Why we like it:

• The food! Every restaurant is exceptional
• A visit to the spa is an indulgent treat
• The view of the coastline from your balcony – try it, you’ll see

Location: On the coast of RAK, the Waldorf Astoria is a real landmark. It towers above the rest of the sparsely populated skyline, but doesn’t seem out of place. It’s a short drive from Dubai, less than an hour in good traffic, and once you’re out of the emirate and on the way to RAK you can feel the stresses of the city blowing away just as the orange sand of the desert blows over the surface of the road.

Character: The hotel retains the sense of grandeur that its New York forefather is renowned for, but blends it with plenty of Arabian touches. Most impressively, as you enter the lobby you’ll see a stunning clock, with the workings bare and set to announce the five daily calls to prayer. It is a work of engineering art. It’s set at one end of the hotel chain’s famous Peacock Alley, another grand piece of interior design.
Service: As with most places in the UAE, standards are high. When it comes to somewhere as stylish as the Waldorf Astoria, expectations are raised again, and the staff don’t disappoint.

Rooms:
Whether you’re looking over the Arabian Gulf or the Hajar Mountains you’ll have an impressive view. We have to admit we prefer the sea-view rooms because when we sat on the balcony and watched the sun set on the horizon it was one of the most beautiful sights we’ve witnessed in the UAE. Rooms all come with a separate shower and bath, butler service, a mini bar and excellent TV and music systems, as well as Wi-Fi. Suites come with separate seating areas and some come with a dressing room (complete with mannequin). Bathrooms are extremely spacious and the toiletries are excellent.

Restaurants & bars:
Three of the hotel’s highest points come here – UMI, Lexington Grill and Marjan. The latter is an attractive Arabic restaurant. Dishes are kept relatively simple but are bursting with flavour and we recommend asking the waiter for advice because when we visited every suggestion was spot on. The trio of hummus was particularly good. UMI is a classy Japanese restaurant, where the sushi and sashimi were fresh and pretty and the salon teriyaki was knockout. Lexington Grill is the hotel’s steakhouse, and does it extremely well. There is also a pool bar and an all-day dining restaurant, as well as the Cigar Bar and 17Squared bar and nightclub, which is very bling.

Facilities:
There’s a great children’s club, with a nursery and outside play area, which will keep youngsters occupied. The gym is excellent and the spa is super. Once you step into the spa everything about it is relaxing: the sounds, the smells, the welcome drinks and the cold towels. We tried a couple’s massage, which was extremely good, but the experience was topped off by being left in the couple’s room to enjoy the steam room and Jacuzzi once the treatment was over. An extremely chilled and pampered Time Out emerged from that room.

Activities:
The hotel has a golf course, which is a pretty impressive start. There are also water sports including scuba diving deep-sea fishing, and tennis available. The hotel can arrange tours of RAK itself, including a desert safari and trips to the Iceland water park. Back in the grounds there is a brilliant pool and the beach is a beautiful spot, with fantastic blue waters.

GET A DISCOUNT WITH HOTEL TONIGHT
Name: TIMEOUTDUBAI
Value: 150 AED
Min Spend: 400 AED
Redemption period: 14.12.2015 - 21.12.2015
Booking/Checkin period: 06.12.2015 - 23.03.2016
Markets: all markets

Why we like it:

• This is a hotel that has been designed by people who properly understand family life
• Staff are the happiest we’ve experienced in ages
• Breakfast and the beach will be a big hit with the kids

Location:
We arrived late at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa. Remember that name, because it’s important. This is NOT the Hilton just down the way from the Waldorf in RAK, no matter how much your wife insists it is on the hour-long drive down there. Nor is it the Hilton Double-Tree just around the corner. So, in other words, actually put the full hotel name into the sat-nav and when you arrive, on time, stress-free and not about to kill each other, you will discover an impressive entrance that gives way to a bustling lobby and staff so friendly they should look to do a bit of marriage counselling on the side.

