Abu Dhabi’s undisputed beach resort champion is Saadiyat Island, sitting just to the north of the city centre and easily connected by freeway to Abu Dhabi’s International Airport and Dubai.
Not nearly as over the top as The Palm Jumeirah in neighbouring Dubai, Saadiyat Island has a growing reputation as one of the country’s most beautiful and exclusive beach resort zones; it’s hard to believe you are still in the heart of a major city.
What sets the resorts on Saadiyat Island aside from many of their competing resorts in Dubai and the Northern Emirates is their unbridled access to the Arabian Gulf waters – with real sand and real waves! But let’s look at each and see what additional facilities are available beyond the beach.
Our review looks at each of the resorts as you head West to East along the coast – you can use our easy reference map to see where they all sit along the coast:
The St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Nearest to Saadiyat’s Culture district, but bordered by an empty strip of beach, you get a great feeling of exclusion here yet you are still only a stone’s throw from the action.
The main hotel has a distinct Mediterranian style with Arabian touches, a huge airy lobby with beautiful Gulf views. Rooms are generously sized starting from 55sqm (and don’t forget your very own personal butler).
Families love it for the exceptional Sandcastles Kids Club offering an extensive range of activities as well as dedicated play spaces. There are five swimming pools spread over the resort including a dedicated lap pool and kids splash zone.
There are six bars and restaurants covering south-east Asian to Mediterranean cuisine, all of which serve up mouth-watering cuisine and include a variety of kids’ options. The breakfast served in the Olea restaurant is of an exceptionally high standard and the service is truly second to none.
The St. Regis offers both a luxurious escape for families and for couples. It’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion, or just treat yourself! We’d argue it’s the best all-rounder on Saadiyat Island and gets our top billing in 2021.
Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas
One of the newest openings, Saadiyat Rotana is proving a popular family choice with a great range of family-sized rooms as well as access to Aladdin’s Cave, the kids club which has a lazy river, splash pool, cinema zone, water slide and entertainment for your younger kids.
Housing 327 rooms as well as 13 beach villas, the resort is huge but well spread out over Saadiyat Beach. There are seven different options for dining from Italian to Gastropub, as well as a rooftop bar for catching those sunset views.
For parents and couples, there’s the outstanding Zen Spa to enjoy with 10 treatment rooms and a Hamman, as well as Bodylines gym, tennis courts and a mini-golf course.
This is our favourite Saadiyat hotel for a fun family getaway. The large family pool and variety of child-friendly dining options make the Saadiyat Rotana a real winner. It’s not overcrowded and has a chilled-out and relaxed atmosphere.
Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island
This palatial hotel is draped in opulence with a grand foyer and many touches true to the brand’s Turkish roots, making it one of the UAE’s ultimate luxury resorts.
What sets Rixos Premium apart from others is that they offer all-inclusive and ultra-all inclusive packages. This suits some to a tee, whilst others might find this a little overwhelming, especially at weekends when staycationers also join the crowds.
The crowds are well spread out though among the dozen bars and restaurants on-site. There are also tennis courts, a gym, Anjana Spa and wellness club and an extensive program of sports and activities to keep you busy too. Live performances and DJ’s supplement the entertainment offering.
Kids can access the Rixy Kids Club – supervised for 4 to 12-year-olds (babysitting can be additionally requested). One of the highlights of the resort is the mini aqua park and wave pool, making it one of Abu Dhabi’s best for families.
Room rates per night might appear a little more pricey than others but this is more than made up for in the meals and drinks. You’ll find Rixos is the best value offering on Saadiyat Island.
Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas
The Park Hyatt was one of Saadiyat’s first openings and has come to be known for its ultra-relaxing getaway from the city. You are nestled in between the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and the Saadiyat Public Beach.
One of the smaller hotels, it has a more intimate feel perhaps than the others, but none the less it’s on a grand scale like only Abu Dhabi does with the most spectacular landscaped gardens and a multitude of beautiful pools!
There are two bars and three restaurants including The Beach House restaurant which has one of Abu Dhabi’s best ocean views as well as delicious Mediterranean inspired food.
It doesn’t have as many family-friendly offerings as those around it (it does have a kids club and playground), making it our top choice if you are looking for a quiet couples retreat! We particularly love Atarmia Spa.
Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort
The most recent opening on Saadiyat and also the most isolated, it occupies its own stretch of silky white sand, adjacent to Saadiyat Beach Club at the eastern end of the island.
The hotel has a contemporary, quite futuristic interior filled with dangling glass installations yet still distinctly Arabic styling. There are 293 rooms available (include interconnecting and villas with private pools). Facilities include three swimming pools, a 400m stretch of beach and tennis courts.
