The steep escarpment at Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) is fast becoming the ‘in’ location for luxury resorts on the island of Mykonos. Southwest facing with unspoilt views towards the uninhabited island of Delos, it’s just a fifteen-minute bus ride away from the designer shops, restaurants and lively bars of Chora, the main town of Mykonos.
Built around twenty years ago, it was the first hotel in St John and hence the one with the best location. It’s a resort hotel with all that this denomination entails, but it is one of the most efficient we have ever visited.
Built down the hill in terraced layers with all the buildings whitewashed in typical Mykonos style, it is very well maintained and looks newer than it is. At the top layer is the reception and the White Bar. At the bottom is the pool, spa and restaurant area which leads down to the beach. Around 100 rooms and suites are in between, connected by a series of lifts and walkways. The upper rooms have more extensive views; the lower rooms are nearer the facilities.
For its relatively small size, the facilities are extensive, even surprising. The property has a full-sized squash court (some cities don’t even have one of these), although one wonders how much it gets used. Another surprise is an outdoor amphitheatre sometimes used for yoga or pilates. In these days of uniformity and homogeneity, it is refreshing to find hoteliers who can think outside the box. The hotel provides a good range of off-site activities as well, from private boat charters, water sports, and self-guided trips to party venues at Paradise and Super Paradise beaches, ensuring that there will never be a dull moment spent here.
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The use of white in the marble reception hall is prolific with all floors, columns, walls, and huge leather sofas and pillows in the same colourless hue.
The reception desk is manned by three smartly uniformed and smiling staff. We were taken off to a separate room, given a welcome drink and escorted through the check-in process. The main features of the resort were explained and transport links and excursion opportunities outlined. There is always a risk of overloading a slightly disorientated arrival with information at check-in, but this was done just about right.
We were escorted down a somewhat confusing series of lifts and alleys to our room which was at the lowest terrace level. On the way, we were introduced by name to a member of housekeeping who was responsible for our zone and happened to be passing with her trolley. This was a good sign of staff team spirit and interaction. We thought this might presage a tightly run hotel—it did.
Rooms and suites
Our room was a Sea View (the second lowest category, the lowest being a Garden View in the same category) and was everything we wanted it to be. It’s not doing the hotel any favours, but we could not see any reason why we would choose to upgrade from this room type.
The white marble that we had been following from the reception had made it to the floor of our lower level room, but here the decor was simple and effective. There was a feeling of restrained Mykonos chic: whitewash with a blue painted awning over the bed; a denim and white striped cushioned bed head; and a coloured rustic rug on the floor. It felt like Greece. A balcony with a blue painted balustrade, two seats and a table looked out over the roof of the small resort chapel to the beach and the Delos straits beyond. A light sea breeze wafted the curtains… It was Greece.
The room wasn’t huge but was well equipped and nicely laid out. Unusual was that the wall between the bathroom and bedroom was a sliding partition. Normally such devices seem unnecessary and pretentious, but here it worked because it opened up the bathroom to the view from the balcony. One could bathe looking out at distant islands.
A problem with many hotels is that the management has never stayed in the rooms so do not see things the way guests do. Here, the opposite was true. It looked like almost every aspect of the guest experience had been snagged, thought about and resolved. There were individual reading lights as well as bedside lamps; a technology box with adaptors; a separate kettle and coffee machine station primed and plugged in; and a pair of sun hats in a bag by the door. All this isn’t necessarily luxury but rather just good hotel-keeping.
There was a Bluetooth speaker provided by the bed. WiFi was ok but not secure and seemed to require several resets. The AC control was effective and simple to use. There was a DVD player (and a disk library at reception) and a technology box of wires and adaptors. A large, wall-mounted flat screen TV with straightforward controls offered three or four channels in each of several languages.
The bathroom was a decently sized space which could be opened into the bedroom through a sliding panel wall, although it also had a proper door. It had a slightly unusual wet-room layout in order to provide a separate bath and stand-up shower from the same plumbing point.
There was a long plinth with a mounted sink and lots of storage space, full-length mirrors and a good hairdryer immediately to hand. The room also contained one surprising omission: there was no makeup/shaving mirror.
The amenities were L’Occitane, their tiny size compensated for by two of everything.
The resort has a single dining room occupying a large terrace in front of the pool with views of the ocean. Breakfasts and dinners are served here. Lunches and snacks are catered from the nearby pool bar which has both an open and a covered space.
