bridge to a city with a massive, wide rectangular tower with a cutout in the middle

Address Beach Resort

The Address Beach Resort is a record-breaking property and one of the top hotels in Dubai, with an enviable beachfront location.

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Pool at Al Maha Desert Resort, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Al Maha Desert Resort

While hotels in Dubai compete for height and beachfront space, Al Maha enjoys a singular location. Set within 85 miles of pristine desert conservation, this  Luxury Collection hotel is as secluded as it gets in Dubai, with a vast expanse of desert as its main draw.

An easy 50-minute drive from the city center, Al Maha actually begins the moment you pull away from the highway and enter the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the largest piece of land dedicated to conservation in Dubai. Past the security gate, you’ll likely see a herd of oryx at a feeding station beside the road. As part of their conservation efforts, Al Maha has set up feeding stations and watering holes for its resident oryx and gazelles, the two main mammals in this habitat. The camp is set about 20 minutes into the park, on an elevated oasis surrounded by palm trees.

The resort’s 42 suites are in individual Bedouin-style tents spaced apart for maximum privacy. The interiors are decorated with art and artifacts from Oman, Afghanistan, Iran and India. Every suite has an infinity-edge pool with an unobstructed view of the desert horizon, and the Hajar Mountains in the distance. Timelessness is a theme the resort strives to put forward, and at which it succeeds – nothing in the resort feels particularly old or new, but everything is well-made, resulting in a classic and understated elegance.

The resort facilities are in sand-colored buildings, also reminiscent of Bedouin-style structures made from coral. There is one restaurant, Al Diwaan, serving an excellent range of international cuisine. Special dining experiences can be arranged such as an Arabian-style dinner on the sand dunes, with low cushions and lanterns. A spa, gym and main pool round out the resort’s facilities.

Two activities are usually included with a stay, and the resort’s resident naturalists take guests out on desert drives twice a day. Beyond gazelles and oryx, the animals to be found during a desert safari drive are sand critters including snakes, spiders and bugs. As luck would have it, my best desert sighting was from the privacy of my suite, when I spotted (with the help of binoculars) two male oryx locking horns in a battle for territory. In the early mornings, the naturalists demonstrate the sport of falconry, integral to Bedouin culture and still very much practiced around the Arab World. In the evening, sundowners are served on a large sand dune accessible by camel trek or 4X4 vehicle.

Though it may be the height of luxury in the middle of nowhere, Al Maha is still subject to the harshness of the desert. When the wind blows, it could drop buckets of sand in the pool or whip your skin with its fine grains. That’s part of the appeal – something so raw, and once reserved only for royalty, is now accessible to the luxury adventure traveler.

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Signature Suite at Armani Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Armani Hotel

The Armani Dubai made quite a splash when it opened in 2010, as it offered a very different take on luxury and elegance in Dubai. Sleek and minimalist, the hotel features 160 rooms and suites in the Burj Khalifa, and it quickly became the chicest address in town. The neutral color palette, dimly lit halls and clean lines of the hotel are in sharp contrast to the ornate (and often garish) details to be found in plenty of Dubai hotels.

Rooms have sophisticated and subdued elegance and, owing to the hotel’s location within the world’s tallest skyscraper, offer generous views of the city. Its location beside the Dubai Mall provides easy access for travelers looking to shop in the world’s biggest mall, and certain suites in the hotel have front-row views of the Fountain Show (every half-hour between 6:30pm and 11:30pm.)

The hotel’s understated vibe is better suited for couples and business travelers than families with young children. Guests at the Armani have no access to a beach and the hotel only has a small outdoor pool. There is a florist near the lobby that provides fresh flowers for the hotel at all times, and there is a shop filled Armani accessories only available to in-house guests. Other facilities include seven bars and restaurants, as well as a spa and fitness center, all designed in Armani’s signature minimalist style.

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Bulgari Hotel Dubai

Connected to the mainland by a 980-foot bridge, Bulgari Resort Dubai is a dreamy oasis sprawled across the city’s largest private beach.

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contemporary sky scraper on a peninsula sticking out from Dubai

Burj Al Arab

Dubai’s iconic symbol, this sail-shaped hotel is situated on its own private island 919 feet off the coast of Jumeirah Beach.

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Suite at Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Courtesy Paul Thuysbaert,

Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

A five-story, sprawling beachfront resort property, the Four Seasons Jumeirah offers a delightful combination of relaxation and luxury, employing elegance rather than extravagance to treat guests to an experience unlike any other in Dubai.

