Who says I can’t do all-inclusive resort-style relaxation!?
If it’s a family holiday of pure relaxation you are after, with no hidden extra costs, and a lively, friendly family atmosphere, St Elias Resort in Protaras, Cyprus is your place!
We are far more city explorer type travellers, or if we’re heading somewhere for longer, hiring a BnB or self-catering. This Eid break (mid-summer) we decided to treat the family to stay in an all-inclusive resort – can you believe the first time for the Globetrotters! (Barring when Miss Z was a baby – we tried it and HATED it!)
Using an extension ticket with Emirates from Australia, the flight with Emirates cost us next to nothing (the fact they actually bumped us off our flight to Larnaca is a whole other story which we will cover next!)
In this post we will cover:
- What you get at St Elias Resort & Waterpark
- What’s included in “Ultra All Inclusive”
- How to book St Elias Resort & Waterpark
- Facts to know before visiting Cyprus
- Globetrotters Recommend
Our review of St Elias Resort is based on our family stay in August 2019 – this was not a sponsored stay – all opinions are entirely our own.
This post is part of our Europe Destinations Series and our Tried & Tested accommodation reviews
Where is St Elias Resort Cyprus?
Nestled in the hillside of Protaras, on the eastern coast of Cyprus, you will find the beautiful St Elias 4 star all-inclusive resort. It is approximately 45 minutes drive east of Larnaca International Airport and about 12-minute walk from the nearest beach and town.
What facilities and entertainment does St Elias have?
There are two main swimming pools, one described as the activity pool and the other the quiet pool. The activity pool also has a smaller children’s paddle area and a splash pad area and water slides. You can also find a jacuzzi, gym, spa, tennis courts and kids club.
There is a bar next to both pools, as well as an international buffet restaurant and a Greek restaurant. Now let’s dig into the juicy details!
St Elias Waterpark & Pools
The main reason St Elias is so attractive to families is the inclusion of three giant slides! They describe themselves as at Resort & Waterpark – well giant slides and a toddler splash park counts I suppose.
Lifeguards are on duty but they’re not over-zealous on the whistle. They took the time to learn our kids’ names over the week and only intervened when kids (clearly not ours, they’re perfect) were being total clowns or not safely clearing the slide area.
Note they have many, many pool rules which were routinely broken, yet no one raises an eye.
- No sun chair reserving – of course, the Europeans are out there at sparrows nabbing their favourite spot (but never did they completely run out of chairs, don’t panic!);
- They also say no floaties or balls – the pool is absolutely full of them;
- No drinking poolside, well no one stops you;
- The pool opens from 10am to 6pm (is it just me or is that ultra restrictive?) People were definitely in the pools before and after these times – but cleaning does strictly start at 7pm when the sun is going down. The slides can most definitely only be used when the lifeguards are on duty, we always found them courtesy and helpful.
- The jacuzzi was for over 18’s only – teens and younger in there all the time.
- Now here’s an important one – the slides have a height restriction of 1.2cm and age restriction of 6 years old – this could definitely disappoint some kids. But all with a grain of salt like all the other “rules” above. Our very strong swimmer Master J was under 1.2m but was allowed sometimes, not at others – if your kids is just under you could comfortably say they will get in, they weren’t standing there with a ruler.
Normally a stickler for the rules as they’re there for a reason, it truly didn’t spoil the atmosphere around the pool. If you found it too full of floaties and ball games, simply head to the quieter pool or your room for a bit.
You are allocated with one set of pool towels at the start. Enviro-conscious these are NOT changed daily but you can ask for fresh ones at reception.
The family accommodation at St Elias
St Elias Resort almost exclusively caters to families. The only couples there we could see were traveling with larger parties who did have kids or were grandparents; this not a couples and singles party place – you can find more of them down near the beach if you have a more mixed group to cater for.
There are 152 rooms from 1-bed studios through to 2 bedroom apartments. A limited number come with their own plunge pool.
We had a 2-bed suite for a family of 5 which gave us 2 large bedrooms, plus a living area with 2 sofa beds, kitchenette and a balcony with one shared bathroom. We were up the top of the hillside which was a bit of a trek to and from the restaurant and entrance each time, but we were rewarded with stunning ocean views so couldn’t complain, and only a short walk to the activity pool and kids club.
I don’t think there were any “ideal” rooms to request. Those with strollers will find there are ramps throughout but several hills to tackle. The rooms closest to the pools will, of course, pick up a bit of foot traffic and noise.
In your room, you are provided with daily water and tea and coffee making. All other food and drink you must get from the snack bar or restaurants but can be consumed in your room.
If you did still want to self-cater at all then there is a small kitchenette in your room with microwave. (Hey, we know kids are fussy – we bought a tonne of our own snacks which we ended up not using). The nearest shops are about a 25 minute round trip on foot, or you can shop while you’re down the beach on the free shuttle (More below!).
Anything not up to scratch with the rooms?
