1 A touch of luxury
Al Qasr, Madinat Jumeirah
Sitting on your private balcony overlooking the meandering waterways and forest of palm trees, listening to birdsong and insects chirping, you’ll find it hard to believe you’re in a hotel in bustling Dubai.
Al Qasr is built to resemble a shaik’s summer residence, and the rooms are decorated in a plush Arabian style. To avoid the risk of ensconcing yourself in this fantasy palace for the entire stay, it’s a good idea to take a 20-minute abra ride around the resort to get an idea of the array of activities on offer. With all the facilities of the wider Madinat Jumeirah available to you, the hotel manages to be both romantic and family-friendly.
Children will love the complimentary Sinbad kids’ club, while the whole family will enjoy free entry to Wild Wadi waterpark. Then there are the tennis courts, swimming pools, Talise spa, the souq, the Madinat Theatre, the hotel’s 2km stretch of private beach, and more than 40 restaurants and bars. Best of all, there are complimentary buggies and abras to take you to all of these.
This reviewer is smitten with Al Hambra, an authentic Spanish restaurant where the chef’s passion for food spills over to the staff and diners, creating a lively and fun atmosphere. Don’t leave without trying the brava potatoes and churros – delicioso!
NEED TO KNOW Deluxe rooms start from Dh1,500 per night. Until September 30, you can take advantage of the Brunch and Stay package for two starting from Dh2,222, which includes Friday brunch at Al Qasr, complimentary breakfast on Saturday, extended checkout and two Talise Spa Vouchers for Dh200. www.jumeirah.com
2 A peaceful weekend
Perched on the corniche overlooking the ocean, Fairmont Ajman is a haven of relaxation that manages to make you feel miles from any bustling city even though you’re just down the road.
Featuring signature Fairmont luxury, rooms are spacious and beautifully appointed, and staff can’t do enough to help (especially with children). If you’re going with the family, junior suites are a great option with space for extra beds and a generous living room. There’s a lovely buffet restaurant with stacks of both healthy and indulgent choices, and à la carte options. Cool off in the gorgeous pool or brave the heat for a stroll along the sand and a dip in the waves; the beach is peaceful and quiet and the water shallow enough for little ones.
There isn’t much to do in the immediate vicinity, but we found we didn’t want to go anywhere anyway – simply chilling out in the luxury of the hotel was plenty for us.
NEED TO KNOW Ajman is around 30 minutes’ drive from Dubai. Rooms start from Dh510 per night. www.fairmont.com
3 Perfect for little ones
Sofitel The Palm
The first benefit of this hotel is that if you live in Dubai, it is on your doorstep. For parents, the shorter the, journey the better. On arrival at the hotel, the staff were kind, welcoming and fab with kids. The rooms are spacious and have a calming energy about them; this reviewer was there with her husband and four-year-old son, both of whom preferred to stay in the room having long baths and chilling out than hitting the facilities.
If you venture outside, there are two kids’ pools (unshaded, unfortunately, but with a pleasing number of lifeguards) and some larger pools, plus a big bucket of sand toys on the beach, which is handy. The kids’ club takes kids from age four unaccompanied, or with adults before that age, and has plenty of activities.
For dining, there is a lovely pool-side restaurant. However, Porterhouse, the hotel’s teak house, is definitely worth a visit – delicious food, great atmosphere, a good kids’ menu and accommodating staff. The buffet breakfast is also decent quality. We found Sofitel to be the perfect spot for a mini-break with young kids – relaxed, safe, friendly and yet a real treat.
NEED TO KNOW Rooms start from around Dh1,180 per night (there’s 20 per cent off rates and restaurants until mid-September. www.sofitel-dubai-thepalm.com
4 A break from it all
Doubletree by Hilton Resort and Spa Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah
For the ultimate holiday-resort feel, Hilton hotels never fail to satisfy all of their customers’ needs. For parents, facilities cater to all ages with splash pools and slides and numerous outdoor areas for younger kids, climbing walls, trampolines, dancing classes and an indoor arcade for older kids, this is a top spot for a family with kids of all ages.
For those looking to escape the city and let their hair down, the swim-up pool bar offers quite the party atmosphere on the weekend and the hotel regularly hosts live bands or guest DJs (if you are going with kids, check in advance about this as the DJ weekends can have a party vibe). Food spots are plentiful, the rooms are spacious and the spa is well worth a visit.
NEED TO KNOW Kids under six stay and eat for free over the summer. Prices start at Dh700 during the week – deals if you join the Hilton loyalty club. www.doubletree3.hilton.com
5 Timeless elegance
Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah
Even without knowing anything about its history, the Waldorf name simply oozes class. And this expansive hotel on the UAE’s east coast is no different. From the looming great purpose-built clock in the foyer, to the Titanic-esque Peacock Alley tea room (complete with live lounge jazz musicians in the evening), there are hat-nods to the brand’s past and origins all around the hotel.
Food wise, the hotel boasts two of the top three restaurants in Ras Al Khaimah, according to TripAdvisor. We tried the Japanese, which was delightful, and the steakhouse, which was even better. We loved the juicy steaks, the massive portions and the friendly staff who were ready with recommendations and an insider’s lowdown on the food.
Once you have finished your meal, adjourn to the bar area where you can while away some time chatting with staff and other guests, and enjoying a nightcap.
The pool area is quiet and peaceful with lots of little areas you can tuck yourselves away into if you prefer to be far from the madding crowds.
Additionally, there is a lap pool, a large beach and other little water spots.
Activities wise, there is plenty on offer – include a gym and a variety of fitness activities – but this reviewer opted to lie by the pool, soaking up the rays and enjoying the stunning view.
If you are looking for a quiet weekend of R&R, this is your place.
NEED TO KNOW Prices start at Dh1,600 and include breakfast. A dinner for two at the restaurants will cost around Dh600 without drinks. www.waldorfastoria3.hilton.com
Bored of the inside of your four walls? Pack up the bags and decamp to a hotel poolside for the day. Here are our top three...
Luxing it up at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, The Palm
Beach and pool access, with either a 45-minute Turkish hammam or massage, a set lunch at Sultan’s Lounge and access to Sinbad’s the kids’ club for little ones – just Dh590 per person! Visit www.jumeirah.com/JZSdaycation.
A maze of pools keeps kids entertained and it’s still a great grown-up spot too. Prices start at Dh225 for weekdays, Dh350 on a weekend, with specials on Sundays and Wednesdays of just Dh100 for women and kids, and 25 per cent off F&B. Call 04 399 4141.
Saadiyat Beach Club
The summer ‘Dip and Dine’ deal offer access to the beach, pool and all club facilities for just Dh150 with Dh100 to spend on food and beverage throughout the day. Call 02 656 3500.