So many to chose from and only six can be finalists! Well, I’m going to have to borrow from Rolling Stone magazine, whose stock answer for the perennial “Best 100 Rock Guitarists of all Time” is this: “Jimi Hendrix – number 1, everybody else number 2!” It’s a bit like that with Dubai’s beach hotels – so many to consider and how do you really rank them, when they’re all pretty darned fabulous? So, top beach hotel in Dubai? The Burj Al Arab. All the rest: number 2. That being said, I’m going to tell you about the Burj and five other wonderful hotels, which add up to my top six.
The Burj Al Arab
Dubai’s Burj Al Arab hotel, billed as the world’s only 7 star hotel, opened to the public in December 1999. Designed to resemble a yacht under sail, and sitting on an artificial island, it is arguably Dubai’s best-recognized and most iconic symbol of the transformation that this small Emirate has undergone in the last twenty years. It’s intended to represent the absolute pinnacle of luxury in a hotel-stay experience and as such, it’s unlikely to be a cheap experience. You can check out prices here, or go straight to the top and rent the Royal Suite – which sells for $US18K per night. There is a slight irony in the Burj heading a list of top Dubai Beach Hotels, which is that, technically speaking, it doesn’t actually have a beach.
But fear not, beach lovers! The island on which the Burj stands is connected to the “mainland” by a short causeway and just across this causeway is where the Burj’s dedicated beach lies. You can walk if you like – it doesn’t take more than 10 minutes, but most of you will probably choose the “on call” golf buggies which are available to take you anywhere on the Jumeirah Beach Group site (more about this a little later) any time you choose. The Wild Wadi Aqua Theme Park? Sure thing. A restaurant in one of the other Jumeirah Group Hotels? No problem. The beach? Just say the word.
The facilities, the rooms, the restaurants and the level of service at the hotel should all speak for themselves, but if you don’t already know this hotel by its world wide reputation, then just feast your eyes and imagination here
The Jumeirah Beach Hotel
On the Jumeirah Beach shoreline, looking directly across to the Burj Al Arab, is the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, previous holder of the title of Dubai’s Number 1 hotel from 1997 until the Burj opened just over two years later. But you can be very assured that there is nothing run-down, second-rate or previous about this hotel. Again, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel has it’s own dedicated section on the Jumeirah Group website, where you can discover what this splendid hotel has to offer. Its beach adjoins the Burj Al Arab’s beach on the mainland and if your budget stretches to a Junior Club Suite at the hotel, the enhancements include free access to the Burj itself and its exclusive section of beach. The best thing about the Jumeirah Beach Hotel is that its room rates may surprise you. Now I won’t pretend that you are going to get this level of 5 Star excellence for 3 Star prices, but check out rates on this website, if you are flexible with your dates, you may be pleasantly surprised. And yes, every room has a sea view. You will not end up in a broom closet with a bed if you get a discounted rate. That’s not the way Dubai does things! The end rooms on each side of the central lift wells have balconies that get larger towards the top eventually being large enough for a sizable party. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel makes a particular point of marketing itself as a very family friendly place, so facilities particularly aimed at ensuring that your children have a great time there are to the fore in their publicity.
The Madinat Jumeirah – 3 hotels in one
The third and newest jewel in the crown of the Jumeirah Group is the Madinat Jumeirah complex, located along the strip of coastal beach to the left of the Burj Al Arab entrance. The Madinat is in fact, a mega campus of three magnificent hotels all connected by an artificial canal complex, which is served by a flotilla of electric (and hence, silent) shuttle boats. Access from any point to any other simply requires you to make your way to a nearby canal-side boat-station and your waiting time is only ever going to be a couple of minutes at most. Just tell the obliging and smartly liveried boat pilot where, within the complex, you would like to go and you’ll be taken to the nearest boat-station in minutes. Of course, you could walk or take a club car, if you wanted a change.
The hotels themselves, the Mina A’ Salam, The Al Qasr and the Dar Al Masyaf are pretty much the final word in luxury. Of the 3, the Mina A’ Salam and the Al Qasr are of comparable prices (and not as stratospherically expensive as you might think, while the Dar Al Masyaf is a little more expensive. The reason for this is that the Dar Al Masyaf is configured as a complex of luxury waterside villas, rather than as rooms in a single building. Some are larger than others and will accommodate whole families, though obviously, the bigger the villa, the more expensive they are.
With beaches, swimming pools, restaurants and a surprisingly comprehensive shopping complex, modeled on a traditional Arabian street market, or souk, the Madinat Jumeirah makes a persuasive argument for not going anywhere else. Once you have arrived, checked in and been duly overwhelmed by the scale and opulence of the surroundings, you’ll want to enjoy every single second of your stay there.
In its own way, Dubai’s Hotel Atlantis, situated at the tip of the Palm Jumeirah, the artificial peninsula in the shape of a palm tree, is as much of a statement of what modern Dubai stands for as the Burj Al Arab. Its crescent-shaped beach is on the lagoon side, rather than the open Arabian Gulf side of the Palm and as such, faces back towards the mainland. This promises a gentle and reliable beach and swimming experience as the hotel itself shields the water from off-shore winds that can sometimes make a day on the sand not so pleasant.
The façade of the hotel, from the Gulf-facing frontage, echoes a Mogul-era palace on a grand scale. All the rooms are decorated in traditional Arabic opulence, each has a balcony with a view and there are rooms and suites that can easily accommodate whole families. The facilities are pretty amazing as well. Like Dubai Mall, the Atlantis has its own underwater aquarium and a dolphin waterpark, where you can watch the captive dolphins at play, or (for a fee) get into your swimming costume and get really close and personal. It goes without saying that swimming pools, other sporting facilities, spas, in-house shopping and a great range of varied restaurants are all that you would expect of a hotel of this class and quality. Check out the best prices here
The Fairmont: The Palm
Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah (there are two other Palms in various stages of construction) boasts a dizzying range of hotels – at my last count, more than 40 – and no, I haven’t sampled all of them. I think that could be a very pleasant experience, but a serious health risk!
One hotel well worth a mention is the Fairmont: the Palm. Again, as part of a world-class hotel chain, The Fairmont: the Palm is everything a top 5 Star hotel in a great location should be.
The Royal Mirage Jumeirah
Back in 1999, when I was just a newcomer to the Middle East and Dubai, in the stretch of coastline beyond the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the soon-to-open Burj Al Arab, there was pretty much nothing. No Media City, no Dubai Marina, no Palm Jumeirah. Various friends told us that there was very nice new hotel that had just opened on shoreline that was well worth a look. A drive down Sheikh Zayed Road to where there was just sand on either side, turn right at the Hard Rock Café (the only building of note on this part of the highway), then down to the shoreline.
And that, late one Thursday evening, in December of 1999, is how we found the Royal Mirage! Lit up, landscaped and welcoming, as we walked in through the extensive gardens, I thought it was just the most beautiful hotel I had ever seen. I still think so, though, in truth, the subsequent years of development in the area have not been particularly kind to the location. Its beach is now somewhat tamed by the Palm Jumeirah, which now dominates the view to the right from the beach. The waves don’t really come any more. And the skyline to the right rear of the hotel grounds, once empty at night, apart from stars now twinkles with the lights from the towering mega-storied buildings of the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers residences.
For all of that, the Royal Mirage is still my special number one! I’ve been lucky enough to stay there a couple of times, I’ve eaten at its restaurants on many occasions and it has never lost its ability to capture me the way it did all those years back.