Hotels: stand-out stays

Downtown luxury, palatial grandeur and nature escapes, the hotel scene has something for everyone

 

High-end hospitality comes as standard in the UAE capital, and the emirate’s hotels are continually breaking new ground when it comes to style and innovation. The latest additions to the local landscape include the Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, where beach chic is the design motif (think The Hamptons) and living art comes in the form of beautifully framed sea views from the guestrooms. The ultra-secluded Beach Villas are the way to go, each with a private plunge pool leading onto the white sand beach. Get up off that sun lounger and book a Turkish hammam session at Zen spa, before having sundowners on the rooftop terrace at Turtle Bay Bar & Grill, which is already emerging as a favourite among the city’s culinary cognoscenti.

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Also hot off the hospitality starting block is Rixos Saadiyat Island, a sublimely sprawling oriental palace where guests can pootle around its expansive grounds on complimentary bicycles and make a splash in the chilled swimming pools (the best way in is via the giant water slide) before escaping for some pampering at the spa. Wrap up the day by dining on authentic Turkish cuisine overlooking the ocean at Mermaid.

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Swap island chilling for a slice of Emirati heritage (with added zhuzh) at Jumeirah Al Wathba Desert Resort. An exclusive hideaway inspired by traditional oases, with lush gardens and reflective pools that instantly zap away all thoughts of fast-paced city living, the private villas are the epitome of desert chic – who doesn’t love a private plunge pool? You can also wind back the clock another way with a session in Talise Spa’s crystal salt and cryo chamber. 

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City devotees will love the sleek lines and striking interiors of the Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl, which has bagged a prime location at the skyscraper-adorned end of the corniche. The requisite infinity pool is an immediate post-sightseeing soother while the Grand Club Lounge has two private viewing cinema screens; reason enough to book a Club Room, we say. 

The city has also welcomed the Abu Dhabi EDITION, with the much-hyped luxury property an architecturally prominent addition to the Al Bateen waterfront community and the first Middle East location for this upscale Ian Schrager-Marriott concept. 

Meanwhile, if you’re mixing business with pleasure, you can reach a happy compromise at Aloft Abu Dhabi, which is set within the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. The property has a raft of business-friendly facilities and fab dining options like relax@12, which serves sublime sushi on a sleek rooftop terrace. 

Just down the road, and with lap-it-up views of the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal is the perfect midway base. But be warned: its palatial Italian Renaissance-inspired design makes leaving the comfort of your Garden House suite, expansive spa and duo of private beaches all the more challenging. 

Directly over the water, two more luxury temptations call out with the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi channelling some serious 1,001 Nights vibes with rich jewel-toned interiors and dark woods creating a cosy atmosphere. It also conveniently connects to the adjacent souk, which makes trinket hunting all the easier. 

Its immediate neighbour, the strikingly modern Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi (worth a photo by night) will satisfy both healthy and indulgent intentions with its Olympic-sized swimming pool a great precursor to dinner and drinks at Spanish sharing venue Puesta del Sol. 

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Hop aboard a water taxi and head towards town via the protected mangrove forests that stretch for several kilometres along the Eastern Ring Road, which is where you’ll find the Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara. A delightfully serene location, this is the place to be at one with nature. Enjoy the mangrove views from your elegant guestroom, get out on the water on a kayaking tour, or take a leisurely spin along the eight-kilometre-long corniche. You can even try your hand at an Arabic or Thai cooking class hosted by one of the resident chefs.

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Occupying a premier position on Corniche East Road, Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche invites you to dial down the pace by enjoying serene Arabian Gulf views, calming rituals at SoSPA and a refreshing dunk in the free-form swimming pool. What’s more, an utterly relaxing outdoor dining experience awaits at Grills@Chill’O restaurant by the pool, where Mediterranean dishes are the order of the day.  

Edging ever closer to the city centre, and conveniently connected to Al Wahda Mall, Grand Millennium Al Wahda is a match made in heaven for the die-hard shopper. Contemporary guestrooms (the two-bedroom apartments are a great family option), rooftop pool and fabulous modern Arabic flavours at Six Lounge Thirty One are just a taster.

Upscale takes on new meaning in the City’s West Corniche district, where a clutch of spiralling towers house some of Abu Dhabi’s most iconic hotels. The gilded exterior of Bab Al Qasr exudes luxury and its interiors are just as glamorous with a blend of traditional Arabesque and 21st-century style. Overlooking the Presidential Palace, its rooms with a view are contemporary retreats, and opulent touches abound throughout the hotel – we recommend trying the soothing sapphire spa ritual. 

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The neighbourhood also boasts the world’s highest suspended presidential suite with two floors of jaw-dropping skybridge opulence courtesy of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi. There, vertiginous luxury knows no bounds with a cinema, spa and private elevator all included. 

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Rounding out a trio of stellar locations, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers has been dazzling visitors since 2011 with its standout interior design and swathe of upscale facilities, including three pools, a spa sanctuary and endless dining options (high tea at the Observation Deck takes the biscuit for gastronomic innovation with sky-high flair). There’s also direct access to Avenue at Etihad Towers, a boutique mall with over 30 designer stores to browse, along with some more great dining options.

