Late autumn sun a short hop from London typically involves one of the two C’s – The Canaries, or Cyprus. These are the bankable places where you can still get the warmth of a summer’s day, sans rain, right into November. So it was with this in mind that I packed my bags and headed to the Columbia Beach Resort and Spa in Cyprus to get some much needed family time in the sun ahead of the grey dirge of an average British winter.
The Columbia beach resort and spa, part of the Small Luxury Hotels of World group, has 169 rooms and a pool into which most boutique hotels would actually comfortably fit their entire footprint. This doesn’t take away from the hotel’s charms, but if you’re after a small intimate hotel this is not it. If, however, you want a comfortable hotel that never feels over crowded, with staff as warm as it is a summer hot spot, a spectacular pool, lovely spa and a plethora of water sports open to you, this would be a good bet.
The hotel has its origins in two separate properties unified by a single independent owner. Nine months ago these two elements were fused into one, to create a single 5 star suite-only resort. The ‘East’ wing has been entirely renovated with large, bright and modern suites throughout. The ‘West’ wing had a facelift, and the suites on this side of the hotel will be renovated gradually up until 2020, when the new look of the hotel will be complete.
We were accommodated in a capacious suite – one of the older ones – with a sea view and plunge pool, and stocked with Molton Brown amenities. The décor is ‘traditional Mediterranean’, and given these rooms have yet to be renovated, they still feel remarkably fresh, if a little old-fashioned in places. A guest with a need for clean lines and minimalism, however, might want to consider one of the renovated suites that the hotel can offer in the East wing.
Being located in an attractive bay – with a blue flag beach protecting its turtle nesting ground – there is, naturally, an impressive array of water sports available, from catamarans to a dive school to jet skis and, for younger children (or the marginally indolent), a highly entertaining speedboat-pulled inflatable sofa. Well, this is the Med, after all.
This property, however, is a ‘pool’ property. There are principally two; the family pool where children can make as much noise as they like, inflate as many crocodiles as they can breathe life into, and happily splash bomb parents as they embark on a quite bit of breast stroke. It is conveniently located just above the Kids club, which is a well organised and good service, with a terrace overlooking the sea offering a delightful spot to have lunch.
The adult pool, fortunately, is set apart from its offspring – though the hotel’s interpretation of ‘adult’ here is more behavioural – and is to be found in the heart of the ‘West’ part of the hotel. At 100 metres in length it is the most striking feature of the resort. Running the full length of the hotel, the rooms sympathetically overlook it on either side without ever feeling intrusive. An infinity pool at one end (with a paddling area for children beneath it) and a spa at the other, the design elegantly undulates between the buildings. I dwell on this because I have, quite literally, rarely come across a more inviting pool.
At the top of this pool is the Hebe Spa. Well-equipped and brimming with Elemis products it is, as you’d expect, a relaxing haven, delivering me into a knot-stripping Swedish massage and my wife a relaxing facial to rival any London spa.
The other asset of any sizeable property is its dining options, and Columbia is no exception. With four restaurants to choose from, there’s little chance to get ‘dining bored’. A Mediteranean offering near the beach is a more relaxed affair, a buffet caters for the all inclusive crowd, and an off-site Italian gives the benefit of choice but the standout restaurant is the more formal one. With its tables next to the long pool, it has a relaxing air and the food here is genuinely very good and inventive.
Between these four, you can pretty much cater your whole holiday, should you wish. However, I am not one to stay put for long and longed to venture out. Not far from the hotel I discovered Pissouri Square, the original town of Pisouri. If I have one piece of must do advice it would be this – avoid the beach town and get a 10€ taxi up to the old town and join the animated village life that goes on there – with great views, town square singalongs, some nice local shops, but above all a choice of good restaurants crammed with ambiance. We ate at two – the Bunch of Grapes, which does a tasting menu that just has to be experienced, and O’Vrakas Taverna; a tad rowdier but the source of one of the finest moussaka’s I’ve ever enjoyed.
We left the Columbia feeling that we would be back. I would stay in the West wing still, I would go to Pissouri Square more, and I would go a little earlier in the year than November, admittedly. I neglect to mention that it rained for our first three days – but then who looks for guaranteed sun in November in Europe?
For more information about the Columbia Resort and Spa, including special offers and details of activities and experiences, visit www.columbiaresort.com. For more information about Small Luxury Hotels of the World and its portfolio, visit www.slh.com.