Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri
The Shangri-La is blessed with possibly the best view in Abu Dhabi, looking across the water to the imposing Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The look here is understated Arabian (except for the huge gold leaf lobby), and in total there are 214 spacious and very tastefully designed rooms and suites with either balconies or terraces looking out over that view, and with marble bathrooms.
There are five excellent restaurants, including Sofra, an all-day restaurant offering a seriously good quality buffet - not something that many hotels can claim. Hoi An specialises, as the name suggests, in Vietnamese food, while Bord Eau is the fine signature restaurant serving classic French haute cuisine. Shang Palace and Pearls & Caviar, serving high quality Chinese and Mediterranean seafood respectively, complete a mouth-watering culinary quintet.
The CHI Spa offers a range of treatments inspired by traditional Chinese healing therapies and there are five outdoor swimming pools, some for adults only.
Why We Love It
There is a well staffed 'recreation team' to take care of children but the chances are that little ones will just want to muck around on the half mile long beach. So will everyone else, for that matter.
Abu Dhabi wanted to make a big statement when it arrived onto the international tourist destination stage, and what better statement than the Emirates Palace?
Consider the stats: nearly £2 billion to build, a mile of private white sand beach, 210 acres of landscaped gardens and a building stretching a mere 0.6 miles from end to end. The only surprise is that there are 'only' 394 rooms and suites.
Once your brain has computed the size and scale of the project, it's time to jump on your bike (provided) to explore and enjoy some of the excellent facilities, including two luxurious pool areas, camel riding on the beach, four floodlit tennis courts, a brilliantly thought out and staffed kids zone, two gyms and a watersports centre offering sailing, snorkelling and windsurfing. After all that, you'll doubtless need some pampering at the Anantara Spa.
The ten onsite restaurants should cater to your particular passion, be that anything from top quality Italian cuisine, superfresh seafood, Hakkasan's superb sushi or delicious Lebanese specialities. A Cuban style cigar bar and another serving caviar complete the picture.
Big? yes. Brash? Undisputably. Brilliant? Actually, we think so, and even if you don't stay here, it's absolutely imperative that you come and have a gawp at the sheer chutzpah required to build such a place.
Why We Love It
It would be difficult to make the most of all the facilities at the hotel if you stayed a month, let alone a week or weekend, but fortunately the team of hotel butlers - complete with tails and bow ties - are on hand to explain what's on where and when, and to help unpack your bags and generally make the stay as pleasant as possible. Not that you'll need much help.
Located on a five mile long stretch of beach on Saadiyat Island, the Park Hyatt is in a fantastic position and pretty much has it all.
The 306 rooms are typically Modern Arabian, and minimalism is combined with Classical Islamic art. There are a range of room types - from the Sea View King to the swanky Royal Villa complete with plunge pools and outdoor shower - and all have balconies, high ceilings, Nespresso machines and freestanding baths.
There are three restaurants at the Park Hyatt, and a further three bars. The Park Bar & Grill serves everything from seafood and Asian specialities to delicious steaks; the Café focuses on Middle Eastern cuisine; and the Beach House offers Mediterranean food with spectacular views over Saadiyat beach.
The facilities - in true Abu Dhabi style - cover every base and there's pretty much something for everyone. The spa, Atarmia, offers a range of treatments and has a gym, steam room and sauna; and the Saadiyat Golf Club is just next door. There are also four pools (including a children's one), a tennis court, and watersports can be organised.
Why We Love It
With culture on the up in Abu Dhabi, this is the place to be. The Louvre is set to open on Saadiyat Island soon, but in the mean time guests are just a three minute taxi ride to Manarat Al Saadiyat, which holds fantastic exhibitions.
Desert Islands Resort & Spa By Anantara
Sir Bani Yas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi is home to one of the more Original hotels around. Once a private game reserve island owned by the late founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, the animals have remained, and the former Sheikh's lodge has been turned into an immaculate hotel.
Run by the excellent Anantara group, the hotel (where the Sheikh entertained guests) has 64 tasteful Arabic style rooms spread across four floors, and two restaurants, The Palm and Samak, serving up buffet breakfasts, lunches and a la carte dining. As this is a superb hotel for families, there are plenty of kids's favourite foods available on the various menus.
And speaking of families, this is, quite simply, the perfect place for parents wanting to introduce their children to the safari experience without longer haul flights to Africa and the tedium of malaria prevention.
The island's safari guides are extremely knowledgeable about the wildlife, the island and the region's history, and lead guests on fascinating game drives to see animals ranging from the critically endangered Arabian Oryx to ostrich, giraffes and even hyenas and cheetah, both of which were once indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula.
When not viewing game, guests can borrow mountain bikes, visit the Anantara spa or the new Watersports centre offering windsurfing, sailing, kayaking and with its own restaurant.
Why We Love It
Going on a game drive to see giraffes and cheetahs in Arabia might sound a bit, well, tacky, but trust us, it's one of the most brilliant beginner's guides to safari we've ever come across. The Original Travel consultant who visited recently, and who is an African safari expert, was pleasantly surprised.