10 winter stays in the UAE worth checking out while the weather is cool

From a desert camp at the foothill of Al Ain’s Jebel Hafeet, to a coastal resort in Ras Al Khaimah, these are the best places to stay this season

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February is almost upon us meaning that now is the ideal time to get out and enjoy the cooler UAE weather.

The coming month typically serves up a plethora of crisp mornings and breezy evenings coupled with a good dose of daytime sunshine, making it the ideal season for a mini getaway. And with a multitude of staycation options on our doorstep, there’s no shortage of places you can go to make the most of a winter break.

Whether you fancy camping in the desert, exploring the mangroves in Abu Dhabi or hitting the beach with your dog in tow in Ras Al Khaimah, here are 10 of the best places for a winter stay this season.

1. Bab Al Nojoum Al Mugheriah Resort, Abu Dhabi

If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, then Abu Dhabi’s newest glamping destination is well worth a visit. Located in the coastal town of Mirfa, Bab Al Nojoum Al Mugheriah Resort is about a 90-minute drive from the capital set on the edge of Marawah Marine Biosphere Reserve.

This nature resort offers two types of accommodation — gleaming Airstream trailers with an outdoor fire pit or converted one and two-bedroom cargo container cabins, which come with their own sun deck and plunge pool. Good news for families, children below 12 can stay for free in their parent’s accommodation.

Perfect for exploring the great outdoors, the resort offers a host of activities including biking, farming, yoga, falconry, watersports and cooking classes. Location-based experiences are also on offer including horse-rides through the mangroves, snorkelling and water-hold scouting missions.

The reserve is also brimming with wildlife and guests can spot urial sheep, sand and mountain gazelles, foxes and several types of birds, so even just being on site will make you feel connected to nature.

Rates from Dh707 including taxes, but excluding meals and activities; babalnojoum.com

2. The Retreat, Fujairah

The Retreat in Al Bidya, Fujairah is a good choice for a winter escape where you don’t need to worry too much about your ecological travel footprint. Built using natural, locally sourced materials, the landscaping consists of indigenous trees and plants and solar heaters ensure hot showers are available in the camp's en-suite tents, while all waste water is recycled for irrigation.

Food served during your stay is organic, with fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs grown on-site and incorporated into daily meals. The camp's tents can accommodate two adults in single or king-size beds, and there are also four and five-bedroom tents for families.

Unwind in the dedicated drawing and reading corners, or enjoy more active outdoor endeavours, as the resort has teamed up with Absolute Adventures and Fujairah Adventure Centre to offer canyoning, hiking, trekking, mountain biking and more, perfect for making the most of the great outdoors during UAE winter.

Rates from Dh1,400 including meals and taxes; theretreat.ae

3. Pura Eco Retreat, Jubail Island, Abu Dhabi

Make the most of the UAE’s natural surrounds with a stay at the country’s first eco-retreat.

Pura Eco Retreat on Jubail Island offers unrestricted access to nature among Abu Dhabi's mangroves and where guests can choose to spend the night in a native tipi tent or a dome-shaped suite.

With a focus on sustainability, the resort is a car free zone and no motorised activities are allowed on the waters. But there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy including biking, kayaking, art classes and yoga sessions. The biodiverse retreat also has plenty of wildlife, with staff able to provide binoculars for getting a closer look at the birds, frogs, gazelle, fish and more that call this place home.

Dome-shaped tents offer a king-size bed and private bathroom, with a butler on hand to help set up your fire pit, bring you room service or fulfil any other requests. Those seeking more of an authentic camping experience can also book a stay in one of three native tipi tents located on the beach and surrounded by flame torches.

There’s also a private oval-shaped pool backed by the mangroves for guests to enjoy. Oh, and this one is not for families, it’s an adult-only space.

Rates from Dh1,485 excluding taxes, for two people in a dome tent; staypura.com

4. Sand Sherpa Camp, Dubai

Dubai’s Desert Conservation Reserve is a protected region that spans 225 square kilometres of sand and is home to gazelle, caracal, foxes, lizards and more. It's also now open for those seeking an overnight adventure thanks to Sand Sherpa’s Winter Desert camping experience.

Guests can choose to self-drive in a 4x4 or get picked up from their location in Dubai and then head out into the reserve on a specially prepared track that's been created to restrict disturbance in this wildlife haven. Keep an eye out for animals and other desert life with expert guides on hand to provide more insight on what goes on in the sands of the Dubai desert.

Once at camp, you’ll be sleeping in a specially-designed rooftop tent, and can opt to hire bedding or bring your own. Each vehicle camp will also have a sofa area, dining set up, grill and fire pit so that you’ve got everything you need for a night under the stars. Next morning, enjoy a walk through a nearby ancient ghaf tree forest, where guides will help you identify the animal tracks that have appeared overnight.

If you fancy trying this for yourself, you'll have to be quick, reservations are only open until April as the weather gets too hot for desert camping after then.

Rates from Dh2,750 for self-drives, including bedding, dinner and breakfast; sandsherpa.com

5. Banan Beach, Ras Al Khaimah

Pack up the family and head north to Ras Al Khaimah for a night at the recently opened Banan Beach. Having relocated from its popular home in Jebel Ali a few years ago, this rustic beach escape is now open in the UAE’s most adventure-laden emirate and offers camping and beach stays with a side of Boho-cool.

Take your pick from three-bedroom chalets that come with their own private pool, split level loft tents with sea views and a garden sleeping up to four people or smaller beach camp tents for two, which come with a small outdoor terrace and seating space. Saturday’s are all about the pool party, with a live DJ until 7pm and other special events are planned across the month of February.

