In Dubai’s hugely competitive luxury hotel market, doing something new is harder than you might think. The city is already home to the world’s tallest hotel, the world’s only "seven-star" hotel and countless other luxury properties that tick every imaginable box from family-friendly to romantic, desert retreats to beachside.
And that is where the very soon-to-open Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort has things relatively easy.
As the first hotel to open on Dubai’s long-awaited World Islands, the hotel is already doing something different. Thankfully, in typical Anantara mode, that’s not quite enough for the luxury retreat that's located on the South American continent of the World Islands development.
Instead, Anantara has created something unlike anything that already exists in the Emirates.
The initial opening date is Saturday, December 18. Ahead of the big opening, The National was invited for a sneak peek behind the scenes at Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort.
As it's located some four kilometres off the coast of Dubai, on the World Islands site closest to the mainland, guests staying at the resort will arrive and check in at Anantara Dubai The Palm.
From there a very sleek luxury speedboat will whisk guests across the Arabian Gulf on a 15-minute trip towards the private island paradise.
Incidentally, this is the same way that workers had to get most of the furnishings, fittings and finishings for Anantara World Islands across to the resort.
Upon reaching the resort, a wooden jetty takes guests to the property's welcome pavilion. This pergola-style structure sits on the ocean's edge and is where travellers will be given a cool refreshment and enjoy a musical welcome ceremony, something that's customary in many of Anantara’s resorts around the world. At this property, the welcome takes place underneath an impressive chandelier crafted out of hundreds of harvested oyster shells – a nod to the UAE's pearl diving history.
A tropical island escape off the coast of the UAE
Walking into the sand-covered resort, it's not too much of a stretch of the imagination to think you've actually left Dubai behind. It’s hard to say where we feel we've gone to – the resort blends Anantara’s signature Thai influences with a sense of Maldivian luxury, Arabian elements and even some Zanzibari vibes. The result is decidedly tropical.
Guests checking in can wander at ease along the sandy walkways that wind through the resort, listening to the sound of the birds and taking in the tropical-style gardens that are currently still in their infancy, but already blooming with colour. Thai-style tuk-tuks are also on hand to ferry guests from one place to another.
An undulating swimming pool dotted with and surrounded by palm trees greets guests near the entrance. There’s a pool bar on the shoreline to the left of the pool, and a rock-art Instagram-worthy spot with the endless blue of the ocean behind it.
Tapas, Mediterranean, Indian and Middle Eastern eats, plus a plastic-free policy
Next to the pool is Helios, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort’s Mediterranean all-day dining restaurant. The spacious eatery has fully retractable glass doors which can open up to let the breeze in when the weather is nice, or be closed to keep things cool in summer.
It’s one of three main restaurants on site. There’s also Luna, a Frida Kahlo-inspired South American lounge that’s located above Helios. Serving tapas and a wide range of drinks, this colourful restaurant's elevated position guarantees awesome views over the ocean back towards the Dubai skyline.
Qamar is the resort's Middle Eastern and Indian restaurant which is at once elegant and romantic without being ostentatious. Al fresco dining or shisha on the terrace is bound to be popular here thanks to traditional majlis-style seating, and uninterrupted vistas across the World Islands.
At the heart of the resort is The Grand House. This lobby area has beautiful palm-inspired decor and bamboo-style furniture and is also another place where guests can have a refreshment or a light bite.
In all of the restaurants and across the resort there's a strict no-plastic policy, with compostable coffee pods in the mini bars and water derived from Anantara’s filtration system, and served to guests in refillable glass bottles.
Cabana spa rooms, yoga and a gym with views to remember
The island has 70 rooms, suites and villas, ranging from the elevated Ocean View rooms, all of which have a balcony, to the four-bedroom Beach Pool Villa which spans a massive 224 square metres.
One of the really nice things about the design is that it really doesn't feel like you're in a resort. Each of the villas, suites and rooms are all slightly different from one another, giving the impression that you are instead wandering through a tropical village, albeit one that’s home to some serious mansions.
Huge thatched roofs adorned with Thai chofas allude to Anantara’s Thai heritage and the high ceilings inside the villas build a real sense of space. The design is coastal, with a subtle colour palate and materials like wood, wicker, linen and other natural products.
Fitness fans will adore the gym which has to be a contender for the best workout views in the world. There’s also a yoga hall and a padel court. The resort beach is lined with sunloungers, and there are in-ocean wooden swings just off the shoreline.
Famed for its spa facilities, Anantara's newest member is no different. While it wasn't open for a sneak peek during our visit, we're told that treatments will be given in luxurious spa cabanas and signature therapies are the Island Lomi Lomi massage and a Couples’ Island Escape.
The area will also be home to a large greenhouse that will eventually support the hotel’s food and beverage offerings with produce grown and used on-site.
Bookings will be opening soon and with initial rates starting from Dh1,600, checking in to Dubai’s newest tropical island might not cost quite as much as you would have expected.
Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort; anantara.com
See inside another new Dubai hotel – 25Hours Hotel One Central: