Dubai insider: Pillow talk

Beachfront resorts, boutique boltholes and urban hideaways – enjoy a ‘spoil me rotten’ stay at these top hotels

From the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab to the sleek Armani Hotel Dubai inside Burj Khalifa and the glamorous Arabian-themed desert resorts that appear like mirages amid the dunes, choosing where to stay in Dubai is a hotel hopper’s dream. The number of hotel rooms in the emirate is set to reach 132,000 by the end of 2019, according to Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Tourism, with a number of grand new openings attracting attention. Chief among them is Caesars Bluewaters Dubai, offering all the signature hospitality of this Las Vegas favourite, minus the gaming. It’s located on Bluewaters Island, which is just off the coast from Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and also home to the under-construction Ain Dubai observation wheel. It comprises a trio of resorts: Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai is the place to lap up the rays at Cove Beach, dine at Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen and unwind at Qua Spa; The Residences at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai has apartments ideal for longer stays; and Caesars Resort Bluewaters Dubai is spot on for families.  

Caesars Palace - Pool
Caesars Palace Resort Bluewaters Dubai

Edging along the coastline to Palm Jumeirah, W Dubai – The Palm has the cool factor, with its hip and happening WET® deck and SoBe rooftop drawing the social set. The glamorous AWAY® Spa, and top chef restaurants Akira Back and Torno Subito by Massimo Bottura further add to the A-list style treatment.

Also gracing the palm frond – just next door, in fact – is Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai, a neoclassical ode to the 18th-century palaces of Europe. With a private beach and Versailles-style gardens, you’ll feel like a thoroughly royal guest here. We say unwind with a massage at Cinq Mondes spa before sitting down to a delectable dinner at miX by Alain Ducasse. 

If staying in one of the emirate’s long-established hospitality icons is an itch you need to scratch then look no further than the poster child for luxury hospitality, Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. The world’s only so-called seven-star hotel, where Federer and Agassi famously staged a rally on the helipad, its reputation for ultra-discrete service continues to attract the rich and famous to its extravagant (but easy to become accustomed to) all-suite setting.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah - Panoramic Suite View Upper Level
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah Panoramic Suite View

Heading downtown, and occupying an enviable location at the heart of the world’s tallest building, is the understated yet elegant Armani Hotel Dubai – one of only two Armani hotels in the world. The renowned Italian designer has put his personal stamp on every inch of the property, from the use of Armani Casa linens and homewares to the impeccably stylish collection of restaurants.

“You’ll feel like a thoroughly royal guest here”

Another fashionable property on the scene, Palazzo Versace Dubai brings a touch of 16th-century palatial decadence to the Culture Village district on the banks of Dubai Creek. A neoclassical-meets-Arabian styled resort, the artistic direction of Donatella Versace is evident throughout, and captured perfectly in the two-bedroom duplex Imperial Suites. 

Follow in the footsteps of supermodel Bella Hadid and Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander by heading to Bulgari Resort Dubai – the fifth international property for the design legend. With the added attraction of its own private mini man-made island location off the Jumeirah coastline (Jumeira Bay Island), a swanky line-up of high-end eateries, and the world’s first Bulgari Marina and Yacht Club, it has quickly become a favourite among discerning travellers. 

Also high-up on the list of local record breakers, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai makes the most of its world’s tallest five-star hotel status, with 72 floors dedicated to luxury, and guestrooms boasting some of the best views of the city skyline. Splurge on a night in the top-floor split-level penthouse with its mesmerising floor-to-ceiling window views.

Anantara The Palm Dubai - Mekong - Rickshaw Terrace
Anantara The Palm Dubai, Mekong Rickshaw Terrace

If its sun, sea and sand you’re looking for, Dubai more than delivers on its beachfront game, and the luxury lifestyle is a given on Palm Jumeirah. Further to the newbies mentioned earlier, we rate the ever-popular Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, which has an advantage on the competition for featuring the UAE’s only over-water villas. When you’re ready to explore, you can venture across to the marina onboard one of the resort’s traditional longtail Thai boats.

Also situated on the island’s crescent, Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah is the physical epitome of this legendary hotel brand, nestled in a super exclusive Dubai setting. It’s also a dining hotspot thanks to the resident three Michelin-starred talent of Heinz Beck at his fine dining restaurant Social. 

There are more hotels on the trunk of the man-made wonder, such as Dukes Dubai. The sister hotel to Dukes London in Mayfair has plenty of British charm. And with a lazy river, private beach and Dukesy Kids Club – not to mention a clutch of excellent places to eat, including Khyber, West 14th and Great British Restaurant – it’s a win-win for families. 

