The words bespoke and boutique don’t exactly spring to mind when you think of a Thomas Cook holiday. They’ve cornered the market on the quintessential ‘package holiday’, but now they have a new travel treasure up their sleeve.
And I’m standing staring out over it, trying to figure out what’s in the fresh juice that’s just been blended at the juice bar opposite the reception area. It’s the type of welcome treat I would expect to find at a yoga retreat or spa.
Even on my journey into Casa Cook Kos, in Greece, I knew something was different.
Lush patches of greenery line either side of the road leading up to the property, and their purpose soon becomes apparent when I see a black and white sign with the words ‘Farm to Table’ written on it. I think I’ve just seen the vegetables and fruits I’ll be eating for the next few days.
Seeing where your food is sourced from is comforting, but it also leaves no doubt in my mind that this is a new breed of hotel for Thomas Cook, aimed at a new market of travellers.
So what’s the concept?
Casa Cook Kos follows the successful brand launch of Casa Cook Rhodes, which opened last year. This second ambitious property is located on the northern coast of Kos, in Marmari, and is less than a twenty-minute drive from the airport.
The hotel aims to embrace the idea of parea, which roughly translated from Greek means a get-together with friends. It’s small, with only 100 rooms, so it really feels like you’re in a village oasis.
What are the rooms like?
I’m staying in a junior suite, which is mid-way in the five room options available. By far its most impressive feature is that it has its own swimming pool, well, one which is shared with the suite next door. And there’s a hammock on the balcony. Although getting in and out of it proves to be more complicated than expected, so tackle it wisely.
The rooms are plush, they haven’t skimped on the decor, and the linen throws definitely get my thumbs-up. There’s plenty of space to spread out, and the small details are impressive.
On arriving, I’d seen someone walking back from the beach with a grass beach bag slung over their shoulder. I discover one in my room, hanging on the wall, for use during my stay. It’s a nice touch.
But there’s also a clever commercial element to this. All of the lush linens, bath robes, room products, hammocks and more are also for sale.
And how about the beach?
It’s a good ten-minute walk (less if you have longer legs than me) on either side before you hit any of the other resorts along the beachfront, so it feels really secluded. The sofa-like loungers also add to that luxury feeling.
The beach club, To Kima, is definitely the hotel’s centrepiece and the perfect place to watch the spectacular Greek sunsets.
What’s the food like?
The breakfast buffet at Casa Cook Kos is the scene-stealer in my books. A large wooden table filled with bowls of fresh nuts, grains, honeys, homemade protein bars and more.
There is a rainbow of sumptuous, fresh fruits on offer, among them watermelon. Later, during a walk after breakfast, I spy a patch of watermelons being grown next to the hotel.
Farm to Table indeed.
The menus bare the stamp of chef Ettore Botrini, whose Athens restaurant, Botrini’s, was awarded a Michelin star in 2014. Yet another sign of how this hotel is setting itself apart.
Aside from soaking up sun, what else can you do?
My first attempt at stand-up paddle boarding, one of the activities on offer (E30/£27 per hour), doesn’t end with me swallowing half of the Aegean. Luckily.
I paddle out resting on my knees and manage to stand, but the first tiny ripple of a wave makes me wobble - a lot. I’m one wobble away from wiping out and am relieved there’s no wind, otherwise I fear an unplanned day trip to Turkey - which I can see in the distance - might be a possibility.
Other activities on offer include horse riding (from E70/£63pp) , yoga (E20/£18pp), and there’s a well-equipped gym.
I also take part in an Aromatherapy oil-blending session, which includes being shown how to make my own infused honey - complete with herbs I pick from the hotel’s gardens.
It was informative and a great way to spend a few hours. Fresh herbs require an 8am harvest though, before the heat sets in.
What about families?
I wonder if there’s enough to keep children busy here, and my question is answered by a family I meet.
Their 10-year-old daughter has done yoga with her mum, and tells me the shared pool their room has is her favourite aspect, because she’s made lots of new friends.
In fact, I see a lot of children doing yoga with their parents during my stay, and I’m struck again by how this really is tailored to the new-age family.
There’s a superb spa, too.
Yoga aside, the spa offers a range of different treatments that are a welcome departure from standard spa offerings. The domed hammam is impressive and worth a visit; a 45-minute session for a couple costs E110.