Planning a trip to Kos? Here’s where to stay on this beautiful Greek island. Town or beach? Sandy or pebbly? Lively or quiet? Apartment or hotel? Luxury or budget? This guide covers the popular areas of Tigaki, Mastichari, Marmari, Kardamena and more – including the sandiest beaches and the standout hotels in the area.
This is part of a Greek holiday resort guide series and will cover:
Shortlist – Top Places to Stay on Kos
- BEST LUXURY HOTELS: Ikos Aria, Mitsis Blue Domes Resort & Spa
- BEST HOTELS RIGHT ON THE BEACH: Ikos Aria, OKU Kos
- SWANKIEST VILLAS: The Three Graces
- BEST INFINITY POOL: Michaelangelo Resort & Spa, Ikos Aria, Mitsis Summer Palace Beach Hotel
- BEST PLACE FOR FAMILIES: Kardamena, Tigaki
- BEST HOTELS FOR FAMILIES: Astir Odysseus Resort & Spa (Tigaki), Holiday Village Atlantica Kos (Marmari)
- BEST PLACE FOR COUPLES: Marmari
- BEST HOTEL FOR COUPLES: OKU Kos
- BEST BOUTIQUE TOWN HOTEL: Albergo Gelsomino, Diamond Boutique Hotel
- BEST PLACE FOR NIGHTLIFE: Kos Town, Kardamena
Which part of the island to choose?
- NORTH: Long flat coastline with sandy beach and resort areas amongst farmland and wetlands.
- SOUTH: Long sandy beaches nestled behind big mountains, wilder feeling than the north.
- EAST: Kos Town is in the centre of the short east coast with pebble/coarse sand beaches either side.
- WEST: West of Kefalos is a rugged and beautiful peninsula with the quietest beaches.
Kos – A Quick Overview
The island’s capital is called Kos Town (or Kos City, as you might see on buses) and this is the main hub for public transport. The airport is at the other end of the island, south of Mastichari. There is a mountainous ridge on the south east coast of the island, but the rest of the island is flat (except the dramatic scenery of the south west tip) – making it popular with cyclists. Kos is surprisingly green and lush too, thanks to the mineral-rich volcanic soil and abundance of water sources.
The main beach resorts – Tigaki, Marmari, and Mastichari – sit along the excellent sandy beaches of the north coast. There’s another cluster of resorts on the south coast between Kefalos and Kardamena. The north coast can get blasted with fierce northerly winds (the meltemi) every few days during the summer, which makes it an excellent spot for windsurfers and kitesurfers, but can be pretty unpleasant for the sunbathers. Wind shelters on the beaches are a common sight, but best to travel over to the more sheltered beaches on the south. This works in reverse at the start and end of the season when strong winds from the south are possible.
Kos threw in its towel with package tourism early on. As such, it has a well-established tourist infrastructure and you’ll find no shortage of resorts, amenities and entertainment. However, it fell out of favour with the major tour operators and subsequently is not as lively as it once was, and the lack of investment is apparent in some areas. But it also has one of the best selections of resort hotels (including all-inclusives) in Greece thanks to its endless beaches and flat landscape which is well suited to this type of development. If you’re looking for a beach break on the quieter side then it can represent excellent value. TUI has a large presence on the island. The selection of villas on the island is surprisingly small, especially at the top end – if you want an infinity pool you’ll have to book in to one of the luxury hotels.
Airport: Kos Airport (KGS) is located towards the west of the island, south of Mastichari. There are frequent buses to Kos Town and in high season to the main resorts.
Ferry: The main ferry port is Kos Town however ferries to Pserimos and Kalymnos also run from Mastichari, and in peak summer a route from Kardamena to Nisyros.
For more information on ferries read: The Complete Guide to Island Hopping in Greece
Bus: Island routes are run by KTEL Kos and fan out from Kos Town to the airport and the main resorts. Timetables are regularly updated and flyered at the bus stops. Payment is made on the bus. The main bus station is behind the pedestrianised Old Town area in town.
