The thought of a vacation where alcohol is banned, meals are strictly calorie-controlled and the in-room mini-bar is filled with nothing more than a collection of international mineral waters might not exactly sound like a compelling proposition. Yet at the Healthouse Las Dunas 5 star Beach Hotel & Spa that’s exactly what guests embrace with enthusiasm, explains Andrew Forbes.
So it was with a little trepidation that I accepted an invitation to spend an all-inclusive ‘Healthy Weekend’ at this Hacienda-style resort on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast.
Little did I know that the two night programme would transform the way I felt, thanks to being pummelled by high pressure water jets; calmed by a relaxing massage; stretched by yoga & Pilates; coached by a psychologist; advised by a nutritionist; and nourished by a mere 1,300 calories a day!
Healthouse Las Dunas (a Small Luxury Hotels of the World property) is found on Andalucía’s western Costa del Sol, between the glamour of Marbella and the charm of Estepona. There isn’t much in the immediate vicinity, a mainly upscale residential area. For most hotels this might be a drawback, but of course for a health hotel it is an advantage. This resort positions itself as a one-stop-shop for wellness, offering professionally designed and monitored detox, anti-stress, anti-aging and weight reduction programmes.
Once you arrive there really is no need to leave during your stay; and ideally one shouldn’t, in case the temptations of a cold beer at a beach bar, or a plate of fried seafood in a local restaurant should undermine all the good work of one’s healthy weekend.
Hidden behind high walls and swaying palm trees, Healthouse Las Dunas is a secluded, peaceful Mediterranean resort of lush sub-tropical gardens and an extravagant hacienda style mansion building; an unexpectedly tranquil oasis, despite its location near the A7 highway running between Marbella and Estepona.
The open lobby atrium, that runs up through the entire building makes for a high impact entrance; large designer chandeliers hang above a highly polished, intricately designed marble floor.
The welcome is warm and professional. I am invited to take a seat at a desk, where my itinerary for the next few days is shared with me. I also get to choose my in-room amenities; high quality, full-size bath and grooming products from the NaturHouse cosmetic range.
Healthouse is owned and operated by the Spanish nutritional and dietetic company, Naturhouse, which has franchises across the world. This is its flagship health hotel, and each aspect of the stay is tailored to the guest, dietetic company, from the treatments in the medical spa, right down to the shampoo in one’s suite.
From the moment I entered Healthouse Las Dunas I realised this was no standard ‘health farm’ where guests are herded from treatment to activity. This is very much a 5 star luxury resort. Before being re-imagined as an exclusive health hotel, Las Dunas was built as one of the Costa del Sol’s most swish hotels, and the property has retained the luxuriously appointed suites, upscale style and 5 star service.
My 70 square metre room included a large living area (well-furnished including Loewe TV), with French windows that opened out onto a balcony overlooking the stunning gardens, fountains, pool and the Mediterranean beyond.
The adjacent bedroom was equally opulent with an impeccably presented king bed made with luxe linens, (another large TV, writing desk etc.), and additional French windows that led onto another spacious balcony furnished with chairs and table.
The bathroom included a spa bath and large shower, and amenities such as bamboo slippers for the spa, cotton slippers for the suite, bathrobes and plenty of thick cotton towels.
The décor was a little extravagant for my taste, with gilt carved inlay on the walls that seemed a little fussy compared to the contemporary dark wood and silver furnishings. In my mind the gilt details would be better painted in silver or a more neutral colour, to make the room look less ‘glitzy’. However, I can imagine the gold being popular with many of the international guests.
The Healthy Weekend Programme
If you told me before embarking upon the Healthouse Healthy Weekend that my favourite treatment would be having high pressure water jest fired at me, then I would be as surprised at you!
Yet the truth is, if you check in with an open mind and follow the programme, it can be enjoyable as well as effective for one’s health.
This hotel is available to book on a Bed & Breakfast basis through agents specialising in up market Mediterranean resorts – yet my advice is that since this property is completely dedicated to wellness, then one should only choose this luxury hotel if your intention is to be part of the wellness programme. Otherwise I think guests will miss standard hotel features like a full buffet breakfast; a cocktail bar; and a wine list with meals – you won’t find these temptations at the Las Dunas.
Instead I recommend booking an all-inclusive package like a Healthy Weekend, week or fortnight that includes the treatments, activities and calorie-controlled meals.
