Zaya Nurai Island has been on our bucket list for sometime and having had to forgo a planned summer vacation to the Seychelles, team Out & About were in severe need of some relaxation.
As UAE residents are well aware, as Ramadan rolls around the prices of staycations tumble and we couldn’t believe our luck when the idyllic Zaya Nauri was available mid-week for just 1200 AED per night… compared to the usual 18,000 dirhams!
The great thing about this desert island, located just a few kilometres off the coast of Abu Dhabi, is that guests are transported to a slice of paradise in just twelve minutes (without the need to spend hours on an aeroplane). Complimentary transportation to Zaya Nurai is provided via speed boats which operate every hour (from 10:30am – 11:30pm) from the departure point in front of Saadiyat Beach Residences.
The luxury getaway begins as soon as you arrive at the welcome centre. Where guest are greeted by the attentive staff and whisked away past natural mangroves, sandbanks and turquoise seas to a whole other world of luxury and exlusivity.
Arriving at this private eco-resort, it’s almost as though your worries have been left behind on the mainland. As the boat docks, all you can see is a crescent shaped sweep of golden sand and a number of boutique style villas perched upon the waters edge. Meanwhile large turquoise letters proclaim “LOVE” against a backdrop of swaying palm trees.
A stay at Zaya Nurai is the epitome of luxury and from the boat we were given a short tour of the island on our very own golf buggy, before arriving at our immaculate beachfront villa. A secret hideaway where relaxation is most definitely the name of the game.
The villas are absolutely stunning and we especially appreciated the fact that check-in takes place within your room – so no need to visit reception or wait for your bags – with the process completed in a matter of minutes. It’s the comfort of things like this that make a stay here so unique and is why the resort has such an impressive reputation.
Beach villas are spacious and the open-plan design allows the living space to flow perfectly into the sleeping area and bathing facilities. All fittings and fixtures are of the highest standard, from the dramatic rain shower, to what was quite possibly the deepest freestanding bath tub we have ever seen.
The room itself is brilliantly white, with hints of gold in the nautical theme decor. Pastel soft furnishings are off-set by the ultra-trendy furniture and backlit facades. Driftwood sculptures and towel swans continue the contemporary boutique vibe of the resort, as the Bose sound system pumps ambient music throughout the living space.
The beds are comfortable, beautifully large and strategically positioned in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. Providing unparalleled views over your private pool, to the beach and the ocean beyond.
Yes that’s correct, we said private pool! Each villa is quipped with its own infinity pool, meaning that you never really need to leave the comfort of your villa. Making it the perfect place for relaxation or a romantic getaway. It is this ethos of seclusion and serenity that make a stay at Zaya Nurai so appealing.
Aside from the pool there is a small dining area (that just screams “alfresco breakfast”), private garden, outdoor shower and shaded day bed – perfect for soaking up those rays beside the pool. We especially loved the pool’s surround with semi-submerged stepping stones, scattered with small cacti and we can honestly say that no photograph can do this place justice – you just have to go and see for yourself!
Best of all, the infinity pool leads straight down onto the golden sands of Nurai’s acclaimed private beach which gives way to shallow wave-free waters. The sea is a completely different colour and is so blue, that you could easily mistake it for the Caribbean. The clarity is so great that guests can see shoals of fish darting around in the water.Despite the beach being a communal space, we encountered absolutely no one else during our stay.
Stepping away from the beach, there is no doubt this is a natural island. Lush vegetation grows freely amongst the sandy pathways that criss-cross their way to the coast. An area that is easily traversable on foot, though those private golf buggies are only a WhatsApp away and can be called from anywhere on the island (where there is also unlimited free wifi).
Exploring the island is part of the fun and there are a number of beaches to explore, alongside the kids club, a library and a number of bars and restaurants, a shisha lounge and for the most exclusive of guests… a helipad!
As we explored we became enamoured with the quirkier touchers of this boutique resort. From the larger than life sculptures of apples and people that lay semi-submerged in the sand, to the private seating areas hidden in secluded nooks. At one point we even stumbled into an outdoor cinema in the area affectionately referred to as ‘the oasis.’
Zaya Nurai has the distinct feeling of ‘island life’ and relaxation is more than encouraged… It is a way of life. Staff are on hand to ensure that every need is catered for and guests are exceptionally well looked after.
For those looking to kick things up a notch, waterspouts are provided at an additional cost, or pedal bikes are free to use, allowing exploration of the island and its many surprises as your own (slow) pace.
The public pool is one of the nicest that we have encountered in the UAE. A large body of water surrounded by inviting daybeds, some of which are contained within woven birdcages. The infinity pool is the perfect place for a sundowner or to take a ride on the adult sized unicorn inflatable (we kid you not).
The quirkiness continues on one of the islands numerous small beaches with a giant pair of rose-tinted sunglasses. You could see these as a metaphor for your stay on the island – a place where only see the positive aspects and good things in life.
As the sun sets, the island takes on a completely different vibe as the trees are illuminated with hundreds of fairy lights and the swimming pools take on an ambient glow. The privacy of the villas with their separating walls, guarantees privacy and seclusion and makes a late night swim a very inviting prospect.
After an exceptional nights sleep there is nothing quite like waking up, to what is quite possibly, the nicest view in the Emirates. All we can really say is that a stay at Zaya Nurai is fully encouraged and we are already planning our next trip to this secluded hideaway of exclusive, lavish, luxury.
Ultimately, Zaya Nurai Island is the perfect place to unwind, get away from it all and do absolutely nothing… Or in our case, prepare ourselves for the next five weeks in which we will return to the UK. Call it our last bit of luxury if you must, but we can safely say that the luxury and exclusivity of this resort surpassed even our high expectations,
Zaya Nurai is undergoing an expansion at the moment with the addition of further food and beverage outlets, alongside a surf pool and other unannounced attractions. It would appear that there are some exciting times ahead for this private resort and we are excited to experience everything new that it has to offer.
For the pedantic there were a number of small issues. For a resort that is three years old, the exteriors could do with a lick of paint (obviously being weathered by the intense sun and ocean has taken its toll). Tiles were missing and not replaced close to the pool and we had a minor ant infestation in our villa. Speaking with the manager we were assured that these issues were not common and would be rectified during the summer close down of the island (Zaya Nuari is currently closed for maintenance until 15th August 2016). These issues are not something that are likely to ruin a stay but if you were paying full price for the room, then this is quite frankly unacceptable.
Location: Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi
Phone: 02 5066 212
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.