There are also local town bus routes that travel south east coast towards Therma and also up to Asklepion – these leave from the bus station next to the Gelsomino Albergo hotel and you buy tickets at the booth.
Kos Town is a large and busy town with generous dose of history and good amenities. Although it’s not generally considered one of the most beautiful towns in Greece, Kos has a pleasant harbour area with Neratzia Castle and the striking Italian monuments to one side, a Old Town area nestled in its backstreets, and a surprising number of archaeological sites. Towering palm trees and numerous beaches add to its appeal, as does the excellent cycle path which runs through the town and connects to beaches at either end. It’s a great base if you don’t need to be on the beach all day.
The main tourist drag is to the north of the harbour where you’ll find sports bars and cocktails, shisha, fish tavernas, fish spas, gyms, and a lively strip of course sand beach crammed with sunloungers and daybeds. It feels a bit past its heyday but represents good value and a lively atmosphere.
South of the harbour the atmosphere is completely different – a pleasant tree-lined promenade runs as far as the yacht marina. The streets are leafy and residential, and most of the island’s many hospitals are tucked away in the backstreets.
For a splash of luxury check in to the smart boutique Albergo Gelsomino along the waterfront. This historic Italian building dates back to 1927 and has been restored and decorated in sleek monochrome. The lounge opens out onto a small sandy beach. Next door is the modern Kos Akti Art Hotel which has lower rates but no beach.
If charming family guesthouses are more your style, then check in to Afendoulis Hotel in the southern district for warm hospitality and generous homemade breakfasts in a shady flower-filled garden.
Rather be away from the hustle and bustle? At the back of the town is the established 4-star Diamond Boutique Hotel which is set in lush landscaped gardens and has a pool.
Read more: A Quick Guide to Kos Town
Lambi is the beach area to the north of Kos Town, it’s essentially a continuation of the town beach and is generally quieter and more pebbly. The main road (and cycle path) runs parallel to the beach. In the summer months it’s a popular spot for beach bars and clubs. The northern end is dominated by the large and lively beachfront 4-star Atlantis Hotel.
The crowds drop away where the coast curves around to the north and towards Tigaki. Here you’ll find a handful of upmarket resort hotels – most of them adults-only – each with access to a bit of beach. The beach here is narrow but more private than the east side of Lambi. The sand is slightly gritty rather than pebbly and most hotels have day beds available.
It’s a good area for active couples with the cycle path into town in one direction, and a long coastal promenade in the other towards Tigaki – perfect for an evening runs and bike rides. The hotels here have plenty of space.
The nearest to town are the 5-star Aqua Blu Boutique Hotel and Lango Design Hotel & Spa, both hard to beat for facilities and design. Further down the promenade you will find the family-friendly TUI Atlantica Thalassa and TUI Blue Lagoon Resort, and the adults-only White Pearls Luxury Suites and Diamond Deluxe.
Bear in mind that all of the hotels here are behind the coastal road road rather than directly on the beach but the distance is minimal.
Take the cycle path south of Kos Town past the yacht marina and you’ll reach the Psalidi area, home to a long stretch of pebble beach that’s popular with watersports fans. It’s generally a quiet area that’s home to several large resort hotels and is also well equipped with watersports shops, dive centres and various types of rentals – particularly in the northern corner near the wetlands.
At the town end, the beach is narrow with small pebbles and course sand. There are a few budget beach cafes and tavernas around here. Where the beach swerves at an angle it is referred to as Psalidi Ramira thanks to the the large all-inclusive resort located here – the 5-star Mitsis Ramira Beach Hotel. The beach here is wide with medium-sized pebbles.
The beach continues down the length of the east coast with several spacious and well-equipped 5-star resorts at intervals – the Natura Park Village Hotel & Spa, and through TUI the Grecotel Kos Imperial Thalasso and Oceanis Beach Resort & Spa. These all have direct beach access.
Agios Fokas is located where Psalidi turns an abrupt corner and becomes the south coast. There’s not really a village here, but it’s the location of a popular beach bar plus two large and polished all-inclusive hotels – the Michaelangelo Resort & Spa and Dimitra Hotel & Suites. Both are white-washed and manicured, with pleasant landscaping and steps leading down to the dark grey pebble beach which has a distinctly volcanic feel and fabulous views across to Turkey on the horizon.
