Healthouse Las Dunas review | health retreat, Spain
Lavish detox & weightloss retreat on the Andalusian coast
The Quick Read: A gorgeous wellness reset without a hint of sackcloth, Healthouse Las Dunas is a luxury retreat where you can shake off stress and shed a few pounds on programmes all based around a detox, and it’s ideal for the civilised looking for time out. Come to lose weight, detox, de-stress, do an anti-aging retreat or quit smoking – whatever you choose your programme will include medical consultations, therapeutic treatments, psychological and dietary counselling and activities such as yoga and Pilates.
Who it’s best for: A more mature group of friends or mothers and daughters looking for a saintly break. On our visit fellow guests were mostly female and wealthy and mostly Swiss, German and French. It would suit couples or groups of friends better than solo travellers – there is no communal dining table and it could end up feeling a little solitary, unless you wanted total privacy and time out.
What you can do: There are several different programmes to choose from, depending on whether you want to lose weight, detox, de-stress, do an anti-aging retreat or quit smoking. Packages include medical consultations, therapeutic treatments, psychological and dietary counselling and activities such as yoga and Pilates.
The spa is the centrepiece of the retreat, with sauna, roman bath, steam bath, hydrotherapy pool, foot bath, thermal showers, cold pool, ice fountain and jet loungers. Combining a spa circuit with a massage, body wrap or lymphatic drainage session is an enjoyable way to eat up most of your time during your stay – with welcome breaks for meals and snacks, all designed to be delicious (if calorie controlled) by gourmet chef Andoni Luis Aduriz.
When not sweating in the sauna or lounging in the pool, you are encouraged to keep active – you are given a Fitbit exercise tracker on arrival and will be asked to clock in your 12,000 steps a day. Luckily the beautiful hotel grounds open straight on to the beach with a pleasant walkway, and you can even walk to nearby Marbella or Estepona should the mood take you. If not, there’s always the in-house gym, and the resort holds aquagym, stretching, yoga and Pilates sessions during the day.
Where you stay: There may be a bit of dietary restraint involved, but the surroundings are as lavish as you could wish for. Although the hotel was built in 1985, it has been completely refitted and sparkles with modernity, from the magnificent reception area to the sumptuous rooms. Despite the modern touches throughout the hotel, it all still feels quite old school and elegant, and the huge marble bathrooms make you wonder whether it’s even worth schlepping down to the spa (it is, trust us). Huge windows overlook pretty gardens and the Mediterranean beyond, and the restaurant enjoys such equally impressive views that you barely mind that you’re not enjoying them accompanied by a glass of wine.
The cavernous marble architecture made the place feel a little empty on our visit, and you might get lost exploring the marbled hallways (as we did, much to the mild amusement of our patient hosts) – though enroute you will probably stumble across one of two boutiques filled with chic gym kit and swimwear, the small but perfectly formed gym and yoga studio, the glittering outdoor pool, or the library, in which you can curl up and read while you’re waiting for your next treatment. The Naturhouse Spa, housed in a separate building on the grounds, feels as big as the hotel itself, with a large pool, spa circuit and lots of seating areas – prepare to settle in for hours.
How was it for us: From the second my mum and I arrived, we felt spoilt rotten. Deprivation is not an issue at Healthouse Las Dunas, despite it being billed as a weight loss retreat. From the welcome mocktail at check in to the exquisite presentation of our (albeit healthy) desserts. We spent a short weekend here, but made the most of our limited – we were continually buffeted from health consultation to spa treatment to yoga to lunch, but in the most relaxing, non-pressurized way imaginable.
After checking in we almost immediately donned bathrobes and made for the spa, flitting between sauna and ice cave before retiring to the indoor pool for a long soak. But we didn’t forget the serious business of health, as, still bathrobe-cloaked, we met in turn with the dietician. There was the brief excruciating experience of the weigh-and-measure, before a chat about nutrition. Then to my first-ever psychotherapy session and, although reticent, I was relieved that it was a positive and affirming experience.
Having never knowingly missed a meal in my life, I was quick to hustle us to a delicious dinner after (we reluctantly changed out of the bathrobes first) and from here, the whole weekend blended into a haze of very enjoyable assignations as we happily stumbled through our timetable. The blissful Swedish massage was a particular highlight for me. I found myself mumbling sleepy apologies as my stomach loudly gurgled throughout – not because of hunger but because my digestion finally seemed to have sorted itself out.
What we took home: Tailored supplements, a binder of our diet plan, a slightly deflated tummy and a new attitude to my wellbeing. I loved how Healthouse took a 360-degree ‘mind and body’ approach to health, and I felt like the glow I sported on leaving was as much down to my de-stressed mindset as anything else (although never underestimate the glow-giving properties of a few sauna sessions and a few days off sugar).
Would we go back: Personally – not alone – but with my mother or another companion, most definitely. Though a weekend was blissful, I imagine to see real results a week or more would be ideal. It was a perfect mother-daughter break, but I’d love to go there for a civilised hen weekend or just for time out with some stressed-out friends.
People watch: All the staff, from the waiters to the therapists, treated us beautifully, with a smile, kindness, professionalism, and some very patient direction-giving (we really did get lost on an hourly basis).
Food watch: Low-cal cordon bleu – on our visit delicate dishes with fish, meat and vegetables were so exquisitely created we barely missed stodgy carbs, and the carefully crafted healthy diuretic cocktails added another touch of elegance. We did go to bed peckish one night though, and one of the sugar-free desserts – a flavorless soufflé – fell well short of the mark, tasting simply like foamed milk. Guests have the option of choosing the 900 or 1300 calorie per day set menu for the duration of the stay. Ours – the 1300 option – was just satisfying enough, with interesting dishes like monkfish with mushrooms and delicate veg, or melt-in-the-mouth lamb.
What’s lowly: The dietary advice – we didn’t learn much about the science behind it, and some of the guidelines seemed quite outdated (low-fat was still the order of the day, and their own branded high-fibre breakfast biscuits seemed to be pushed a lot) though we don’t doubt it would actually work to shift the pounds.
Insider tip: Don’t worry too much about your timetable if you’re sauna-bound and your watch is in your robe – your therapist will come and find you, with no scolding at all if you’ve been dawdling.
Price with a companion: A weekend package is €750 per person (£586) for 3 nights full board, nutrition and psychological consultations, one massage, one therapeutic treatment, one sporting activity, personalised health plan and spa access.
Price going solo: As above. The price remains the same whether you are sharing a room or have one to yourself.
Value for Money: Not bad – and it’s worth shelling out for that glow.
Reviewed by Siobhan Norton
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