The UAE is a country of excess, with some of the best hotels in the world to match. From the chilled outdoor pools and endless breakfast buffets to the dozens of restaurants and huge, luxurious suites, staying in one is often an eye-opening experience in itself. While some on the list are on the upper end of the budget, there are often great deals if you travel out of season (during hotter months like July and August). Each with its own personality and style, we’ve rounded up the best luxury hotels of the bunch.
The elaborate domes of this luxurious hotel can be spotted just down the road from Abu Dhabi’s presidential palace. It’s the true epitome of grandeur and proudly one of the most expensive hotels ever built – if something can be infused with gold, chances are you’ll find it here. The on-site spa offers 24-karat facials and treatments with diamond-infused oils, and in-house restaurant Le Café whips up 23-karat-gold-flaked cappuccinos that can be sipped alongside signature dish the 23K Emirates Palace Camel Burger. Oh, and did we mention there’s also a gold bar vending machine?
Rooms from $329; West Corniche Road; +971 2 690 9000
There aren’t many hotels in the world that have a Formula 1 track wrapped around their façade, and even fewer that have a canopy entirely composed of LED lights. Enter Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi, located on Yas Island – an entertainment complex whose attractions include Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld. Its futuristic design and talk-of-the-town nightclub attract a preened and manicured crowd, while its location on top of a Formula 1 track gives guests the opportunity to watch car races from their balconies.
Rooms from $150; Yas Marina Circuit; +971 2 656 0000
What sets this pinnacle of minimalist Arabic design apart is its undisrupted views of Abu Dhabi’s most famous landmark – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. One of the best views comes from the 27m infinity pool that makes you feel as though you’re floating out towards the mosque’s elaborate minarets. Continuing with the water theme, you can also float around the hotel gardens, as a winding waterway comes complete with abras (traditional Arabic boats) that meander through the lush greenery.
Rooms from $152; Khor Al Maqta, Qaryat al Beri; +971 2 509 8888
On the outskirts of Abu Dhabi is the so-called “Empty Quarter”: the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world and one of the most picturesque locations in the whole country. The Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort is an oasis of luxury in this sea of sand – the crew of Star Wars: The Force Awakens even stayed here during filming. Its rooms look out over the desert and the hotel has an array of packages that offer the chance to explore the rolling sand dunes, from starlight camping to dune-bashing. You can watch the sun setting over the rust-hued peaks from the back of a camel, hurtle down dunes on a fat bike, or enjoy a private candlelit dinner on the sand with butler service.
Rooms from $304; Qasr Al Sarab Road; +971 2 886 2088
The iconic St Regis group has paid homage to Abu Dhabi’s grandeur with the opening of the aptly named Abu Dhabi Suite in this luxury hotel. The opulent suite is situated in the Skybridge that joins the two nation towers on the hotel’s 48th floor. As well as offering 360-degree views of the city, it also hosts Brunch in the Clouds – a bespoke feast in the world’s highest suspended suite. The hotel itself provides another opportunity to heighten your experience of Abu Dhabi with its Helipad Sunset Suppers, with bubbly, canapés and a live saxophonist.
Rooms from $191; Nation Tower, Corniche; +971 2 694 4444
Sitting on top of what some regard as the best beach in the UAE, this resort is also the emirate’s first eco-conscious hotel. It’s committed to minimising the impact of its residents on the local environment by eliminating plastic straws and providing each guest with their own personal, reusable water bottle. What’s more, the hotel looks out over protected sand dunes where the island’s original resident, the endangered hawksbill turtle, can be spotted nesting during breeding seasons.
Rooms from $250; Saadiyat Isand; +971 2 811 4444
Lovers of glitz and glamour need look no further, this Venetian-inspired hotel set around a waterway looks like it’s been modelled on an Aladdin-style palace, with hundreds of rooms, 85 private villas and no fewer than eight restaurants, it’ll take you days to explore. The hotel even has its own streets with fountains, boutiques and restaurants modelled on an Italian town centre. Bedrooms are minimal though, in calming tones of cream, dark wood and gold.
Rooms from $178; Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi; +971 2 818 8888
Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas
Nature-lovers best bed down at this sprawling hotel on Saadiyat island. Dolphins have been spotted taking a dip in the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf, and there are the turtles that nest on the beach, too (Saadiyat’s nine kilometre stretch of sand is often named the best in the UAE). Go for a beach villa in a palette of blues and whites with a private plunge pool, and make sure to set aside some time for drinks in Hamilton’s – the hotel’s industrial gastropub.
Rooms from $239; Saadiyat Island; +971 2 697 0000
While many of the capital’s new hotels come freighted with superlatives, not so the new Abu Dhabi Edition: New York hotelier Ian Schrager’s new, minimal-luxe opening at Al Bateen Marina, his first in the Middle East, can’t claim to be the biggest hotel in the city. It’s not the most expensive, either. The tallest? Nope, not even close. Still, who needs big statements when a five-storey, candle-lit lobby, sleek, Le Labo-kitted rooms and a trio of very cool restaurants from star chef Tom Aikens will do just fine?
Rooms from $152; Al Bateen Marina; +971 2 208 0000
For more hotels in Abu Dhabi and around the world visit etihadholidays.com