It’s impossible to bypass this upmarket avenue of hotels without mentioning Emirates Palace. As much a landmark as it is a superb example of hospitality excellence, this Abu Dhabi grande dame is simply stunning. With 1.3 kilometres of private beach, endless expanses of gold-leafed glamour, 14 restaurants and suites so big you need a map (or private butler) to navigate your route from bathroom to bed, new and old world charm unite in extravagant unison. 

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Downwind of the Corniche, the high-rise centrally located Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi blends modernity and warmth. Instagramming teens will love the rooftop pool while parents can make a beeline for the wonderful Saray Spa. And with interconnecting rooms, child-friendly menus and a small kids’ pool, it really is all about added value for families. 

At the opposite end of town, the ultra-modern, high-end playground that is Four Seasons Hotel at Al Maryah Island shouts sleek luxury from the top down. Rooms evoke understated luxury with jewelled tones adding a pop of desirable colour, and floor-to-ceiling windows and humungous spa-like bathrooms for that inevitable wow moment. The Deluxe Waterfront Rooms with their blue-grey palette perfectly frame the expansive views outside. We also rate the third-floor pool deck both for its view and its day-to-night transformation from leisure locale to chill-out lounge. 

Fellow Al Maryah dweller, Rosewood Abu Dhabi connects directly to the designer stores of The Galleria, as well as to Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. The Manor Club room experience is every bit as grand as it sounds, offering access to the Executive Lounge, which includes an artisan breakfast and signature Rosewood butler service. And they even throw in a fitness consultation with one of the hotel’s personal trainers.

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The city’s outlying ‘burbs are home to a growing community of standout hospitality options. Part of the mega sports-mad complex of the same name, action meets relaxation at the Marriott Hotel Al Forsan, Abu Dhabi, which boasts a host of ball, bat and water-based pursuits. Football, tennis, karting, paintballing, shooting, wakeboarding and waterskiing are some of the activities on offer, and the resort is located just a short drive from more sporting fun on Yas Island. 

Also located just 20 minutes’ drive from the delights of Yas Island, the capital’s entertainment island, Mafraq Hotel is a great family option with 250 guestrooms, five restaurants and lounges, palm-fringed swimming pools and a children’s play area. 

The go-to for Abu Dhabi Grand Prix fans, Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi, with its unmistakably futuristic roof, straddles the F1 race track at Yas Marina Circuit. Its façade is particularly captivating at night when it’s bathed in a gentle blanket of coloured light. While the F1 weekend is a 72-hour occasion, guests flock to the hotel throughout the year to enjoy the contemporary comfort of its spacious guestrooms and deep bathtubs, while the other half plump for one of the two-storey Presidential Suites with private lap pools. 

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Staying on Yas Island, the close community of local hotels includes the Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi – Yas Island with its unblinkered view of the golf course and sea. The calming vibe is carried through to the hotel rooms and the tempting delights of the super social swim-up Sundowner Pool Bar. The Kids’ Club is a blessing if you need to entertain any four- to 12-year-olds – that’s assuming they have any energy left after a day exploring the theme parks, water park and entertainment hotspots on the island. 

Value and service focused, the four-star Radisson Blu Hotel, Abu Dhabi Yas Island is another great option. Book a Business Class Room with a sun-soaked private balcony and you’ll receive complimentary drinks and snacks throughout the day. Just across the way, the Premium Plus – Race Track View guestrooms at Yas Island Rotana are popular thanks to their private balcony and views of Yas Marina and Yas Marina Circuit.

The emirate’s islands number more than 200, but it’s Saadiyat Island, Yas’ nearest neighbour, that is garnering global attention as a global cultural hub, thanks to Louvre Abu Dhabi. Cultural experiences of a different kind await at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi, a delightful seaside retreat built to resemble a grand Mediterranean villa, albeit one with a nine-kilometre-long beach, collection of landscaped pools, and seven bars and restaurants. The hotel also boasts one of largest suites in the UAE; spanning two whole floors, the Royal Suite features a Steinway grand piano, billiards room, mini-cinema, and private pool. The legendary St. Regis butler service comes as standard. 

Drink in the sight of seemingly endless dunes

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Close by, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas doubles up on your viewing pleasure with sea and Saadiyat Beach Golf Club views from its guestrooms and restaurants. Décor is luxurious yet understated, with oak and walnut finishes and white marble bathrooms. All rooms have large terraces, while the two and three-bedroom villas feature a private plunge pool. 

The largest emirate in the UAE, Abu Dhabi’s hotel scene extends far and wide. Get away from it all amid the sweeping red sands of the famous Liwa desert where, after an adventurous two-hour drive from the city, a real-life mirage has taken shape. The palm-shaded courtyards, jewel-studded lanterns and Arabesque décor of Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara is an oasis with benefits beyond fresh water and dates (although the latter is part of the signature welcome). Accommodation of choice has to be a Pool Villa, which allows you to soak in a plunge pool while drinking in the sight of seemingly endless dunes. 

Exotic explorations are taken up a notch on Sir Bani Yas Island, a former (private) royal wildlife sanctuary. A triptych of exceptional stays are on offer at the fortress-inspired Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara, the shoreline barasti villas of Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Yamm Villa Resort or wildlife-surrounded Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Sahel Villa Resort. Flocks of flamingos, rare Arabian oryx and pristine white sand beaches speak to a passion for nature, while indigenous spa experiences, world-class dining, al fresco moments and an eco-friendly philosophy satisfy modern-day desires.

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