The Experiential Escape: One & Only The Palm, Dubai
Waking up in a marshmallow-soft bed at One & Only The Palm on a Friday morning may be the kindest thing you will do for yourself all year. Far from the hum of Sheikh Zayed Road, hustle and bustle of Waitrose, or high-energy house music of your usual weekend fitness class, the resort is a tranquil haven away from hectic city life. Birds tweet, waves lap, and a light breeze rustle through the palm trees, ushering in a sense of calm with which to start your weekend. It feels, despite the looming skyline in the distance, that you are light years away from Dubai, which makes it the perfect place for a staycation of rest and relaxation for friends, lovers or family alike.
Elegance, exclusivity, and experience are at the heart of One & Only.A neutral colour palette sets a stylish tone, complemented by wood, marble and contemporary design elements which create an appealing balance between tradition and modernity. Lighting, unsurprisingly, plays a key role: by day, windows are high enough to flood the common areas. By night, large glass hurricane lamps full of flickering candles light evening soirees, creating a dramatic backdrop that sets the tone for long, romantic dinners and friendly gatherings under a star-scattered sky.
A full sensory experience is at every turn. Pitch-perfect music plays by the pool – the turquoise centerpiece of the resort – where you’ll likely spend your days. Lined with plump double daybeds and sun loungers, guests sit regally awaiting chilled cucumbers for sun-baked eyes and refreshing mini ice creams, which are offered intermittently by smiling waiters in perfectly-pressed shorts.
If not by the pool, then the creamy sand beach offers the same five-star service – including a souped-up beach buggy-cum-drinks trolley serving chilled beverages and delivering light snacks.
A big part of the One & Only sensory journey is the food. Home to three unique restaurants – Zest, Stay by three Michelin-star chef Yannick Alléno and 101 Dining Lounge and Bar – every night offers a new culinary experience. At Stay, feast on the eight-course taster menu that brilliantly showcases Yannick’s unique approach to cooking, encompassing showmanship with props like roses and dry ice, and clever flavour combinations that have made him a celebrated name in gastronomy. Warning: approach the pastry library with caution. It contains irresistible confections you’re likely to dream about forever. For sunset drinks and seafood, 101 is the elegant ocean-inspired venue also guided by Yannick – the overwater setting located at the end of a boardwalk pier adds to the sense of escape. It’s no surprise the location is popular with both hotel guests and locals who love its international vibe.Once again, the food is excellent – try the zesty seabass and mango ceviche, sashimi, smoked crab and miso cod with recommended wine pairing, topped off with a cheese platter or lavish dessert.
If you’re looking for privacy, romance, exceptional service and access to the beach but within easy reach of the city, One & Only The Palm is all of these things, wrapped up in a beautifully designed property where pampering comes par for the course. Go and enjoy. Oneandonlyresorts.com
Looking For Luxury: Bulgari Resort, Dubai
Nestled on its own seahorse-shaped island, the Bulgari Resort is located just a five-minute drive away from mainland Dubai. With towering palm trees lining the bridge to the island and opulent, state-of-the-art architecture dominating the skyline on approach, you’ll find privacy ensues as soon as you step foot on the property.
For those not yet accustomed with Bulgari’s world-renowned resorts (its six exclusive destinations can be found in Milan, London, Bali, Shanghai, Beijing and Dubai, each designed by Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel), then consider sentiments such as grandiose, palatial and swanky as key descriptives.
The Dubai resort is sprawled out across separate picturesque avenues, much like a charming Italian seaside town. The main hotel is home to 101 rooms and suites and 20 private low-rise villas are scattered across the island’s east side, while a magnificent 540-metre-squared mansion, featuring its own garden, pool and spa, completes the Mediterranean-style setting. Spaces are stately to say the least, and in replicating the eternity of its Roman heritage, Bulgari uses materials such as marble, stone and onyx, (even the bathrooms are covered in travertine from Tivoli). The same glamour is mirrored throughout the resort, where nostalgic drawings from the Bulgari archives and pictures from Italy’s La Dolce Vita days also decorate the walls.
Its real showpiece may well be the private marina featuring a 50-boat harbour, beach and promenade. Meander around the water’s edge while enjoying views of Dubai’s skyline behind, and the intense blue of the Arabian Gulf ahead. A fresh and salty sea breeze flows through, making it easy to lose hours of the afternoon while watching yachts sail in and out of the bay: escapism at its best.
Pit-stop at the Yacht Club for an afternoon drink before making the short walk back up to the main resort, and then on to indulge in one of Bulgari’s sumptuous dining options. From La Spiaggia to Il Café and Il Bar, the Italian theme remains. For the ultimate sunset view, nestle in on the terrace of Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito’s Il Ristorante. We recommend a medley of antipasti as sharing plates (the bluefin tuna belly and wild sea bream are must-try dishes), before moving on to either a pasta, main or both. The spaghetti with lobster and red prawns is deliciously punchy, while the black cod with leek sauce and crispy spinach is a just as flavoursome but lighter an option. For relaxation, either the beach, pool (which is designed with a mosaic pattern scattered across the floor replicating dazzling diamonds and gemstones), or spa are perfect for whiling away the hours.
At just over a year old, Bulgari Resort Dubai straddles the splendour expected from a new property, with the warmth of a majestic Italian home. Perfect for couples looking to slip away into a lavish environment. Bulgarihotels.com
The Desert Retreat: Telal Resort, Al Ain
If you’re looking for a remote utopia to reconnect mind, body and soul, head for Al Ain’s uninterrupted stretches of sand and the holistic Bedouin retreat of Telal Resort, Al Ain. The five-star sanctuary, which is part of a natural conservation, has been designed to integrate with the terrain, its surrounding sand-scape your only neighbour, bar the gazelles that roam openly across the vast backdrops of the beautiful Remah desert. The natural oasis is dotted with spacious tent-like villas, two with private pools, that can be reached either by buggy or on one of the bicycles parked outside the main lobby. Ride out to an early morning camel ride or down to the rustic and quaint Zaman Lawal Heritage Village for a truly authentic Emirati experience, where you can sip on traditional Arabic coffee, wander the souk and learn about Bedouin life.
For guests interested in falconry, the local Bu Artah conservatory in the village offers quite the educational experience. There, students can practice the sport and study over a period of six months, from September until March every year. Other activities on the premises include sand boarding, ATV quad bikes and a zip line that runs down from the top of the hotel straight to the village, perfect for those staying in the Heritage Deluxe Rooms, who might prefer a faster, adrenaline-fuelled way to return to their quarters.
Wander back to the hotel on foot, through the hilly uneven landscape.If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some of the wild inhabitants that also call this resort home – from wild ducks that stop by during their migration to gazelles that graze on any bit of greenery they can find. Spend the rest of the day relaxing at the property’s infinity pool, sipping on mocktails and listening to the gentle lapping of the water. Stay there until the sun starts to set for spectacular views as dusk envelopes the surrounding dunes and vast expanse of desert.
Dine at the Desert Gate Lounge, where you can try traditional Emirati dishes or go for an international favourite, as the restaurant offers the best of both. For more privacy, request to have dinner on the terrace of your villa, where you can enjoy a made-to-order meal beside the flickering flames of the firepit. Telalresort.ae>