Ras Al Khaimah is a popular getaway for tourists and residents in the UAE, and the emirate's newest hotel opened in March.
The InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Mina Al Arab Resort and Spa seems to have upped the ante in the emirate with its unique offerings and double peninsula location, so The National headed north to find out what it's like to stay at the beachside property.
Setting off from Abu Dhabi, it took us a little more than two hours to get to the hotel on Hayat Island in Ras Al Khaimah. Upon arrival, our car is quickly valeted and our luggage is promptly taken to the check-in counter in the large open-plan lobby. Check-in is smooth and efficient; we are soon handed a wooden key card for our seafront villa. To make getting around the expansive property easy, there are golf carts to ferry guests from one spot to the next.
Tucked away in the Mina Al Arab waterfront community in Ras Al Khaimah, the property is located next to residential villas. Its location ensures you have a quiet stay, but the hotel is also only 10 minutes away from Al Hamra Mall and about 30 minutes away from the base of Jebel Jais.
The safety measures
The hotel uses hospital-grade disinfectants to clean and disinfect. When we visited, all staff were diligently masked up, but with masks not mandatory outdoors in the UAE any longer, most guests were going without.
The hotel's rooms all offer spectacular views of the sparkling Arabian Sea and the property is split into three sections — the main building, which houses classic and deluxe rooms; Club InterContinental, which is for adults-only; and villas, including five that come with private pools and the hotel's Presidential Suite.
We are staying in a seafront villa — which is actually a town house-like structure, with one room on the ground floor, and another on the first. There is a sizeable living area with comfortable seating and a television, a dining table and a balcony overlooking the sea. A screen door separates the bedroom from the living area, so you can get some rest, even if someone is watching television on the other side.
The large king-size bed also faces a television and is incredibly soft, comfortable and cosy. There is a walk-in wardrobe with a safety deposit box, luggage space and an iron — although it's a little dark in here to see where the creases are.
There's two toilets, and a large bathroom with a shower and free-standing bathtub, his and hers sinks, and Byredo toiletries.
The room also comes with a pantry, inclusive of a coffee machine, microwave and refrigerator and a well-stocked mini bar.
As expected from an InterContinental resort, the service is incredibly polite and friendly. Staff at the restaurants are quick and responsive, and easily ensure all our needs are taken care of.
There was only one occasion when service was less than satisfactory, during breakfast at Club InterContinental. This seemed to be down to too many guests and too few servers, and was more of a one-off blip than an ongoing issue.
The resort has something for guests of all ages. Little ones can splash about in the children’s pool and enjoy the activities at Planet Trekkers, while teenagers can check out the Teens Club. We also spotted a little cinema set-up on the beach for children, with a big screen, tiny teepees and a popcorn machine.
The infinity pool is handily located next to Shasha's swim-up bar. If a quiet swim is more your style, head to the adults-only pool at Club InterContinental. On the white sandy beach, take your pick from cabanas or sunbeds, and enjoy chilled water on arrival.
When not lazing by the pool or beach, are tennis courts, a health club and a number of water sports on offer, including jet skiing and stand-up paddling.
To wind down afterwards, head to the spa, which was sadly not open when we visited, but is now in operation and offers a number of skincare treatments, Turkish hammam and holistic wellness therapies.
The property is home to six dining outlets. Saffar, the all-day dining restaurant, serves international cuisine and Arabic fare with views of the Arabian Gulf, while swim-up bar Shasha is open from sunrise to sunset, and offers a selection of drinks, and bar-style bites. Amarbar is an adults-only spot with a speakeasy vibe and Ramsa lounge in the lobby is ideal if you're craving a caffeinated drink.
NoHo Bar and Grill takes inspiration from the stylish North Houston Street in New York and is a chic space with the option of indoor and outdoor seating that is ideal for grabbing drinks post-dinner. The restaurant also has a great dine-in menu, including bar bites such as a divine truffle flatbread (Dh65), sliders and jerk chicken. Mains include braised short ribs (Dh120) that got the thumbs up from my husband, Wagyu burger and steaks. For lighter bites, there are plenty of salads, as well as healthy sides including steamed broccoli and sweet potato fries. For dessert, we tried the key lime pie (Dh45), and find it deliciously light.
Breakfast at Club InterContinental is another highlight: the spread includes croissants, pastries, cheeses, jams, fresh fruits and cereals. There is also a set menu, with the option to order different preparations of eggs, French toast and foul medames. A breakfast menu for children offers family favourites including pancakes and waffles.
Highs and lows
Despite being a relatively new resort (when we visited, it had been only open for six weeks), the hotel seems to run like a well-oiled machine and we found lots of highs and no major lows. We especially love that there is an entire adults-only area in the hotel, allowing guests without children to enjoy some relaxation. On the flip side, families can also unwind without worrying too much about their kids running around and making noise in the family areas.
If we had to really nitpick, there was a bit of an issue with the phone in our room on the last day, and we could not connect with the concierge to collect our luggage, but that's the only low we can think of.
The insider tip
Upgrade to Club InterContinental and you'll get a number of benefits, including access to the lounge with its private pool and Jacuzzi, daily breakfast, afternoon tea, and pre-dinner drinks at the lounge. More than worth it.
InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Mina Al Arab is a fabulous getaway for everyone — families with children or teenagers, friends or single travellers looking for a relaxing getaway perhaps with some nearby adventure thrown in, and is an intimate staycation spot for couples. It's a great addition to Ras Al Khaimah's hotel offerings and well worth checking out.
The bottom line
Rooms start from Dh970 for a 1 King Bed Classic sea view room, excluding taxes. Check-in is from 3pm and checkout is at noon. InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Mina Al Arab Resort and Spa, Al Rafaa, Mina Al Arab, Ras Al Khaimah; www.intercontinental.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