Our only criticisms in the room, the aircon just didn’t seem to cool the bedrooms enough no matter how low we turned it down (maybe we’re just spoilt by UAE standard airconditioning!). The power operates on key fob so it can get quite hot when you’re out during the way. It takes a while for the room to cool down and the water to heat up!
Also, the housekeeping on the rooms seemed sporadic. We couldn’t work out what time of day they did their rounds. So no matter when we tried to vacate our room for several hours at a time they never came! No biggie, we are not particularly messy people and we were able to top up our water supplies from the self serve cabinet.
The rooms did feel very new and very clean (we believe everything was updated and freshly opened in 2016).
Entertainment and kids club at St Elias
The resort runs a very active entertainment schedule 6 days a week over summer. From morning stretch classes to very active water polo matches in the afternoon, you can choose to join in as little or as much as you like. Entertainment continues on into the evening with interactive kids shows through to cabaret-style performances.
There is also a kids club next to the main pool, open for a morning and afternoon session with a daily program of special activities. Our 5 & 7-year-old LOVED it. Quite basic on the scale of kids clubs but I think the reprieve of being in the sun and water all day was welcome – and hey if that meant I could read my book uninterrupted for a couple of hours – SCORE!
There is free wifi throughout the resort although signal strength varies.
The onsite Blue Spa (formerly Hibiscus) is lovely too. You do pay additional for this but when the kids are happily engaged at the kids club, what better way to indulge! They offered some free 10-minute shoulder massages by the pool on some days too.
Exploring nearby to St Elias Resort
A short but steep walk you must do during your stay is to climb the neighboring hill to see the church of St Elias. This picture-perfect Orthodox church is definitely worth the climb to catch the stunning sunset views.
A free day time shuttle service also runs into the nearby township and down to Fig Tree Beach. Timetable variable so pick this up as you arrive but generally, every 30 minutes in the morning and every hour in the afternoon.
If you are a (very) early riser you might be able to grab yourself a deckchair down on the beautiful beachfront at Fig Tree Bay. Deck chair nabbing is like a competitive sport in Europe – be content you will probably be pulling up a patch of sand but the fun is in the crystal clear Mediterranean water. Grab yourself a bite at one of the beachside cafes, very reasonably priced.
If you want to skip the buffet dinner, it’s an easy walk down to the “main drag” of Protaras (slightly more difficult on little legs coming back up). There are a load of dining and entertainment options that range hugely in price, and age appropriateness! We weren’t out too late at night to tell you how rowdy it gets, but other guests told us they had been out until 11-12pm and it was fine for their tweenage kids to still be out.
Nearby Day Trips from Protaras
We were surprised there was very little pushing of tours beyond the resort to site see in other parts of Cyprus – it would have been nice to perhaps day trip further to Ayia Napa or to boat out and see the sea caves.
There were reps from the big holiday companies there flogging their add-ons for customers in reception, but nothing pushy. You can, of course, find tour guides and willing drivers just down the hill, we would definitely do this next time to get a bit more variety.
What does ultra all-inclusive at St Elias actually cover?
Ultra All Inclusive basically covers EVERYTHING you need to eat and drink from dawn to dusk! Yes, true!
There are, of course, some restrictions. But sensibly so to manage the crowds and prevent too much food wastage. You are given a gold wrist band for adults and yellow for kids just to distinguish you as a resort guest.
The main buffet restaurant and dining room is Lemontree Restaurant where all meals are taken during designated breakfast lunch and dinner times (at the time of our visit mid-summer these were 8am to 10am; 12.45pm to 3pm; 7pm to 9.30pm)
I’ll admit the “all-day buffet restaurant” at a resort normally doesn’t thrill me. It can be like feeding time at the zoo and full of same-same dishes and a groundhog day procession. I was really pleased, however, with the meals served at Lemontree.
There are subtle theme differences each day and changes to the selection on offer. You can choose to dine inside or al fresco. There was only one night where a new busload from the airport must have just arrived where we found it difficult to get seated and the buffet too chaotic. Over the course of 20 odd meals, that’s not bad on resort standards!
There is table service for drinks, as well as self-serve water, tea, coffee and fruit juice. Alcohol service is unrestricted (legal drinking age 18 years).
If you would like a change in the dining scene, Greek restaurant Mezze by Ellinoko is open for dinner. It is still free for all-inclusive guests, but needs to be pre-reserved and comes with a three-course set menu (which we knew two of our three wouldn’t be adventurous enough to try) so can’t give you an honest review on that – but by all reports very nice!
Snacks and drinks in between
There are two bars that operate throughout the day next to each pool from 10am to midnight. There is unrestricted service of alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks – including an extensive menu of cocktails.
There are also “quick bites” available to order next to the activity pool when the restaurant is closed, and a self-service cabinet for water, fruit, yogurt and sandwiches.
Note if you do decide to take a day trip, you won’t miss out on your included lunch! That’s right, they can package your lunch up for you “to go” as long as you order before 6pm the night before.
Airport transfer to St Elias Resort
Booking with the hotel direct, they organized a one-way transfer for us – you can choose either to or from the airport. You will need to arrange the other leg yourself, expect to pay about 55-70 EUR. If you book through a tour company this may well be included.
