Zakynthos, Greece

I wanted to do an easy breezy beach trip because I have been missing the beach like crazy. That year living down the street from the sugar sand beaches of Pensacola really spoiled me. I didn’t really care what beach I just knew I needed some serious sunshine. Thomas Cook is a popular travel agency here so I went on their website and just happened to come across a seriously cheap, all inclusive week on the island of Zakynthos (aka Zakinthos/Zante). Never having heard of this place before I did a quick google image search of the beaches and I was sold. The water made me think of Thailand and that’s been our favorite trip we have ever taken.

After a 3.5 hour flight we arrived at the Sentido Louis Plagos on the eastern side of the island. As soon as we pulled up the hotel I knew we had made the right choice. It was gorgeous. We had a huge balcony, an amazing view of the ocean and the kids club was right below our hotel room so the kids had access to the playground at all times. Score! There was an English family next door that had purchased the same exact trip we had and their boys were 2 &3 so our kids basically had playmates the entire week… which I was so thankful for. Kellan is my social butterfly and nothing makes him happier than having other little boys to play with. All inclusive ended up being a real treat for us and has probably spoiled me for trips to come. Meals, snacks and drinks whenever the kids wanted them so I never had to worry about going out and buying snacks for excursions. They even pack you lunchboxes upon request if you are going to be elsewhere during a meal. And the food was amzing, too.

The hotel had two infinity pools, a typical adult pool, and a children’s pool with water fountains and slides. Other amenities included a kiddy disco at night and a spa that mama took advantage of for her mothers day present.  The hotel is situated on a small cliff. At the bottom there is a jetty, rocky area, and a very tiny beach we utilized on mornings we didn’t want to drive anywhere.

 

Around the Island

We must have come at a really great time because the island was not crowded with tourists at all. It was still warm enough to swim but early enough in the season where we got to do several activities with barely any bystanders. July and August are the busiest months for Zakynthos. There were several times driving through the island where everything sort of looked liked the zombie apocalypse happened 5 years ago. Just looked abandoned and like nothing was really being kept up. This is certainly not an island you would come to if you want to see a lot of history and culture. The economy here is 70% tourism and 30% agriculture. People come here for the beautiful beaches. Even the few children’s centered activities we did find- such as a small bounce- house didn’t open until 6pm each night. My kids go to bed at 8! The hours here were just very bizarre coming from an American (land of 24 hour shopping) living in England (good luck finding something that stays open past 5).  It seems the Greek are night owls and with a 1 & 2 year old in tow…we just aren’t. We did find two non beach activities the boys enjoyed. One afternoon we spent at a small water park near our hotel and the kids had an absolute blast. They are both really great in the water. Bonus… we practically had the park to ourselves! Another afternoon we found the Askos Stone Park which is a small petting zoo.

Navagio Beach

My number one must do adventure for this trip was to see Navagio (Shipwreck) Beach from above. I wanted to actually visit the beach as well but if I had to choose I wanted the view! Many say its the most beautiful beach in Greece. Supposedly the ship was carrying contraband in the 80’s and was abandoned after a storm brought it here. I have a feeling its also likely it was placed there for tourism but that’s just my theory. The beach is surrounded by limestone cliffs which means you can only reach the beach by boat. To see it from above you have to drive to the lookout point which is a tiny cage at the edge of the cliff.

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The viewing area from below

Of course, we wanted to see the view from other angles so we took turns watching the kids and walking out along the cliffs. It was really terrifying. You can only see the beach if you are right on the edge of the cliff. Walk back a couple feet and you see nothing but the sea out past the cliffs. I am not a heights person and I have no idea why I keep putting myself in these situations but …alas, there I was again torn between having a panic attack and getting a good shot of the beach. Every time I got to the edge I would freeze and grab a bush or rock and just started sweating. Ben had better luck snapping pictures but when he came back from his trip out I think I recall him saying something about needing a new pair of underwear.

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The following day we took a boat with Potamitis Brothers to swim at the beach. It was about a 20 minute boat ride and the water was so calm our captain was able to pull right up to the beach. I had read its typical for the boats to not be able to pull all the way up so I had mentally prepared myself for swimming to shore with two toddlers. Phew! Another thing I had read was how crowded this small beach would be but we were pleasantly surprised by how empty it was, especially with it being such a clear and beautiful day. We got to spend about an hour swimming, checking out the shipwreck and snapping pictures. The whole experience was just amazing and it did remind me of the Phi Phi Islands.

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The Blue Caves

The Shipwreck tour was in two parts which included the blue caves. Also only reachable by boat.  Pretty much the only thing the boys cared about on this excursion was the glass bottom and watching what was beneath us, which I have to admit was pretty neat. The boat was small enough that we were able to go inside several of the caves and the captain showed us why the caves are names the Blue Caves. If you place something in the water it turns blue…even if it’s a person swimming. If I had the opportunity to go back I would have done the shipwreck and blue caves tours separately. Had we done the caves on its own tour we would have likely been able to jump off the boat and do some swimming inside the caves.

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Makris Gialos Beach

Makris Gialos was a beach we just stumbled upon driving around the island. We stopped because the water was calm and seemed shallow enough for the kids to enjoy. We had the entire beach all to ourselves! There was not a speck of sand here, only rocks and pebbles which Ben liked as he said it felt like getting a foot rub. He found the first piece of sea glass and the majority of our time there we spent searching for more. We found a good ten pieces which we plan to make a Christmas ornament with.

 

Xygia Sulphur Beach

Another beach we were lucky enough to have all to ourselves was Xygia. It smells like rotten eggs because of a nearby sulfurous cave. Swimming in the water here is supposed to be good for your skin and help arthritis.  It was almost like a mini shipwreck beach with beautiful views from above. We stopped for about an hour to swim and take pictures.

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Leaving Greece was sad because it meant I was leaving my flip flops and sunshine. We are just beach people and already dreaming of the next beach trip we can take. I would love to return to Athens or another city and see more cultural and historical aspects of this country.

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