With the cooler weather finally here, many people are keen to make the most of it by escaping the hustle and bustle of big city life in the UAE.
Topping the staycation wish lists are places offering beachfront views, luxury amenities and plenty of things to do, both for adults and children alike.
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort has managed to maintain its place as a favourite in the northernmost emirate precisely because it ticks all these boxes. The sprawling property has a choice of guest rooms and villas, with the latter being a stone’s throw from its 1.5 kilometres stretch of white sandy beach.
The National visited the popular Ras Al Khaimah destination to see what's in store for travellers.
Considering that we visited on a long weekend, we were quite surprised to find no long queues at the reception. That might have something to do with the fact that everything seemed very well organised, with separate counters for check-in and check-out. Upbeat music played in the spacious Arabesque-style lobby, as the receptionist swiftly took our details and handed us our key cards. She even upgraded us to a villa suite.
Part of the charm of booking a stay in a hotel like Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort is its location. The beachfront venue offers an island escape, while still managing to be close to the city, with it being a 15-minute drive from RAK Mall.
But, if you’re visiting Ras Al Khaimah, you already know that part of the draw is its multitude of adventure activities and Jebel Jais, the UAE's highest peak where most of these take place, is less than an hour from the hotel.
The safety measures
The hotel follows Hilton’s CleanStay policy, which means all staff wear face masks, there are sanitising stations in public areas and contactless menus in restaurants and bars. Another key part of the policy is a hygiene seal that you have to break to enter your room, reassuring you that no one has been in there since it was sanitised.
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort's safety regulations are also in flux, as according to the latest rules in the emirate. For example, when we visited The Kitchen, the all-day dining establishment which serves a breakfast buffet, staff informed us that they had started allowing a self-serve option for the first time in more than a year, in keeping with official updated rules. Residents who got up to serve themselves without a mask were politely reminded to put it on before heading to the buffet.
We spotted some guests not wearing face masks on a lounge chair by the beach and of course they are not worn in the pool. Given the hotel's popularity, it can also get a bit busy, so we found it tricky to maintain social distancing rules at all times.
What helps with the social distancing, however, is how vast the space is. As mentioned, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort boasts a number of different options for sleeping: from guest rooms to two-bedroom family villas. If you’re opting for the villa, the best way to get around is by a buggy.
We were put up in a sea-facing villa suite, with a separate living room area which can be used to access a large balcony space, complete with a giant garden day bed. Perched directly over the beach, with the water a few steps away and the sound of the waves lapping at our feet, this might have been my favourite space on the entire property.
The room is impressive too. Shades of grey and blue, televisions in the bedroom and living room, swinging lamps by the bed, and both a shower and bathtub, all make for a cosy place to hide away in. Bonus point for the sliding window by the bed that awards you with beach views when opened, and the towels shaped into elephants on the bed.
The facilities at Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort are extensive, so you might want to plan your time carefully to make sure you cover it all (and you might still not be able to do that if you're only there for one night ).
There are seven pools. This includes a main saltwater pool, complete with the Sunset Bar, as well as separate children’s-only pools. Since most of the pools close by sunset, guests wanting a late-night swim can instead head to the one by Sol Beach Lounge.
One of the hotel’s other draws is having so many activities on-site that there’s no need to venture out of the resort. There’s The Spa for some rest and relaxation and a gym for your workout needs. There's also an on-site watersports centre, shop and hairdressers, and the hotel organises several tours, including kayaking and fishing trips.
Five restaurants within the property ensure that you’re well-covered, cuisine-wise. The Kitchen is a breezy space with plenty of indoor and outdoor area where the daily buffet is served. We checked out the lunch buffet to find a truly extensive spread, with a separate section for mezzes, a make-your-own-salad counter and hearty mains across various cuisines (Indian delicacies such as rice and channa masala can be found next to moussaka with zucchini).
The breakfast spread is also vast, with just about everything you could ask for, from an omelette station with baked beans and sausages, to a variety of yoghurts, fruits and Indian delicacies.
Apart from that, diners can head to Piaceri Da Gustare for classic Italian fare, Dome Lounge and Rio Beach Bar for light bites or Al Maeda for Middle Eastern food. We ventured to Al Maeda to try a trio of hummus (Dh35) and a seafood platter (Dh191). The sujuk, spicy beef sausages, (Dh43) are as good as it gets.
In a push to be more family-friendly, the hotel has also been revamping its children’s menu. No junk food here – instead, chefs have introduced gourmet meals such as garlic and yoghurt grilled chicken, baked herb-crusted salmon and quinoa alla frutta, with the aim to pack in flavour and nutrition for them.
The highs and lows
The best part is easily the main saltwater pool by the reception. Lined by palm trees and perfect for Instagram, the water temperature is just right and it also offers the best sunset views.
If we had to nitpick on the cons, the amount of single-use plastic used throughout the resort could be minimised. Plastic is used at several points throughout a stay from key cards to in-room bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash.
The insider tip
For a nominal cost, you can get a pool float from the beach club. Get one of these and a fluffy towel and you can spend all day long floating your worries away at the pool.
As far as staycations go, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort checks all the boxes, reminding me why it’s a perennial favourite in the emirate. While Ras Al Khaimah has a lot of attractions, given its vastness and the sheer number of activities you can do here, you might not even want to venture out of the hotel – which is the best compliment you can give a resort.
The bottom line
Prices for a night at Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort start from t Dh450 ($122) but can easily double and then some when long weekends or holidays are on the calendar. Plan ahead and make those bookings well in advance. Taxes will set you back about an additional Dh135.
Check-in is at 3pm and check-out at noon. The staff try to accommodate later check-outs when possible.
Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort, Al Maareedh Street, Ras Al Khaimah; www.hilton.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time, services may change in the future