Elysia Fryer finds the joy in togetherness at MarBella – a first-class, family-focused resort on the crystal clear waters of Corfu’s southeast coast
If you’re anything like me, as soon as we pack up those Christmas decorations for another year, my thoughts turn straight to sunshiney getaways. So with that in mind, we figured there’s no harm in getting the cogs turning early as we step into the new year.
In October, we were happy to sneak away for some late summer sun. The destination of choice? Corfu. You can be sunning it up on this glorious Greek island in just over three hours. Short flights, guaranteed sunshine and that little bit of luxury we all crave from a summer holiday – it’s the perfect tonic when it comes to finding a ‘happy place’ for a week away with the family.
Holidays have changed somewhat in the last couple of years for us. Gone are the dual-destination, city-hopping getaways as we welcome under-one-roof resorts where we can simply enjoy the ‘joy of togetherness’ a quality shared with that of MarBella – our home for the week.
Finding a family-friendly hotel that ticks all the boxes when it comes to entertaining both little and big people, but also not falling short of those holiday luxuries, was quite the challenge, but when we came across this Mediterranean paradise packed with fun, food and five-star goodies, I knew that this new holidaying chapter was going to be the best one yet.
MarBella: First Impressions
MarBella is an all-encompassing, village-like resort on the sun-soaked shoreline of Corfu’s southeast coast. It’s a place to have fun and create precious memories as a family.
Whether it’s swimming, eating, relaxing, playing – you have it all at your fingertips here and although there’s the option to keep busy throughout your stay, all of the hard work and planning is done for you.
We arrive late afternoon, in good time for our first sundowner on the Belvedere terrace after a speedy check in and resort tour. On arrival, we’re pleased to hear that our lunches and dinners for the week were scheduled at the hotel’s five additional restaurants on top of the La Terrazza buffet.
So, with a very relaxed foodie itinerary as our skeleton plan, the rest of the holiday is about enjoying the fun at our fingertips.
Our family bungalow suite is stylishly designed with built-in storage, king sized bed with a TV footboard (which blew the mind of both toddler and husband!), sofa bed and ‘relax’ area with minifridge and tea and coffee facilities, and most importantly, a large terrace with undisrupted views of the sparkling emerald Ionian Sea.
The views are truly breathtaking as the ocean glistens beneath us. On a clear day, you can see mainland Greece beyond the boats and yachts bobbing on the water. Our blissful base for the week is a hit with the whole family, and we can’t wait to explore more beauty across the resort.
We could write a book about the fantastic facilities and food offering at MarBella, but when picking out the best bits, it makes sense to start with the Signature Life offering. This is where the resort’s luxuries really come into play.
It includes VIP early check-in and late check-out, unlimited watersports, Greek wine tasting, a pillow selection menu, a daily turndown service, a head and neck massage treatment, complimentary kids kit, a fitness kit, free mini bar and a farewell gift. It really does enhance an already exquisite experience.
When it comes to having fun, there are kids clubs, organised activities, pools of all shapes and sizes, a waterpark, watersports, ice cream on tap, a unique decked beach area, excursions and much, much more.
The Catamaran Cruise day trip is an absolute must – setting sail from the hotel’s pier every Wednesday and Sunday, exploring Paxos, Antipaxos and the wonders of the Ionian Sea.
The catamaran itself is fit for royalty and we feel like VIPs from start to finish. Wines, beers, spirits and hand-crafted cocktails are served throughout as we set sail in the beating sun. The first stop is Paxos island, docking at the capital of Gaios – a quaint fishing village where life is slow and the views sensational.
With little people in tow, we head straight to the ice cream parlour, taking in the beautiful low rise buildings, boats, harbour and beyond.
Next Up: Antipaxos
Next up, we’re dropping anchor at Antipaxos’ Voutoumi Beach, where beautiful blue waters lap up against the golden sands and we enjoy a quick splash and a bite to eat.
The hotel provides delicious snack boxes packed with pastries, wraps, Greek salad, fruit, cheese platters and sweet treats. All goes down wonderfully with an Aperol in hand as a summer soundtrack plays out across the boat. The good life indeed.
The journey home takes us around the rugged edges of mainland Greece, exploring the blue caves as we go. The sky turns from bright blue to warm, pink and orange hues as the sun sets over the ocean and we make our way back to MarBella for dinner.
The food offering is vibrant and vast. From the casual buffet restaurant, La Terrazza, to the more refined dining options at Kum Kuat (pan Asian), Celeste (French), Deck Bar & Grill (Mediterranean), Comodo (Italian) and Platea (Greek), there really is something for everyone – including delicious dishes for tiny diners.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for little people to explore new flavours and it’s a hit with our toddler, as well as our six month old who’s introduction to solid foods has started in serious style! The waiting staff are wonderful – always greeting us with smiling faces, ready to make each meal one to remember for both kids and grown ups.
Each restaurant has its own unique draw, our favourites being the traditional Greek food in Platea, and the sensational seafood down by the beach at the Deck Bar & Grill. There are many magnificent things about this resort, but the food is up there with the best we’ve had in overseas hotels – particularly in all-inclusive resorts.
Diners are able to select from regularly-changing menus, and there is plenty of choice when it comes to accompanying meals with specially-selected wines and cocktails.
You can get dressed up for fine dining-style meals every evening – even lunchtime – or, for something more low key, you have the option to dine in the buffet restaurant or the beach and pool bars.
A wine-paired three course supper is a treat, but sometimes a burger delivered to your sunbed in the afternoon hits the spot.
The Anemelia Aqua Park is a fairly new addition to the resort, and it certainly sets it apart. Featuring a mix of slides and tunnels for endless water-fuelled fun, it’s a great spot to entertain the kids while also lapping up the luxuries of the hotel.
While the little ones are racing down waterslides, grown ups can plunge into the separate infinity pool overlooking the resort’s lush landscaped gardens and the turquoise waters beyond. It really is picture-perfect.
MarBella: Lifetime Of Memories
A special mention goes to the staff at MarBella. Each and every one of them goes above and beyond to make sure your experience is truly memorable. No request is too much and by the end of the week, we are on first name terms with most of the team across the hotel’s bars and restaurants.
There are so many wonderful things about MarBella as a resort, and we genuinely feel sad to say goodbye. A week’s holiday gives us a lifetime of memories. A place where togetherness – something we value so much in the rush of everyday life – is evident through fun, food and first class service.
MarBella really is full of love and life. Everything from the evening entertainment, kids club, bars, restaurants, activities, leisure facilities, spa and suites, has been meticulously thought-out to ensure the finest five star luxury we’ve experienced for such a family-friendly, fun-focused place.
We are totally in awe and we can’t wait to return next year.