Located about four kilometres off the coast Palm Jumeirah, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort was the first hotel to open on the emirate's ambitious offshore project.
The luxury retreat, located on the South American continent of the World Islands development, is unlike anything that already exists in the UAE.
The National was invited for a stay to see what awaits on the island.
Arriving at Anantara World Islands is a pretty special experience. Guests check-in at the hotel’s sister resort, Anantara Dubai, The Palm, and are taken to a dedicated waiting area ahead of a boat transfer to the World Islands.
Boats run every hour, and guests are driven by golf buggy down to the hotel’s private dock to board their waiting vessel.
The ride across takes about 20 minutes, and although on the day of our visit the sea is a little choppy, we still enjoy the novelty of it all, taking in the surrounding Dubai skyline as we go.
By the time we arrive at the resort, we are already feeling a million miles away from the bustle of the city, helped by the team who are stood on the dock waiting to greet us with a song, instruments and flower necklaces, giving us the sense that we've stepped onto a tropical island.
As we wait for our bags to be offloaded and for our room keys, we are offered fresh coconut water, which we enjoy as we take in the views of Downtown Dubai directly across the water.
As the first resort to open at the World Islands, naturally, there is not much else around. However, that’s the charm of this resort. From the minute we arrive, there's a sense that we've properly escaped the city, and if it wasn’t for the glint of the Burj Khalifa in the distance, we feel we could be in the Maldives — not bad for a 20-minute boat ride.
There are uninterrupted views in every direction, and the water surrounding the island is as blue as we’ve seen in Dubai.
Our one bedroom garden pool villa is incredibly spacious. The triangular design of the villas means that each has super high ceilings, offering an airy and open feel.
There is a lounge area, complete with two sofas, which look out over the pool and beach beyond.
The huge king-size bed is among the most comfortable I've slept in, helped even more so by the extensive pillow menu on the bedside table, offering guests the option to customise to their taste.
The bathroom is also extremely roomy, with a double sink, free-standing bath tub, huge walk-in shower and separate toilet.
The decor adds to the island feel of the resort, with rattan touches, beamed ceilings and crisp white sheets.
There are plenty of small touches to add extra comfort too, such as Coffee Planet pods and Pure Herbs toiletries.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the room is the pool terrace. The private pool is the perfect size for two people, and overlooks a slice of the hotel’s private beach across the path. There are two plush loungers at the edge of the pool, perfect for lazing away an afternoon.
The service is great from start to finish. The staff who take us to our room by buggy give us a quick resort tour on the way, pointing out all the facilities we need to know about during our stay.
The resort also offers pick-up services to take guests to restaurants and spa appointments, or if you prefer to walk, you can meander over in your own time.
All wait staff we meet are incredibly friendly and keen to show the resort’s offerings, as well as recommend dishes on menus, which is always welcome.
The island vibes are immediate from stepping off the boat. The whole resort has a relaxed, bohemian feel about it, with tranquillity surrounding everything from the public areas to the rooms. There’s a palm tree-lined main swimming pool, complete with bonsai trees which add Anantara’s signature Thai touches. The resort’s private stretch of beach allows for long shoreline walks, and wooden sea swings only add to the escapist feel, and also provide that perfect Instagram moment if you're so inclined.
There are tennis courts, for those who fancy a match during their stay, as well as a spa if you prefer to sit back and relax, with a range of Anantara’s signature Thai massages and treatments on offer.
Resident roaming peacocks often wander by rooms and along the beach, so don’t be surprised if they pop in to say hello during your stay.
There are three main restaurants on the island. Next to the pool is Helios, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort’s Mediterranean all-day dining restaurant. 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 towards the Dubai skyline.
We dine at Qamar, the resort's Middle Eastern and Indian restaurant, which is elegant and romantic without being ostentatious. It’s terrace, which looks out over the water, is a peaceful and intimate spot, perfect for watching the sunset.
We skip starters and head straight to mains, since there are a few dishes that we want to try. First is the paneer tikka butter masala (Dh120), which is the perfect mix of creamy and tangy. We also order the butter chicken (Dh150), which featured a creamy tomato and cashew nut gravy. It’s wholesome and warming and perfectly hits the spot.
At the recommendation of our waiter, we try the sultan murgh angara (Dh205) — chunks of chicken thighs marinated in the chef’s special masala, slow-cooked in the tandoor and served in an iron pot. While we are unable to finish the dish due to its sheer size, the meat is succulent and juicy and perfectly seasoned.
For breakfast, we head to Helios, where we order a la carte and indulge in the caramelised French toast, topped with berry compote, fresh cream and caramel sauce, which is sticky, sweet and the perfect weekend breakfast.
Highs and lows
The only low point was that our room, unlike some of the others, didn’t have a gate to pull across for some privacy in the pool. The villa backed on to the public beach path, and while it was fairly quiet during our stay, spotting the odd passer-by left us feeling a little exposed.
A high point was a soak in the room's giant bath tub, which was almost big enough to swim in.
The Insider tip
Make sure you plan ahead with the boat timings to ensure you optimise your time at the resort.
A weekend at Anantara World Islands really takes the meaning of a holiday at home to a new level. The hotel exudes escapism from the second your board the boat, and while the Dubai skyline might loom on the horizon, you will feel a million miles from home.
The bottom line
Room rates start from Dh1,596 for a beach pool room, including breakfast. Check in is from 3pm and check out is noon; www.anantara.com