Abu Dhabi’s Al Raha Beach Hotel is a grand resort situated on a pleasant stretch of private coastline on the outskirts of the capital. Forming part of the Danat Hotel brand, the pink hued building has fast become one of the ‘go to’ destinations for a relaxing staycation due to it’s mammoth pool and relaxing ambiance.
We’re not going to lie. Our family staycation at the Al Raha Beach Hotel got off to a bit of a rocky start. With it being the extended weekend (due to Islamic New Year), we couldn’t get our car into the valet parking and armed with a heavy suitcase and two young children, we made our way into the reception area which like the valet, was heaving with people!
Check-in was painfully slow, though we were appeased with a refreshing lemon mint drink and frequent apologies from the hotel staff. From there things improved drastically and it was smooth sailing for the rest of our 24 hour break.
Al Raha Beach Hotel is a five star property perfectly in keeping with it’s private beachside location. Despite the reception area being family gloomy, it does have some charming characteristics, mainly the large stained glass ceiling (accented in gold) and the slender indoor palm trees. The hotel is full of old world charm and feels far more rustic than modern, due to an abundance of dark wood and granite materials used throughout the property. Plush textured carpets and colourful mosaic floors take on the spiral motif of a seashell, while fresh floral blooms are placed strategically throughout communal areas to add splashes of colour.
We were allocated room 149 in the new extension on the hotel’s ground floor. Next to a striking water feature of fluorescent vases that visually set the tone of relaxation that was to represent our stay. The first thing you notice when entering the rooms is that they are particularly narrow with beautifully high ceilings. Off to the left, guests will find a spacious marble bathroom, complete with free-standing tub and separate monsoon shower. A porthole separates the bathroom from the living area to create a feeling of open-plan freedom and the translucency of this, can be changed to add privacy when required.
Rooms are decked out in an autumnal colour scheme and are comfortably furnished, if somewhat sparse. Our grand gulf room (suitable for two adults and two children) comprised a queen bed, small sofa and reading area. Outside, a private balcony with love seat (for reading, or in our case a post-brunch nap) overlooks leafy gardens and those spectacular sea views. At 66SQM it was more than enough space for our young family but with the pool and beach on the doorstep, we didn’t really spend much time in the room.
Fountains feature prominently outside and as you approach the beach area, a bridge leads from the hotels basement level, through lush gardens with flowering frangipani trees. All the while, the unique coin shaped structure of the Aldar HQ building (the world’s first circular skyscraper) sits on the horizon, acting as a reminder that you’re still in the architecturally impressive UAE and not on a tropical island somewhere.
The beach utilities a narrow stretch of sand and a shallow channel of water well. With loungers in abundance, guests have the option to relax on the sand under the comfort of wooden parasols or to swing lazily in the sunshine upon a hammocks. You can’t go wrong with either option, as both call for some seriously relaxing vibes.
This is essentially the reason that guests flock to Al Raha Beach Hotel for a chance to chill out. With little to offer other than the pool and beach, it’s the perfect place for families and those looking to do little else other than unwind.
Water-sports are feely available and include pedalo’s, kayaks and a banana boat. Though guests may be slightly put off by the sludgy sand that has the consistency of concrete. Unfortunately this is the nature of manmade beaches and the on-going construction off=shore (though no fault of the hotel) may be distracting for guests – with the sounds of diggers and pommelling reverberating across the otherwise tranquil waters. The beach seems to be less popular with guests than the newly renovated pool area.
What a pool it is! Over the summer months, Al Raha’s large swimming oasis has been upgraded with a fresh new look. The pool’s flooring has been replaced with Iralian mosaics that look spectacular beneath the new LED lighting system. We were informed that an ‘enhanced hydraulic movement system’ has been installed to provide guests with pristine flowing water all day long. Which in layman’s terms means that this new pool is rather spectacular.
Firstly the pool is huge and has a unique shape, meaning there are plenty of secluded alcoves for a spot of in-pool sunbathing. At the deep end (which is really deep at 2m), the infinity pool cascades over the sides and looks directly out to the ocean, making it difficult to differentiate from the two seemingly endless bodies of water.
Large urns sprout shrubbery and feels almost like a Venetian mansion, with its swim up bar and comfortable seating. Walkways jut out into the pool and providing isolated spots for sun-loungers overlooking the private beach a few short meters away. By definition, this is about as serene as it gets.
Brunch At Sevilla:
Most hotels generally have a signature restaurant that is used to attract outside customers as well as in-house guests. This is a problem that Al Raha Beach Hotel faces, as there are no real ‘dining destinations’ to speak. Instead guests have access to a standard mix of all-day-dining options and casual poolside fare and despite these outlets offering generally good food, we wish there was a signature restaurant with a little more wow factor.
