Taking time off is the best you can do for your peace of mind.” Unknown

Who would have thought that over a year later we would still be facing travel restrictions due to the ongoing global pandemic. But here we are and luckily us Abu Dhabi residents have a variety of luxury hotels and resorts to visit within our emirate. Here’s six ideas for some Eid al-Fitr staycations, road trips and desert experiences…..

Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island

Just a couple of hours drive into Abu Dhabi’s remote Al Gharbia Region and accessible only by boat you will discover Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island. The resort offers visitors the choice of three distinctly different luxury experiences; the fortress-style Desert Islands Resort hotel, a savannah style experience at Al Sahel Resort or ocean front villas on the beach at Al Yamm Resort.

Sir Bani Yas Island is a place to relax and reconnect with nature. The island was a vision of the late Sheikh Zayed to conserve the area for future generations and part of his ‘Greening of the Desert’ initiative. Visitors can enjoy a guided visit of the wildlife park, a sanctuary to a variety of free-roaming native and non-indigenous animals and spot marine life including turtles and dolphins in the coastal waters. Book a massage at the Anantara spa, snorkel in the crystal blue ocean, kayak in the mangroves, rent a paddleboard, take a boat trip to a shipwreck or cycle the island at sunset ……. read more

Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island, Al Ruwais, Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Telephone: 02 801 5400 www.anantara.com/en/sir-bani-yas-abu-dhabi

Jebel Hafit Desert Park

Jebel Hafit Desert Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located at the base of Al Ain’s Jebel Hafeet mountain. The site offers visitors the chance to get back to nature in the rugged mountainous landscape with either glamping or camping experiences. Glamping wise there two options, luxury dome tents and futuristic bubbles both with ensuite bathrooms. Nearby in a little valley there’s also traditional Emirati Bedouin tents and a public camping site where you can pitch your own tent, both these options have shared bathroom facilities.

The glamping tents have their own fire pits (top tip: bring your own firewood) and it’s a great spot for some nighttime stargazing. Dining is limited as you would expect, just one food truck with an adjacent seating area. Continental breakfast is included in the dome and bubble tents room rate. There’s also the option for in-room dining deliveries with a menu that includes shawarmas, burgers, fries and drinks etc. Bring a disposable bbq if you want to cook your own food. 

The site itself is ripe for exploring with historical and archaeological treasures and outdoor activities such as camel and horse rides, mountain biking, guided hikes and for the more adventurous, off-road ATV experiences. Explore the Al Ain area further by taking a drive up Jebel Hafeet, visiting Al Ain oasis or Al Ain zoo ……. read more

Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Mezyad District, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Telephone: 03 711 8362 visitabudhabi.ae/en/where-to-go/adventure-and-theme-parks/jebel-hafit-desert-park

Al Hudayriyat Island

Bab Al-Nojumn at Al Hudayriyat Island offers guests a variety of accommodation options ranging from fully equipped oceanfront beach tents, camper vans and glamping tents with private swimming pools. There’s also a private camping area where you can pitch your own tent, bbq areas, washroom facilities, a beach cinema, communal bonfire and children’s play area. 

Take a stroll to the nearby waterfront dining area, Marsana. Cafes, restaurants and shops are housed in aesthetically pleasing concepts entwined along a wooden promenade offering a variety of cuisines to cater for all tastes. Activity wise there’s plenty to keep the whole family occupied. Non-motorised water sports such as kayaks, paddle boats and stand-up paddle boards are available at Bab Al-Nojumn itself. Take a walk along the Heritage Trail at Marsana or enjoy the beach, skate park, kids pool and splash park, cycle paths & jogging tracks, the outdoor gym, pier and marina. 

The more adventurous guests can try the OCR Park that offers obstacle courses for adults and children and Circuit X with its climbing wall, high ropes course, zip line and BMX tracks. 321 Sports (open daily 7 am to 11 pm) has an indoor gym, Fifa approved football pitch, Olympic length running track, as well as jogging and cycling tracks. Bikes can be rented onsite from Yas Cycles ……. read more

Bab Al-Nojumn, Al Hudayriyat Island, Abu Dhabi. www.hudayriyatisland.ae/stay.html

Qasr Al Sarab

Take a road trip to Liwa for a staycation at the magnificent desert oasis Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara located in Abu Dhabi’s Empty Quarter. The epitome of elegance and relaxation, the resort blends seamlessly into its desert backdrop offering guests a stunning panorama of the world’s largest uninterrupted sand dunes.

Designed to resemble an ancient fortress, the resort combines regional nostalgia and heritage with modern day luxury. Rooms are spread out in separate low-rise buildings linked via manicured walkways lined with water features and Arabic lanterns. The restaurants offer a variety of cuisines and there’s a multitude of activities on offer from camel rides, dune bashing and falconry as well as a fantastic spa and swimming pools. The service is impeccable from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, nothing is too much trouble ……. read more

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Liwa, Abu Dhabi. Telephone: 02 886 2088 www.qasralsarab.com

Pura Eco Retreat

Glamping experiences seem to be all the rage in the UAE at the moment and Pura Eco Retreat (Stay Pura*) located on Abu Dhabi’s Jubail Island is no exception. The capital’s newest resort is nestled in the mangroves offering three native tents and five luxury glamping domes located in a separate private area.

The domes offer a king size bed, private en-suite bathroom, luxury amenities, outdoor seating and fire pits, a minimalist vibe inspired by nature with locally sourced decor. The native tents offer more hands-on camping albeit with a touch of comfort, guests have access to a public bathroom and bbq kits are available on request.

Dining wise there’s an open kitchen housed in a converted shipping container with another similar dwelling housing with a fully stocked bar. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner is served in the beach lounge or pool terrace, with views over the mangroves which is especially stunning at sunrise and sunset. The retreat’s overall ethos, is about back to nature, with sustainable and recycling practices implemented wherever possible ……. read more

Pura Eco Retreat, Jubail Island, Abu Dhabi. Telephone: 050 383 7878 www.staypura.com *Pura is an adult-only sanctuary. Guests must be aged 18 and over. Cars are not permitted.

Desert Camping

Grab your tent, sleeping bag and camping chair and head straight to the dunes for some back to basics fun in the desert. Always good fun with the right crowd and something you must experience at least once. Light your fire, set up your BBQ and enjoy a night under the stars in the dunes. My top advice would be to invest in a blow up mattress, take camping chairs which are an absolute necessity and plenty of firewood. Don’t forget your torch, some warm clothing for the cold desert nights and definitely bring your sense of humour in regard to the lack of bathroom facilities!

Lots of great spots within a short drive like Al Wathba, Al Hayer Forest, Al Ain or if you are up for a longer drive try some beach camping in the Western Region……. read more

All views are my own based on my experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2015-2021. Additional photos used with courtesy of respective venues.