FOR GREEK-ISLAND STYLE: Tahet El Rih, Anfeh
In Lebanon’s northern governate, a little over an hour from Beirut, this little village in Koura is decked out in gleaming whites with bright-blue accents, as well as small windmills, reminiscent of Mykonos’ Little Venice. The water, too, has the same crystal-clear qualities – but don’t expect the same party atmosphere. What you will get, however, are an array of delicious little cafés with seafood mezze, sea views and beach access.
FOR ANCIENT HISTORY: Tyre, Sour
Head 80km south of Beirut to this hopping beach where you might spot sea turtles while snorkelling just offshore. The atmosphere is lively and the bay said to be one of Lebanon’s most pristine. Beyond the sea, the town is painted prettily in violet and periwinkle blue, the destination is rich in ancient history, originally founded 4,000 years ago as part of the Phoenician civilisation, Romans eventually conquered it and a triumphal arch can still be seen today. Go to the nearby Al Mina UNESCO archaeological site where snorkelling reveals a now-sunken harbour.
FOR LEBANON’S HERITAGE: Byblos/Jbeil
Just over 40km north of Beirut, Byblos – known as Jbeil in Arabic – ticks a number of boxes with beautiful beaches and heaps of heritage (not a huge surprise considering it’s roughly seven-millennia-long habitation is thought to be one of the world’s longest). A beach near the Crusader castle underscores Byblos’ appeal as a holiday destination with a history. Dotted with beach chairs and umbrellas, hit this public beach is ideal for a more relaxed time – but if it’s more of a party atmosphere you’re after, book at lounger at C Flow.
FOR NATURE: Palm Islands Nature Reserve
A trio of islands about five kilometres off the coast of Tripoli, this protected area is a haven for migratory birds, endangered green turtles and rare monk seals. Rabbit Island (or Nakheel Island) is the largest and best for a beach day on soft white sand under palm-front cabanas, strolling path around thousands of palm trees or a snorkelling excursion in crystalline water. No frills (read: no restaurants or shops other than kiosks with some water and soft drinks), this is the spot for those looking for peace and abundant nature.
Getting there: Only open to the public July to September, arrange a boat from El Mina harbour, about 80 minutes north of Beirut.
FOR CHIC BEACH CLUBS: Batroun
While the pebble and rock beaches here are some of the cleanest to be found in Lebanon, this town, about an hour’s drive from Beirut, is just as known for its stylish atmosphere and hopping nightlife. You can make for a public beach here, but to really get into Batroun’s vibe, try one of its many beach clubs. Whitewashed Orchid Lounge, perched on rocks overlooking the clear Mediterranean, is a luxe enclave where guests can rent private sundecks, indulge in spa treatments and even take a dip in “floating” Jacuzzis. The more laid-back Pierre and Friends, a restaurant and sailing club, sits on a pebble beach and the wooden bar overlooking the sea is one of the country’s must-do beach experiences.
FOR A CITY SWIM: Ramlet al-Baida, Beirut
At the southern end of the capital city’s corniche, backed by modern towers and within easy reach to the upmarket Ras Beirut neighbourhood, this is Beirut’s only public beach so be prepared for crowds. For a city-beach getaway that offers a bit more privacy, booking into one of the city’s beach resorts is the way to go.