Yayaki Spetses is one of the Greek islands' best-kept secrets – Hotel Insider

Small is beautiful at Yayaki Spetses in the Saronic archipelago, which has played host to Claudia Schiffer, Daniel Craig and Paris Hilton

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Having swapped a fast-paced life in London for the serenity of Spetses in Greece's Saronic archipelago, husband and wife team Karl and Hannah head up the quiet enclave that is Yayaki Spetses, a beautifully designed refuge and boutique-style hotel.

With only 15 rooms and suites, each named after a lucky charm that means something to the couple – such as the Grumpy Cat room, after their adopted feline – the hideaway offers personalised service with excellent attention to detail, a sense of intimacy and an infectious thirst for life from the owners.

On an island that’s long been a hidden gem for affluent travellers to escape to, Yayaki promises a unique haven that is more than just a place to stay. As Karl says: “It’s a whole vibe.”

The National checks in to find out exactly what that entails.

The welcome

As we step off the ferry from Porotnovi, it’s easy to spot our Yayaki ride waiting at the port – the orange and cream Piaggio scooter is the only tuk-tuk-style transport on the island. Bundling our luggage into the tiny vehicle, we climb aboard and Hannah whizzes through the streets on the three-minute drive to the hotel. With no cars allowed in much of Spetses, getting around by tuk-tuk makes sense.

A few minutes later we arrive at a discrete stone wall and step through a wooden gate to a beautiful stone courtyard and a traditional Spetsiotis-style house. Welcome drinks and powdery amygdalota – a sweet marzipan treat – are a fitting start to our visit.

The neighbourhood

Yayaki is on an island that’s just 20km in size and is perfectly placed between the new and old parts of the city, in a quiet side street that’s not open to cars.

Everything is within easy reach – with the old harbour about a five-minute walk away in one direction, and the new port about 10 minutes in the opposite direction.

Just three hours from Athens, the Saronic islands in the Myrtoan Sea are easily reachable and Spetses is popular with in-the-know Athenians as well as tourists. Summertime can be busy, but spring and autumn are delightful times to visit.

The room

We’re staying in The Yayaki suite, the only room in the hotel that’s in the small Yayaki House building, at the top of a flight of stone stairs.

With its own private terrace providing views of the village, pool and mountain, inside it’s a haven of boho-chic. Stepping through the wooden door, a large L-shape suite has a double bed with a locally made mattress crafted from coconut fibres (exceedingly comfortable), a lounge area with a sink-into-it sofa, a desk and a dressing area that leads to a separate bathroom with a shower and bathtub.

Filled with natural elements – straw, terracotta, linen, stone and rope – the light-filled room has traditional wooden shutters that can be used to hide away from the bright Mediterranean sunshine when the mood takes you. Unique illustrations adorn the room – from the signs advising guests to hang their swimwear on the outdoor hooks, to the beautifully presented breakfast and room service menus by the minibar.

The hotel’s Panorama Suite has a sea view and the island’s only outdoor balcony shower, while The Myrtoan Suite has a poolside terrace and can sleep up to four guests.

All the other rooms in the whitewashed house are split into three groups – blue, terracotta or olive – and each is decorated in keeping with the theme, but with individual touches so that no two rooms are the same.

The service

At the family-run operation, Hannah and Karl make up most of the service crew at Yayaki. The pair work well together – Hannah's organised, polite manner complements her husband’s authentic, out-there personality – and both have a can-do attitude.

Despite a mounting to-do list on our last day there, Karl is adamant he’s taking us on a tour of the island, and does exactly that, showing us secret spots and off-the-tourist trail locations that we’d never have found ourselves – all while driving the Yayaki tuk-tuk and animatedly chatting to customers, clients and his wife in Arabic, French and English.

The breakfast menu is found in each of the guest rooms rather than downstairs, where the meal is served, and despite having to repeat the options to almost every table we see him serve, Karl doesn’t seem to get disheartened. That said, we can’t help but think a good solution would be to simply move the menus on to the tables.

The scene

There’s something special about Yayaki, which is part boutique hotel and part family guesthouse – and the people who stay here seem to know that.

During our visit we see a group of women on a girls' holiday, several couples enjoying romantic getaways, a family with small children, and a few solo travellers. The family-style vibe of the place is infectious, with guests seemingly more open to chatting with one another than they might be at another hotel.

Days are spent lounging around the swimming pool on extremely comfortable sun loungers, surrounded by the property's lush gardens that teem with bougainvillea, lavender, ivy and potted plants.

A 40-square-metre yoga room designed with terracotta tiles and large arched mirrors is open for guests who would like to practise asanas or meditation, although there are no scheduled classes during our visit.

The food

Breakfast is served daily at Yayaki and is included in the cost of the room. It can be enjoyed in the open courtyard under a bamboo canopy, or in the little cafe-cum-masonry library. Guests staying in The Yayaki Suite can also opt to enjoy breakfast on their private terrace.

The menu is simple – each day juice, yoghurt, granola and tea and coffee are served to your table, and you have the choice of a sweet or savoury dish that includes options such as spanakopita (spinach pie), eggs, chia pudding or home-made cake.

Whole fruits, vegetables and loaves of bread are laid out in red and white gingham baskets, and travellers can help themselves to whatever they want, cutting and peeling their pick of the Mediterranean produce. This allows the hotel to offer the freshest harvests of the day, and helps cut down on food waste because travellers take only what they’ll eat.

Dinner can be ordered in advance, but there are heaps of little tavernas, cafes and seafront restaurants within walking distance, and the couple will happily provide recommendations on the best ones to try.

Highs and lows

The warmth of the hospitality and laid-back vibe at this hideaway are second to none. It might be a cliche, but a stay here really does leave us feeling as if we arrived as strangers and left as friends.

The owners' wealth of information on places to discover on the island helps you experience Spetses like a local.

There are no real lows other than the continuous ticking of the ceiling fan in our suite – however, we’ve been reliably informed that this has been remedied.

The insider tip

No need to worry about buying bottles of water, as Yayaki filters its H20 so you can enjoy a drink straight from the tap.

E-bikes are available to hire from the hotel, and come highly recommended as a way to get out and about and truly get to know this pine-covered paradise.

The verdict

Checking in at Yayaki isn’t just about having a place to stay on charming Spetses island, it’s about espousing an energy – one that champions getting closer to nature, embracing serenity and taking time out to appreciate the simpler things in life.

The bottom line

Prices start at €216 ($232). Check-in is at 3pm, and checkout is by noon; yayaki-spetses.com

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.

Updated: February 10, 2024, 3:23 PM