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Dukes Dubai

A little further along, another outstanding family-friendly hotel is Fairmont The Palm. It’s easy to unwind while staying here, with the highly-rated Falcon Kids’ Club for little ones, the award-winning Willow Stream Spa for parents, and the fabulous Little Miss India restaurant (decked out in contemporary colonial décor) providing fun for all. We recommend opting for an upgraded Fairmont Gold room, which comes complete with executive lounge access, plus a host of other benefits. In addition, there’s the glamorous FIVE Palm Jumeirah, with its innovative architecture, Ottoman-inspired spa and picturesque rooftop haunt, The Penthouse.

Moving back to the mainland, Dubai Marina’s swathe of luxury hotels includes anchor properties such as Grosvenor House, a stalwart of the Dubai scene and an ever-popular restaurant hub with the likes of Rhodes W1 and Toro Toro favourites among the city’s social set. 

Fairmont The Palm Suite
Fairmont The Palm Suite

There’s a cluster of five-star hotels at JBR, including Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach, where you can head out onto your private balcony to gaze at the Arabian Gulf. At Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection, you can revel in the luxury of sleek marble bathrooms, a plush spa, sparkling swimming pools and 10 top dining spots. 

Also fronting the lively plaza is JA Ocean View Hotel, which lives up to its name, with 342 sea-facing rooms and suites across 25 floors. The hotel is also home to Girders, one of the neighbourhoods’ favourite haunts for British-style grub and live sports. 

Near Sheikh Zayed Road is the all-suite Two Seasons Hotel & Apartments, which is ideal for longer stays. The Grand Suite Sea View has views of Palm Jumeirah, two bedrooms to spread out in, a cosy living room, and kitchenette for a happy, holiday home vibe.

“Jumeirah Al Naseem delivers laidback luxury”

JA Ocean View Hotel - Sea View Room
JA Ocean View Hotel – Sea View Room

Further along the coastline is another enduring favourite, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which has recently undergone a major refurbishment that has given the property a whole new energy. The hotel’s glorious beachfront location combined with its ample dining options make it a coveted choice for families, with the neighbouring Wild Wadi Waterpark bringing the fun factor in spades. 

Just next door, Jumeirah Al Naseem delivers laidback luxury with décor inspired by Dubai’s pearl diving history. Families also gravitate here to see the turtle lagoon, where sick and injured sea turtles are nursed back to health – join the feeding time at 11am on Wednesdays to learn more.  

Having bagged itself a coveted spot along Jumeirah Beach, the new Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai places you just steps away from the seafront and just a short drive away from Downtown Dubai (in fact, it’s now the closest beachfront resort). This Jeffrey Wilkes designed property has a California-style aesthetic – choose from a city or beach view (most guestrooms have a private balcony). There are six restaurants and lounges to discover, including the signature Warayakiya-style Japanese restaurant.

Jumeirah Al Naseem - Wadi Pool
Jumeirah Al Naseem – Wadi Pool

Zip further along the coast to Pearl Jumeira and you’ll find another H2O-centric option, the exclusive Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai. The Dubai incarnation of the Miami-meets-Mediterranean hotspot, complete with signature all white décor, comes with calming views of the Arabian Gulf and Dubai skyline, with stunning sunsets the cherry on top.

At the opposite end of town is the peaceful portion of coastline at Jebel Ali, where JA The Resort, Jebel Ali Beach, Dubai provides blissful respite. Home to JA Beach Hotel and JA Palm Tree Court (with JA Lake View Hotel opening in September 2019), the resort is set within 128 acres and offers a variety of room types, from dedicated family hideaways to luxurious suites. There’s never a dull moment thanks to the 800-metre private beach, four landscaped swimming pools, over 16 restaurants and bars and an impressive line-up of leisure activities, giving you plenty of opportunity to make memories. Keen golfers can practise their swing at the 9-hole par 35 course, and brush up on their technique thanks to the on-site Leadbetter Golf Academy.

“Rooms feature indigenous accents and views of Dubai Water Canal”

For more thrills and spills, Lapita, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Autograph Collection, offers the ultimate experiential stay due to its unique location within Dubai Parks and Resorts’ borders. Once you’ve had your fill of fun at Legoland Dubai, Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai and Legoland Waterpark, this Polynesian inspired resort tempts you with a lazy river, heated pools, a rooftop lounge and a laidback atmosphere. 

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Lapita, Dubai Parks and Resorts, Autograph Collection

If shopping is on your agenda, you’ll want to stay as close as possible to the retail action, and there are a number of hotels within walking distance to the biggest and best retail emporiums. Just around the corner from The Dubai Mall (home to more than 1,300 stores and family-friendly dining and entertainment spots galore), is the boutique Vida Downtown, located on Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard. The property will lure you in with its contemporary charm, posh French dining at La Serre and the delightfully kitsch Vida Food Truck. 

