Looking for an Eid getaway in the UAE or just planning ahead for cooler climes? Here are five of my top luxury picks from five of the UAE’s seven emirates. Whether you’re looking for a romantic break, an active holiday or a family getaway, there is something for everyone.
Al Maha, A Desert Resort – Dubai
For those of us who relish getting away from the city and back into nature when we travel, this is truly a special place, especially for a local weekend break, close enough to reach in around an hour or so from most parts of Dubai, but once you’re there, it feels like you’re a million miles from the city. This adults only resort is definitely a spot perfect for romantic getaways. Part of The Luxury Collection, it is easy to feel that you’re the only ones in the resort other than at meal times. Divided into villas across the dunes, the resort is quiet, tranquil and definitely not for those looking for a party getaway. The food here is truly amazing, and not only the quality, but I love that there is a separate menu with healthy alternatives which are still super tasty. I also love the daily afternoon tea with freshly baked scones and fresh cream. Each villa has its own pool but the larger communal pool, in the resort’s spa, is also beautiful. If you like to stay active while you’re away, there is a small, simple gym but even better would be to get outside and run or cycle around the resort’s winding dune roads. Here, you can get out into the emirate’s biggest conservation reserve, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, home to once extinct oryx and gazelle, seeing a whole host of wildlife in their natural habitat. From horse riding to nature walks, archery to wildlife safaris, or even sundowners on the dunes, there is plenty to do. Or, you can just sit and admire the dunes from the privacy of your villa, where you can enjoy the local wildlife as it roams around the resort, without even leaving the poolside.
Ritz Carlton Al Wadi – Ras Al Khaimah
The desert here is unlike any other in the UAE. Much greener and redder than other areas of the Emirates, you could feel as if you were in South Africa. A resort perfect for the family, there is so much to do. With kids play areas, bicycles with every villa, animal activities from horse riding to nature walks, this is one luxury resort where kids are definitely welcome. There is a lot of attention to detail here; even the gym is fairly well equipped for a hotel gym, and its spa has an amazing jacuzzi area you can enjoy even without a spa treatment. I loved the fact you are able to ride around the resort up and down the dunes, and explore the local area while keeping active. This resort has had amazing success with its oryx and gazelle breeding programme over recent years so you can see plenty of the once extinct native animals roaming around the ghaf and sidr trees when you head a little further out into the desert. We did the desert horse riding which was amazing; just you and the desert, the silence other than the sound of the horses so calming. The view from our villa was spectacular, so much so that we ordered room service one night to simply enjoy the peace and quiet and views over the dunes and look at the stars. Equally as impressive is the view from Safran, the resort’s Indian restaurant. Moon Bar is a funky little roof bar if you want to mingle, and Al Waha’s brunch is definitely a winner for the carnivores, with live barbecues and an array of fresh seafood to fill your tummy. It’s so easy to reach from Dubai, around one hour or so when the traffic is good, so really accessible from nearby airports.
The Oberoi, Al Zorah – Ajman
Having long held a special place in my heart for Ajman as a staycation destination over my more than nine years in the UAE, and not least, since the new hotels like Ajman Saray and Fairmont opened, I was even more excited to find this new gem, located in the lagoon area of Al Zorah. I’m not a fan of big hotels, sprawling estates and high rise buildings, and this was a welcome surprise. All low rise, set across the dunes, this beach resort is stylish, modern, and fresh. I’ve not felt this way about a resort in the UAE since I first went to the Fairmont in Abu Dhabi, which at the time it opened, was an architectural rebel, a real break from the norm. And here we are, several years on, and I was literally blown away. Built across several water features, with plenty of beautifully landscaped green areas, the resort is design simplicity; modern yet classic, elegant but modest. Though the area is currently undergoing major redevelopment so feels a bit of a construction site, once you’re at the resort, it’s easy to forget. There is the stunning Al Zorah Golf Club in the area for golf fans to make a weekend getaway of it with their clubs and if you’re like me and want to get more amongst nature when you travel, the local mangroves have dozens of pink flamingos, quite a spectacle in the desert climes of the UAE. Its beachside seafood restaurant Aquario is a ‘design your own’ style restaurant, at lunch with your starters and at dinner with your mains, which is perfect for fussy eaters like me, though it has plenty of amazing a la carte options. With plenty more to come for this resort which only launched in April, it will soon host a range of water sports and special DJ nights to make it the perfect girls or guys weekend away destination. An in house yoga teacher offers free classes every day too!
Emirates Palace – Abu Dhabi
It would not be a luxury travel blog without mentioning the UAE’s very own palace; Emirates Palace. The iconic building perched on the end of the Corniche, it was indeed once meant to be a palace, until it was transformed into a 302 room and 60 suite mega hotel. So expansive is its beach that mountain bikes are available to traverse the roughly two kilometer lengths. With nine restaurants, my favourite being the beach barbecue concept Al Qasr, and its Emirati restaurant Mezlai, you are actually spoilt for choice. Start the evenings with cocktails at world renowned Asian restaurant Hakassan and you could be in the heart of trendy London. Take a walk down to the beach side and you could easily not realise there are in fact two beaches, one set up for the family and the other a little more secluded and peaceful. You can’t go to this hotel an expect to stick to your diet. The breakfast alone is hands down my favourite breakfast in the UAE; a big statement, but I’m sticking to it. Whether you want to try your hand at some tennis with former WTA pro Peter Wessels at the hotel’s tennis club, take to the sea with some water sports, or indulge in any number of the hotel’s lavish spa treatments, you cannot get bored here, though you may well get lost! Definitely a place for the whole family to enjoy and yet cool enough for a grown up getaway. Fun facts you may not know about this hotel; so big are the grounds that it has a FIFA standard football pitch that you’d probably miss if you’re staying there. Spa treatments include the likes of gold and pearls to give your face that extra touch of luxury and its Ramadan iftar can accommodate in the region of 1,000 people per sitting.
Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort – Fujairah
This Indian Ocean hotel has been nestled into the East coast’s Hajar mountains for 15 years now. A perfect destination for water sport lovers and families, there is no shortage of activities to keep you busy. With views of nearby Snoopy Island, a snorkeling hotspot, where you can, if you’re lucky, spot turtles and reef sharks among other marine life, Al Boom diving centre is on site so access is super easy for local scuba diving sites or snorkeling. Other activities include paragliding, sailing, kayaking and deep sea fishing excursions. The beach has stunning views of the mountain backdrop, very different to anywhere else in the UAE, so close to both the mountains and the beach. There are plenty of kids club activities to keep little ones out of trouble and historical sites and hot springs are dotted around the local area, including Fujairah Fort, Al Heil Castle, and Al Bithnah Fort. The food highlights are definitely the Thai restaurant, Taste, and the beach front bar and grill, Gonu, where you can sit and look out to the vast darkness of the Indian Ocean and lap up the sound of the waves in the peace and quiet away from the resort. There are not one but two spas at the resort, one a traditional, Ayurvedic spa with treatments from the ancient Indian healing modality, and the other a modern spa. Deals are good here, with standard rooms starting from Dh400 a night and an enormous executive suite that sleeps four, starting at Dh1800. If you’re a gymaholic or just like to keep fit while you travel, the gym is one of the best hotel gyms I’ve seen, so a great way to work off the copious amounts of good food on offer.