Seven serene Ras al-Khaimah hotels

Eloise Barker

The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert. ©The Ritz-Carlton

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February 2018

Cheaper than Dubai, and near enough for day trips to the mall, consider Ras al Khaimah as the insider way to see the UAE without paying oil baron prices. It’s where the expats go to play on their weekends, where the beaches are quiet and where the beautiful Hajar mountains roll into the distance (hiding the world’s longest-ever zipline). And it’s just an hour from Dubai.

Best for couples – Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah

The lowdown: Ras al-Khaimah has a real romance to it. The so called ‘Rising Emirate’ sits in white sand, under the stars. Amidst all this, the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah is hotel fit for a Sheikh. It’s what the Burj Khalifa is to Dubai, or the Palace of the Emirates is to Abu Dhabi. The design features tumble of arched windows, its tower rising above 350 metres of glittering white beach. An 18 hole golf course beams out from the gardens and the rooms themselves are positively palatial. The deluxe suites come with dressing rooms and balconies. Amongst the hotel’s nine restaurants, the Lexington Grill is a firm favourite and gets garnished with awards every year. There’s an adults-only lap pool surrounded by shady cabanas. Water comes in iced buckets alongside fruit skewers, ice lollies and face towels, and there’s a lovely spa where you can book in to the private suite for a couple’s treatment.

Insider’s tip: Look out for freshly-made croissants straight from the tandoor oven, and the roaming professional photographer, who will help you re-haul your Instagram posts.

Book a stay at Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah

Chill in total privacy, rest your eyes on long horizon and spot passing gazelle and oryx.

  • The Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah exterior. ©Hilton.

    Pretty palatial

    Since featuring on The Apprentice when it was first built, the Waldorf Astoria Ras al Khaimah continues to steal the spotlight.£531 pp

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Outstanding for families – Doubletree by Hilton Marjan Island

The lowdown: Romance aside, Ras al-Khaimah is a great place to take your family. It’s inexpensive compared to its Dubai counterparts and has far fewer crowds. The Doubletree by Hilton Marjan Island is the frontrunner for family holidays. It’s been thoughtfully designed for your children with everything you need on one manmade island. There are covered areas, free water by the pools and the whole thing sits on safe, shallow crescent of white sandy private beach. Fun comes in mini-form for kids: a mini water park and plenty of indoor and shaded outdoor play areas – including a new kids club with face painting and a mini disco in the evenings. There are seven outdoor pools and every room has direct beach access. Out to sea you’ll discover the jungle float – a floating water park, where you can swing, slide and splash your way into the sea in dozens of different ways. There’s an All Inclusive plan that allows you to eat at the buffet restaurants, great for saving money on a big family holiday. Plus, the relentless Activity Team will attempt to Zumba you into shape if you want.

Insider’s tip: You can book water sports through the hotel. With the sea temperature a bath-like 30 degrees in summer, it’s hard to avoid the draw of the water.

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The ultimate All Inclusive – Rixos Bab al Bahr

The lowdown: The Rixos Bab al Bahr has made All Inclusive its speciality. That, and the abundance of entertainment on site means you'll never want to leave. The animation team is a 50-strong band who perform poolside ballroom dancing for guests, organise water polo matches and hold popular Friday night foam parties on the beach – after which a trip to Toast n Burger, the 24-hour snack restaurant, is definitely advised. Once that foam fades, the 345m beach is relaxing, white and sandy – though look out for competitors at the weekly beach Olympics. There are shelves and shelves of branded drinks included in the All Inclusive offering, as well as loads of restaurants. The rooms are stacked in pyramids, which gives many of them balconies and a great view. There are two single-gender Ottoman spas and eight swimming pools. There's also free WiFi – for those lazy days.

Insider tip: If you’re a large party, the King Suite will sleep eight people.

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  • The King Suite at the Rixos Bab al Bahr. ©

    Let the sun in

    This popular All-Inclusive gets busy on the week ends with visiting ex-pats, but you'll always find peace in the luxurious King Suite.£563 pp

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  • The kids' club at the Doubletree by Hilton Marjan Island. ©Hilton.

