I have lived in Dubai for 15 years, so I’m going to say that I have a fairly good idea on where to stay in Dubai.
Well known for luxury hotels and resorts, Dubai sure knows how to impress. And while I haven’t been to all of them (there is a LOT)… I’ve been fortunate to experience some of the best around. The following 5 star hotel and resort guide will give you all you need to know about where to stay in Dubai.
Now I know that I said Dubai, but my list below includes some of the other Emirates beyond Dubai. Because sometimes those really special places, are just a little bit of the main tourist trail.
For those of you wondering what an Emirate is – The United Arab Emirates is a country made up of seven Emirates. Dubai is one of these, Abu Dhabi is another (and the capital), Fujairah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain are the rest.
Each Emirate is beautiful in it’s own right, with it’s own attractions and features that make it special. So I’ll highlight some of the best hotels in the UAE, that no lie will impress the pants off you!
Updated 2022: Due to the many requests I have had following this post, this year I published a 4 star hotel guide for Dubai. If that sounds a little friendlier on your budget then follow this link. IF you want luxury… then stay right here and carry on scrolling down.
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Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and a hot spot for culture. This Emirate has some amazing accommodation options, and is in fact one of my favourite staycation options.
Qasr Al Sarab – Anantara
Qasr means palace in Arabic and this is not an understatement. Set within the dunes of the empty quarter not far from the border of Saudi Arabia, the landscape of flowing orange dunes is stunning. It’s a bit of a drive from Abu Dhabi about one hour if you don’t get lost, but definitely worth it.
Visit here if you are looking for a girls weekend away or a romantic getaway. Make the most of the spa facilities the large pool and the rooms! I can thoroughly recommend the Deluxe Terrace Rooms.
Get up early in the morning, or at the end of the day go for a walk to the top of the dunes directly in front of the hotel. This will take between one to two hours (at an easy slow pace to enjoy the views.) Note that if it is windy, it won’t be a pleasant walk up… you’ll be washing fine desert sand out of your hair for a few days after. (I learn’t that the hard way).
It’s a little cool between the months of November and February. Which isn’t necessarily a problem, but if you plan on making the most of the pool then you might want to keep this in mind.
If you are only going to stay in one of the hotels that I recommend in this post today… this should be it. We celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary here. It is next level!
St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
Saadiyat Island is a newer area of Abu Dhabi. It’s an island, but not really an island as it’s connected to the mainland via state highway E12. Nearby is The Louvre Abu Dhabi, golf course, public beaches and the scenic estuaries. Of course Yas Island is also close for some theme park adrenaline if you are so inclined.
This resort is great for a one or two night getaway. We did it with a 3 month old baby (a bit of a hey we are parenting celebration). The rooms are simple, bright and elegant. They have a great bathroom and bathtub, so enjoy a long soak.
They have a pool for adults and a pool for families. This suits everyone I think… people with kids who don’t want to disturb those enjoying true kid-less peace. And vice versa.
There are a great selection of restaurants to choose from. And nothing beats a drink by the pool, as you look up at the beautiful resort surroundings.
Where to Stay in Dubai
Dubai is glitz, glam and luxury without a doubt. While we have lived in this Emirate we have had our fair share of this grandeur. It is important to note that Dubai is more than just this… but that is a story for another time. This post is about the luxurious side of life and so that is what I’ll deliver for you here.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel
This is one of the original hotels of Dubai and looks right at the Burj Al Arab (you know the infamous 7 star sail shaped hotel). In fact both hotels are part of the Jumeirah Group. The Jumeirah Group has six resorts that stretch along this central and prime piece of coastline. This area of Dubai is a very lush part of the city to stay in. Each hotel is grand, perhaps beyond anything you’ve experienced before. They seek to please… and that they do.
Jumeirah Beach Hotel is one of the more affordable options amongst this group. But all hotels connect via beach and buggy and if you are staying in one, you can access the many number of restaurants across all. A recommendation of restaurants would require a post all on it’s own (which I will get to at some point). But let me say that over fifteen years I have had the pleasure of dining at some of the most exquisite restaurants within the Jumeirah Group.
But back to the accommodation side of things! The hotel is a little older than the others in the group, however they have just recently undertaken renovations.
Water park access to Wild Wadi is complementary when you stay and the pool and pool bar hits the spot. It’s also the little touches when you stay here that are special. The frozen ice lollies or watermelon chunks that are handed out throughout the day, or the ice cold face cloths offered while you lie beside the pool. This hotel knows how to treat their guests.
