Unique experiences at 9 of Abu Dhabi’s top hotels
When it comes to indulgent pampering and once-in-a-lifetime holiday experiences, you’re spoilt for choice with Abu Dhabi’s luxury destinations.
Many five-star hotels and resorts offer gourmet gastronomy, private island retreats, palatial splendour in the desert, the ultimate in glamping, as well as the highest of high teas and the most thrilling F1™ action.
Here are 9 ways to enjoy the best the city’s luxury hotels have to offer.
1. Enjoy gourmet eats sprinkled with 24-karat gold at Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace, an architectural landmark in the heart of Abu Dhabi, is the third-most expensive hotel ever built. It's easy to see why. There's a helicopter landing pad, a ballroom, and 1.3km of private beach and marina. There are also two huge pools, a waterpark, football fields, tennis courts, gyms, and more. The palatial hotel features glittering chandeliers and a series of domes, the grandest being meticulously decorated with gold, mother-of-pearl and crystals.
The plush suites have private balconies with calming views of landscaped gardens, pristine pools or the bay. The three-bedroom palace suite offers 24-hour butler service. Penthouse suites, meanwhile, are exclusively reserved for VIPs like royalty.
Over ten dining options include BBQ Al Qasr, for seaside dining in private gazebos; Mezlai, for decadent Emirati cuisine; and Le Café, offering an al-fresco high tea. Don't forget to try the signature Palace Cappuccino and infamous camel-meat burger, both of which glitter with 24-karat-gold flakes. Decadent, or what?
2. Swing over the sea at the boho-chic Zaya Nurai Island
Spacious sea-facing villas feature private terraces and temperature-controlled rim-flow pools, from where you can gaze at the private beach, a white-sand beauty that has everything you need for perfect Insta shots that whisper, "Wish you were here - but not really". Think swings over the sea, cool teepees, shaded day beds, and hammocks on land and in the water.
Wellness options include a personal trainer, yoga at sunrise and sunset, and the ocean-side Nurai Spa. Dining options include Frangipani, offering seasonal produce blending Middle Eastern, Asian and the Western influences; Hooked, marrying Levantine flavours with fresh sea fare and jaw-dropping views; Dusk, a playfully designed Mexican restaurant, and; Ginger Mermaid for sushi and seafood. Or pick a hammock, swing or beanbag to sip cocktails in and share a pizza at the boho-chic cocktail bar, Smokin Pineapple.
3. Dine among desert dunes at Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
What's a trip to Abu Dhabi without a desert adventure? Do so safely and luxuriously from the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara. The luxury hotel rises like a mirage among the endless dunes of Rub al Khali (the Empty Quarter), the world's largest uninterrupted sand mass just 90 minutes from the city.
Rooms have wrap-around sun lounges and comfortably appointed terraces, for stunning sunset dune views. Family villas with private plunge pools are ideal for larger groups or longer stays. The most exclusive are the Royal Pavilion Villas, ten standalone pool villas in an adults-only environment half a kilometre from the main resort where you can arrive by helicopter or camel procession.
For magical meals, the Suhai rooftop lounge, bar and grill offers a surreal dining experience overlooking the dunes.Dining by Design, meanwhile, sees you seated at a private candlelit table set on a luxurious rug right in the desert.
Active types will love the dune adventures, including sandboarding, camel-trekking, dune walks and rides, and saluki and falconry shows. Wellness enthusiasts can take fitness classes, do yoga, work out at the gym, or enjoy exclusive spa treatments.
4. Fall asleep while star-gazing in Jebel Hafit Desert Park’s glamping domes
To enjoy a five-star outdoor camping experience, there are two options to choose from, both of which feature transparent ceilings so you can fall asleep while star-gazing. The parks eight air-conditioned dome tents are beautifully furnished like hotel suites, with fridges, wardrobes, sofas, TVs and coffee tables. There's a patio with stunning mountain views, a fire pit and a telescope. Private bathrooms have organic toiletries and hairdryers, and room service is available. The five bubble tents have more minimalist interiors that are no less comfortable. They feature a four-poster bed, a terrace with a firepit, a private bathroom and outdoor shower.
