Healthouse Las Dunas is a peaceful, sophisticated retreat of softly-spoken staff, and detox programs dedicated to both physical, and mental health. However, its strict wellness services span more than just idle massages, writes Patrice Sweeney
My first thoughts regarding five star health retreats featured sipping delicately on nutrient-infused mocktails, and languid poolside massages.
I pictured the full spectrum of luxury coupled with sodium-controlled meals, and a mini fridge of fresh juice nestled amongst petite bottles of Moët.
Of course, a personal trainer would be there to simply walk me through the hotel’s private gym. Perhaps he or she would make me test out a treadmill, and increase the incline for propriety’s sake.
Naturally, I donned face-eclipsing, Audrey Hepburn-style sunglasses in all of these scenarios.
Yet, the meeting of my expectations with Healthouse Las Dunas was a screeching collision of ignorant whimsy, and a sugar-less dose of harsh reality.
However, let me observe the pleasantries and properly introduce the hotel.
The luxury Spanish resort is a sprawling mass of hushed corridors, caramel terracotta, and glinting marble.
A short drive from the nearby city of Marbella, the opulent complex overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. On clearer days, it also boasts a sweeping vista of the Spanish coast.
Its suites were generous, and spacious.
As such, pristine and white cotton linens engulfed my king sized bed. A skilled yet mysterious hand executed a turndown of the sheets in the evenings, a quintessential aspect of five-star service.
Furthermore, my room provided a balcony that overlooked a verdant courtyard hemming the sea.
The bathroom was also expansive with a Jacuzzi-style bath that could have welcomed a baby elephant.
As if inspired by the solemn intuition of Zen Buddhism, efficient and discrete service reflected the serenity and mindfulness the hotel’s inhabitants paid to experience.
Yet, it swiftly occurred to me that its guests weren’t there for the glitzy trappings of a luxury retreat.
I swung open the door of my room’s diminutive fridge, ready to ransack its delicious offerings. However, a stoic array of still and sparkling water met my searching gaze.
Where were the diet sodas? The party-sized bottles of wine? Surely I should have been some sort of organic smoothie concoction. My eyes scanned the elegant landscape of my room for complimentary tea or coffee sachets, vegan chocolates, any kind of indulgence from the outside world, but to no avail.
While I stayed at the hotel for a mere 48 hours, my concept of health and moderation were fundamentally, and irrevocably challenged.
Meal times were both a celebration of exquisitely executed dishes, and acute peckishness. Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz, the sixth best restaurant worldwide, crafted artful and eye-rolling cuisine that was a testament to his two-star Michelin status. Although offerings such as the Detox Menu featured three-courses, the creeping spectre of hunger stalked each plate. Calorie, salt, and sugar controlled, the meals were designed to nourish, but not excessively so.
Therefore, the hotel resonates with guests seeking to remedy health concerns that require regimented, and medically-backed programs. Their issues range from weight problems, tobacco addiction, anxiety, and an imbalance of toxins. Thus, the hotel’s restaurant offers menus targeted to each of the difficulties.
Throughout the year, the retreat also includes a resident dietician, and a doctor to provide expert insight into tackling the above challenges. Furthermore, staff informed me that it’s commonplace for guests to include patients continuing their healing from surgery.
As such, Healthouse Las Dunas is deserving of its title as Best Health Hotel in Spain.
While my session with the masseuse was ultimately relaxing, her attention to my muscles was in-depth and solution-oriented. Her fingers explored my limbs like hunting dogs, and set upon lurking knots with militant attention.
I channelled the Lamaze breathing techniques I’d seen played out in movies, and tottered off of the massage table feeling jelly-legged, but revived.
Yoga, exercise programs (such as a 20 minute “aqua gym” session in a frigid mini pool), and spa sessions are also assets in the Las Dunas portfolio.
Thus, the retreat is perfect for anyone seeking to go on a luxury health-kick.
However, if you’re anything like me and need to ease into the experience, make sure to bring some extra rice crackers in your luggage.
Monarch, the scheduled leisure airline, operates flights to Malaga from Birmingham, London Gatwick, London Luton, Leeds Bradford and Manchester airports with fares, including taxes, starting from £42 one way (£81 return). For further information or to book Monarch flights, Monarch Holidays or Monarch Hotels, please visit www.monarch.co.uk