar facilities and packages if you're looking for a family-friendly resort holiday. However, I will say that the overall standard and quality at Sani is much higher than most, and for some people this is worth paying for.
UPDATE FOR 2019 - We noticed a few subtle but really quite important changes between our stay in 2018 and our stay in 2019. Firstly, there were no more plastic bottles being given out as drinking water. This is actually a HUGE step forward. Last year in 2018 I felt so saddened and overwhelmed by the quantity of plastic bottles being given out as drinking water in the rooms, the restaurants and bars, and by the pool. This has all stopped with glass bottles replacing plastic ones. I also brought a few reusable drinking bottles so I could have a slightly lighter weight (and safer!) bottle of water in my bag or in the buggy for my kids, and this worked brilliantly.
I also felt like in general the staff were much slicker and even more helpful than the year before. We also noticed lots of the same staff as last year which I think is always a good sign. The one place where maybe the staff didn't feel quite so brilliant was in the kid's club although there were more than a few members of that team who were warm, friendly and super sweet to our boys; we just didn't feel like it was EVERY member of staff.
If you've been reading my blog for a few years now, you'll know how marrying luxury travel with family-friendly destinations is something I used to think was impossible, but we're slowly building a list of design, style and luxury-focused resorts that have just as much appeal and entertainment for young children, and I can absolutely add Sani Club to this.
So that concludes this review of Sani Resort. If you are considering Sani you may also want to check out Ikos resorts, or specifically our review of Ikos Dassia on the Greek island of Corfu as it offers many of the same things. It may also then be worth reading my comparison of Ikos vs Sani.
Finally, we have already booked our return visit for 2020 so I will update this review of Sani Resort again following that visit too!
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For other family-friendly luxury resorts around the world, check out my reviews of Ikos Dassia in Corfu, Greece, Point Yamu by COMO in Phuket, Thailand, Kandima Maldives, and Gran Palladium Palace in Ibiza. And for other family travel articles you can read the following:
Why (and When) You Should Travel With Kids
Packing Tips and Packing List for Travel with a Baby
Tips for Flying with a Toddler
Tips for Helping a Toddler with Jet Lag
Essential Travel Gear for Travel with a Toddler
The Best Travel Pushchair/Stroller
Packing List for Toddler's First Ski Trip
Tips for Maldives with a Toddler
Frances M. Thompson
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