Character: This is a modern, quality hotel with an easy vibe and design touches that are either cute or terrifying, depending on your travelling companions. Make no mistake: some buttons on the OUTSIDE of the bathroom, that draw up the blinds over the window that separates it from the bedroom is a neat touch if you are a couple who want to lovingly gaze at each other while one of you brushes their teeth and the other watches TV in bed. On our visit, however, they became a daily terror, in which our kids in the bedroom would find it hilarious to open up the blinds to reveal one or other of their parents sat on the toilet. This is not a function designed by someone with much in the way of modesty, or children, unlike the rest of the hotel. That aside, the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa is a fantastic family environment. Many hotels bill themselves as family resorts, but this Hilton really should scream its credentials from the rooftops. Or hire one of those planes with a banner hanging out the back. That’s how accessible and easy it is.

Service:
Every member of staff here, from those who greet you at reception, to the hostesses at breakfast, to the lifeguards and the cleaners go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Faultlessly friendly.

Rooms:
Rooms here are decently sized if not huge but come armed with generous balconies, and that aforementioned bathroom with the remote-controlled blinds. There aren’t many frills but everything is comfortable. Room service is swift and there’s plenty to choose from.

Restaurants & bars:
There are four bars. The Dhow Beach Bar offers a decent drinks list and idyllic sea views, the Dome Lounge is ideal for sundowners, X.O. is an adults-only affair intended for post-dinner mixed drinks and Esprit is its more informal sister joint – all sports on TV and billiards. Restaurants cover Italian, Thai, International, as well as the beach barbecue option of Al Bahar. Breakfast at Maarid, meanwhile, is great – with a good mix of treats for kids and adults. The highlight on our visit, though, was undoubtedly Pura Vida, a Brazilian carnivore’s delight with a long list of cuts of beef, lamb and chicken. Our steak, which was about as thick as Hulk Hogan’s forearm, had a crunchy crust on the outside and was perfectly cooked medium-rare in the middle. Seriously tasty, melt-in-the-mouth stuff.

Facilities:
The pool facilities here are brilliant. There is a raised version for adults only, a salt water pool with a swim-up bar, a kids pool with a big watery umbrella-shaped fountain to splash in, as well as a separate pool with a big yellow slide that we couldn’t get the kids out of for most of our three days. They all filter down to a simple, shallow-ledged beach that is perfect for splashing around in, between mocktails from the beach bar.

Activities:
Shopping and golf are a five to ten-minute drive from the hotel’s Al Maareedh location, while there are daily packages available for excursions and activities across the emirate. On site there is a spa and beach water sports available, with everything from jet skis to a hireable powered parachute – a Little Nellie from 007 contraption that drives you up the sand and into the air, for a quick scoot out over the ocean. We didn’t have the courage to try it on our visit, but it all looked very exciting from our far more tranquil vantage point at the beachside bar.

GET A DISCOUNT WITH HOTEL TONIGHT
Name: TIMEOUTDUBAI
Value: 150 AED
Min Spend: 400 AED
Redemption period: 14.12.2015 - 21.12.2015
Booking/Checkin period: 06.12.2015 - 23.03.2016
Markets: all markets

Set slightly out of town in Jebel Ali is the peaceful Jebel Ali Palm Tree Court & Spa. A laid-back family resort, all suites have terraces that overlook lush landscaped gardens and waterfalls. The resort really is an oasis in the desert. On site is a nine-hole golf course, which has been played by Tiger Woods. Where else could you overlook the sparkling Arabian Gulf and find peacocks wandering onto the fairway? There’s also a floodlit driving range as well as putting and chipping greens, so you can make the most of the year-round sunshine. For those that want to get off the green, there’s air-conditioned riding stables (the only resort to have this) and expert tuition available for beginners, or hacks can be arranged for more experienced riders. There are two accommodation options, staying in the main hotel or renting a more secluded palm villa – either afford
five-star luxury. Well, what else in Dubai?

The essentials
• Take your pick from watersports, a gym, pools, a private beach, tennis courts, fishing, diving and even shooting.

• Seven restaurants means there’s something for everyone, plus a beach bar and a new nightclub.

• Jebel Ali’s a little further up the coast than most of Dubai, but is still close to Ibn Battuta Mall – which is inspired by the famous adventurer’s 14th century journeys.

• There’s a real family feel at Jebel Ali Palm Tree Court & Spa, so it’s probably not the best option if you want to hit the clubs all night long after packing yours away.

• However, head to Plastik club further up the coast (away from Dubai) in Ghantoot for a spot of exclusive, Miami beach-style partying complete with Jacuzzis.

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