Other Hotels in the Jumeirah Group
But if you are looking for one of the newer options try Jumeirah Al Naseem. This elegant brand new hotel is pure Arabian luxury. It is one of the more sleek and contemporary resorts of the group. We’ve not stayed here which is why it is not listed here, but we have dined in some of the restaurants and enjoyed a pool and beach day pass.
I’ll also just add here that we were due to stay in the Burj Al Arab. We didn’t get there unfortunately due to Covid 19. Sad face! So this would also have been on my list had the world not have come to a grinding halt this year. This hotel is one of the best and for good reason… it’s a Dubai icon.
Sofitel Dubai the Palm Resort and Spa
So, the Dubai Palm in case you didn’t know is the man made or reclaimed island that extends off the Dubai coastline. This Palm shaped island is naturally a pretty exciting place to visit. Many hotels have popped up in the last few years on the outer ring around the palm. If you have seen this on a map you’ll know what I’m talking about. There are many hotels to chose from, and there are three here in this list that we have stayed at.
The Sofitel is one of these resorts, it is on the right side of the island. If you look out towards the sea as you drive into the resort you’ll see a great view of the Burj Al Arab and on a clear day the Burj Khalifa.
What we loved about this hotel was the green wall just off the lobby. This bright green and lush array of plants which grows up the side of the wall makes for a great photo opportunity. And the pool is another perfect photo spot with the palm fronds and Dubai Marina sky line sprawled out just beyond the beach.
Only 10 minutes from the Marina and 15 minutes from the Mall of the Emirates, this resort is a great location if you want to be close to Dubai shopping and nightlife. Families or couples, it will suit all types of holiday makers.
Anantara the Palm Dubai Resort
Just a little further along from the Sofitel is the Anantara and this is a super spot with a flare of Asia. The lobby is mighty impressive and as you check in to your room enjoy a complimentary chilled Asian inspired drink while you wait.
I’d recommend you book the lagoon access rooms. There is something unique about looking out onto the balcony with the water to your front step, which we really enjoyed. If you’re looking for something further unique, check out the villa over the water… there are not many opportunities of this kind of accommodation in Dubai.
The pools are amazing and the beach is gorgeous. Grab a seat at The Beach House for a sunset drink and enjoy the surrounding tranquility. We often bring visitors here for a sunset drink, and if you have kids they will play on the beach as you can safely watch over them.
The restaurants here are really good, and a personal favourite is the Australian Bushman’s for dinner, or Friday brunch. Be sure to ask for the buggy ride when you can and you’ll enjoy a Tuk-Tuk ride between restaurants. The kids will love it.
We stayed here for a mini staycation without kids. Though kids are welcome, I do feel it lends itself nicely to couples wanting to stay somewhere special.
Atlantis the Palm
You can’t go wrong at this holiday resort, it has something for everyone. We have stayed here as a couple, with friends visiting Dubai as a group, with kids, and even as a large group staycation.
What sets it apart from other hotels? The waterpark is HUGE and a great place to spend the day. And when you stay at the Atlantis entry is free, so you can come and go as you like. The resort pools are massive, and spending the day parked up in the pool during peak summer months will protect you from the 40+++ degrees.
The food scene caters for all budgets and cuisines, and boasts several Michelin starred restaurants, complete with celebrity chefs. From Japanese, classic English, steakhouse, Italian through to family friendly. I’d go so far as to say the Atlantis the Palm includes some of the best restaurants in the city. But don’t just take my word for it… check out their impressive list of venues.
The resort aquarium is one of the biggest I’ve seen and the Lost Chambers is a good visit for kids. Entrance is also complimentary for hotel guests. And if you want to swim with dolphins there is a facility called Dolphin Bay to do so.
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa
Another one of my personal favourites is this desert resort. Perfect for a baby-moon or weekend getaway from Dubai. A short drive (about 30 minutes) out of the busy city will bring you to an oasis in the middle of the desert.
A stay here won’t set you back a fortune, but will have you feeling well looked after. For a perfect day, lounge by the pool, book in a spa, and then have a sunset drink on the roof top overlooking the desert with a grape and mint Shisha.
The rooms are beautiful, a feeling of true Arabic luxury. The giant bath is great for a relax. Explore further if you can muster up the energy and take a desert tour, camel ride and even try your hand at archery.
If you are a visitor to the UAE we can thoroughly recommend the restaurant Al Hadheerah. For a dinner experience that features the tastes, culture and entertainment typical of Arabia, then this is perfect for you.
