Tinos Surf Lessons, Tinos, Cyclades
From modest beginnings as a few friends who learned to catch the waves at Kolibithra beach, Tinos Surf Lessons has become a scene. Yiannis Vidalis and his crew have made something fun and friendly at the surf school that is also chic – a VW campervan converted into a bar, with driftwood furniture and umbrellas woven by local basket-makers. Everything is made to be packed up during the winter and leave the sands of one of Tinos’s longest (and windiest) beaches untouched. The daytime menu is hearty with toasties, salads and crepes. Locally brewed Nissos beer and fruit juices give way to good cocktails from the VW bar as sunset approaches.
Kavos Lounge Bar, Skyros, Sporades
Steep ferry prices and a crackdown on wild camping have put paid to the days of budget backpacking around the Greek islands. But Achilleas, the only ferry that services the island of Skyros, from Kymi on almost-mainland Euboea, is stubbornly cheap. Fed up with being stiffed by shipowners, the locals set up a cooperative and bought their own boat in the 1980s. The arrival of Achilleas in the sleepy harbour of Linaria is heralded by Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra blasting out from Kavos Lounge Bar. From stepped terraces cut out of the rocks, customers can dive straight into the sea and jump on to a paddleboard. At night, staff hand out sparklers as the boat comes in.
Isalos bar, Sifnos, Cyclades
A walk along the waterfront from the ferry at Sifnos brings visitors to one of the island’s loveliest beaches: Kamares. At the far end, Isalos is a funky beach bar with sunbeds to snooze on to the sound of afrobeats. Customers can challenge regulars to a backgammon session, or get sozzled on Nikos’s excellent Bloody Marys. The food (smoked salmon bruschetta with wasabi mayo, juicy ribeye steak) is delicious, too. Time a visit to watch the sun set between the two headlands almost kissing at the mouth of the harbour.
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Kalofego bar, Ano Koufonisi, Cyclades
Hop on a floating taxi or wander north from the dinky port of Ano Koufonisi island until the coastal footpath peters out at Pori beach. It’s the longest and best beach on a tiny island (just off Naxos) renowned for fine sands and cobalt waters. Set back from the shore, Kalofego is a hippy-meets-hipster hangout, with rag rugs flung over curvy concrete benches and giant cacti in terracotta pots. Cool down under the bamboo pergola with an Aperol spritz, or dig into the delicious Mediterranean menu (octopus and black-eyed bean salad, roast goat with chickpeas). The summery soundtrack hits the right note and the owner, a musician, often invites his mates for impromptu gigs.
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Asteria bar, Syros, Cyclades
Ermoupolis, the grand capital of Syros, was a major 19th-century shipping power. The Vaporia (ships) neighbourhood is where the wealthiest residents built their seaside mansions. On the waterfront, this bar is a more modest affair – a glorified canteen with wooden tables and director’s chairs lined up along the water’s edge on Asteria beach. But the views of the neoclassical villas are magnificent, the water is luminous (there’s a ladder for clambering back out, but watch out for sea urchins), and the swimsuit-clad crowd on the concrete deck is friendly. The menu is simple (burgers, baguettes and salads) and the cocktails strong.
Hydronetta bar, Hydra, Argo-Saronics
There are barely any proper beaches on Hydra: you just find a flat rock to lie on or dive off. One of the best swimming spots is Hydronetta, below the cannons guarding the yacht-lined harbour. Tables shaded by thatched parasols are squeezed on to stone balconies that zigzag down to a tiny sunbathing platform. Between dips, dry off on the rocks then hop back up for an iced coffee. Sunsets over the hazy hills of the Peloponnese are glorious, but it’s just as pretty after dark, when the upbeat music revs up and the frozen daiquiris start flowing.
George’s Place, Patmos, Dodecanese
There’s something reassuringly unfashionable about this classic spot on increasingly chi-chi Patmos. The decor and menu have barely changed since George set up shop in 1980, though Kampos beach is a whole lot busier. George is still there, pressing the flesh with the same motley crew of ageing hippies, moneyed Athenians and athletic teens here for wakeboarding and water-skiing. The menu – tuna, curried chicken salad – has a Proustian familiarity; but everything tastes good when eaten at a table plonked into the sand. The full-moon parties draw an excitable crowd – heaven for tweens and teens.
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Ben’s Bar, Paxos, Ionian
On pebbly Monodendri beach, this spruced-up shack is run with aplomb by mother-and-son duo Ben and Efi. Feel-good music, which veers between the Stones and samba, often causes an outbreak of dancing on the wooden decks after a few too many killer mojitos. It’s family-friendly too, with wood-fired pizzas, canoes and dinghies for hire, hammocks strung between the trees, and pebble painting for kids. Brits and Italians come in droves in high season, so call ahead to reserve a sunbed and a table to eat fish they have caught that morning.
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Limanakia Vouliagmenis bar, Attica, Athens
There aren’t any signs for this wooden canteen; it doesn’t even have a name, beyond being known as the bar at Limanakia beach. Tottering amid a series of craggy inlets between the coastal suburbs of Varkiza and Vouliagmeni, this Athens institution has no electricity (only a generator) or running water. There are no official opening hours either, but the bar is pretty much open 24 hours. By day, divers, students, and Grindr users swim off the rocks; the water is deep, cold and incredibly clear. At night, drinking a cold beer with the stars reflected in the sea, it’s hard to believe the bar is not on an island.
• +30 694 803 9203
Cantinais bar, Trizina, Peloponnese
This all-day hangout for pilgrims to the ancient theatre of Epidavros is on a hillside overlooking the pale pebble beach of Votsalakia. Run by two friends, the laid-back joint brings back the Greece of the 1980s for those who were there. A converted caravan serves as a kitchen/bar. There’s yoghurt, fruit and freddo (frothy iced cappuccino) for breakfast and lunch is whatever the owners’ mums have cooked that day. The shade comes early to the cliff-baked beach, but linger here late into the night listening to mellow reggae, jazz and rembetika (Greek blues).