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Discover Another Side To The UAE: The Eco-Luxe Beach Resort In Ras Al Khaimah

Dubai is famous for its skyscraper hotels and vast beach resorts, but Ras al Khaimah, a neighbouring emirate an hour north from Dubai’s well-served airport, is a different prospect altogether. 

Here, the new Anantara hopes to distance itself from Dubai’s futuristic urban crush with a more laid-back pace: overwater villas among a protected mangrove lagoon, outdoor yoga sessions, a southeast Asian spa, and generous beach and pool areas.

Packed with effortless-chic style, this resort is compact enough to stroll about in the sunshine, with day trips out to the UAE’s northern mountains or peaceful coastline, should you wish to explore further. But there’s no real need; the hotel has everything you might want including water sports, multiple restaurants and bars, and spa treatments. This is a different side to the UAE, with the same, handy, six-hour flight.

The Vibe

Set on a private peninsula, trimmed by 200 hectares of mangrove forest, sculptural, curved, thatched buildings and high ceilings give a luxurious feel, with a striking tree sculpture and water feature greeting you in the huge foyer – the suspended “leaves” seem to whirl off up to the eaves as if whisked by the wind. This is a family-friendly resort with a shallow, beach-style pool winding around a pool bar, lawns for little ones to run around on, and a long stretch of golden sandy beach offering space for everyone.

The Rooms

The UAE’s first overwater villas are a big part of the hotel’s appeal, with spacious, Maldives-style, thatched rooms on stilts over the mangrove lagoon, as well as in the shallows beside the beach. Basic Premier Rooms have plush double or twin beds, plus a balcony or terrace – garden and pool view rooms are lovelier than those with “sea” views, which currently look across to half-built residences on the coastline opposite. The resort extends to spacious suites: Peninsula Villas (set in the shallows off the beach) and Overwater Villas (set in the lagoon) – looking out to the horizon. Views from the Peninsula Villas are more soothing and infinite. Simple polished woods and white linen are set off by azure-printed cushions, rugs and throws, potted orchids, minimalist pendant lamps and dove grey sofas. Patios and balconies have circular daybeds in bright turquoise, while bathrooms are decorated in cooling shades of pine and white.

The Food + Drink

As a Thai brand, Anantara has a knockout southeast Asian restaurant, Mekong, where you pass theatrical hand sculptures forming the distinctive positions of traditional Thai dance as you enter. Expect fresh, crunchy summer rolls, zingy seabass salad with lemongrass and mango and dim sum selections. The quality is high and every item tempting. The breakfast buffet is gorgeously set out with heaps of tropical fruit, berries, kale smoothies, hot options and dainty patisserie treats – alongside nods to the hotel’s Arabian location, such as flatbread pizzas with halloumi and za’atar. There’s a lovely laid-back poolside bar, Jalabar, where the shrimp tacos are a must, and the Middle-Eastern-leaning restaurant, Beach House, where the terrace is atmospheric by night. Waves Café is most popular with UAE locals, who swing by for coffee and cake on the patio.

The Little Extras

A Thai spa is an essential part of Anantara’s offering; the signature massage promises to smooth out your posture with classic Bangkok vigour. The Rose Romance ritual is pure Arabian fantasy, involving fragrant rose oil and a soak in a milky bath. Meanwhile a desert-themed treatment employs sand for a body polish and hot stones to ease tense muscles. Voya and Babor facials complete the picture, with a sauna, steam room and whirlpool tub to relax in – before or after. Ask the team about the protected mangrove lagoon – there are plans for a conservation centre to inform guests about the wildlife, and kayaking tours around the mangroves to get up close to this vital part of the local ecosystem.

The To-Do List

Ras Al Khaimah is sleepier than attraction-packed, multi-zoned Dubai, but it does have a few laid-back curiosities that will tempt you from your lounger. Heading up into the Al Hajar mountains is top of mind, perhaps to take the family or a group of friends to the Bear Grylls Explorers Camp there, for an intro to survival skills or a peaceful mountain hike; otherwise, there are adrenaline-junkie thrills at highest peak Jebel Jais. Whizz down the world’s longest zipline, soaring over a plunging valley as you go; or simply have a rosé while you watch from the café terrace at the top. Another fun place to visit is Suwaidi Pearls; take a fascinating boat ride and wander the museum, where you can learn about the history of pearl-diving in the UAE and see how oysters are seeded for cultivated pearls today.

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