Dubai Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai
So you will love the Caesars Palace in Bluewaters Dubai if you are looking to be in the heart of the action! With Dubai Marina walking distance away, there is no place quite like it.
This is one of the newer areas of Dubai and so is particularly modern, shiny and sparkly. The surrounding architecture is spectacular, and if you stay here you’ll have the perfect view of the Ain Dubai. (Like the London Eye, but in Dubai). See in our photo below.
Some of our favourite features of this hotel, is the in-house Hell’s Kitchen, Gordon Ramsey restaurant and the bars overlooking the pool and stunning surrounds. What’s even better is they have accommodation within the palace reserved for adults only, so no kids running around your feet if you don’t feel like it.
Where to Stay in Ajman
Ajman is beginning to grow in terms of hospitality and travel (I know because I have a friend who works for the Department of Tourism for Ajman). As a travel destination that celebrates culture and outdoor activities, Ajman is a winner. And what’s best is that it is 45 minutes from Dubai, the beaches are beautiful and accommodation is somewhat cheaper.
Saray also means palace… which is exactly where you feel you are, as you enter the grand lobby.
While this complex is not super large, you will feel well looked after and refreshed after a mini-staycation away from the busy city. The facilities, pool and restaurants are simple yet comfortable and elegant at the same time. The staff are very friendly and overall this little getaway will impress.
Great for families and couples wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, or who want to further explore the Emirates. This will also suit you, if you’d like to get out of the city to try some outdoor pursuits, such as wake boarding, kayaking or golf.
Where to Stay in Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is an hour drive from Dubai along the coast. The beaches are beautiful and the hotel options are steadily increasing. This seems to be a very popular destination of choice for those residing in Dubai and wanting a week away, without the hassle of international travel.
Rixos Bab Al Bahr – Ultra All Inclusive
The ultra all inclusive concept is one of it’s kind for this region. If you are looking to find value for money then you’ll enjoy Rixos Bab al Bahr. This lively and very large resort is at it suggests… all inclusive.
If you like the finer things in life, and you want a weekend of being waited on, then maybe this isn’t the right destination to achieve that. This resort is often fully booked and logically has to cater for the masses. But in saying this, the rooms are lovely and large, the all-inclusive drinks by the pool and a weekend away to Ras al Khaimah is always welcome in my book!
A word of advice if you want to eat at one of the nicer resort restaurants then you’ll need to book as soon as you wake in the morning. The full board offer that is available to everyone, means that everyone is looking at the same restaurants you’ll be looking at. You cannot book the day before, so it’s first come, first serve in the morning. Take a spot in the line, wait it out and get your first pick for food.
The Cove Rotana Resort
This hotel is on the cheaper side, but still has all the 5 star trimmings. It covers a large space and is set in a man made lagoon style complex. Half of the accommodation overlooks the lagoon and beach from a raised standpoint. While the other half of the accommodation rests within the lagoon, and these villas each have their own private pool.
For larger groups, suites are available and these work well if you are looking for a group gathering. You’ll be semi independent, with a kitchenette facility, lounge or communal space and a private pool. Great for larger families or a get together with a group of friends.
The Ritz-Carlton – Al Wadi Desert
The Ritz-Carlton is right up there with one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at in the Middle East. Fortunate to have visited twice, once for a baby-moon and once with kids, with this being an ideal destination for both couples and families.
I recommend Al Khaimah or Al Sahari villas. These tented villas each feature their own pool and so you’ll enjoy complete privacy while swimming laps, surrounded by desert. A truly exclusive hotel that you must experience, if only once in your life.
The rain forest circuit is quite the experience! Before a spa take the hour long trip through this extravagant 16 room pre-spa. A unique combination of steam, heat, ice, repeat will leave you feeling very relaxed and zen ready for your massage treatment of choice. Read this review on the rain forest journey for more.
The complementary bikes are also a bit of fun, with Hotel providing bike tracks thought the resort. My husband is an early riser so can highly recommend a morning ride out to the stables or the surrounding desert with its roaming Oryx and Gazelles. I would also recommend (if you can), to make the most of the private chef service, who will prepare an amazing BBQ for you in the comfort of your villa.
I’ve lost track of how many times I have stayed here with friends, family and guests to the UAE. This is one of our favourite go to hotels, and for a number of reasons.
The pool is fantastic, with a good size sunken bar surrounded by plenty of shade if your intention is to stay all day. I don’t know what rates in your holiday book… but a good pool bar is always right up there for me when staying with friends.
