Discovering Abu Dhabi: Tweet Zoe_ITC
ITC Luxury Travel’s @Zoe_ITC heads to Abu Dhabi to learn more about the region’s many attractions for luxury travel… Arriving into Abu Dhabi at night, I didn’t know what I’d see when I opened my balcony doors at the Park Hyatt on Saadiyat Island the next morning. Palm trees, manicured lawns, white beach and bright turquoise waters – almost typical of a Maldivian island - all looked back at me.
The Park Hyatt had a boutique-feel for its size and I enjoyed sitting outside the buffet breakfast restaurant, The Café, in the mornings, in view of the beach and the sea. This hotel is best described as comfortable luxury; with very elegant décor – marble, mirrors and wood, and no Louboutins around the pool! There is also a great range of accommodation choice and many rooms can connect with either another room or a suite. In particular the Diplomat Suite is truly fantastic, with its own kitchen and large balcony overlooking the sea, or there are the Garden Suites with their own plunge pool, or the 2 or 3-bedroom villas with own pool and separate smaller bedroom for your nanny. But of course not forgetting standard rooms and suites in the main hotel which also have fantastic views and balconies.
The wide choice at the Park Hyatt also extends to the restaurants with three to choose from – the main buffet restaurant The Café is where breakfast is served but also lunch and dinner, The Grill and The Beach House - with its amazing rooftop bar, perfect for pre-dinner cocktails as the sun sets.
However, surely the major advantage of the Park Hyatt is its location – along 9km of Saadiyat beach, a long stretch of platinum white sand from which you can see the dolphins off the coast (I’m told 7am is the best time) or look for the hawksbill turtle nests from April to September. Only a few nests are made each year so the beach is still completely useable, however the hotel and its British Marine Biologist keep a close watch to help this endangered species.
Also along this beach is the St Regis Saadiyat Island with its five pools, the 18th hole of the Gary Player designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in front of the hotel, and of course the usual St Regis butler service.
Abu Dhabi, as a destination, offers many more attractions than I initially thought and, I’m told, has huge plans for the future. Abu Dhabi will never be as built up as Dubai; it does have some skyscrapers but there are many more two story houses and buildings and so much greenery, plus of course the authentic desert outside the city.
The flat scenery showcases the mangroves, Ferrari World, Yas Marina, Yas F1 track where you can drive your own F1 car (the Yas Viceroy is the perfect central hotel for all this rollercoaster/waterpark/racing fun), and there are also three championship golf courses, amazing restaurants in top quality hotels (try Gary Rhodes Restaurant in the super classical St Regis Corniche, or the large and very fresh buffet at Jumeirah Etihad Towers), entertainment (at Yas Island where the Rolling Stones started their recent worldwide tour, watch Swan Lake at Emirates Palace, or the very intimate operatic performance which the Ritz Carlton Grand Canal puts on every evening as the sun sets over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque opposite).
But you can’t go to Abu Dhabi without taking in some culture, either at the Grand Mosque where I would recommend a complimentary tour with a local Emirati at 11am, plus with the Louvre opening on Saadiyat in 2015, the Sheikh Zayed Museum in 2016 and the Guggenheim in 2017; whether you visit now or in the future there is so much to do.
All in all, if you want guaranteed sunshine, amazing hotels, beautiful beaches, a destination with a thriving city, a buzzing Corniche promenade, adrenaline pumping activities, culture and a diverse landscape then Abu Dhabi is only 8 hours away with regional flights courtesy of Etihad to Abu Dhabi, flights from London direct to Abu Dhabi with BA, or BA or regional Emirates flights to Dubai which is only a 90 minute transfer away. Perfect!