Breakfast was buffet style. The people ‘flows’ had been thought about, so there weren’t too many bottlenecks or collision points. The food choice was large with an emphasis on Greek produce: fruits, yoghurt, preserves, and a tempting honeycomb. Continental meats, smoked fish, and cheeses were complemented with fresh bakery items including Greek baklava and orange honey cake. There was a range of hot dishes such as scrambled eggs and bacon but, as is usual, the quality depended on how long they had been in the chafing dishes. There was a short order cook making omelettes too.
The evening dining experience was a full menu with waiter service and included Greek dishes of meat and fish. There was a large cellar of good, but pricey, local and international wines. The hotel offers an evening shuttle bus into Chora, so many guests chose to go into town at night to eat. This, in turn, probably makes it difficult for the resort restaurant to get the right ‘pitch’.
We got a table in the restaurant at short notice and dined on the balcony. The romance of the setting was diminished by the steady thump of disco beat from the decks of a rather heavy handed female DJ who didn’t seem to intuit her clientele. The food was good but unexceptional.
Meals are also served at the pool restaurant in a more relaxed fashion where the room service menu is made available. Honeymooners or romantics can also dine al fresco in a cabaña on the beach.
Spa and wellness
The Althea Spa centre close to the pool occupied a serene and sensuous space with a variety of treatment rooms and attractive looking young staff. On offer was a special massage for honeymooners in an outdoor cabaña suite, a range of thalassotherapy (sea water) treatments, and more traditional facial treatments from Phytomer. There was a separate hair salon.
Nearby the spa was a well-equipped Technogym. On site there was a tennis court, a table-tennis room and the aforementioned squash court.
Pool and beach
The better rooms and suites have pools and lounge areas. Hotel marketing departments like to call these ‘private’ pools, but we feel they should describe them as ‘personal’ pools as privacy isn’t always guaranteed. The terraced layout of the Mykonos Grand means that the pools are invariably partly overlooked by one or two of the higher rooms. Some of the personal pools were very beautiful.
There was an elegant and impressive main pool filled with seawater and a separate children’s pool. Comfortable loungers and two person cabañas were arrayed around the deck space. Service was on hand from the nearby pool bar, also the main lunch venue.
Down steps and paths from the pool area was the beach. It’s a public beach but, by possession and custom, the first section of 50 metres or so is the Grand’s private beach. Comfortable loungers and umbrellas were laid out in lines at the water’s edge, and further back behind the path there is a series of two-person cabañas. Staff are permanently in attendance to hand out clean towels and to take orders for drinks. To test the system, we ordered a light lunch at our beachside cabaña which arrived quickly. Every so often, the staff came around with free ice cream or offered a sunglass cleaning service to the stretched out sunbathers.
We liked the beach, although it was a little scruffy. There was a rocky mantle just at the entry point (it was sandy further out) that was slippery and made entering and exiting the water more perilous than it need have been. A simple walkway or jetty would have solved this.
There was no sound system on the beach which made a nice change from many others on Mykonos—just the sound of the lapping waves.
Despite the hotel enjoying 90% occupancy during our stay, the general atmosphere everywhere on the property was one of tranquillity. The few children in residence were mainly involved in their family groups or were enjoying the kid’s pool.
Staff and service
The service at Mykonos Grand in all areas was outstanding. The staff were mostly young and exuded confidence. They knew their guests, and knew their jobs. One could deduce that many have been working on the property for some years (employed seasonally as the hotel shuts down for winter). One could also sense a strong team spirit and mutual respect between staff and management.
An example of excellent hotel service: we had been travelling a few days and thought we should get some laundry done, so we filled out the requisite laundry list but then got distracted and forgot to call housekeeping before heading off for breakfast. When we returned to our room less than three hours later, we found that it had been collected, washed, ironed, folded and returned. As a random example of the diligence of the hotel staff, we thought it exemplary.
It appeared to us that the guests were managed as well as the staff. Most guests were younger (under 50) with a broad diversity of nationalities. There were British, American honeymooners, French girly groups, Italians, German, and Brazilian families, as well as a small family group from India. We didn’t get the statistics, but we suspected there are a lot of repeaters.
At breakfast on our departure day, we got an unexpected phone call from the reception desk. Since we had asked them to arrange our transfer, they noticed that it was a couple of hours after due check-out time. They were happy, they said, for us to keep our room until we were ready to leave. Many good hotels offer a late check out if they can; very few do it unprompted by a guest request.
All other aspects of the check-out were as one might expect in a well-run hotel. We left impressed.
How to get there
15 minutes by road transfer from Mykonos Airport
100 Rooms & Suites