Al Raha Beach Hotel
Parents will love: The beautiful indoor swimming pool (perfect during humid September), the Jacuzzi and spa, the beautiful spacious rooms, as well as the tennis and squash courts. The private beach is lush too.
Kids will love: Monkeying around at the playground right next to the outdoor pool (there’s a bouncy castle here too!), making sand castles on the beach and scoffing all the sweet treats on offer as part of the Friday family brunch.
The overall experience: It’s difficult to get a room at Al Raha unless you plan well in advance and it’s easy to see why as there’s enough to keep both the tots and grown-ups happy. The hotel has a very chilled out, friendly vibe. Check out the brunch options which provide a balloon-bending clown for the kids, who can have their faces painted while you listen to the karaoke-ish live music being played for your entertainment. Watersports can be arranged but pampering is also a must-do while the nippers are entertained for a few hours by the baby-sitting services available, or at the Gazelle Kids Club, where they can paint, watch TV and make new friends.
How far from Dubai: 45 minutes.
Cost: Rates start from Dhs810, including breakfast. Al Raha Beach district, next to the Abu Dhabi International Airport
www.danathotels.com, (02 508 0555).
Parents will love: The watersports, as prices at Kempinski’s Dolphin Water Sports Centre are very reasonable, so you can jet-ski your heart out, plus enjoy parasailing, wakeboarding, sailing and lots more. If this isn’t active enough, you can also explore the island on foot through nature trails or hit the dirt on a mountain bike. The animals can also be viewed from a kayak as you navigate the rich and diverse habitat of the mangroves. Keep an eye out for the flamingos, or explore the marine life while snorkelling in the clear blue bay.
Kids will love: The play area by the swimming pool, the Cosmic Bowling alley and the bizarre soapy soccer (playing football on a big inflatable pitch with soap all over it, making it super-slippery).
How far from Dubai: One hour (via Sharjah).
Cost: Room rates start at Dhs730 for two adults and two children under 12, including taxes and breakfast in a standard room.
Sheikh Humaid Bin Rashid Al Nuaimi Street, Ajman, www.kempinski.com (06 714 5555).
Bani Yas Island
Anantara Desert Islands
Parents will love: The chance to truly get away from it all and spend a few days in five-star splendour.
Kids will love: The Kids Club where they can take part in several activities, getting up close and personal with desert wildlife and splashing around the pool.
The overall experience: This ultra-luxurious resort is redeveloping the former island home of Sheikh Zayed into a conservation area and animal reserve, helping to breed animals native to the Arabian peninsula. The hotel is accessible only by boat or plane and offers guests a real feeling of escape. Archaeologists recently discovered ancient artifacts from a previous Christian settlement here and the island is thought to be around 10 million years old. Rooms are spacious and well set up for families. Even though you’re in a conservation area on an ancient island there’s no shortage of adventures to be had. The wildlife safari is well worth doing,
as open sided trucks take you on a tour behind the scenes of the wildlife sanctuary and will get you up close to cheetahs, giraffes, hyenas and more.
How far from Dubai: Three hours (west of Abu Dhabi).
Cost: A Club room costs from Dhs1,340 per night, including breakfast. One infant goes free, but there is a Dhs400 charge for each additional child under the age of 12.
Bani Yas Island, www.desertislands.anantara.com (02 801 5400).
Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort
Parents will love: Having the kids being taken care of so parents can enjoy a massage at the spa – or maybe grab a cocktail at the swim-up bar.
Kids will love: The Penguin Club, where staff oversee the various activities, the swimmingpools, miniature golf, oversized chess and snakes and ladders. There is even a games room and mini cinema for teens.
The overall experience: The Meridien hotel is easy to spot on the Fujairah coastline and is the only tall building against the backdrop of the mountains. A fully equipped resort, it has swimming pools, a beach, watersports, a spa, a number of restaurants and a bar that overlooks the sea. Apparently it caters to the business crowd too, but we’ve always found it a little more casual than that, with families in their swim gear often found wandering through the lobby. It’s near to other attractions, such as Snoopy Island, historic forts and towns, but there is so much to do here, you probably won’t leave the resort.
How far from Dubai: Two hours (just past Dibba).
Cost: Family room based on two adults, two children under 12 sharing from Dhs816 (Eid weekend Dhs1,860 for half-board), including breakfast.
www.lemeridien-alaqah.com (09 244 9000).
Ras Al Khaimah
Hilton Resort & Spa
Parents will love: The stunning setting, the spa, and the fact that the kids’ club is reasonably priced and well supervised, which means guilt-free pampering for mum and dad!
Kids will love: The fabulous kiddie facilities – shaded pool with swirly slide and great adventure play area in the cooler months.
The overall experience: A couple of days at the Hilton Resort and Spa, nestled in a private bay on the Arabian Gulf, can feel like a real holiday. There are tons of options for active youngsters, all organised with lazy parents in mind. Grab a lounger next to the Kids’ Club pool where nippers are happy to spend an entire morning making new friends, while more lively ones can take advantage of the water sports, football and table tennis on offer. The kids’ club, for nippers aged four to 12 years, divides activities by age. Six swimming pools, including a salt water pool and an area for ages 16-plus only, are complemented by a 1.5km stretch of white sandy beach, where you’ll find the fully equipped water sport centre offering diving, sailing, jet skis and banana boat rides (at an extra charge). Accommodation is divided into chalets and the more modern hotel rooms. A ground-floor family room with two beds is perfectly adequate for a family of four.
How far from Dubai: 75 minutes.
Cost: Varies on the time of year. Deluxe rooms sleeping two adults and two children under 12 years start from Dhs920 per night, including breakfast and tax (Eid weekend rates from Dhs1,420)
Al Maareedh Street, Ras Al Khaimah, www.rasalkhaimahresort.hilton.com (07 228 8844).
Umm Al Quwain
Dreamland Aqua Park
Parents will love: The fact that the kids are fully occupied and that they don’t even have to pitch a tent because it’s all set up for you. The easy-to-use gas barbecue comes complete with delicious skewers, burgers, sausages, salad and hummus too, so there’s no shopping required. Yummy!
Kids will love: All the crazy water rides and pools, there’s loads for them to do – even a random mini zoo area where they can say hello to Shetland ponies, peacocks and deer.
The overall experience: A stay at Dreamland Aqua Park can only be described as ‘posh camping’. The cosy wooden cabanas come complete with air conditioning, air beds, sheets and sleeping bags. These can comfortably sleep a family of four, and even have black out blinds, so that you can attempt a lie in the next day. Dreamland’s staff provide everything you’ll need for a fab evening barbecue, and they thoughtfully include teabags and coffee in the morning for tired parents who might have stayed up a tad too late the night before. A complete boon for the kids, there is nothing more exciting than when the waterpark closes for the night, and the handful of campers stay on to play. Brilliant fun for all the family.
How far from Dubai: One hour.
Cost: Half board Dhs390 (per adult), Dhs300 (for kids). Full board Dhs450 (for adults), Dhs350 (for kids). Half board includes entry to the park, your stay in the cabanas, unlimited soft drinks, the barbecue dinner, and a full on cooked breakfast. Full board provides all that plus lunch the next day too.
Emirates Road, Umm Al Quwain, www.dreamlanduae.com (06 768 1888).