Pineland Health Resort: Lebanon's Best-Kept Secret

Over the long holiday weekend, we visited Pineland Hotel and Health Resort in Deir el Harf. Pineland is so named because it is tucked in the rich pine forest dotting the Ras el Matn mountainside. The elevation there is about 1,100 meters, with levels of oxygen intoxicatingly high and beautiful flora stretching as far as the eye can wander.

Pine trees

We drove from Mansourieh to Pineland via Monteverde, scaling a winding yet scenic mountain road, but the entire trip proved to be a mere half-hour’s drive. You’d never imagine a lush green paradise could be had so near to suburbia ruckus, and that’s the beauty of Pineland. It’s far enough from Beirut to be considered an escape but still near enough that you can slate it in over a weekend.

Our lodging consisted of a private 75-sqm. cave constructed from rock and resembling an igloo. In fact, it was inspired by the Flintstones, but the features inside are modern-day: an in-house Jacuzzi, a fireplace, and a kitchenette outfitted with microwave, mini-fridge, espresso machine, electric kettle, and sink. There’s also a high-definition TV tapping a dish network as well as a DVD player. Five stained-glass windows allow faint light to trickle in, but the cave is generally dim, which makes for a genuinely intimate and tranquil ambiance. Heating radiators line the walls, keeping the cave hospitably warm during inclement weather.

Our cave lodging

Each cave has its own chimney

The caves—counting a dozen—are nestled a five-minute walk from the main hotel building, which houses a number of standard rooms and executive suites. Pineland also offers several ultra-stylish lofts and family-friendly villas for those who seek a truly secluded retreat.

Across its vast 250,000-sqm. property, Pineland is a nature lover’s utopia. There are two lakes amenable to fishing; horseback riding; archery; a shooting range; biking; hiking trails; ATVs; an outdoor gym dubbed “Nature Fitness Center”; a playground; tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts; and, of course, two large swimming pools. 

If the weather is foul, as it was during our stay, you can keep busy indoors with two billiard tables; ping pong; Foosball; a gym; and an indoor swimming pool. Additionally there’s an impressive spa center boasting state-of-the-art spa and massage therapy for those after a bit of self-pampering.

Naturally, I was curious about the dining situation at Pineland—judgment can never be rendered until one samples the nosh, right? I was in fact spellbound with the cuisine, served at the main restaurant and adjoining pub. The menu’s emphasis is on Lebanese grills and imported steaks. We focused on the former, especially after learning that Pineland runs its own farm and raises sheep, too.

Indeed, the kabob platter (12,500 LL) was hands-down the best I've ever indulged in anywhere. Four long, slender skewers of lean lamb meat come perfectly seasoned and accompanied by a bed of parsley and onion (“biwaz”), grilled tomato and onion halves, and fries. 

Lamb kabobs

Grilled chicken breast cubes (taouk)

The arayess kafta (12,500 LL) boast eight quarters of pita bread layered with a handsomely dense paste of the kabob mix and not some scanty tufts of ground meat. You could literally peel off the meat as if it were a hamburger patty! The kabob khachkhach (19,500 LL) is decidedly spicy but delicious with the zesty tomato sauce ladled over it.

Kabob khachkach with grilled potato lamelles

Breakfast is served every morning in the banquet hall between 8 and 10:30 a.m., and highlights include made-to-order sajj manakish, foul, balila, labneh baladieh, a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, croissants, eggs, and—my favorite—home-made strawberry and apricot jams together with peanut butter. The jams are heaving with chunky pieces of real fruit, and the peanut butter is freshly ground from roasted peanuts with no added gunk like partially hydrogenated oil or high-fructose corn syrup. This is the real deal, and if you’re as passionate about the nutty spread as I am, everything else in the buffet line-up will figure into an afterthought.

Healthy, wholewheat sajj manakish

Though it rained for the better part of our stay, we enjoyed cozying up to the fireplace, watching DVDs, playing pool, and going for strolls in between wet spells. Guaranteed, rain or shine, there is plenty to preoccupy you at Pineland.

Sitting fireside in the hotel lobby

I'm not shocked that this natural sanctuary was selected Winner of the Travellers’ Choice Award by TripAdvisor for the past four years. Lebanon is lucky to host such a pristine, nature-glorifying resort in the verdant Lamartine Valley, and those who do discover it will likely make it an annual destination. 

Two days after our return, we’re already planning the next getaway to Pineland.


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