    Keep them busy

    Kids have plenty of places to make their own at Hilton Marjan Island: watch them attack a pirate boat, win in the arcade and conquer the climbing wall.£372 pp

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  • Beach at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach. ©The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.

    Cool cabanas

    Your very own private cabana just in front of your villa – for bliss on the beach.£1538 pp

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A spa in solitude – The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert

The lowdown: Wellness is a hot topic in the UAE, which has its own minister for happiness. You can find the ultimate retreat to restore your own mood at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert, set in a desert nature reserve. Take the hotel’s famous rainforest experience, for instance, where you can explore a carefully orchestrated choreography of warm, hot and cool showers, ice baths and steam rooms at your own pace. But the relaxation at the hotel isn’t confined to the steam room. There are just 101 villas, some of which have graceful tent roofs, each with their own plunge pool, so you can chill in total privacy, rest your eyes on long horizon and spot passing gazelle and oryx. There’s a free shuttle to enjoy the beach at the sister property, The Ritz-Carlton Al Hamra – and you can still be back in time for those all-important sundowners.

Insider’s tip: This property is TESLA friendly, if you’ve happened to hire one and need a charging point.

Book a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert

Luxury on the beach – The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach

The lowdown: Dubai is famous for furthering the reaches of luxury, but Ras al Khaimah is fast catching up. Both the Ritz-Carlton properties in Ras al Khaimah take Beduoin beauty and Dubai-standard luxury to the next level. The Al Hamra beach resort, opened late in 2017, has just 32 beautiful tented villas set on a little island, so you’ll get high levels of privacy. If you join the lucky few ‘glamping’ on the seafront, you’ll find that every room gets direct beach access, every room gets a private pool with a pool deck, and your every whim will be taken seriously by the attentive staff. There’s a spa and a roster of activities to enjoy: snorkel over a coral reef or look out for sleepy turtles below your paddleboard.

Top tip: Order a private dining service to your villa, and enjoy a meal on the beach.

Book a stay at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach

  • Tree Top Bar at the DoubleTree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah. ©Hilton.

    Balcony bar

    You might not see many trees, but from the pretty pool and rooftop bar atop this hotel you can look out over the Hajar Mountains – and the city lights of the emirate capital.£336 pp

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If you’re sticking to a budget – Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah

The lowdown: Some properties in Ras al Khaimah are still considerably cheaper than Dubai. You can help keep costs down on your stay if you choose to stay in the city centre at the Hilton Doubletree Ras Al Khaimah.This hotel has a very good value All Inclusive option and has a nice situation overlooking the creek. You’ll also be able to access the facilities of the Hilton Marjan Island for free, with the help of a 30-minute shuttle bus. You may not want to, however, since at the hotel itself there’s a rooftop pool served by the treetop bar, a free gym and sauna, and two nearby malls – as well as the Al Sawan camel track. There’s free parking available, and, all in all, it’s a good way to be in a well-connected part of the UAE, ready to explore whilst saving money.

Top tip: Book ahead for the free shuttle bus that takes you to the Dubai Mall – it’s a popular service that only runs on certain days.

Book a stay at Doubletree by Hilton Ras al Khaimah

Travelling solo – Hilton Garden Inn Ras al Khaimah

The lowdown: Sitting on the creek looking out across the water, the Hilton Garden Inn is casual and informal, and lets you start your day with a hearty included buffet breakfast with lovely fresh bread. The garden bar is well-liked and a great place to hang out, there’s shisha, cocktails and snacks on offer – use the free WiFi or take a book down to read in the sun. If you can find a sparring partner, there are two free tennis courts, plus a free gym and a heated outdoor pool. A free shuttle connects you to the nearby Hilton Resort and Spa, where you can enjoy their beautiful beach.

Top tip: This hotel is within walking distance from the business district and mall.

Book a stay at Hilton Garden Inn Ras al Khaimah