Daios Cove, Crete

GREECE: Where to Stay in Crete

Choosing the Right Resort for You on Crete’s East Coast

Despite our many summer trips to the Greek islands, I didn’t entirely know what to expect visiting Crete for the first time. The island is huge, over 3200 square miles, taking over 6 hours to cross from east to west. The enormity of it had me uncertain: will it feel packaged? Will it feel crowded? Will it even feel like an actual island given the size of it (we faced this in Mallorca, which felt less islandy to me compared with Ibiza, for example)? One thing is certain: we didn’t “do” Crete. One can’t attempt to scratch the surface of Crete even with weeks to explore. We chose to hyper-focus on the East Coast of Crete for one week, basing ourselves in Plaka and exploring the nearby areas of Elounda and Agios Nikolaos. Plaka, in particular, absolutely felt Grecian, small scale with a curated selection of great seafront restaurants, plus charming boutiques. Unlike some of our other favorite islands in the Cyclades, the areas we visited in Crete never really felt crowded. Despite its huge size, there’s a local population of only 650,000 people and even with tourists visiting, it feels very low density since everything’s spread out. As far as towns go, we preferred Plaka to the other two enclaves, largely because of its quaintness, but Elounda and Agios Nikolaos have more on offer in terms of shops, restaurants, etc given their larger footprints. For those seeking to do the same as us, spending one week focusing on beachside R&R in Crete, there are a selection of luxury properties to choose from. Below, I’m profiling three of the more well-known outposts that we visited – Blue Palace, Domes of Elounda, and Daios Cove – plus sharing a few others for those seeking a smaller, boutique experience in Crete.

Blue Palace, Plaka

Blue Palace, Crete

NUMBER OF ROOMS: 255 rooms and villas

Part of The Luxury Collection (Marriott); available for Bonvoy points collectors — or book via Compass & Vine for Marriott STARS perks when booking (F&B credits, preferred upgrade status, complimentary breakfast, and other amenities!)

Blue Palace has a selection of dining outlets, with Blue Door Taverna being their quintessentially Greek outpost serving up Grecian fare along with regular BBQ nights and specialty dinners. For breakfast, you’ll have the option of dining at their buffet or may have the option to dine a la carte at Anthos. If Anthos is an option for breakfast, do it! Service was top-notch and the a la carte offerings for Haven guests are fantastic!

My instinct any time I see a Luxury Collection Hotel is that it’s more polished and thus more adult-focused. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily the case here. We found it family-friendly with baby, with a kids’ club available, and kid-friendly spaces. That said, private plunge pools are all about 4′ in depth (no shallow end) so worth keeping an eye out with little ones!

HOTEL AESTHETIC + COMMON SPACES: Blue Palace was the most traditional of the three properties, and I’d probably say, while still lovely, the most dated in aesthetic. Rooms are minimalist,  and common spaces are there though not overly abundant. The beach here is composed of rocks with platforms for palapas to be perched.

SERVICE: We found service to be excellent across the board at Blue Palace. Every person we came into contact with was helpful and friendly with just a few small exceptions, and I found this especially true with breakfast service at Anthos which was top-notch.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Walking distance to Plaka (5 minutes), which is one of the hotel’s major selling points.

BEST FOR: Explorers wanting walkability to a charming village.

Domes of Elounda, Elounda

Domes of Eloudna


HOTEL AFFILIATIONS: Part of The Autograph Collection (Marriott); available for Bonvoy points collectors — or book via Compass & Vine for Marriott STARS perks when booking (F&B credits, preferred upgrade status, complimentary breakfast, and other perks!)

Nice breakfast spread; lunch at Topos on the beach was a standout. We had the half-board package and chose to use our credit for lunch vs. dinner which the front desk helped us with.

FAMILY FRIEND VS. ADULTS-ONLY VIBE: The sleek, sexy design feels more adults focused but the property is actually great with little ones given the easy beach setup (shallow and calm sea, perfect for babies and kids) along with an inclusive kids club. The property feels the sleekest out of the properties we visited.

