Anantara Santorini Abu Dhabi brings timeless Aegean charm to the UAE – Hotel Insider

Adults-only venue offers ultimate relaxation and excellent cuisine, and turns out to be perfect escape for a blissful babymoon

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White-washed walls, low-lying domed buildings, crystal white sands and a brilliant blue sea – no, it’s not the Aegean coastline, it’s Abu Dhabi.

More specifically, it’s the recently opened Anantara Santorini Abu Dhabi Retreat which offers postcard-pretty Grecian charm on the shores of Ghantoot, a small neighbourhood on the emirate’s border with Dubai. The first photos of the resort were teased last September and it quietly opened in February.

While the Greek isle of the same name is increasingly sought out, with the likes of Wizz Air Abu Dhabi offering low-cost flights there from the UAE capital – it comes with the problems of overcrowding, often extortionate prices of hotels and sorry sight of donkey taxis to contend with. Instead, my wife and I decide to keep things local, with a visit to Anantara's newest UAE arrival and are thrilled to be some of the first guests through the doors – seizing a chance to enjoy the five-star adults-only retreat as a babymoon before our little one arrives.

The welcome

Less than a typical hotel-style arrival, our entrance feels more like we were being welcomed to a (very wealthy) friend’s home.

Staff know our names and lead us into a lounge with comfy sofas, welcome drinks and a cold towel for refreshment. We’re shown the views of the beach by Fernando, our round-the-clock butler, as someone else sorts the fiddly bits of IDs, signing forms, assigning keys and so on. In a nutshell: it’s relaxation from the second we pull up.

The neighbourhood

Ghantoot is, probably, best known for being the halfway point on the between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but we soon discover that this small pocket of coastline is unrivalled when it comes to peace.

For international visitors, it’s about a 25-minute drive from Al Maktoum International Airport, 35 minutes from Zayed International Airport and about an hour from Dubai International Airport.

The room

There are only 22 rooms at the resort, although luxury suite is probably a more fitting term for each.

The 255-square-metre royal duplex suite is the pinnacle and even comes with a private gym. Each abode is inspired by the timeless architectural aesthetics of Santorini. That means few, if any, straight lines or hard edges. Instead, it’s all gentle curved walls painted bright white, hard stone floors and light wooden finishings with a slightly nautical nod.

We’re staying in the Fira sea view room, which has a terrace leading straight onto the beach. It’s 17 steps from the gloriously comfy super-king bed to the beach, I count. The terrace has a double bed and an egg chair, and is reached via floor-to-ceiling window doors that bathe the room in light.

Usual amenities of TV, coffee makers, mini bar, eco-friendly toiletries and refillable water bottles aside, it’s the enormous fluffy towels that we are most grateful for. This room has no bath, which plays into the hotel's water-saving credentials, though some guests may wish to ask which rooms do before booking, especially expectant mothers looking for an extra dose of night-time comfort.

The scene

To give the beach Santorini’s famed white and sugary soft feeling, sand from Algeria has been brought in.

There is also a made-for-Instagram infinity pool (which has an olive tree growing in its middle), bar and vast outdoor seating area. Inside there's a well-equipped gym and a comfortable spa that includes a Moroccan hammam, steam room and sauna, cold plunge pool and couples massage rooms. The one-hour treatment for couples is faultless, and a pregnancy massage is “peak relaxation”, I'm told.

The hotel’s size also makes it prime for buy-outs for intimate group getaways, work retreats or a wedding venue with a stunning backdrop. In the next few months, a cigar lounge and cinema, complete with double loungers, will also be added.

The food

The hotel has two restaurants, Oia Oasis and Thalassa. The first is on the upper level, steps away from the pool, and provides a more casual breakfast and lunch affair, but it is also open for dinner.

Breakfast here is served a la carte and offers a typical array of western dishes: eggs, avocado on toast, acai bowls and fruit platters. Don’t skip the chance to have a coffee at sunrise in the morning. Waiters know the dietary restrictions for pregnant guests – decaf, hard eggs, no raw meat or shellfish et al – which offers extra peace of mind for our babymooning selves.

Lunch and dinner menus offer Middle Eastern favourites, including a mezze and bread platter (Dh120), salads, soups, seafood and grills. The spicy makanek sausages (Dh90) served with pomegranate molasses, whole-grilled prawns (Dh165) and the dukkah-crusted sea bass (Dh175) are particular highlights.

Evening meals are best enjoyed at Thalassa, which means “sea” in Greek after the goddess said to be the personification of the Mediterranean Sea. Appropriately, it's next to the sea on the level below and focuses on Greek classics, with the occasional local twist.

Expect classic dips like tzatziki, tyrokafteri (spiced cheese) and melitzanosalata (aubergine) alongside watermelon and feta salad, horiatiki and fisherman soup. There’s a raw bar with Wagyu beef tartare (Dh220) and Dibba Bay oysters (Dh180), while mains include sea bass (Dh220), moussaka (Dh175) and chicken souvlaki (Dh195). Service, like everywhere else on the property, is swift, engaging and always with a smile.

Highs and lows

Peace and quiet are in endless supply, the rooms are gorgeous and the proximity to the beach for each is a real selling point. The food feels well-curated and the infinity pool is beautiful. There are big ticks for eco credentials and for pregnant guests, as there seems to be nothing staff can't tweak or offer an alternative for.

It’s not a low, merely something to be aware of, travellers who like the idea of “heading out for a walk to see what’s about” in the evenings will be left wanting. This is a remote property, so embrace the tranquillity.

The insider tip

Wait until about an hour before sunset to take snaps, it's when the rays bounce off the white walls and the curves and architectural quirks create divine photo opportunities.

The verdict

Adult-only bliss amid a charming architectural homage to one of the world’s prettiest islands, perfect for romantic getaways and weekend escapes.

The bottom line

Nightly room rates start at Dh2,200, including breakfast. Check-in time is from 3pm and checkout time is 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: April 25, 2024, 8:15 AM