With over 35 beach clubs in Lebanon, LT rounds up the hottest destinations this summer for every taste. We also speak to consultant Ralph Nader on the new trends and developments that are taking the country’s coastline by storm.
The face of Lebanon’s coastline has seen significant changes over the last decade as beach resorts continue to evolve to changing trends. General Manager of Amber Consulting, Ralph Nader, whose grandfather opened the first Lebanese beach club, St George, in 1936, is certainly an expert. He managed both St George and Riviera in the ‘90s and pioneered the first beach club outside Beirut, Oceana. In 2003 he developed Eddé Sands, before launching Amber Consulting, which has developed beach clubs across the entire MENA region.
“The beach market has evolved a lot in the last 15 years, since 2001 when we opened the first beach club outside Beirut,” Nader says. “Everybody thought I was crazy, but it happened to be a huge hit and [has] encouraged more than 35 beach clubs to open outside Beirut.” He then talks about the huge evolution in the beach club concept, which used to be concentrated in Beirut and Jounieh and was more of a concrete resort. “Damour now has some very nice beach clubs such as Iris Beach and Damour Beach Resort, which is currently in development to become a full resort managed by an international chain and will completely change the concept of having a resort by the sea in Lebanon.”
Nader is quick to pick up on new trends for beach goers. Recently, he’s noticed people returning to their roots, drawn to the original beach clubs such as Sporting and Long Beach. “We see a driver [dropping off] a lady wearing a few thousand dollars’ worth of clothes and going to a beach club just to pay LL15,000 as an entrance and staying on a sunbed that is not of high quality, on concrete that still shows traces of the war.” Beach clubs are now also moving towards creating and managing their own restaurants, rather than renting out the space, which is better for “quality” and to match “concept and vision.”
The beach spa is also a growing trend, Nader reports. “There are several resorts in the south with spas, which are really just a few treatment rooms, such as Orchid in Jiyeh, and Byblos Sud. But, Eddé Sands has really pushed the concept, with several indoor and outdoor treatment rooms and a new indoor pool with a special treatment room. I think the concept of the spa was never adapted to the beach and it could be developed to [further] attract people.” Nader expects a positive summer for the beach clubs, after a difficult few years for some. And with new openings and renovations upping the game, the Lebanese beach experience is maximizing its impact.
The popular beach Lazy B (70 950010, lazyb.me, Jiyeh), a tranquil getaway south of Beirut, has really upped the relaxing element, creating a green idyllic garden with beds and hammocks and featuring a playground area for kids. North of Beirut, the unpretentious White Beach (06 742505, whitebeachlebanon.com, Thoum, Batroun) attracts many families and its entrance cost won’t break the bank. The pebble beach with a large restaurant is located on some of the cleanest shores of the country and offers activities such as windsurfing and kayaking. Damour Beach Resort (76 883737, DamourBeach, Damour) is the closest option south of Beirut with a large pool area and beach only 20 minutes drive from the capital. Take a trip a bit further south to Tyre and you’ll come across the beautiful Rest House (07 742000, resthouse-tyr.com.lb) which has a large stretch of sandy beach, shaded by exotic coconut leaf umbrellas.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
The first beach club on the Jiyeh strip, family-run Jonas Beach (07 995000, Jiyeh) is full of old-school charm with retro beach umbrellas, a vast sandy beach and a variety of water sports on offer. Joining (03 517492, Seaside Road, Batroun) is simplicity to the extreme; a humble seafood restaurant located on rocks near Batroun with direct access to the sea. Sporting Club (01 742482, Beirut) transports beach goers back to the ‘50s. Located in Raouche with a view out to Pigeon Rocks, the beach club attracts a wide range of clientele who bronze around its pools on the seafront, sipping on Almaza.
Couples should head to Orchid (07 996303, orchid-resort.com, Jiyeh), reserved for those aged 21 and above, the luxurious paradise has VIP cabin areas, private jacuzzis, a pool bar and a small spa with treatment rooms. Kaslik has its fair-share of exclusive beach clubs with the four-star Cyan (09 223323, CyanBeachLebanon) and Club Senses (09 213212, clubsenses.com) and the five-star ultimate beach club VEER Boutique Hotel & Resort (09 222623, veer.com.lb) which offers nine beach rooms, four villas and four underwater bungalows. Eddé Sands (09 546666, eddesands.com, Byblos) is a destination in itself, spread over a vast 110,000m2 space it features a stretch of sandy beach, 10 private cabanas with jacuzzis, and an entire wellness spa center.
MOOR YOUR BOAT
If you’re one of the owners of the 2,400 plus boats moored along Lebanon’s coastline, you’re going to want to pick a beach with a mooring spot and a Zodiac facility. There aren’t a huge number of beaches that are accessible by boat in Lebanon, but, as can be expected, the ones that have the service, are some of the country’s finest. South of Beirut dock at Orchid (Details as above) or Damour Beach Resort (Details as above), in Beirut at La Plage (01 366222, la.plage.beirut, Ain El Mreisseh) and St George Yacht Club and Marina (03 958379, stgeorges-yachtclub.com) and in the north Eddé Sands (Details as above). Also, a few restaurants along the coastline in Jounieh’s Maameltein have started offering the service including Chez Sami (09 646064) and Al Sultan Brahim (09 853753).
If you want to avoid the summer traffic congestion heading out of the city, there are plenty of beach club options in Beirut. St George Yacht Club and Marina (Details as above) is still going strong after almost 80 years, an urban escape in the heart of Ain El Mreisseh. Two hotels in Beirut with impressive 5 star beach clubs are Riviera (01 373210, rivierahotel.com.lb, Manara) which features three outdoor swimming pools, an in-pool bar and jacuzzi and Mövenpick (01 869666, moevenpick-hotels.com/beirut, General De Gaulle Avenue) which has private sandy beaches, swimming pools and a 2,000m2 spa and health club; both offer water sports.
If you’re looking for a daytime party, Iris Beach Club (71 533318, irisbeach.com, Damour) has got you covered. The beach hosts DJs and is open till 2am on weekends. The 18+ resort C Flow (09 795977, cflowbeachresort.com, Byblos) is the place to head for a Sunday party with pumped up club music attracting a party-loving crowd. To party by night, head to Sporting Club every Friday, where Decks on the Beach ( DecksOnTheBeach) takes over, bringing renowned international DJs attracting a crowd who dance till the sun rises. Despite the long journey south, Cloud 59 (03 517996, Cloud59) in Tyre brings scores of Beirutis and Tyre residents every weekend. At the down-to-earth beach club located on Tyre’s sandy nature reserve beach, customers drink cocktails to a laid back soundtrack and stay into the early hours.
TALK OF THE TOWN
This summer everyone will be heading to the soon-to-open Orchid, as the popular Jiyeh beach club opens a second resort in Kfar Abida in late May. La Plage is another essential destination this summer, after a huge refurbishment, that’s transformed the entire resort. They’ll unveil a new pool and sunbathing area along with three new restaurants; two of which – Boulevard Beirut and Sea Salt – have already opened and a third, the Italian restaurant Popolo, due to open in May.