How do you book St Elias Resort Protaras (and what does it cost!)
There are many ways that booking can be done, depending on how you like to book your travel. And cost is highly variable by season.
Largely, their customer base seems to come from organised tour packages from other parts of Europe and the UK, via companies such as Jet2Holidays or FirstChoice. Packaging a trip makes sense if you are flying with one of their charter or budget airlines – that obviously leave from a location convenient to you.
For us ordinary folk who want to self-book or coming from the UAE as we did, there are a few options and things to be aware of.
- When we went to book about 5 months out (NB – allow a larger booking window than this if you can!!) there were limited rooms left available over the summer peak. Nonetheless, we were still able to access their “2 kids stay free” deal which seemed to be available, both via their own website and on several of the big hotel bookings sites including Hotels.com and Booking.com.
- There was a catch though. We were getting such big variances in prices; Hotels.Com seemed the cheapest yet when we pressed “book”- the price DOUBLED!! What the…. They not only excluded taxes in their initial quote but apparently adding an extra child who would be sleeping on the sofa bed added over 1000 euro to our trip.
- We ended up calling to check that we could get the same price through the resort direct – and yes indeed, the price quoted on Hotels.Com and Bookings.Com was wrong and shouldn’t have charged us the huge additional sum for the third child.
- As long as you book the two-bedroom suite, there are most definitely an extra 2 sofa beds included. It can comfortably fit a family of 6 and you should not be charged more.
We personally ended up booking online with St Elias as this rate was marginally cheaper than what the receptionist could book for us over the phone.
If you are far more organized than us though, booking in advance and you fit neatly into the 2 adults, 2 child model, we did find the best pricing through online agencies cheaper than their website.
- We recommend you first use a search engine such as HotelsCombined to drill into prices.
- You can look directly on Hotels.Com here – or try Booking.Com
The price is going to vary a lot on season. Expect for a family of 4 the cost to be around €400 per night. (But remember, nothing more to pay for meals out etc!)
Do check the fine print that you getting the all-inclusive package, not just breakfast.
If you book now for Summer 2020 they are already offering a 25% forward rate discount.
Facts to know for visiting Cyprus
First time to Cyprus? Here’s a lightening brief on recent Cyprus history and important tourist info to get you up to speed!
- The Republic of Cyprus is one whole country, however, geopolitically, it is presently split into 2 (well actually, 4 ) territories. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is only recognized by Turkey. There is a UN Buffer Zone between Northern and Southern or Greek Cyprus, and there are also still two military bases under British sovereignty.
- Yes, it’s classified as being in Europe. In fact, the Republic of Cyprus was admitted into the EU 2004 even though it is geographically closest to the Middle East – Syria & Lebanon being it’s neighbors to the east (closest to Protaras), while Turkey is to the north and Israel to the south-west.
- The official language is Greek, but hospitality staff and drivers etc will speak enough English to get by. In TRNC the dominant language is Turkish.
- The currency is Euro. TRNC is still using Turkish Lira until they are fully permitted into the EU.
- The main international airports close to the resort areas are Larnaca in the south (LCA) and Paphos in the west (PFO). The capital is, in fact in the center of Cyprus – Nicosia (NIC).
- The power sockets are “British Style” so pack your Type G plugs or a good converter.
- The summer average temperature in July/August is around 30-35c. The sea temperature is around 27c.
- Cyprus is visa-free for tourists staying less than 90 days
Globetrotters Recommend St Elias Resort Cyprus
Hand on heart, it was a far better experience than I feared!
I think 6 days was enough for me, but the kids were in LOVE with the place as soon as we arrive. They got a huge deal of independence making their own way around the resort at times, ordering themselves ice cream from the bar and slide, after slide, after slide.
Had we stayed for any longer period, we could have more proactively hired a car or arranged day trips. Purely for the fact I had already been travelling with my kids, largely solo for the proceeding 5 weeks I was all for a sit and do nothing trip with no cooking, no long hikes! (Not to gloat, but I read two books lying on a sun lounger. I haven’t read that much on holidays since pre-kids, just sayin’).
All-inclusives always feel pricey upfront. In this case, we found no hidden costs, nor that we were trapped in the resort or any lack of variety.
The staff were always friendly and smiling, the restaurant food was actually of a great standard and they weren’t stingy on the cocktail making. Our room was a great size giving us each a little space – and did I mention the August weather is SENSATIONAL!!!
We will be back St Elias, and we will most definitely be back to do some deeper exploration of Cyprus (possibly even looking at some holiday homes….)
Have you stayed at an all-inclusive resort recently? We’d love to hear your recommendations!
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Disclosures: This post is in no way sponsored by St Elias or the Louis Hotel group, we paid for all accommodation ourselves, all opinions are our own. This page does contain affiliate links to third-party suppliers. If you purchase anything through these links it may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for being a loyal reader of our blog – our full terms and conditions of use can be found here.
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