HOTEL AESTHETIC: Gorgeous rooms with a sexy cool aesthetic; natural, darker stone compared with the light and bright interiors often seen in Greece; the most beautiful interiors of the resorts we visited. We loved our room with a spacious set up, lovely amenities and thoughtful furnishings.

SERVICE: The service was the biggest downfall at Domes. Across the board, we found it either a bit off (weird or forced) or just non-existent. The somm at Topos at lunch was the standout service-wise. The aesthetic, rooms, and beach were enough to make Domes an interesting repeat destination but service was the #1 area for improvement for me.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Short drive to Plaka (5 minutes) or to Elounda.

BEST FOR: Design lovers wanting sleek, stylish rooms; sea lovers wanting a great beach setup!

Daios Cove, Agios Nikolaos

Daios Cove, Crete


HOTEL AFFILIATIONS: None; independent property but part of Virtuoso — book via Compass & Vine for Virtuoso perks when booking (F&B credits, preferred upgrade status, complimentary breakfast, and other perks!)

RESTAURANTS & FOOD QUALITY: Daios Cove has a number of outlets including adults-only options, a thoughtful contribution to a larger resort to allow some adult-centered experiences with more elevated cuisine. We had lunch at Ocean, which was absolutely delicious. The menu celebrated Greek cuisine but also extended to Mediterranean fare, a nice touch for those dining on site for multiple days wanting something different (like the delicious burrata salad or a poke bowl).

The quality extends beyond the cuisine itself; the restaurant spaces themselves are gorgeously outfitted with beach chic interiors that deliver on upscale Grecian vibes.

My instinct at the outset was that Daios Cove was more adults focused; a sexy, upscale outpost that catered more to honeymooners and sophisticated couples than to families. That’s only part of the story here. Daios caters to both and does it seamlessly. There are programs for kids that allow families to enjoy their time together (and separately!), but there are also adults-only spaces (a pool and some dining options) to ensure that the honeymooners and sophisticated couples have spaces to enjoy sans little ones. Now that we have a little one, I deeply appreciate this as a way to still travel to hotels that fit our style while allowing us the opportunity to bring a little one in ways that don’t disrupt others’ experiences.

HOTEL AESTHETIC: The rooms are nicely appointed but Daios’ draw, to me, is more about the overall experience and common spaces. The hotel feels very wellness driven with an outstanding – honestly, outstanding!- wellness program that goes beyond expected spa services. There’s aerial yoga and an amazingly outfitted high-tech wellness center. Even restaurant menus are marked to allow you to focus on wellness goals here. Overall aesthetic is chic and sophisticated.

SERVICE: I visited Daios for a site inspection so my time here was limited though all staff I came into contact with were lovely. Elena, who toured with me, was a standout.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Daios Cove would claim Agios Nikolaos as its neighborhood, but it’s a short drive (10 – 15 minutes) from the town and not walkable. You’ll need a car here if you want to explore or if you’re after less of a cultural experience and more R&R, you can enjoy being based at the hotel given the range of amenities and dining experiences on offer.

BEST FOR: Travelers seeking wellness, rest and relaxation. Daios Cove strikes me as being less about exploring Crete and more about enjoying the simple pleasures of beach life on-site with all of the amenities and services to cater to those needs.

For those wanting a smaller property option in this region, try Elounda Gulf Villas, a Virtuoso-affiliated property with just 33 rooms. For travelers looking to add to their time in Crete, I often book weeklong stays in Crete for travelers with a split between Chania and the Elounda area. If you want a taste for the island with two different experiences, consider 3 nights in Chania followed by 4 nights near Plaka or Elounda for a coastal fix!

Have you been to Crete before? What are your favorite areas and favorite hotels?

Shannon Kircher, The Wanderlust Effect

More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.