It is absolutely no secret that we have a severe dislike for the E11 highway, a road that crosses barren desert on route from Abu Dhabi to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dodging trucks, while passing endless salt flats, oil wells and the occasional small town is not the way in which most would choose to spend their weekend. Additionally, the road is currently undergoing major reconstruction to allow for the Etihad rail link that will eventually provide the GCC region with train transportation.
Those brave enough to endure the 260km journey from the capital, will discover that the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort is well worth the perilous journey. A place of luxury, seclusion and relaxation and the ultimate UAE beach destination.
Two and a half hours after departing Abu Dhabi we arrived at Jebel Dhanna to discover a large hotel that appears to be brand new, despite that fact that it opened over a decade ago. Passing a large set of wooden double doors, guests arrive in the impressive lobby, an area flanked by large glass windows that look out across the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Fittingly, the hotel has a distinct ocean theme. From the curvature of the blue tiled mosaics upon the floor, to the imagery of turtles, jellyfish and manatees that hangs above the elevators. The attention to detail is evident, with a central light fitting taking the shape of a prickly blue sea urchin, as if it has escaped from the deepest depths of the ocean and now resides on the hotel’s ceiling. The undersea imagery is tastefully integrated into the architecture of the building, as though a large ocean wave has swept through the hotel and left the remnants of the seabed within.
Danat Jebel Dhanna is a beautiful hotel and one that feels refreshing. The ambiance is light and breezy and the design of the lobby draws the gaze out across immaculately tended gardens to the beckoning ocean.
The staff were just as warm as the weather outside, greeting us with smiles and friendly chit chat. Everyone we had the pleasure of interacting with seemed to really take pride in their jobs and many had been with the hotel since its inception (now thats staff retention for you). This feeling was exemplified by the check-in staff, who provided cold towels and the traditional Arabic beverage of lemon mint – a much needed refreshment after all that time on the road! It was the small touches, such as the reception staff taking us up to the room which displayed the warm hospitality of the resort, combined with an extensive tour of the hotel and grounds.
Our room was located on the fourth floor and the undersea vibe continued with urchin wall lights and a carpet that resembled knotted fishing nets. The room exceeded all expectations, with a large double bed, small comfortable seating area, writers desk and wardrobe. Though it was difficult to take note of these individual elements with such a fantastic view.
All rooms at Danat Jebel Dhanna have sea views and what a view it is! Green lawns, white sands and deep blue waters make for an image that wouldn’t be out of place on a postcard. With spacious balconies that encourage lounging, we were truly in awe of the pristine natural location.
The naturalness of the oceanfront, appears to seep into the very fabric of the room, with seashell artwork,in addition to vases of fresh flowers and potted plants sitting neatly on shelves. Wooden latticed blinds provide atmospheric shadows and ample shade, while still letting the cool breeze and sound of bird song emanate throughout the room.
All the expected mod cons are present, from the nespresso machine through to an iron and safe. The bathroom is also tastefully decorated in light stone and fresh cut flowers laid on towels and amongst toiletries.
Despite being a weekend, the hotel was surprisingly quiet and even though it’s a self-contained resort there is plenty to explore. Feeling inexplicably drawn to the hypnotic pull of the ocean waves, the outside area was obviously our first stop. The hotel itself sits on a staggeringly beautiful stretch of beach and is set slightly aback from the ocean, amongst beautifully tended gardens. The lawns provide plenty of space for children to roam and despite an abundance of palm trees, the sweet smell of frangipani with its pretty white flowers can be found everywhere.
Small paths criss-cross through the gardens and hedgerows, leading towards a children’s playground (gated and shaded from the sun) and a shisha gazebo, complete with Arabic lanterns and majlis style cushioned seating. At the far end of the grounds lie a number of self contained private villas, ideal for larger families who want to add an extra touch of luxury to their stay. As we slowly succumbed to the resorts appeal, we no longer felt as though we were in the UAE any more.
Now the main reason that people will visit Jebel Dhanna is for the beach and it is hands down the nicest beach in the UAE. Being a natural beach, you have pristine white sands and shallow turquoise waters, in a picturesque setting that could easily be mistaken for the tropical islands of the Maldives.
With a family-friendly vibe that makes the resort a very attractive option for a staycation, parents can lounge under umbrellas sipping on a cocktail served within a coconut an children can play in the warm shallow waters that are oh so inviting. The immaculate beach makes the horrific journey all the more worthwhile and the resort is you reward, a chance to experience a small glimpse of paradise.
