Abu Dhabi has fast become the UAE’s place to be for Australians thanks to Etihad Airways enhanced services to Europe and a rising number of awards, attractions and top-notch hotels opening their doors.
After spending some time in the bleak European winter, my family and I checked in to the Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas to thaw out en-route back to Australia via Abu Dhabi.
What did we think? Read on.
CHECK-IN & BEYOND
Set on Saadiyat Island on the Arabian peninsula, and connected by a new highway to the mainland, the Saadiyat Rotana is only a speedy half an hour drive from Abu Dhabi’s International Airport.
This is a great thing when you’ve got two little boys (aged 9 and 5) who after an eye scratching overnight flight just want to devour the buffet and splash around in the pool to their heart’s content before they crash and burn.
Part art gallery, part hotel lobby, the spaciously cool and calming marble and glass foyer of the five-star Saadiyat Rotana welcomes you gently with an insane panoramic view of the hotels’ own nine-kilometre white, sandy beach, softly swaying palm trees and the uninterrupted blue yonder.
In so many ways, this little piece of refined paradise has captured the ‘beach club’ vibe perfectly rather than being ‘just another big resort’ with a relaxed atmosphere and staff who appear to float around in their crisp white shorts and navy polo shirts with big smiles on their faces.
With 327 rooms and suites and 13 beach villas, this giant sandcastle is set around an enormous lagoon pool adorned with tasteful bronze turtles, vibrant orange cabanas, fragrant teak sun loungers and a snaking wooden boardwalk that stretches out to the beach and ocean.
We stayed on the ground floor in a 40sqm beach house-inspired ‘Classic room’ which featured an understated beige and wood design. Wonderfully cool and comfortable, the room had a large open-plan bathroom with freestanding tub and walk-in rain shower, a 49-inch flat-screen TV and a balcony that opened out onto the mini-golf course.
While the resort is big, it’s well designed with beautifully manicured gardens and is easy to walk around minus any bothersome golf buggies noisily ferrying people at all hours of the day.
FOOD & DRINKS
With seven different dining venues to choose from, you won’t be short of culinary options with 24-hour in-room dining service to come to the rescue should you feel ‘jet lag’ peckish in the wee hours.
The buffet breakfast is particularly ridiculous with heavenly delights on offer for every palate. Our faves included the Indian and Arabian stations, the pancake station and naturally, the ultimate chocolate fountain station. One of Abu Dhabi’s “new wonders” according to my youngest son.
The Si Ristorante Italiano & Bar was another stand out with a delicious range of Italian classics, wood-fired pizzas and a cheese room that will no doubt impress even the most puritan Parmesano guests.
The Turtle Bay Bar & Grill features a stunning rooftop bar complete with DJ spinning the sunset tunes, and steaks and seafood on the menu for the hungry, while the English themed Hamilton’s Gastropub has a good range of craft beers on offer and as we found, some enthusiastic staff on hand to play foosball with.
And if you want more casual, the giant beanbags of the poolside Nasma beachfront bar await to sink into while grazing on snacks or sipping a sunset cocktail.
THINGS TO DO
Being a beach club styled resort and one especially popular with Euro’s, the principal focus here is moving slowly and kicking back for some severe sun-worshipping or wallowing in the bath-like waters of the Arabian Sea.
The ever-helpful poolside crew will even bring you a sun lounger befriending Esky filled with ice-cold water and refreshing cold towels to alleviate the heat while you laze and bake to your heart’s content.
To keep you feeling trim, there are Bodylines Fitness classes in the gym and tennis, Kayak Eastern Mangrove tours for the more adventurous or the Zen Spa for people who enjoy more horizontal paced pursuits. In season (April – September), you can even see endangered hawksbill turtles lay their (protected) eggs on the beach.
When it comes to entertaining the restless ones, the included Aladdin’s Cave dedicated Kids Club is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
With loads of art and creative stuff, movies, PlayStations and books inside to floating in tubes in the lazy river, a splash pool, cinema zone, teen zone and a water slide outside, no-one is going to get bored here.
It’s also open until 8pm so you can enjoy some well deserved ‘parent downtime’.
Ready to explore Abui Dhabi? Everything is close: The stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi (my favourite) is just eight minutes away, while the must-see Grand Mosque (my wife’s love) is only a 30-minute drive.
Yas Island’s Warner Bros. World, Yas Waterworld water park (the boys favourite) and Ferrari World are also only 20 minutes away, and you can even ride the hotel’s free Yas Island shuttle to get there. Bonus.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas is a stylish beach haven to kick back and relax in for nature lovers who desire to be near the ocean but also all of Abu Dhabi’s attractions. We really enjoyed the remote feeling of staying on an island resort but having plenty of options on our doorstep for impromptu adventures too.
This hotel is an excellent choice for families, but beware, it is a tad on the pricey side.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Rooms start from around AU$365 a night for a Classic Room. Find out more: www.rotana.com
Etihad Airways flies daily from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane to Abu Dhabi.
Find out more: www.etihadairways.com.au
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