Also in the neighbourhood, Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai, offers a sense of place with its rooms featuring indigenous accents and views of Burj Khalifa and Dubai Water Canal. Dine at award-winning restaurants, including Morimoto Dubai and Bleu Blanc by David Myers, and find a sense of calm at Six Senses Spa.

Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates is directly connected to the mall it takes its name from, so you won’t need to lug all those bags of designer goodies very far. Plus, if one-of-a-kind accommodation floats your boat, then the luxuriously cosy ski chalet styled rooms overlooking the indoor ski resort, Ski Dubai, will do nicely. 

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Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

A boutique stay with shopping opportunities on the doorstep also comes courtesy of the super stylish La Ville Hotel & Suites CITY WALK, Dubai, Autograph Collection. Situated at the heart of City Walk, one of Dubai’s most chi-chi urban lifestyle destinations, this low-rise property is a magnet for visiting fashionistas and influencers alike.

At the other end of town, with handy access to Dubai Metro, is Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai. The five-star property is a few minutes’ walk to another one of the city’s colossal shopping centres, Ibn Battuta Mall, inspired by the 14th-century travels of the Arab explorer. Post credit card splurge, you can put your feet up at the rooftop pool, or even better, get them massaged as part of an indulgent pampering treatment at Safar Spa.

“The cosy ski chalet styled rooms overlook the indoor slope”

Visitors looking to soak up a little more history and get to the root of the city’s cultural origins should cross the Garhoud Bridge to the Deira side of town and the banks of Dubai Creek, its historic heartland. Nestled beyond the greens and berths of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, the tranquil Park Hyatt Dubai is a gem. Soothing creek views are guaranteed from your balcony or terrace while eight themed Spa Rooms welcome you with a bespoke, full-on spa experience (failing that, the hotel’s Amara Spa with its private courtyards and garden is simply sensational). 

Dubai’s first five-star hotel, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, remains a firm favourite among local residents and returning visitors alike and its dining options are a major draw. Indeed, any visit this side of the creek should include dinner at modern Emirati culinary exponent, Aseelah, or the ever-popular Fish Market. 

Dive deeper into the neighbourhood streets and you’ll find JW Marriott Hotel Dubai, another veteran of the Deira scene and home to the award-winning JW’s Steakhouse. It’s also a great starting point from which to explore a side of the city that not everyone gets to see once ensconced in the comfort of their beachfront sun lounger. A hip, contemporary hotel shaking up the south bank of Dubai Creek, Zabeel House by Jumeirah is a modern structure set amid the new creekside precinct Al Seef. With a rooftop pool to watch dhows and abras cruise past and quirky décor, it’s just next door to its pocket-sized sibling property, Zabeel House MINI by Jumeirah, a three-star hotel that’s every inch the millennial hipster haven, with bikes for hire, colourful art and beanbags aplenty.

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Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai

Also on the creek, Al Seef Hotel by Jumeirah conjures up more of a heritage ambiance, with rustic guestrooms and suites tucked into 22 Arabian-style buildings, complete with traditional barjeel wind towers. In earthy hues, with natural textiles and gypsum walls, the décor is inspired by the Dubai of yesteryear, with antique light switches, old fashioned radios, and one-of-a-kind amenities, like exfoliating soap made from sand gathered from each of the UAE’s seven emirates.

Equestrian activity is the hook at Meliá Desert Palm Dubai, a polo community sited resort set in 160 acres of greenery and sand with just 38 rooms, suites and villas perfecting the ideal of the quintessential hideaway. There’s more equine action at The Meydan Hotel, which overlooks Dubai’s spectacular racecourse. As well as getting a thrilling view of racing thoroughbreds, the hotel can arrange stable tours that’ll give you a glimpse into the jockeys’ room, saddling paddock and parade ring. The hotel also has a fabulous array of restaurants.

If you dream of staying deep in the desert, Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai is sure to capture your imagination. Set amid the shifting sand dunes of Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a brief sojourn within the luxurious confines of this all-suite oasis will imbue a deep sense of bliss that lingers long after you leave. The only downside? You will have to share this slice of paradise with passing Arabian oryx, wheeling falcons overhead and the occasional wandering camel. 

Another dearly loved desert escape is Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, which consistently charms guests with its Arabian Nights style architecture, views of the undulating dunes and al fresco dinners served beneath starlit skies. Nature walks, falconry and infinity pools, not to mention the sublime Satori Spa, will make it a struggle to leave this desert diamond – that much is guaranteed. 

Main image: Zabeel House MINI by Jumeirah