Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort – a luxury village set within a vast botanical garden on the north coast of Crete – never stops creating itself even after four decades.
I had been on the road in Greece for four weeks non-stop to six major regions and islands, and I still had three weeks ahead of me to five more. A travel writer’s trips rarely allow time to reflect no less just relax. Yet at that moment my feet were being gently sprayed with mist from the deep blue Aegean Sea while reclined in a private cabana on an exclusive beach – just one experience at Out of the Blue.
Of course, I have been a guest at many beautiful hotels and resorts in my career, but rarely have the scheduled time to absorb their atmosphere. To explain, I most often move among any number of cultural and culinary sites on a writing trip with the hotel being just one within the time frame – so after a quick tour I’m there to sleep. At Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort my sole assignment for three days was the beach cabana with my own infinity pool – the fabled Aegean Sea.
Well I do exaggerate. There was the luxurious suite, the lush gardens and the imaginative cuisine at the resort’s multiple restaurants that demanded my attention. Then the creative people I interviewed distracted my thoughts from the purely sybaritic, but a pervading umbrella of wellness, which I experienced first-hand, has been the mantra of Madame Capsis for decades.
Successful luxury resorts are innovative. They create experiences within extraordinary beauty. Perched on its own peninsula this luxury village is rarely without a sea view. The resort is organized around three neighborhoods: The Classic Collection (family), Lifestyle Collection (modern art and wellness), Exclusive Collection (privacy, waterfront and beach) and then an additional four Unique Villas – the ultimate.
I do not often direct readers to a hotel website except for reservation purposes. Yet for detailed information and excellent photos, you ought to read the Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort’s web site. I prefer to recount my experiences as a guest.
The peninsula, just outside the traditional fishing village of Agia Pelagia, has been in the Capsis family for decades. They opened a conference hotel in 1970. Over the past decades the luxury resort has been created in stages, especially under the direction of 2nd generation Madame Capsis.
As a child and young adult Madame Capsis suffered from some challenging ailments. She traveled extensively seeking the best treatments coming to the understanding that to achieve healing is not enough. To ensure health, one’s lifestyle must follow suit.
Out of the Blue’s award winning Detox 5+ Wellness Program influences all aspects of the resort. Wellness is not segregated just to a spa; the entire resort exudes a lifestyle key to maintaining physical balance. Yet for guests seeking treatments an extensive list of services can be prescribed after consultation with certified professionals such as Associate Doctor Vicky Demitriou.
The program takes its cue from studies done on Icaria Island in the Aegean Sea (between Samos and Mykonos). Icaria has been designated a “blue zone of longevity” by the Harvard Medical School in a study of its citizen’s lifestyle (100+ years on average). Harvard sites the lack of stress and a Mediterranean diet as two factors.
Naturally the luxurious accommodations and setting of Out of the Blue enhances relaxation, and a Mediterranean diet is the foundation for all food and beverage at the resort. The resort grows much of its produce in its own extensive greenhouses. Supervised weight control and dietary detox programs are available.
Traditional spa treatments use state of the art technology – lasers, hydrating chambers and cutting-edge natural products such as Zeolite. George Skaramagas, Wellness & Fitness Manager, said Madame Capsis “could be a doctor.” She traveled extensively discovering secrets to a healthy life that worked in the everyday world. Madame Capsis personally has tested and approved all products and treatments.
Over the course of three days I certainly experienced the Mediterranean diet and the mind calming effects of sea, beach and lush gardens. To my advantage, the Detox 5+ Wellness Program was able to treat and provide valuable advice about a chronic problem – very dry, thin skin due mostly to genetics. Associate Doctor Vicky Demitriou prescribed two treatments on two days using products by Valmont, hydro message with vibrating water jets and formulations to sooth and heal sunburn – my skin was thankful.
Marketing Director Katerina Chryssikopoulou gave a tour of this luxurious village. The resort’s stunning botanical gardens surround the three hotel collections, each with its own concept and design, ranging from a modern-art inspired boutique hotel, bungalow style accommodations, all-suite hotel, maisonettes and villas with private pools.
The all-suite Exclusive Collection is centered on privacy, peace and quiet. Fronting the Aegean Sea perched on a hillside shaded with trees, the Exclusive Collection exudes understated elegance. The beach, a short walk down the hill, is subdivided with a section of cabanas reserved only for Exclusive Collection guests.
