We found the journey by car from Dubai to be quite enjoyable as the last half involves passing through rolling deserts and desolate mountains. The only hassle involves navigating your way between the huge trucks that are chugging their way slowly along the highway.
Upon reaching our destination we were immediately struck by how well the resort blends in with the local landscape. Since it is only four stories high at its tallest point, the hotel does not block your view of the adjacent mountains. The grounds are also nicely spread out, so the entire resort feels roomy and relaxed.
The airy surroundings are a pleasant contrast from the beach hotels in Dubai that are growing increasingly claustrophobic as skyscrapers are being built practically on top of them. We also found it wonderful to look out at the Indian Ocean and see nothing but clear blue sea in the horizon, with not a man-made island in sight.
The hotel itself boasts 250 rooms, most of which are in the main building facing the beach. There are also two low-rise outer buildings that offer beach-front rooms.
We stayed in the main building on the second floor with a nice view of the pools and beach. Our ‘executive’ room was spacious and stylishly appointed. We also had a large balcony in which two people could comfortably stretch out.
The hotel is relatively new – it opened in April – and the room looked fresh and clean.
Our only complaint was the size of the bathroom, which was quite small in proportion to the rest of the room. Two people could not use it at the same time.
The room came equipped with an internet connection which cost Dhs25 for one hour. The hotel’s business center also had internet access, but it cost Dhs50 per hour. By contrast, free wireless internet access was available in the lobby and we saw many guests using their laptops there.
Free water sports
The hotel has a spacious outdoor pool for adults with a swim-up bar and a large kids pool with a water slide. However, for guests who want to do more than lounge around the pool there are loads of recreational activities available.
The hotel’s Waterworld marine centre offers a wide range of water sports, many of which are free, including water skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, and pedalo. Rotana claims that it is the only hotel in the UAE to offer these activities at no charge.
The highlight of our weekend was taking a glass boat ride to nearby Snoopy Island for snorkeling. The equipment and boat ride were free, and the quantity and variety of fish –including a sea turtle that swam gracefully below us – that were on view was breath taking.
In addition to water sports, the hotel offers tennis, squash, a fitness center, kid’s club, and, in another UAE first, mountain biking.
Although the hotel lost much of its beach to Hurricane Gonu, there is still a good amount of sand to relax and enjoy the view. However, if you decide to go into the ocean for a swim, be careful of the large rock outcroppings that can be hidden by the high tide. These can be especially treacherous for children. On the other hand, kids were having a great time spotting the crabs and small fish that are in abundance in the water pools that collect on the beach in the late afternoon.
Food and drink
The hotel has a limited variety of restaurants on offer. The Waves is a beach front restaurant that has a basic menu of sandwiches and seafood. The portions were good size and the quality was good.
After building up a hearty appetite following a busy day at the beach, we opted for the dinner buffet at the hotel’s only other restaurant, Mozaique. We were pleased by the quality of the food, including the Prime Rib which was tender and juicy. Seemingly every variety of food was available, including seafood, barbecue, Middle Eastern, stir fry, and Indian.
For guests seeking an after dinner drink, there is Tabu, which features a fully stocked bar and live music every night.