And great news for dog-parents, furry friends are also welcome to stay at Banan Beach with reserved pet-friendly accommodation across each category.

Rates from Dh657.30 for two people in a pet-friendly tent; bananbeach.com

6. Mysk Kingfisher Retreat, Kalba, Sharjah

Mysk Kingfisher Retreat in Kalba offers tented accommodation, a private pool and untouched nature. Photo: Mysk hotels

The Kingfisher Retreat in Khor Kalba on Sharjah's east coast is technically closer to Fujairah than it is to the city of Sharjah. This region gets slightly different weather than the majority of the country with morning and evening winter temperatures being a little cooler and the chance of rainfall higher, which is dreamlike weather for most UAE residents clinging to winter before the hot summer returns.

Surrounded by sandy beaches and the Gulf of Oman's blue waters, the eco-focused resort offers 20 tented villas, each of which has its own pool and sea view and is designed to reflect the country's ­heritage. Fire pits offer pockets to cosy up under the stars as night falls and a communal tent is where meals are served each day.

Sustainability is high on the agenda here — the nearby mangroves are home to a turtle breeding area, and ­ornithologists will enjoy the plethora of birds that nest in the area. The ­mountain-dotted backdrop offers a taste of adventure, with walking and hiking trails, as well as being a great base from which to jump if you want to do a spot of paragliding.

Rates from Dh1,990 including breakfast, but excluding taxes; msykhotels.com

7. Pura Eco Retreat — Jebel Hafit Desert Park, Al Ain

Escape to Al Ain for a stay at the foothills of the city’s tallest mountain. Pura Eco Retreat – Jebel Hafit Desert Park is operated by the same people behind Abu Dhabi’s first eco-retreat so you can expect a similar reverence for nature.

Set inside the Garden City’s nine-kilometre park at the base of Jebel Hafeet, the resort offers guests three different accommodation options for winter staycations.

Those who want a no-frills visit can book a plot to pitch their own tents while anyone seeking a taste of Emirati culture can opt for a serviced stay in a Bedouin-style tent. And if you want to go all out with a luxury glamping stay, the Sky Bubble and Skylight Domes offer luxury stays complete with air-conditioning, private en suite bathrooms and views of the craggy mountain backdrop.

Open seasonally, this place is a good base from where to explore Jebel Hafit Desert Park’s natural surroundings where you can find 5,000-year-old tombs and other ancient archaeological treasures. There’s also plenty of on-site activities including camel rides, dune buggies and biking and hiking trails.

Rates from Dh683 in a heritage tent; jhdp.ae

8. Hatta Caravan Park, Dubai

Hatta Caravan Park is a great option for winter staycations. Photo: Hatta Wadi Hub

Caravans have been enjoying something of a renaissance of late and Dubai’s Hatta is home to the first luxury caravan park in the region.

Nestled in the foregrounds of Hatta Wadi Hub and surrounded by mountain views, the trailers offer a glamping experience that is a good base if you’re keen to get stuck into the plethora of outdoor activities on offer here. Go mountain biking on designated trails, set off on a hike or take to the skies with a paragliding experience. There’s also archery, kayaking, carting and more.

Spend the night in your Camper Deluxe caravan where you’ll have your own private BBQ and fire pit, perfect for winter evenings. You’ll also have your own television, fridge, sofa, bathroom and comfortable sleeping for up to three people.

Rates from Dh1,058 excluding taxes and fees, limited weekend availability. www.visithatta.com

9. Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Desert Islands Resort, Abu Dhabi

Fancy spending time in the wild this month? Then you might want to check out Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Desert Islands Resort. Set off the coast of Abu Dhabi, the island is a protected wildlife sanctuary that was founded by Sheikh Zayed, the UAE's Founding Father and is home to free-roaming animals, including the near extinct Arabian Oryx.

The family-friendly Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Desert Islands Resort is one of three on the island, and the best one for those travelling with children in tow. Stays can include a variety of activities with archery, wildlife drives, nature walks, kayaking, culture and history tours on the menu. The resort also has spacious rooms with large bathrooms and interconnecting suites available for bigger families.

Book the ultra all-inclusive package and you won’t need to worry about what your bill is going to be at the end of the stay with meals and unlimited beverages at Al Shams Pool Bar included, as well as one activity per adult per night. Just remember to bring something warm for the evenings – it can get cold in this island locale in winter.

Rates from Dh 2,860 for ultra all-inclusive package; anantara.com

10. Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, Ras Al Khaimah

The first Bear Grylls Explorer Camp in the world is in Ras Al Khaimah and it’s a brilliant place to head during winter.

Book a 24-hour intense survival experience at the camp on the UAE's tallest mountain and you’ll get put through your paces by outdoor experts trained at one of the adventure extraordinaire's academies. Expect to learn practical life-saving skills and survival tips for roughing it in the wild, as well as practices you can implement into your daily life such as keeping calm under pressure.

Accommodation at the camp is in converted shipping containers that sleep up to three adults, or two adults and one child. Each comes with basic self-catering facilities, including a barbecue area on a private outdoor terrace to prepare meals. Upon checking in, visitors will find their cabins made up and equipped with plates, bowls, cutlery, mugs, barbecue tools and toilet paper, while the on-site shop provides further amenities such as snacks and firewood that can be purchased if needed.

The camp is also dog-friendly, welcoming up to two dogs per cabin, for a small supplementary fee. Owners are however asked to keep their pets on a leash and accompanied at all times.

Bring warm clothes and make use of the extra blankets, temperatures in Jebel Jais drop substantially on winter evenings.

Rates from Dh400 for room only; beargryllscamp.ae

Updated: January 31, 2022, 12:07 PM
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