After settling into my room, my programme commenced with a superb massage in the medical spa, followed by a fruit snack on the terrace over-looking the sea and the mountains of Africa beyond.
A stretching class with Juan Jose in the resort’s large gym followed, before a yoga class in the shaded gardens, accompanied by the sound of the waves of the Mediterranean.
I knew the Healthy Weekend would mean no alcohol, and no sugar or chocolate, but I decided against ‘smuggling in’ treats in my suitcase; I didn’t want to sabotage the results, but instead see how things worked out.
So the following day allowed myself to be weighed and my height confirmed, and I met with a Naturhouse nutritionist to discuss my existing diet and how it could be improved for weight reduction and weight control. The professional nutritionist was friendly and helpful, providing a calorie-controlled diet to take home. My only comment would be that the suggested diet for home was very basic (suggested meals were fish or lean meat with vegetables, followed by a yoghurt and herbal tea). I would like to have seen a move sophisticated menu and also some recipes etc. included in the take-home materials.
Psychologist & Nutritionist
After the mid-morning snack of fruit and a short coffee, I also met with the Healthouse psychologist, in a private consulting room within the resort’s cavernous 3,000 square metre medical spa.
The professional outlined how he supports clients with their programmes, by examining motivations and seeing what triggers one’s desire to over indulge or reach for that extra glass of wine for example.
Before lunch I had my first Pilates class, on the lawn overlooking the sea. It was really enlightening and introduced me to an activity I certainly wish to revisit. The teachers of each of the activities were friendly and highly professional.
I even visited the in-house dermatologist within the Las Dunas 320 square metre ‘Ekilum’ beauty spa. Naturhouse has a range of cosmetic and dermatological products, and after the consultation there certainly is a strong temptation to buy some of the recommended cleansers, exfoliates and moisturisers. Even without making any purchases, the skin assessment was interesting, using a machine that highlights areas of concern, such a sun damaged skin, open pores or dryness.
The main Naturhouse spa is also a place of relaxation and pampering. The water circuit area includes a swimming lane, sensation path, and a heated vitality pool is surrounded by loungers. The snow cave is remarkable for clearing one’s head and relieving headaches, and as the sauna and steam room, there is an interesting salt cabin, the walls of which are made of blocks of salt, with mood lighting behind.
My favourite treatment was surprisingly the ‘aquatic massage’. One lies practically naked (just wearing a very small cellulose brief) in a deep bath or body temperature water, whilst a therapist massages one’s body with a high pressure water jet. Then afterwards, one stands against a wall, whilst the therapist stimulates one’s circulation with a high pressure cold water jet! Sounds intense but afterwards I felt fabulous!
There’s no denying that the meals at Healthouse Las Dunas are impeccably presented. Although strictly calorie-controlled and prepared without the use of sugar, and very little saturated fats such as olive oil; each dish at lunch and dinner was sophisticated and appetising. Tables are elegantly set with pristine linen table cloths and carefully pressed napkins, sparkling silverware and glasses.
Meals are 80 euro per person, so choosing an all-inclusive programme like the ‘Healthy Weekend’ is a good idea.
The breakfast is a light, fixed meal. It is not a buffet.
Michelin star menus
Menus, typically of four courses, have been designed by Michelin star Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, and are executed in the hotel’s open-plan kitchens by acclaimed Executive Chef Ignacio Torregimeno Mulero and his team.
The team in the restaurant, like their colleagues in the rest of the hotel, were professional and friendly.
Dishes included seafood, smoked salmon, white fish, meat, vegetable and salad courses and creative puddings. Non-alcoholic health cocktails were also available for an additional fee.
Typical second plate:
Typical main dish:
The itinerary is quite intense, yet I still found time to relax in the gardens and take a dip in the large pool. There are some fun apple cage seats that rotate, affording a cocconed view of the Med. Attention to detail throughout the property is spot-on. The property was very well maintained and each area was perfectly presented – always fresh towels on the sun loungers for example; small details but they make the difference.
Healthouse Las Dunas offers the ‘Healthy Weekend’ package from €750pp (approx. £540pp) based on 2 nights’ full board accommodation in a Deluxe room with sea view. The programme includes a consultation with a nutritionist and psychologist, 1x body massage, 1x therapeutic treatment, 1x Yoga/Pilates/Aqua-gym session, a personalised individual plan and access to the Ekilum & medical spas.
Address: Crta. Marbella-Estepona km163,5 29689 – Estepona, Málaga
Tel: +34 951 082 090