Hotel Insider: Not even rain can dampen Bab Al Nojoum Hudayriyat's charm

Luxury ocean view and overwater villas are the latest additions at the Abu Dhabi adventure playground

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Abu Dhabi is a city swimming in luxury hotels, where wonders of modern architecture dominate the skyline.

But there is one resort that offers something different, a rustic retreat right on the doorstep.

Bab Al Nojoum Hudayriyat offers coastal captivation for you and your family to discover your inner explorer.

The National checks in to one of the recently opened villas to experience what a city escape without leaving the city is like.

The welcome

Checking in to Bab Al Nojoum Hudayriyat is something of an adventure in itself.

Known colloquially as “the bridge to nowhere”, the imposing Hudayriyat Bridge must be traversed to reach the island. Then follows a series of roundabouts, but at least the journey gives you plenty of time to map out activities for your stay.

On arrival, staff take our bags while our family of five await check-in. It's not your typical hotel lobby. It's small but spacious with the dining area and beach just beyond. Minimalism is very much the theme – books scattered sparsely on bookshelves all contain the word or some variation of it – and we're welcomed with a fruity turquoise drink that's delicious.

Check-in is easy and an electric buggy, one of the many components making up the hotel's commitment to sustainability, arrives to transport us to our ocean view villa.

The neighbourhood

Bab Al Nojoum Hudayriyat caters for all budgets, from tents on the beach to vintage vans and chalets. The luxury ocean view and overwater villas are the latest expansion and come complete with their own private plunge pool, deck loungers, exquisite ocean and sunset views, a private patio and outside deck.

The resort offers a wide range of activities for all its guests including fitness and wellness classes on the beach for parents and giant jenga and an obstacle course for the children. For those who love the water, there is a wide range of aqua activities from kayaking to jet-skis.

Outside the resort's grounds, guests are even more spoilt for choice. 321 Sports is a multi-sport complex featuring a running track, football pitches, basketball, padel and tennis courts.

Bikers can head to the BMX Park and cyclists who really want to raise their heartrate can tackle the 10km loop. Bicycles can be hired for about Dh30 an hour for children and Dh90 for adults. For the more intrepid explorers, there are ropes and walls to navigate at Circuit X Adventure Park.

The nearby Marsana Beach offers a range of cafes, restaurants and a well-stocked shop.

The resort offers evening entertainment with an outdoor cinema, although, due to adverse weather during our stay, this is closed.

The scene

Bab Al Nojoum's unique setting offers plenty of time for reflection and rejuvenation. Promoting sustainability through conscious cuisine and a plastic-free policy, the resort has a real “back-to-basics” feel.

The shoreline is picturesque, though the beach area immediately outside our villa is still being developed – thankfully it doesn't ruin the view. Beachgoers can take a short walk towards the tented accommodation, which only takes a minute.

The hotel's tagline is “love life outside” and it's easy to see why. The waters of the Arabian Gulf glisten outside our villa and the garden is walled either side for privacy without spoiling the view.

Due to the bad weather forecast, all water activities are cancelled and sun loungers stored away, confining us to the villa. But this is no hardship. The private pool is toasty and spectacular views make for the perfect setting while awaiting the storm.

The room

The ocean view villas and nearby overwater villas were opened in January 2024 as part of Modon's latest expansion.

With a nautical theme and Mediterranean finish, our two-bedroom villa has little turtle cards placed throughout with suggestions on how we can better protect our oceans.

Our bedroom has a king-size bed with plenty of room for storage and a standalone bath in the en suite. My two sons take the room opposite that has two single beds and a shower in the en suite.

The villa has its own private pool, sun loungers and an area for dining as well as a lovely space to relax at the bottom of the garden.

The food

The resort has two restaurants on site. Our first pick is 28 Degrees due to its outdoor dining, but the threat of bad weather puts paid to this.

Instead we dine at La Cocinna, situated next to the reception check-in. As the only patrons we are waited on hand and foot. Our waiter, Arnold, arranges for my youngest son to make his own pizza in the woodstove oven, which he absolutely loves. He also arranges for the kitchen to fix my eldest son pancakes despite it not being on the all-inclusive menu.

For the more sophisticated palette, there is an excellent international selection of meats as well as vegetarian dishes. For starters, we have the aubergine with feta cheese as well as bread served with olive oil, grape juice and olives.

My partner and daughter both have the lamb chops, which are succulent and moreish, while I opt for the Wagyu rib-eye steak at Arnold's suggestion. I don't regret it. Tender and cooked to perfection, it more than holds its own alongside dishes from more established steakhouses in the city.

The same restaurant offers the breakfast buffet and caters for all tastes. There's cereal and pastries as well as shakshuka, cold cuts and a wide fruit selection. Hot items include everything from baked beans and sausages to Indian options and made-to-order eggs.

The service

Staff are warm, welcoming and clearly well trained. The resort manager meets me for a coffee and all the staff at La Coccina are incredibly friendly, particularly our new friend Arnold.

Highs and lows

The resort is really lovely and genuinely does offer a different experience to almost every other hotel in Abu Dhabi. The atmosphere is relaxed and there is an abundance of activities to keep all ages entertained. The villas and luxury tents are ideal settings to get together with friends and family.

There are very few lows, but I would suggest a simple “water heater” sticker be added to help guests easily find this essential switch.

Also, the lounge-kitchen area can feel a little crowded with five people and is perhaps more greeting room than living room. Thankfully, it does make everyone gravitate to the outside area, which is by far the best feature.

The insider tip

Plan your activities before arrival. There is almost too much to do and it helps to have a clear plan of how you're going to spend your time. Also, make sure to turn the water switch on in your room if you want a hot shower.

The verdict

My family and I really enjoy our stay at Bab Al Nojoum. The setting is beautiful and there are just a few little teething problems for the management to fix. The luxury accommodation is great but I might like to try the camping area next time.

The bottom line

Rates start from Dh3,900 for a two-bedroom ocean view villa based on two adults and three children, excluding taxes and fees; check-in at 3pm and check-out at noon;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.

Updated: March 23, 2024, 3:56 AM