The town bus runs regularly along the coast to Agios Fokas and occasionally continues on to Therma, popular volcanic springs 2km to the west.
Tigaki is the first major resort along the north coast. The beach is wide and boasts powder-soft sand with a pale and powdery colour. There’s plenty of room for everyone and there are unorganised sections at either end of the beach. In the middle, you’ll find all sorts of facilities – watersports, lifeguards, day beds, loungers with cafe service, lockers, and even charging stations. If you’re the kind of person who links to plonk yourself down on the beach and not move for a week then Tigaki is perfect.
The main strip extends back from the beach, rather than running alongside it. It’s not a party town but there are plenty of cafes, bar and restaurants – both Greek and international – as well as the usual assortment of souvenir shops, inflatables, rental shops, and tour agencies offering excursions. It’s a feel-good place with friendly vibes. The downside is the occasional fierce winds.
It’s possible to cycle between Tigaki and Kos Town although it’s a too far to regularly pop into town. Bicycle rental is cheap and readily available, and it’s easy to find your own bit of beach if you have a bike. The area around Tigaki and Marmari is sleepy with pastoral scenes (many cows), roadside vegetable-sellers, and wetlands fauna. If cycling is not for you then don’t worry, regular buses and the tourist train also connect Tigaki with Kos Town.
There is a wide selection of good value locally-run hotels. Our top pick is the 4-star More Meni Residences & Suites with its chic neutral styling and central location. Tying for second are the fresh and modern 3-stars Utopia Blu and Oneiro.
If you prefer a larger resort, the Astir Odysseus Resort & Spa is a short distance from Tigaki but has direct access to a quiet beach and plenty of facilities for children.
4km along the coast from Tigaki, Marmari boasts a similar beach (if anything, the sand is slightly better here) but a smaller and quieter resort. The beach is backed by dunes and tamarisk trees, with a few tavernas along the main road and then one strip of hotels, cafes, and shops. This is the place for couples and families looking for beach bliss. There are many quality resort hotels right on the beach here.
Between Tigaki and Marmari is an area of salt flats with a lake and an abundance of wildlife including flamingos and butterflies.
For adults, the Instagram-friendly OKU Kos (formerly a Casa Cook hotel) is a highlight. The decor is stylish boho and the vibe is surpremely chilled. You’ll find yoga and SUP on the activities menu alongside the spa treatment. Next door is the similarly upmarket adults-only D’Andrea Lagoon. It’s a long walk to the main part of Marmari though so best suited to those happy to stay put for a week. In fact, if you’re looking for peace and quiet then the stretches either side of Marmari are a good bet.
For adults-only closer to the strip look at Sandy Beach Hotel and Sunprime Pearl Beach.
Closer to the main strip but still near the beach are the family-friendly TUI Atlantica Marmari Beach, Grecotel Casa Paradiso, and Holiday Village Atlantica Kos. For beachfront access try the Caravia Beach Hotel.
Marmari even has a posh glamping option – the Sails on Kos Ecolux Tented Village which has safari tents and bell tents.
Completing the trio of major resorts on the north coast is the likeable Mastichari. This is one of the best places in the Med for windsurfing and kitesurfing and has a bit of a boho vibe (as well as more independent accommodation vs packaged) compared to the other resorts.
The main beach is west-facing, wide and sandy, backed by dunes and large tamarisk trees providing pleasant shade. As well as windsurfing and kitesurfing, SUP and kayaks are available as well as playground, basketball court, and beach volleyball. When the wind isn’t blowing the beach a true delight. The sea is shallow for a long way out so ideal for small children.
There is another small beach in front of the north-facing Mastichari Bay Hotel and on the other side there are a few large resort hotels at the south end of the beach and continuing along the road. Ferries run from Mastichari to Kalymnos and Pserimos.
Mastichari feels the most up-to-date of the Koan beach towns. The beach cafes have a relaxed and modern vibe – think hammocks and rattan – and there is a good variety of eateries. There are a few late bars for evening sessions. The downside is the wind (as ever) and also the prevalence of sea grass late in the season.