Its 237 rooms, including 49 suites, all have terraces—some large enough to fit a daybed and dining table—that offer views of the Arabian Gulf, the property’s pools, the beach and gardens or the downtown skyline. The interiors are open and airy and blend soft backgrounds with bright tones. Rooms are spacious with high ceilings and indoor/outdoor space, making them some of the largest among Dubai’s accommodations. The glamorous bathrooms feature a free-standing tub, mosaic-tile walls, silver-leaf ceilings and a TV hidden in the vanity mirror.

Guests can enjoy five on-property restaurants and lounges, from the quick and casual market-styleSuq and the beachfront seafood restaurant, Sea Fu, to the sophisticated, masculine Hendricks bar to the cool and lively Mercury Lounge, which offers incredible views of both the sea and the Dubai skyline. The lavish Pearl Spa offers indulgent experiences for individuals, couples and even kids and teens. There are three swimming pools (which tend to be most popular among families with young children), two tennis courts and a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness center, and water sports are available on the bay.

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Habtoor Palace

Habtoor Palace in Dubai is an elegant, grand resort in a central location that offers multiple dining options and personalized service. Indagare reviews.

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Presidential Suite - Living Area at Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel

It’s not an exaggeration to say that the lobby at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel—located between Deira and Jumeirah Beach on Sheikh Zayed Road—is the place to be seen doing business in Dubai. Comprised of two triangular towers, it is one of the city’s most stunning architectural icons, perennially packed with business men and women in suits and local men in dishdashas (the traditional floor-length white robes worn with matching headdresses).

The hotel’s 400 rooms and suites feature a classic and contemporary style, and all of them have expansive city views. Facilities include a full-service spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center, and the hotel offers extensive business services. Emirates Towers is also home to the popular Al Nafoorah restaurant, as well as Boulevard, a shopping emporium where you’ll find a well-chosen selection of designer clothing, shoes and accessories.

Grand Imperial Suite - Dining Room at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

Located on the artificial archipelago known as The Palm, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray currently enjoys a secluded location all the way near the end of the western crescent (imagine the shape of a palm tree with an outer ring like a halo – that is the crescent). “Currently” because its only neighbor at the moment is the One & Only The Palm, situated at the very end of the arc and about a mile from the Jumeirah property; everything else around is either under construction or an empty lot. In fact, the 20-minute approach from the entrance of The Palm to the resort feels a tad disconcerting, what with the numerous cranes, unfinished structures and heaps of sand piled high. It is this image of Dubai as a perpetually unfinished city that leads up to one of its most ostentatious resorts.

The Ottoman-inspired Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is a palace in the sense that it wants to be perceived as one. All the obvious indicators are there –gilded spiral columns buttressing the lobby, multi-tiered crystal chandeliers hanging from domed, golf-leaf ceilings, large fountains and marble halls--  and it plays to a certain sensibility that luxury equates to anything gold, gleaming or ornate. If the art for sale outside the Presidential Suite is an apt descriptor, it was a painting of an Arab man in traditional dress and shades facing a Bentley with the Grand Mosque in the backdrop.

Unlike the older and more iconic Burj al Arab, Zabeel Saray is the Dubai Royal Family-owned Jumeriah brand’s showpiece for contemporary Middle Eastern luxury. In truth, there is nothing particularly palatial about this five-story rectangular building, whose exterior is as bland as its interiors are lavish. Service is friendly, but lacking in five-star pedigree. To wit: the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, Voi, serves delectable French Vietnamese cuisine, but its servers were lost on the request for a sommelier, or barring that, anyone who could speak to the wine selection.

That said, the resort has two key features that make it ideal for families on a beach holiday. The first is its secluded beachfront with soft, gold sand and clear, turquoise waters. All properties on the crescent face inward towards the palm fronds (as opposed to outward, facing open water), and the surf here is gentle and calm. Young kids can frolic here with parents never having to worry about big waves.

The second main draw is the resort’s large and tastefully decorated rooms, surprisingly, considering the rest of the hotels’ over-the-top aesthetic. The rooms have a subdued elegance to them, with a darker and more neutral palette and intricate, latticed woodwork. Starting at 600 square feet, the rooms are large and all come with a balcony (opt for the Palm View on a high floor). Larger families should consider the two-storey villas that come with their own garage, plunge pools and a private gym.