The beach area is understandably romantic, with coupled sun loungers evenly spaced along the vast sweep of sand. Seclusion is the name of the game here and guests will feel a real sense of privacy at the resort, as if the hotel is a secret just waiting to be discovered. Don’t believe us? Just look at these pictures:
During late afternoons the tide goes out so far, that the beach becomes even more appealing. The white sands are littered with very few shells and the waters are so clear, that its possible to walk out for half a mile and still be waist deep and able to view the bottom of the sea, as small fish crowd around your feet.
Poolside offers a swim up bar (a must) and sun beds with shaded canopies, much like a babies pram. The pool itself is large and has a separate area that is shallow and shaded for the little ones. If the pool is not for you, then why not participate in a spot of beach volleyball or a game of giant chess? Better still, even if you are not a guest of the hotel, day passes for full use of fascinates start at a very reasonable 100 AED. A popular option with Western families living in the nearby town of Ruwais.
A staycation in Jebel Dhanna is primarily about relaxation, and the hotels health club ‘body and soul’, has you covered for spa treatments and sauna/steam room needs. We indulged in a thirty minute back massage which can only be described as divine and best of all, kids could play in the indoor playroom (complete with soft toys, colouring and video games) while the adults are being pampered. Within the health club is a gym and those fantastic ocean vistas (visible from every corner of the gym), should certainly be motivation enough to spend some time working out. There is also ‘glamour’ a ladies salon and just next door is Lattitude sports bar, with great promotions such as BBQ night (60 AED) and San Miguel night (with beverages starting at 15 AED).
The resort has countless food and beverage options and arriving on a Friday, we were delighted to discover that the hotel offers not one… but two Friday brunches! With the options of international buffet at Tides all-day-dining restaurant or a beachside barbecue – can you guess which one we picked?
The beachside barbecue was set-up in a shaded gazebo right on the sand with seating for only a handful of people. The relatively small size really helped to add to the intimacy of the dining experience and although we may have said it one hundred times already, those ocean views had us captivated. As did the food, with a nice selection of fresh salads and grilled meats. The selected options were not to heavy for the outside temperature (pushing 44 degrees) though we would have like a little bit more seafood on the barbecue.
All salads and fresh fruits are kept on ice to ensure complete freshness and meats are barbecued in front of you by the chef. With fish, steak, lamb chops and cajun chicken available, we thoroughly enjoyed the beach barbecue and the casual dining experience that it offered. Not forgetting to mention some killer profiteroles.
Returning to the room for a little siesta, we were pleasantly suprised to find a number of gifts from the Danat team. A plate of sweet treats like chocolate covered strawberries, Arabic sweets, a brownie and some delightful coloured macaroons. Yet this was not all, there was also a bowl of fresh fruits (the healthy choice) and a bottle of wine. It is the personal touches such as these, which make guests feel special and we certainly appreciated the thought.
Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t offer sunset views (the sun sets behind the hotel), but as dusk approached, the hotel quietened down as the day-trippers headed home. With nothing but the sound of ocean waves drifting though the windows, we started to feel a sense of just how isolated we were. With the kids in tow, we were unable to venture down to the bar, but the hotel were kind enough to send us a section of cocktails to the room instead. Our surprise arrival included mojito, frozen strawberry daiquiri and piña colada, which were enjoyed on the balcony as the kids slept.
Day two we were up early and got to dine at Tides. The breakfast buffet was quite extensive featuring all your favourites such as waffles, pancakes, cold cuts, breads and more. Yet there were some wild card items for a breakfast buffet like sushi and chilli beef tacos (which were really good). What surprised us further, was the fact that returning to the same venue for lunch a few hours later, the menu had been completely transformed with a plethora of different options. Kudos to the team at Tides for keeping things interesting. The highlights of lunchtime service were the beef teriyaki and the chilli fish, plus any of the seemingly hundreds of miniature dessert options.
Before departing the resort, we just knew that we had to get out on the ocean for a bit of water sporting fun. With everything from sea kayaking to windsurfing on offer, the self contained resort really does have it all. We had planned for snorkelling but with the waters being slightly choppy we instead opted for a boat tour (with the chance of seeing dolphins) and a spot of kayaking. Out on the ocean waves it was easy to forget our worries, with the area surrounding Jebel Dhanna being the gateway to the wildlife reserve of Sir Bani Yas Island and the historical attractions of Delma Island (both of which can be arranged as day trips from the hotel).
The Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort comes highly recommended for families looking to escape the city. It is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway and everything that guests could possibly require is on site. With warm and friendly staff, luxurious rooms and a fantastic beach. We cannot recommend Danat Jebel Dhanna enough.
Location: Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, Jebel Dhanna, Western Region, Abu Dhabi
Phone: 02 801 2222
We were invited to stay at the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort but all views are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE, unless otherwise stated.
Read more of Out & About UAE’s adventures in the Western Region: Exploring Sir Bani Yas Island / Tackling Tal Moreeb: The World’s Tallest Sand Dune