“One of the world’s most incredible island resorts.” Conde Nast
After first visiting the beautiful Zaya Nurai Island with GuavaPass last month it seemed a great idea to return with my family. What better way to celebrate a December birthday which luckily happened to fall on a Friday, than on a private island just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. This perfect slice of paradise may only be a twelve minute boat ride from the welcome centre on Saadiyat Island but it feels like you have landed in the Maldives or some other idyllic Indian Ocean atoll.
Zaya Nurai Island (from the Arabic word ‘Nur’ meaning light) is a boutique resort located on a previously uninhabited two-mile long island in the Arabian Gulf. The brainchild of Emirati Nadia Zaal it opened in February 2015 and has gone from strength to strength with much praise from the world travel press and attracting many celebrity guests. The island offers its day visitors and longer staying guests a slice of island life, a place to relax and rejuvenate. This purpose-built haven offers guests pristine beaches, swimming pools, a spa, sports and water sport activities as well as various dining options, top-notch luxury villas and exclusive water villas.
We had booked Friday Brunch which included full island access for the whole day and return boat transfers. The island is divided into different areas with brunch served near the North beach pool area in the tranquil Frangipani restaurant. A contemporary affair with a predominantly white interior with natural elements interspersed with blue accents. Modern exposed light bulbs, bold art and rustic furniture complete the neutral decor, the overall vibe is laidback as it the dress code or as Nurai call it, barefoot chic.
Although beautifully presented and well laid out the brunch was quite underwhelming especially considering the high price tag. Choices were quite limited particularly for vegetarians unless you wanted salad. I was given chicken spring rolls instead of vegetable by a chef despite asking for clarification. Seafood eaters had the best selection, the publicisted a la carte table options were replaced with a BBQ cooked on the lawn (due to good weather conditions I assume) outside the restaurant but the meat eaters found the offerings not the greatest in terms of quality.
However on a positive note the Mexican selection and free-flowing drinks went down well (with some more than others) and the dessert section was also good, as it’s a family brunch there was a dedicated children’s corner too. Drinks are served from 12 noon at the pool area while the buffet style brunch is served in the restaurant and on the outdoor terrace from 12:30pm.
Ginger Mermaid pool bar is also located in this area, an upmarket pool bar serving signature mixology and bar bites such as sliders, sushi and sashimi. Located near the arrival jetty, Dusk is the place for sundowners and Mexican cuisine designed to share such as guacamole, tapas and ceviche. As its name implies, Hooked is a seafood restaurant offering the fresh catch of the day and a menu filled with seasonal dishes and a regional twist. The Book Cellar is a library and wine cellar with a relaxed vibe that offers a selection of games. Whether you choose the communal or a quiet corner you are sure to enjoy the variety of artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and accompanying premium beverages.
The Nurai Spa is a holistic place to unwind and de-stress, an all-white sanctuary by the sea offering treatments using only 100% fragrant oils, natural and pure products. With wellness firmly in mind the island also offers private and group yoga, meditation, tai chi and pilates sessions. The gym is open 24/7 equipped with the latest equipment and fitness instructor on hand for guidance and personal training requirements.
Tennis courts are located near Smokin Pineapple and bikes are available to cycle around the island. As this is a family-friendly island there is a kids club for all the younger members of the family (4-12 years) to enjoy while giving parents a well earned respite. Petit Z Club offers a range of arts and crafts as well as nature and sporting activities. There is also an outdoor cinema in the Oasis area and while we were there a large Christmas tree and festive kiosk serving hot chocolate.
Boho beach club, Smokin Pineapple, is located on the Southern side which can be reached by bike, golf cart or on foot. Relax in a hammock slung between swaying palm trees, swing out across the ocean or just relax in a tepee on the beach amidst the dreamcatchers. Those looking for some adventure can try the surf pool or the range of non-motorised water sports such as stand up paddle boarding (SUP), windsurfing, sea kayaking or hire a jet ski or go kite surfing (also available on North Beach near Ginger Mermaid).
The island offers a selection of six different accommodation choices to cater for all party sizes and budgets from beachfront one bedroom villas to huge five-bedroom Estate Villas nestled around around the island’s perimeter that sleep up to twelve people. All Nurai villas have a private pool/s and terrace, floor to ceiling windows to maximise the view, 24-hour butler service . As expected they are also furnished to the highest standard with stylish interiors mixing natural linens with distressed wood and equipped with the latest technology.
Zaya Nurai Island is not only the most heavenly of places for a day trip or staycation but also for international visitors looking for an island retreat in the UAE. The Island, which it just about to celebrate its third anniversary, has already made quite an impression on the global luxury boutique hotel market. World Travel Market and International awards have been won and there’s accolades aplenty from the international travel press including being named by CN Traveller as one of ‘The World’s 41 Most Incredible Private Islands’ alongside some very prestigious company, the best part it’s right on our doorstep.
Zaya Nurai Island
Location: GPS 24° 36.880′, 54° 28.567’
Boat transfers** depart from the welcome centre at Saadiyat Island starting at 9:30am and run every hour until 11:30pm. Transfers from the island start from 9:00am and run every hour until 11:00pm. Guests must be at the waiting area 10 minutes before the required boat departure time.
Telephone: 971 (0) 2 5066 222
Friday Brunch – 12 noon until 4:00pm (buffet starts at 12:30pm)
AED 550* per person (non-alcoholic package), AED 650* per person (alcoholic brunch with sparkling, white and red wine, selected cocktails, pouring spirits and beer) or AED 750* per person (alcoholic brunch with champagne, white and red wine, selected cocktails, pouring spirits and beer). Children aged 4 to 12 years receive a 50% discount and 3 and under are free of charge.
These prices are inclusive of pre and post brunch pool and beach access as well as return boat transfers. *Price is subject to 10% service charge, 6% tourism fee, 4% municipality fee and 5% VAT.
**Boat transfers outside the scheduled transfer times can be arranged at a supplement. Advance notice will be required to accommodate any private transfer request – please contact the island for further information and costs.
Read more about Zaya Nurai Island in my previous post GuavaPass x Lipton Tea Yoga Class | Zaya Nurai Island
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Three additional photos used courtesy of www.zayanuraiisland.com