Zabeel Saray has 10 restaurants and bars, including Al Nafoorah–considered by many locals to serve the best Arabic/ Lebanese food in Dubai-- and a fun cigar lounge that also serves champagne and cognac. In addition, there is a live music venue (shows include popular international acts), a movie screening room (family features are regularly screened and free popcorn is served), a large pool, kids’ club, tennis courts, and an impressive spa with a Turkish-style hammam. There’s more than enough to keep a family busy without leaving the property.

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Exterior View -  Kempinski Mall of the Emirates, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Kempinski Mall of the Emirates

In many parts of the world, a hotel located within a shopping mall wouldn’t feel like the best choice. But this is Dubai, where rules are different and luxury comes in the most surprising places. The Kempinski Mall of the Emirates hotel isn’t beachfront, rather it boasts another view: the slopes of Ski Dubai. It’s a unique property where guests can enjoy exceptional shopping, skiing, tennis, swimming, spa and a state-of-the-art fitness center within steps of their plush accommodations. For the most distinctive experience, request one of the hotel’s three-story Ski Chalets, whose floor-to-ceiling windows offer views of both the indoor ski slopes and the hotel’s outdoor swimming pool.

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Suite at Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Madinat Jumeirah

Located on two miles of beach alongside the Burj Al Arab is Madinat Jumeirah, a resort complex that includes luxury hotels Mina A’Salam and Al Qasr and a group of courtyard homes, rooms and suites, called Dar Al Masyaf. For better or worse, the grounds’ almost-too-perfect, sprawling gardens, Bedouin-style buildings and shimmering faux canals (replete with water taxis—“abras”—that take guests from one end of the resort to another) look straight out of an Arabian-themed pavilion at Epcot Center. A long list of resort facilities include a fitness center with a low-oxygen chamber to train for high-altitude sports, a live-music theater, an enormous kids’ club, multiple swimming pools, and Wild Wadi Waterpark, to name a few. Non-hotel guests can access much of the complex, as many popular restaurants line the Madinat’s canals between hotels. Souk Madinat attracts both locals and tourists looking for something other than chain boutiques found in Dubai’s malls.

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Suite at One & Only Royal Mirage, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

One & Only Royal Mirage

You’ll feel like you’re staying at a bona fide Arabian palace at the One & Only Royal Mirage, a stylish beach resort comprised of varying categories of plush rooms between areas called the Palace, the Arabian Court and the Residences. Splurge for a suite at the spacious, gorgeously appointed Residences, discreetly located in a quieter part of the hotel adjacent to the spa: You’ll have access to the beach, landscaped gardens, multiple pools, a lavish spa, rooftop bar with sweeping views of the Gulf and eight different, delicious restaurants. The resort’s horizontal layout, however, makes it feel much more intimate than many of Jumeirah’s vertically built hotels.

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Lounge at One & Only The Palm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

One & Only The Palm

One & Only The Palm is the newer and neighboring sister to the One & Only Royal Mirage, right across the water on the Dubai Marina and accessible by complimentary ferry shuttle. Removed 20-30 minutes from the hub of the city, the hotel is located right on the water and offers a tranquil and private setting for its guests. The next nearest property, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, is located a mile up the beach.

The property’s Moorish architecture and calming earth tones are markedly different from many of the more splashy interiors found in Dubai’s luxury hotels. Plus, the hotel feels intimate with only 64 rooms, 26 suites and four beachfront villas. Families will appreciate the cozy, homey feel of the rooms, especially the villas and inter-connecting options in the Mansions, located on the beach. Don’t miss the beautiful ESPA with a wide variety of therapies and treatments, and STAY, the exquisite French restaurant helmed by a Michelin-starred chef.

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Living Room at Park Hyatt, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Park Hyatt Dubai

If your priority in Dubai is business but you’d like to squeeze in some leisure time, the sparkling Park Hyatt Dubai, is an excellent choice. While its location—on the east side of the Creek—might feel a bit too far removed from the rest of the city (depending on traffic, it can be a 25 to 45 minute drive to the malls and entertainment of Jumeirah Beach), the hotel is a mere 10 minutes from the airport, which is a spectacular thing after a 13 1/2 –hour flight! Plus, the hotel has so many wonderful amenities on-site (Amara day spa, chic Traiteur restaurant and a meticulously landscaped pool area) that you might not want to leave the premises.

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