There is no shortage of food options with seven on-site restaurants, a poolside bar and room service.
It has one of Saadiyat’s most extensive spas with 15 treatment rooms and kids are not forgotten either with complimentary kids and teens clubs (for over 4’s).
*For all the Saadiyat Island Hotels listed make sure you look out for breakfast inclusion and taxes when comparing prices.
Is there a budget hotel offering on Saadiyat Island?
Not really. The cheapest offers apply only to single rooms and start around 750AED per night, excluding meals and taxes. Saadiyat is all about luxury and relaxation, these come with a price tag.
It is well worth keeping your eyes out for specials though, residents may be able to scoop up a bargain in off-peak seasons (ie, when it is incredibly hot outside in July/August, or the middle of winter when the Gulf is too cold for swimming!)
If it’s budget and value offering you are looking for, you are better looking to neighbouring Yas Island including the likes of Centro Yas Island by Rotana and Park Inn by Radisson put up some great budget deals with access to Yas Beach.
Alternatively, if you still want a little bit of beach but closer to the city Le Meridien Abu Dhabi can be a good option under 500AED or Traders Hotel Qaryat al Beri on the Grand Canal with views of the Grand Mosque and a little bit of beach frontage – you can find all the best beach hotels in Abu Dhabi here.
If you just want a daycation, Saadiyat Beach Club is a popular day pass option. Giving you all the same views, service and meals as the luxury hotels just without the cost of the overnight stay thrown in.
Please note that advance booking is currently necessary at beach clubs in Abu Dhabi due to COVID-19 restrictions.
What else is there to do on Saadiyat Island?
Culture & Museums
Saadiyat’s greatest claim to fame so far is being home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It is part of a mammoth cultural district project planned for Saadiyat Island. The project has stalled in recent years due to the economic climate but there are still grand plans to add additional world-class museums.
In the meantime, the Louvre has proved a huge success and well worthy of inclusion in your Abu Dhabi itinerary, the building alone is a stunning masterpiece.
Our complete guide to how to visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi here.
Don’t miss Manarat Al Saadiyat too. As well as permanent and rotating exhibitions, this multi-purpose art space is used for live performances, photography workshops and an art studio for adults and children. Many of these events are offered free of charge.
You will also find nearby New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on Saadiyat Island who run extensive exhibits and community programs throughout the year.
Recreation & Amusement Parks
Saadiyat Beach Golf Club must be one of the most stunning courses in the world (part of the Troon Golf network). The 18-hole course overlooking the Arabian Gulf was designed by Gary Player, taking into account the island’s natural beauty and a focus on eco-consciousness.
The course includes three saltwater lakes and over 60 bunkers, also making it one of the country’s most challenging. The clubhouse includes a popular terrace event venue taking in some of Saadiyat’s best views, with dining available at Hawksbill restaurant.
Saadiyat Island is only a stone’s throw away from Yas Island. Home to the famous Yas Island Marina Circuit (hosting the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each November), it’s also where you will find Abu Dhabi’s BIG THREE popular theme parks – Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World.
Anyone visiting with kids will definitely want to check out this award-winning collection and the nearby Yas Marina, home to many superyachts and a vibrant strip of bars and restaurants.
Wildlife on Saadiyat Island
Saadiyat Island is home to the critically endangered Hawksbill Turtle. During the breeding season, many of the hotels listed above have additional programs, and each engages in their own way between nature and the community. Hatching sites are protected by strict environmental measures and are patrolled by trained personnel who continually monitor the reproduction of the turtles.
You can also capture more of Abu Dhabi’s marine life at adjacent Jubail Island and the Jubail Mangrove Park.
There is a section of Saadiyat Island reserved as public beach frontage. Saadiyat Beach is accessed by a road adjacent to the Park Hyatt. Here you can look to rent beach chairs and umbrellas, or simply pull up your towel on the pristine white sands. Do note that the dunes are a protected area due to the wildlife that calls them home. You will find a protective boardwalk along the edge of the beach.
This section of the beach is currently closed but you can visit Soul Beach also located on Saadiyat Island, part of the newly opened Mamsha Al Saadiyat complex. It is open to the public although a daily charge is applied for use of the deck chairs and umbrellas.
If you’re interested in a luxury beachfront apartment during your stay in Abu Dhabi, you will find plenty of Al Mamsha properties listed through platforms such as Booking.com, well worth considering as an alternative to the luxury resorts.
This post has been adapted with permission from an original article published on familytravel-middleeast.com.
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