5. Enjoy a private wine-tasting in an exclusive wine cellar at Rosewood Abu Dhabi
You would be forgiven for never wanting to leave your room with it's media centre, iPad room navigation system, Pratesi Egyptian cotton linen, floor-to-ceiling views and Villeroy Boch bathtub.
But the hotel's eight restaurants and lounges will tempt you out. There's Glo, a swanky poolside lounge; and Hidden Bar, where guests can sample from a collection of 150 gins and 10+ tonics. Then there's La Cava, an exclusive wine cellar accessed via a circular wooden staircase, where you can enjoy a private wine tasting among cabinets housing 1,000 premium labels.
The hotel's Sense Spa offers a range of Sense Journeys, such as the Arabian Nights ceremony. It begins in an exotically scented milk bath, includes a ninety-minute massage with Arabian oils, and is recommended for two. Understandably, couples seeking RR love the hotel. Rosewood Explorers, the resorts programme for kids, will keep children busy.
6. Play golf and spot dolphins at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Stay at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort for world-class service and direct access to a private beach. The accommodation boasts elegant Mediterranean-style décor, with top-notch bedding, a freestanding bathtub and large his-and-hers sinks.
For dining, there are six restaurants and bars. Sontaya serves Southeast Asian fare overlooking the sea, while the Buddha-Bar Beach Abu Dhabi is renowned for it's exotic interiors and signature music.
The resort is next to the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course designed by Gary Player. The meandering, eco-conscious course provides stunning sea views, with the chance to spot dolphins at play in the glistening Arabian Gulf.
7. Laze at one of the largest pools in the emirate at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas
Friendly staff, 9km of pristine private beach and spacious sea-view rooms make the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas the perfect spot for a quiet romantic retreat on Saadiyat Island.
There's a health club with an outdoor, sea-facing pool − one of the largest in Abu Dhabi. Claim a luxurious lounger set on a decking platform, and let the layers of blue calm your soul.
After a day on the beach and by the pool, there are three in-house restaurants to choose from. For al fresco dining with Asian influences, the hotel's signature restaurant, The Park Bar Grill, offers steaks and seafood. The Beach House, meanwhile, serves home-made dishes inspired by Mediterranean coastline.
Extras include the Atarmia Spa which features nine large treatment rooms, an outdoor lap pool, a fitness room, and a dedicated stretching studio and a Business Centre and library offering state-of-the-art business facilities and round-the-clock services. Camp Hyatt will keep kids entertained.
8. Watch F1™ racing action while you brunch at the W Abu Dhabi - Yas Island
Hotels on Yas Island - home to theme parks, adventure parks and the Yas Marina Circuit - are hot locations come race weekends, especially since F1 hotel packages often combine stays with F1 tickets and access to after-race events. Since the W Abu Dhabi hotel is the only one in the world built over an F1™ racetrack, it's the hottest property of them all.
Watch from your room, one of the many viewing areas, or book a long and lazy trackside brunch. Dining and drinking options include Garage, the hotel's contemporary collection of restaurant concepts, or the Wet Deck rooftop bar
If racing's not your thing, there's plenty more on offer. The W Abu Dhabi features two rooftop pools and a spa designed as a traditional hammam. Stay here and you also have easy access to an 18-hole golf course nearby, Yas Links Abu Dhabi, as well as complimentary access to Yas Beach, just a shuttle drive away.
9. Savour the highest of high teas at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers Hotel
You'll feel like a celebrity when you stay at one of Abu Dhabi's most architecturally impressive landmarks on Corniche Road. The hotel is part of the gleaming, glass-clad sentinels of the five-part complex that look like something out of a movie. Which they are. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers featured in the Hollywood action film Furious 7.
Facilities include landscaped gardens, a gym, pool, full-service spa and private beach. The rooms, which have fabulous views of the city or sea, are contemporary yet opulent. Think chaise lounge chairs beside floor-to-ceiling glass and spacious marble-clad bathrooms.
The hotel boasts five casual eateries and two for fine dining, including VaKaKa. This unique Latin American concept was developed by award-winning celebrity chef Richard Sandoval.
But the highlight is free access to the Observation Deck at 300, the highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi. Enjoy high tea and dazzling views at the city’s highest restaurant on the 74th floor.