The Best Resorts in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Rooms at the Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi have a luxurious Mediterranean-meets-Middle-East theme
Rooms at the Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi have a luxurious Mediterranean-meets-Middle-East theme | Courtesy of Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island / Expedia
Alex Allen

Dubai may have hogged the limelight in the region for years – but there’s competition on the spectacular-hotel front. Look no further than neighbouring Emirate Abu Dhabi, where bigger is definitely better, and glitz is good. Swimming pools are more like lakes, lobbies are futuristic “aquariums” of sea creatures made of hand-blown glass, and there are wonderful reinterpretations of classic Venice – one of the world’s original commercial hubs, back when Abu Dhabi was a desert. Where are the best places to stay? Read on to find out, and make that reservation.

1. Zaya Nurai Island

Villa

White sun loungers overlook a wide blue ocean at Zaya Nurai Island
Courtesy of Zaya Nurai Island / Expedia

Abu Dhabi is all about pushing the luxury envelope, with bigger and shinier new hotels sprouting up perennially. But few resorts – old or new – come close to the pull of a private island. A 15-minute boat ride from the city centre, this sandy speck is an Eden of lush greenery in a mirror-like watery desert of blue. Split into little hamlets of the different accommodation options – from the boutique one-bedroom beach villas to the mansion-like five-bedroom Estate Villas (all immaculately stylish) – it truly feels like your own little world of tranquillity away from the city.

2. Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

Suite Hotel, Hotel

A regal-looking twin room at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi
Courtesy of Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi / Expedia

If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this hotel for an actual palace. After all, it’s got the sprawling landscaped grounds, kept glisteningly green by hundreds of sprinklers; the grandiose entrance, with a courtyard of fountains spurting 10 feet (3m) into the air; the domed main building and interiors liberally gilded in gold. You’ll certainly feel like royalty when you drop your bags in your room, with its wood-panelled, arch-shaped headboard, velvet-upholstered chaise longue and private balcony overlooking the sea, pool, or landscaped gardens. This place put Abu Dhabi on the luxury hotel map, and it’s easy to see why.

3. Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island

Hotel, Resort

The lobby of Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island, with a fountain and large, grand chandelier
Courtesy of Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island / Expedia

Appearing out of the heat haze like a terracotta-roofed, Arabic-Roman mega villa, there’s certainly no risk of missing the turn-off for this hotel. It’s on Saadiyat Island, 20 minutes beyond the city centre – home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi (that’s right, the Emirates’ offshoot of the Paris original). It’s also bang in the middle of what is, arguably, the nicest stretch of beach in the area, with talc-white sands and playful turquoise waves. Inside, rooms riff on the Mediterranean-meets-Middle-East theme, with tiled, emerald-green feature walls, marble floors and glimmers of brushed gold.

4. The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

Hotel, Chain Hotel, Resort

Sun loungers overlook an outdoor swimming pool at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi
Courtesy of The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi / Expedia

If you’ve stayed in a St Regis resort before, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect here. If you haven’t, then here’s what you’ll get: sober, solid, quality interiors – think crisp white bed linens, lots of honey-hued wood and carefully curated objects. It’s tasteful, classic and with a colonial twist (the ceiling fan is really just for effect, as the air conditioning is refreshingly frigid). Factor in a spa, an athletic club (a posh gym), four swimming pools (including two lap pools) and a choice of seven restaurants, lounges and bars, and you really won’t need to leave. Oh, and did we mention the fab private beach?

5. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas

Hotel

A living area at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, where sofas surround a glass coffee table
Courtesy of Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas / Expedia
With its low-rise silhouette and clean, white lines, this resort has an atypically understated profile for Abu Dhabi, almost disappearing into the white stretch of sand along Saadiyat Beach. You’ll want to spend more time outside than in, with the vast, oasis-like pool shaded by nodding palms and lush vegetation; the long, wide boardwalk that takes you right out onto the flour-soft sand and the landscaped areas of putting-green-neat grass. But that’s not to say rooms aren’t a pleasure to spend time in, with their calming organic tones and materials and spacious furnished private balconies.

6. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

Hotel

A bedroom at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, with tall windows and a small grey armchair
Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal / Expedia
If it’s fly-and-flop efficiency you’re looking for, you won’t find many hotels faster to get to from the airport than here – it’s just on the other side of the main road. But that’s far from the only thing it’s got going for it. Picture lush, landscaped grounds, a truly palatial-scale outdoor pool overlooking Abu Dhabi’s gently-rippling Grand Canal (it’s one of the city’s largest), and rooms that tastefully play on the Venetian link – especially within the Venetian Village complex, where baroque-patterned soft furnishings meet dark wood and lavishly marble-clad bathrooms.

7. Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort

Resort, Hotel

A bedroom at Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, with a white double bed and a terrace
Courtesy of Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort / Expedia

This award-winning place delivers on the wow-factor front: look no further than the lobby’s monumental installation of dangling “jellyfish” made of hand-blown glass. Then, there’s the White restaurant, a dazzling collage of snow-white tones, made brighter by natural light flooding in from the atrium space above. Unsurprisingly, rooms don’t disappoint on the design front either, with wall-mounted hand-woven baskets adding a warm, artisanal accent to the monochromatic palette of whites and taupes.

Stuck on what to do? Discover our guide on the must-visit attractions in Abu Dhabi.

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