Why we like it:
• It’s one of the best places in the UAE to embark on a scuba-diving course or trip, being on the Gulf of Oman and benefitting from the huge variety of marine life native to the Indian Ocean
• With the resort wedged between the sea and the mountains, this is as far away as you can get from a city break without leaving the UAE
• The large pool gets gradually deeper in a similar fashion to the sea, meaning the shallows are perfect for lounging around in with a book – especially so in the hottest and most humid months, when even ten minutes on a sun lounger can be unbearable
Location: Despite being almost a two-hour drive from Dubai and backing on to mountains, Le Méridien Al Aqah is incredibly easy to get to. It’s also one of the most instantly recognisable landmarks in the Fujairah and Khor Fakkan regions – so if you do manage to get yourself lost, pretty much anyone you stop to ask will be able to direct you.
Character: If you were to build a spaceship using Tetris blocks, it might look something like this. Nevertheless, the structure is deceivingly large – housing far more restaurants, bars, rooms, suites and lounges than might seem possible from glancing at its exterior.
Service: From check-in to dining to drinks at the top-storey bar, staff are helpful and conversational throughout – swapping rooms, recommending dishes and putting together complicated drinks orders without faltering once.
Rooms: If you want to stay in the area in style, Le Méridien’s spacious Royal Club Rooms (from Dhs850 per room, per night) are the way to do it. Positioned on the hotel’s higher floors, from the 15th upwards, each has uninterrupted sea views, free Wi-Fi, plus access to the Club Lounge and its complimentary daily afternoon tea. On top of that you can partake in an exclusive happy hour (and by that, they mean free drinks from 7pm-9pm) at the hotel’s loftiest watering hole, the Astros Bar. More affordable accommodation options are the standard (Dhs400) and superior (Dhs800) rooms, while the more extravagant choices include The Executive Suite (Dhs1,800), which features its own private balcony and terrace overlooking both the ocean and the Hajar Mountains, a dining and living room, plus extra benefits such as clothes pressing. Want to see how the other half live? The Presidential Suite (from Dhs8,000) is located on the top floor and has a private balcony and terrace with ocean and mountain views, a majlis, a master bedroom and two additional bedrooms, two lounge areas, a dining room, a private Jacuzzi and a full kitchen with direct access to service lifts.
Restaurants & bars: You could stay here for a week and still go somewhere different for dinner every single night. Taste serves traditional Thai food, Views offers all-day dining buffets, Baywatch Beach Bar does sandwiches and snacks, as does the Baywatch Pool Bar (not to mention a mean mixed drink). Head to Gonu Bar & Grill on the beach for fresh grills and salads, or try out Swaad for fantastically tasty Indian dishes, served in mammoth portions (an order of onion bhajis, a chicken curry and a single bread is ample food for two). Amid the hotel’s gardens you’ll find Sapore, which offers a variety of classic Italian eats, ranging from antipasto and salads to homemade pastas and pizza (though sadly the oven wasn’t working on our visit). While Italian clearly isn’t the hotel’s strength (stick to Swaad), the restaurant’s staff are nothing if not desperate to ensure diners are happy and enjoy their meal. Wind down with a drink at Astros, the hotel’s vertiginous bar, or, weather permitting, grab a cold bottle of hops and listen to the crashing waves at Gonu.
Facilities: Le Méridien is home to what was, at one point, the largest swimming pool in the UAE. In our book, its most important attribute is the large swim-up bar, providing refreshments and refuge from the sun. There’s also a spa, a kids’ club, a teens’ club and scuba diving and snorkelling trips and courses operated by the UAE’s extremely reputable Al Boom Diving.
Activities: Take a diving trip or course, or snorkelling excursion or try water sports such as wakeboarding. There’s also the option to book a fly fishing trip on a 30ft charter boat, with half or full-day excursions available.
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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