It’s the little things that matter, especially in the travel industry. A smile from a stranger. A perfect cocktail. An impeccably soft bed in a beautiful hotel. Eric Mourkakos, owner of Cali Mykonos, a dreamy 40-room retreat on the island’s quieter side, knows this well.
Mykonos is perennially popular, of course, but Cali presents a different kind of experience, one separated from the crowds. Eric, who is Greek, sought to bring something more authentic and intimate to the island. To do so, no detail was overlooked. The guest experience is similarly detail-oriented — and perfectly executed.
The people make the business, after all, which is why we love highlighting the humans behind our favorite partner properties. (See more of our partner highlights.) Read on to learn Eric’s story, and what inspired him to found Cali Mykonos.
An idea is born
Eric’s father was born and raised in Greece. He eventually moved to the US, where, in New York, he met Eric’s mother, a daughter of Greek immigrants. Every summer, Eric and his family would travel to his father’s village in southern Greece.
“We're talking about a place that's five, six hours away from Athens. There was no internet until a few years ago,” Eric said. “Those were the formative years for what I came to know as a Greek summer.”
One summer, the family decided to venture elsewhere. They chose Mykonos and stayed at a few of the hotels on the island.
“Everything was kind of congested around the town — rooms on top of each other and little privacy and whatnot,” Eric said.
They saw an opportunity for a different kind of hotel.
“We thought, ‘It would be kind of cool if there's something on the other side of the island, where you have a lot of space, where you're right on the water, where you're in nature and you have the mountains behind you and the sea in front of you, much like our experience in my dad's village,’” he recalled.
It was this Greek summer that planted the seed for what would eventually become Cali Mykonos, and the numerous Greek summers before then helped shape the philosophy behind the hotel.
“Every decision has been shaped by our experiences of that Greek summer,” Eric said.
The philosophy behind Cali
Eric had worked primarily at his family’s healthcare business; they helped with management and software for surgical clinics, private practices and the like. The Mourkakoses also managed a few restaurants, plus a boutique property in Montauk. (They’ve always been an entrepreneurial family, Eric said.)
It turns out, however, that Eric’s experience in healthcare equipped him well for what was to come.
“Healthcare is the most difficult form of hospitality because it's people that more or less don't want to be there, and you have to make sure that they have a good experience,” he said. This clientele contrasted with the “people who are paying you to be there.”
Everyone at Cali, it’s safe to say, wants to be there. How to make their experience special and memorable? That’s where the details come in.
“I always say it's not a hotel experience. It's more than just building rooms with beds,” Eric explained. “It's a full sensory experience, and that's how it was designed. And that's how we try to keep it when making decisions on what's to come next.”
Everything about Cali Mykonos is intentional. The clean, minimalist design is meant to blend in with the resort’s natural surroundings. The architecture draws upon sustainable, local materials. Clean drinking water is sourced from onsite natural wells. The restaurant sources wild fish from local fishermen, forgoing even the fish market, to ensure that the cuisine is ultra-nourishing and fresh. Signature “green roofs” provide energy-saving insulation and keep rooms cool. Plus, they’re beautiful to look at, and stimulate your senses (a pervasive goal throughout the property).
“When you shake an oregano bush, the smell really comes up,” Eric explained. “And it's beautiful and it's natural and it's part of Greece. We planted all of the roofs at Cali with different herbs — with vegetables — because it was, again, a very big part of our Greek summer life.”
A personal touch
The exceptional design, food, accommodations and activities at Cali are all curated to maximize the guests’ experiences. Indeed, ensuring each guest has the trip of a lifetime is Eric’s primary goal.
“One of the best parts of the job is when someone says, ‘I've never seen a place like this. I've never stayed at a hotel like this in my life,’” he said. “It's testament to the team and everyone's vision and everyone working toward the same goal.”
Cali’s team is essential to executing Eric’s goal. The staff are warm, kind, welcoming, attentive — their passion comes through, and is largely what makes a stay at Cali so special.
“I value somebody who smiles and is happy and is warm,” Eric said about his hiring philosophy. He cares more about if you “get a good feeling from them” than if “they had 10 years experience” working at various luxury hotels in various locations.
Like attracts like, so we’ve heard, and Eric goes above and beyond to treat his staff well and create an environment in which they want to work.
“In the same way that I'm learning every day, they're going to learn and they're going to figure it out quickly,” Eric said of his team. “And as long as it's a happy, pleasant person who wants to be there, the guest is always going to have a great time.”
Guests have a great time indeed. There are yacht excursions, helicopter tours, yoga classes, personal training sessions, heavenly spa treatments and so much more. (The spa is a must.) But, again, the details make all the difference.
Eric recalled an instance where a team member overheard a guest extol her love for the hotel’s vegan spinach pies (to die for). The next day, a platter of the famed pies appeared in her room. Thoughtful touches like this abound. These types of experiences keep guests coming back. (The breathtaking setting, chic rooms and locally sourced cuisine certainly help, of course.)
“It's 40 suites and villas. It's not huge,” Eric said. “The property is huge, and the accommodations are huge, but it's very intimate. It's a boutique resort. That's by design. It's so that we can offer that type of personalized service to the last detail.”
Ready to get away? Connect with Fora to plan and book your trip to Cali Mykonos.