To be close to the beach stay in one of the many traditional studios or apartments like the popular Irene Studios.
There are few large resort hotels in Mastichari itself. But drive east for 10-minutes to Tam Tam Beach and you’ll find a cluster – including the TUI MAGIC LIFE Marmari Palace (right next to the Lido Water Park), the Gaia Royal, Smy Princess of Kos, and the Neptune Resort and Spa. A similar distance to the south of Mastichari is the Eurovillage Achilleas Hotel.
Although it’s not as busy as it once was, Kardamena (also spelt Kardamaina) is still the liveliest beach resort outside Kos Town. Buses into Kos are less frequent than from Tigaki or Mastichari so you’re more likely to spend your evenings here. The town has a tangle of narrow streets filled with shops, bars, and the occasional nightclub. At the waterfront is a palm-lined harbour and you can find a variety of boat trips on offer.
On either side of the resort is a long strip of shoreline, with an increasing number of all-inclusive resorts perched right behind. There are frequent local shuttle buses into town to connect those further out. The resort itself is flat but the area behind is hilly – it’s possible to hike up to Antimachia Castle along a new paved path.
The main town beach is just next to the harbour. The beach is the widest and sandiest beach and is lined with loungers and cafes. On either side of town the coast gets a little narrow and scrappy with some pebbles. Sand-wise, it’s not on a par with the north coast however it is more sheltered from the wind.
To the north you’ll find the Mitsis Blue Domes Resort & Spa which is the town’s premier hotel offering. Private bungalows with hot tubs and suites with pools are amongst the available options. It’s part of a complex which includes several 4 and 5-star hotels. The Mitsis Summer Palace Beach Hotel has quite spectacular design including infinity pools. The sand on the beach verges towards coarse and pebbly.
Best option in the town is the highly-rated Kyma Rooms & Suites with clean and modern waterfront rooms.
The beach and resort hotels also continue south of Kardamena for a few miles until the cape at Helona where the landscape gets wilder.
Kefalos is both a wider bay which incorporates a number of small beaches and resorts, as well as a village which is further up the hillside.
At the far end of Kefalos you’ll find Kamari Beach, a small beach next to a fishing harbour and a road that’s lined with cafes. There’s not an abundance of accommodation here but there are a few apartments such as Dionysia Studios.
As the beach widens it becomes Kampos. The road does not run directly alongside but rather behind. There are a few large hotels, restaurants and cafes right on the beach, which is a mix of small colourful pebbles and course sand. This part of Kos is popular with returners and expats looking for a quiet time on the beach, with plenty of space to stretch out. For simple whitewashed rooms have a look at Katherina’s Studios. There are larger hotels towards the north end of Kampos – such as Zeus Hotel – although they do feel a bit dated compared to other resorts on the island. It’s a modest area and you can bag some bargains.
The chic adults-only White Rock of Kos is up on the hills behind Kefalos.
At the northern end of the bay is postcard-perfect Agios Stefanos, where you’ll find the remains of an ancient basilica right next to two sandy beaches. Strong swimmers can make a trip to the small island of Kastri with its picturesque lone church.
The Ikos Aria resort occupies the whole area behind Agios Stefanos beach and is one of the most appealing luxury resorts on the island – it’s a truly beautiful setting.
This area is also perfect for those happy to rent their own vehicle and explore beaches further afield. To the east of Kefalos Bay is the expansive Golden Beach (or Chryssi Akti), a long stretch of beach with very soft ash-like sand and backed by scenic cliffs. You’ll often see sections of beach given their own name, usually after a nearby taverna or bar with parking (such as Paradise Beach, Magic Beach, Markos Beach). The former has a popular beach bar playing chilled out beats. It gets quieter and wilder the further east you go.
The only hotel here is the secluded TUI Blue Lagoon Village.
On the wild and steep headland west of Kefalos there are are a number of quiet beaches worth seeking out such as Cavo Paradiso and Limnionas. Quad and buggy rental is common down this end of Kos.
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