In June 2021, we had an once in a lifetime experience: we got to stay in a real life traditional 200 year old restored castle in Mani Peninsula in Greece. When we planned our stay at Arapakis Historic Castle, we thought that we’d probably not “fit” as a family in the castle, and that we’d stay in the “sister” Pandora Hotel right next to it. We were please to see that the Old Mill is a perfect accommodation option for a family of 4, it’s one of the most family friendly in both hotels and one of the friendliest ever we’ve had as a family!
Our family stay in a restored Mill
The Mill for 4 is a ground floor “apartment” for 4-5 guests. It used to be a mill and the owners and engineers behind the restoration kept many of its bygone elements: the stone, the fireplace, the secret shelves and cup boards, the old windows, they are all still here. And they blended beautifully with the traditional wooden furniture, the fully equipped kitchen with the state-of-the-art SMEG appliances.
As a family, we loved that there were no entrance steps, that there was patio with a view to the tower, a spacious living space with sofas and a dining table, two bathrooms, washing machine and dishwasher, the kitchen of course and that there was room for the kids to sleep either in the living room or the open plan bedroom.
The Mill also works as a “museum”, as you can see on the walls family photos and memorabilia, as well as Press publications about captain Arapaki’s adventure back in 1910 when he sailed the world in a small sailboat called “Pandora”…
The history of Castle Arapakis and Hotel Pandora
Petros Arapakis discovered a cave by the sea back in 1884, near his family’s place in Haria Mani. This cave is the now well-known Diros Cave, just 1600 metres away from Castle Arapakis. It’s actually one of the most mystified we’ve ever visited as you can only see it on a boat sailing on the underwater stream.
Captain Arapakis was in Australia in 1910, leading the small “Pandora” sailboat that belonged to a local beauty. Wanting to prove a point, he sailed it alone with just one more seaman, aiming to go all the way back to Greece. His story travelled too and when they reached New York, they gave an interview to the New York Times, which you can still see on the walls in the Mill. The last time anyone saw them, they were in offshore Spain somewhere.
100 years later, his ancestor Nikos Arapakis man and his wife Kaiti, both experienced engineers, restored the old castle and with extra love turned it into a first class hotel. Next to it, right on the pebble alley of the traditional Haria village, they built Pandora Hotel, naming it after the amazing sailboat. With respect to the local Mani architecture, Pandora Hotel blends beautifully with both the Castle and the whole village. Offering world class stay, in fully equipped traditional yet luxurious apartments, with breakfast made with local ingredients straight from the couple’s farm and best enjoyed with a view to the sea beyond Diros cave.
Are Arapakis Castle and Pandora Hotel family friendly?
Every hotel offers options for adults only. Some offer options for families with older kids or with babies. The only reason this applies here is that some apartments feature narrow wooden ladders, like the one our Mill had and where our almost 5 year olds played safely for hours. So if your kids are familiar with ladders and yet younger than hours, you can stay in any of the apartments. Not all apartments feature steps or ladders though, with one also being ideal for people with mobility issues.
Almost all apartments in both hotels feature a seating area with sofa beds. Some are maisonettes with two separate bedrooms and even an extra bathroom. They all have a patio or veranda or a front yard, which offer extra space for play or for the parents when kids go to bed.
There is abundant space for play all around the buildings too, as there are no cars and a playground with a view to the mountains of Mani.
As you probably know, we here consider “family friendly” stays that have amenities for both kids and parents – and Castle Arapakis and Hotel Pandora have indeed both. There’s a gym, and you can get extra pampered by arranging a relaxation massage in the privacy of your own apartment. You can also experience some horse riding and ride a beauty from the village all the way to the nearest beach, down near Diros cave.
Also, all apartments feature a fully equipped kitchen with a large SMEG fridge, stove and oven, even a dish washer or a washing machine.
Even so, breakfast is also served, with coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, (almond) milk, local pancakes, homemade deserts and jam, eggs from their own poultry, artisanal cheese produced by mr Arapakis.
No other meals are served, but Haria is so conveniently located that you’ll get to explore the true Mani and its cuisine.
Where to eat near Castle Arapakis
Haria is a traditional village, with not even a grocery store. However, just 5 minutes away lies beautiful stone built Areopoli, ideal for cocktails, local cuisine, handmade ice cream and play. Also 5 minutes away, you can enjoy homemade cuisine and barbeque, in Diros and Triantafyllia villages. Quaint Limeni is just 10 minutes away and you’ll go there for a swim, a perfect sunset, seafood and international cuisine. There are many dining and coffee options in Gerolimenas bay too, just 20 minutes drive away. 25 minutes from Haria, you’ll find Cotronas sandy beach where a tavern is located, as well as Halikia Vatta pebble beach, where you’ll find two more taverns.
If you want to go further, 30 minutes away there is Skoutari sandy beach with 2-3 really lovely seafood taverns. We dined at one of them a lovely evening, and I have to recommend the seafood moussaka. Alypa cove is also just 30 minutes away and on its picturesque cove you’ll find a quiet tavern.
Family friendly activities around castle Arapakis
Sandy beaches are hard to find and even harder to reach in Mani peninsula. Stoupa and its surrounding sandy beaches are 1 hour away, Cotronas 25 minutes, Scoutari 45 and Gyalia another 25 minutes away from Haria, as is Vathy from the other side. Neo Oitylo sandy beach is 10 minutes away, while Marmari is 45 minutes drive. In Limeni you can walk to the sea through rocks and swim in amazing turquoise waters (10 minutes away).
Halikia Vatta small pebbles is 25 minutes away. But the round white pebbles beach of Halikia Diros is just 5 minutes away (1600 metres actually, you can walk the distance on an easy day).
However, the quaintest of bays in Diros (5 minutes), Alypa (30 minutes away), Mezapo (15 minutes away), Porto Cayo (1 hour away) and Gerolimenas (20 minutes away) might not be ideal for sand castles, but if they kids keep their plastic shoes on, they can enjoy swimming in crystal clear azure waters.
In Gerolimenas bay, two local adventure dads organize water sports for all ages. Message them on Instagram at Tenaro Adventures and schedule some SUP boarding, diving, or short hikes with kids, even sea bicycling to explore the secret pirate caves in the lovely Gerolimenas bay.
Limeni bay also features water sports and you could enjoy sea kayak, SUP, sea bicycle, sailing and surfing in this dreamy cove.
There’s also the option to explore the hidden beaches and amazing Mani coastline in a speed boat!
I totally recommend a visit to Areopolis, which is so much more than meets the eye. You’ll pass by it on your way to Haria and you’ll think it’s no big deal. But once you park, you’ll discover a maze of cobblestone alleys, taverns, playground, cocktail bars and magic. You got to visit the old and preserved castles of Vatheia village, and don’t skip Lagia on your way there.
Also, Diros caves are a must!