First a bit of clarification. I'm talking about Limin Hersonissos and not the little village of Hersonissos, which lies inland a few kilometers. Limin Hersonissos, the port of Hersonissos, is commonly just called Hersonissos for the sake of the tourist population. It's a small town about 26 km East of Heraklion, the capital of Crete, and it's the most developed tourism area on the island with loads of hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs. There's also a fair smattering of beaches and sandy coves for those wanting to sunbathe by the sea.
As to when to go, we were there for the last week in April and first week in May but the place wasn't really fully open and only really started to get going a bit in the second week. Some restaurants and bars, etc. were still being fitted out and loads of the hotels around still hadn't filled their pools. The first of May this year was the island's Easter celebration and I'm sure that's when things start kicking off so I don't think we'd go earlier than that again.
There are loads of hotels and apartments to choose from in Hersonissos but we stayed in the Star Beach Village, which is located a little to the East of town, because we got a very decent deal from the travel agent on a late booking. That said, the place is actually quite nice and the staff were all pretty friendly. The location isn't perfect for anyone wanting to hit the town every night as it's either a twenty-five minute walk or a taxi ride there.
Star Beach Village bill themselves as four-star plus but I think they're being a bit on the generous side. The public facilities are all very good in they have a nice big lounge with a bar, a restaurant, decednt sized pool and pool bar and an internet suite, gymnasium and shop. The rooms are also okay but the facilities don't really hit the mark for anyone wanting to do a bit of real self-catering.
The "village" is layed out in separate, three-story blocks and we got a standard, one-bedroom suite, which was actually quite roomy. However, what's billed as a kitchenette is a fitted module that looks like it came from MFI. It's got a sink with no drainer, a fridge, a kettle and some basic utensils. If you want cooking rings or pots and pans, then you have to ask for them and they give you a little portable duel ring unit that takes up even more space beside the sink. Not ideal if you're taking a family.
The Star Beach Water Park is between you and the sea so there may be a noise problem in high season. It didn't bother us at all when we were there but I noticed a few mentions of this online and you could hear a bit of beat from the music occasionally. If anything the place is a bit of a bonus if you have kids and entry is free.
There are loads of restaurants and tavernas to choose from in Hersonissos. There are a few along the main street but most are down on the harbourside street and you can choose from Chinese, Indian, Italian and Mediterranean as well as the more traditional Greek cuisines. There are even a couple of burger/gyros bars if all you want is some fast food.
We tried the Lee Garden Chinese restaurant a couple of times as the food was reasonably good and the staff were friendly. It was also about halfway along the walk into town so it was an easier option one night after a bit of a trek in the hills.
Closer to Star Beach were the Taverna Tarantella and Theodora's Garden. The Tarantella is a family run Greek restaurant and, while the staff are friendly and food reasonable, it's a bit on the basic side as far as the ambiance goes. Theodora's Garden is another good Greek restaurant but is much more popular so usually a lot busier.
The local Indian restaurant is Passage To India just across from the church on the main street. The food was okay but nothing impressive by Scottish curry standards and the service wasn't all that great either. I overheard the manager saying that they had a place in Malia as well and if it's the same one we tried when we were there, then it explains why the food here was so mediocre. There's another Chinese restaurant, who's menu looked good enough, beside it but we didn't try it.
As for the rest, there are a few Italian restaurants down near the harbour but neither are that great. They're okay but nothing to queue up for. As for the steak houses, both the Manos and Gourmet are pretty good and we ate in these a few times. We didn't try this but, if you're looking for something just a bit more refined, then Kymata down by the harbour might suit. The menu just looked a bit too nouvelle cuisine (poncy) for the likes of us so we gave it a miss.
Hersonissos is an extremely busy town, well it is once May gets under way and the holidaymakers start arriving on masse, so there are a large number of tavernas, bars, Irish bars and clubs for those looking for some entertainment. However, since it was early in the season, we found a lot of them were a bit on the quiet side.
The Irish bars were mostly empty and the New York bar wasn't much busier, mostly because of the dreadful music it was playing. Music bars Tiger and Status were still a bit quiet but got busier as the night went one and I imagine they'd be pretty lively later in the season. We ended up spending more than a few nights in the U2 Rock Bar as it played some decent heavy rock and metal music, which is more to my taste if not Lorna's.
All in all, there are loads of pubs, bars, clubs and discos to choose from so there's bound to be something for everyone here. Luckily, Hersonissos has a wide variety of visitors so you'll get lots of French, German and Dutch tourists as well as us Brits there so it's not quite as much of an English Hell as Malia has turned into (more on this later).