Despite the sophistication of Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort’s hospitality concepts, Madame Capsis wanted to cater to families. There are a number of activities from game rooms for teenagers to a children’s play center, the Minoan Amusement Club, modeled after the fabled labyrinth of Knossos. There’s a waterpark, tennis and racquetball courts and more than one swimming pool. Eco-conscience as well, Coco-Mat bicycles made of white ash wood are available to ride.
Relaxation and healthy activities ought to make a guest hungry. Besides the reality that Crete’s gastronomy is famous even within the Hellenic World, Madame Capsis has always considered food and beverage to be of upmost importance in bonding all aspects of wellness. Besides what the resort grows themselves, Crete has a booming farming industry that makes the island self-sustainable for most products from both land and sea.
Seven major restaurants, the private Precieux Restaurant reserved for Exclusive Collection guests’ breakfast, beach and pool bars offer a full range of foods from classic Crete to Kosher. Four of the venues are a la carte open to the public with a set price Dine Around option available to guests.
Given that my stay at Out of the Blue was at the beginning of the season, not all restaurants were open, but I enjoyed the upscale breakfast buffet at beachfront Red Pepper Mediterranean Restaurant along with lunches and dinners at Seasalt & Rosemary (Greek cuisine), Safran Italian Restaurant and Apleton Kosher Restaurant.
Seasalt & Rosemary overlooks the public beach for the village of Agia Pelagia. It has the feeling of a waterfront Greek taverna with an attractive open sided stone structure (and lots of rosemary plants). Highlights from its menu include a superb whole grilled seabass, spinach soufflé, lentil salad and beef liver perfectly seared, pink in the middle and tender. A dessert of pistachio muffins with salted caramel and chocolate ice cream showed off the French trained influence of the executive chef who has been with the resort for three years.
Safran Italian Restaurant, set around a sizable and attractive swimming pool at the edge of a cliff with panoramic Aegean views, looks like it’s part of an exclusive Mediterranean villa. The award-winning menu matched the venue.
Selections at Safran included refreshing Carpaccio of Beef with rocket and a salad with sesame crisps, which gave not only texture but a nutty taste counterpoint to the sweeter dressing. Gnocchi was served with thinly sliced cured Greek ham in a cream sauce.
Pizza had a crust colored with squid ink topped with smoked salmon, cream cheese, onion and a little tomato. Beef Cheeks Ragu on sweet potato purée melted in the mouth.
The chef was a master with risottos. Risotto with truffle was perfection! Not only creamy but redolent with a fresh earthy aroma after a rainfall. The same care to texture and flavor was achieved with his risottos including asparagus and mushrooms.
Desserts received equal attention to detail. Cannoli with orange cream pleased my mouth with the pastry’s texture followed by an explosion of flavor. A classic tiramisu was paired with espresso ice cream. Candied fruits topped vanilla ice cream, which topped a chocolate soufflé.
To take full advantage of the increasing number of tourists to Crete from Israel the Apleton Kosher Restaurant opened last year certified under the supervision of the Beth Din of Nice. Kosher is a method of food preparation – and healthy – not specific foods. Seabass was topped with guacamole, celery root and orange. Grilled ribeye steak was served with fries and grilled red pepper. Dessert was simple grilled fresh mango slices with nothing else to mask the natural flavors.
After three days I realized that Madame Capsis, in her quest for wellness, discovered that Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort’s success was to evolve into its own blue zone of longevity for Crete. She created an environment where the General Manager has remained for 35 years, Katerina Chryssikopoulou for 15 years, George Skaramagas and many of the general staff from chefs to housekeepers nearly as long by working with them to maintain and improve her holistic vision of wellness. As the Aegean lapped my toes, the only sound was a gentle breeze through pine and olive trees as Madame Capsis’ vision enveloped me in tranquility.
When you go: Crete is easily reached year round by air from Athens, Thessaloniki and international destinations. Ferries from Pieraus (the port of Athens) and surrounding islands connect Crete by sea. Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort ( https://capsis.com ) is a 20 km taxi ride from Heraklion International Airport or the port of Heraklion.
Special thanks to Katerina Chryssikopoulou, George Skaramagas and Vicky Demitriou of Out of the Blue, Capsis Elite Resort for being guides, dining companions and great conversationalists.