The buffet breakfast is very nice, so be sure to get breakfast included in your room rate. Live cooking stations preparing eggs to your liking (including eggs benedict) is a plus for me. The restaurant designated for breakfast is large but cosy (not crammed) and the food is lovely.
For dinner the Lexington Grill or UMI for Japanese are two fantastic options. Book ahead as they are very busy restaurants.
The rooms are very big, with large balconies overlooking the beach and hotel facilities, or over the golf course to the back of the hotel. Front facing rooms are definitely lovely, but to be honest the back isn’t terrible!
You won’t be sorry you booked a stay here, and it will suit all visitors alike.
Where to Stay in Fujairah
Unlike the other destinations listed above, the Emirate of Fujairah sits on the Gulf of Oman. The coastline is beautiful and is great if you are looking to try some diving and snorkeling. Snoopy Island is a little island just off Al Aqah beach, and the hotels along this coast take snorkeling trips and glass bottom boats out to the island.
Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa – Al Aqah
We used to be frequent visitors at this hotel about an hour and a half out of Dubai. It’s great value for money, and a great destination to get that feeling like you’ve left Dubai and have arrived in another country.
The pool bar is the perfect place to sit for the day while sipping on cocktails, as you slowly turn red and your fingers turn to prunes.
If you want to check out what is under the ocean, look up Al Boom Diving for all you’ll need to know about the Fujairah Dive scene.
This is the first post in our Dubai Series. I will be sharing more posts very soon on the best places to eat and shop. You might also be interested in my post coming soon about what to expect when moving to Dubai.
So if you’d like to know more about life in Dubai, then join the list. And if you have any immediate questions about your travel, be it holiday, or expat life in Dubai, drop a comment in the box below. Or get our contact details by clicking through to this page.
Dubai has been our home for many years now. Click here to find out more about My Free Range Family, and our expat life in the United Arab Emirates.
Or if you’d like to know how we decided to pack up and travel the world full-time, then find out here.
This is a great guide! I haven’t visited Dubai yet, but it’s on my list. I am saving your post for my future trip 🙂
This place is sooo dreamy! Definitely on my bucket list for 2021! I am saving this post for when I am able to trip plan : )
Jay Artale says
It will be interesting to see how hotels and restaurants cope with the added challenges of implementing safe environments. We live in Turkey part of the year and I know that many restaurants are struggling to comply. From a cultural perspective, they’re just not good at following rules. Rules are those things in place to keep the tourists in check, but they don’t apply to the locals!! So I think they’re going to struggle. Also – they’re a huge-nation, and that’s how the men greet each other, with hugs and kisses, so I’m wondering how the locals in Dublin are coping with the new guidelines.
alison abbott says
I’ve only been to the Middle East once-Qatar and would love to visit Dubai. I’m saving this post for later. So many great suggestions, and I know I’ll get there one day!
Julie H says
Great review! Loved reading it. Brought back some memories of a few of the places I’ve been on that list. Looking forward to following your adventures x
I’d love to get back and explore Dubai – I only had a short layover there once and didn’t get a chance to see anything! I’d love to stay in Anantara.
Chrissy K says
Such a great hotel guide. I visit Dubai a few years ago and cannot wait to return and stay at one of these hotels.
Great thorough post!! Wish I visited Dubai when I lived in Lebanon!
Really good hotel guide. I’m planning to visit Dubai soon, bookmarking for future reference!
Great summary of the good hotels in this region 😉 Thanks for the link to the Rainforest Spa as well – such a good spa isn’t it!
Sharon Ward says
Hey! You’re most welcome. It was a fantastic spa… probably one of the most unique I’ve experienced so far 🙂
I would love to visit Dubai and all of these places look incredible xx
Hannah | https://luxuryblush.co.uk/
Jan (@Chimptrips) says
All these hotels look very tempting. We went to Dubai for our honeymoon. We didn’t stay at the Atlantis, but had a lot of fun in the waterpark!
Sharon Ward says
The water park is loads of fun!
Lannie Travels says
Such a great guide! I travel through Dubai and Abu Dhabi often for work but never made it to the other emirates yet. Now I’ll know where to stay!
Sharon Ward says
The other Emirates are lovely, so chilled for a weekend away. I hope you get to visit them some time 🙂
This looks stunning! Your pictures are beautiful 🙂
John Quinn says
Such a great guide to accommodation in Dubai. Thanks for joining #TravelBlogTuesday.
Sharon Ward says
Thanks and thanks for having me ?