Sevilla was our only encounter with the hotel prior to our stay, having brunched there about two years ago. Little has changed with the passing of time and this large restaurant found in a glass atrium just off the lobby, continues to churn out a variety of international fare as part of it’s weekly brunch. With nice views over the pool / beach from it’s elevated position, Sevilla may not offer as large a spread as some of it’s competitors but there are some great dishes to be found and the selection is certainly versatile.
Consistency is good in terms of both food quality and service but the band are unfortunately in need of some improvements (the rendition of Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop The Feeling is likely to haunt us for a long time). With the start of, October Sevilla have brought Oktoberfest to the restaurant complete with German flags and bunting.
The brunch buffet is divided into themes, with Asian and European strongly represented. We appreciated the inclusion of local dishes such as Emirati Machaboos and unique items we’ve not seen elsewhere in the city, like swordfish carpaccio. Our favorite though, were the tandoori prawns and the pasta live-cooking station. In which cheese direct from a large parmesan wheel is used to create a white sauce of such creamy intensity that we dare you not to be impressed.
In keeping with the family-friendly vibe of the hotel. Kids have their own buffet with everything from sliders to cotton candy. An obligatory chocolate factory stands front and centre in the dessert section that relies heavily on Umm Ali, made to order creme brûlées and apple strudel.
With it being relatively quiet when we brunched. The team of chefs really went out of their way to ensure guests were enjoying the food, offering to whip up soufflés or anything else that guests may fancy. Though tempted, we were too full to accept.
The thing that really works at the Al Raha Beach Hotel is how perfectly it’s geared towards families. Little ones are front and centre with a kids club (full of fun games, activities and movies) playground and their very own swimming pool. The shallow and fully shaded pool includes a play structure and water jets, meaning that it’s more of a splash park and is a probably the busiest part of the entire property.
Body & Soul:
The body and soul health club has a state of the art fitness centre, beauty salon, squash courts and an indoor aqua-medic pool. This pool is the only one that we’re aware of in the capital and is full of medicinal steams, soothing aromas and massage jets. Strictly for adults it makes for the perfect place to escape for an hour or so.
Body and soul offers complimentary use of sauna, steams rooms and hot tubs and treatments are available for an additional fee.
As night falls the atmosphere switches up. Basking in the reflection of the LED illuminated pool, guests are encouraged to enjoy a sundowner or a spot of shisha at La Piscine. The area surrounding the pool is very atmospheric with an outdoor kitchen and palm trees wrapped in fairy lights. An energetic Columbian band provides live-music that is bound to get guests into the holiday mood and on their feet dancing.
It’s important to re-iterate the family focus of the hotel again, as children are well catered for with lots of space to run around and a team of staff who always put the little ones first. The casual dining at the pool bar was an absolute pleasure because our children were enjoying themselves too, which in turn, meant that we could eat in relative comfort.
Alternative dining options include Mediterranean seafood restaurant Azur, The Black Pearl (sounding like a pirate’s hangout) with it’s ‘under-lit optic’ bar, Cafe Mozart for coffee and cake or the lively McGettigan’s. A place with a warehouse sized interior that feels part nightclub and part gentleman’s library. McGetty’s (as it’s affectionately known) is the part of the hotel with the most personality and has good pub grub and the expected drink promotions associated with an Irish bar. Packed to the rafters with airport staff, Khalifa City residents and hotel guests – this is the place to be at Raha Beach.
With the kids waning, staff at La Piscine were more than happy to transfer our desserts and post-dinner drinks to the room. Passing back through the lobby music is provided in the evenings by a resident harpist and we arrived at the room to the most beautiful turn-down service. Our living area and bathroom had been scattered with red rose petals and purple orchid flowers. Towel swans were presented on the bed with complimentary soft toys for the children. Room 149 certainly looked like a wild menagerie.
With staff plentiful around the hotel and surrounding grounds, guest are always greeted and treated with the utmost courtesy. For those on longer stays looking to explore, a tour desk can arrange trips and excursions including the popular desert safari. A must if you’re in Abu Dhabi as it provides a chance to see the desert and experience Bedouin hospitality and Emirati culture… plus camels!
The hotel is connected to Al Raha Mall so those on the lookout for cheaper eats, a supermarket, trip to the cinema or a spot of shopping are well catered for.
For us, the Al Raha Beach Hotel exemplifies the perfect spot for a quick getaway. Despite its out of the way location ( though close to the amenities of Raha Beach, Al Muneera, Al Bandar and Masdar) the focus is strictly on family fun and is great for those looking to sit at the pool or beach all day.
We were invited to stay at the Al Raha Beach Hotel. All views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE except room photo.