Khareef is officially here. Salalah’s annual monsoon season is a peak time to visit the lush southern Omani capital. If you want to enjoy the blissfully cool temperatures and views of the mist-shrouded mountains away from the hustle and bustle of the main city, consider a stay at Alila Hinu Bay, which opened in the historic town of Mirbat in July 2021.
FlyDubai recently launched a second direct flight from Dubai, which conveniently gets you to Salalah in the late afternoon (as opposed to the dead of the night). Mirbat is a 60-minute drive from Salalah airport, and the resort is located at the very tip of the town.
Despite this relatively lengthy journey to neighbouring Oman (in our case, on the red-eye flight with a baby in tow), the cheery chauffeur, efficient receptionist and effusive hostess who meets us bearing dates, juices and refreshing teas, ensure our arrival and check-in procedure is smooth and calming.
Tranquility is a mainstay at this property, which is situated miles from urban civilisation. Mirbat may have been a battleground during the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman in 1972, but the coastal town is now more of a sleepy hamlet. Unless you’re heading to Salalah city, there’s no real need to leave the resort's rustic-chic grounds except for a day trip to the surrounding Jabal Samhan and Wadi Darbat.
The Supreme Committee of Oman has lifted all Covid-19 precautionary measures, including the wearing of face masks, as of last month. However, the resort is maintaining cleaning and sanitisation protocols.
Alila Hinu Bay has 112 rooms, including 66-square-metre terrace rooms and larger villa-style rooms. The former come with a spacious outdoor section, while all the villas have a separate living area and plunge pool.
We're staying in the 166-square-metre king room pool villa deluxe, and revel in the flow of its indoor-outdoor layout. The pool is a step away from the French doors in the bedroom. Conveniently, the terrace has sun loungers and a shaded cabana with comfy seating. You can also step into the wadi itself straight from the room.
Within, it's all plush beds and sofas, Arabesque urns and paintings, and a sprawling bathroom that comes with twin indoor showers and a roofless bathing area.
It's ample space for a couple, and didn't cramp the style of even our family of four (including the baby in a crib and the nanny on an extra bed) ― although a powder bathroom would not have gone amiss. Larger families, or those staying longer, can always get connecting terrace rooms.
The USP of Alila Hinu Bay is its dramatic location, set as it is between Jabal Samhan and the Arabian Sea. The sprawling property has been designed so that its uber-luxurious rooms look out on to stark sandy grounds, unadorned save for the odd life-size animal sculpture paying homage to Oman’s reliance on horses and camels.
The best panorama is experienced from the infinity pool outside SeaSalt restaurant, where you can see the point where the sea and mountain hug, alongside closer views of the sparkling blue bay. Boating is permissible in the bay, which the resort can organise, as well as guided trips ― complete with a picnic hamper ― to see the waterfalls and friendly camels of Wadi Darbat, and more dramatic views from Jebel Samhan.
On the days you’re staying in, send the children to the edutainment-filled play area, and sign up for a massage at Spa Alila or an informative session with the tea sommelier.
Breakfast is served from 7am to 10.30am at The Orchard, which is a short walk or buggy ride from the rooms. Weather permitting, choose an outdoor table to enjoy the contrast of the bright flowers and gently flowing water features placed on the wraparound terrace against the dramatically stark landscape wrapping around the property.
Begin your meal with a healthy shot, with combinations such as bell pepper, tomato, cucumber, peppers and cayenne; or ginger, lemon grass, lemon, currants and spinach. The a la carte breakfast menu contains varied options, including French toast with orange and banana mousse; avocado dukkah with poached eggs; foul medames; and eggplant fatteh.
SeaSalt is the signature restaurant, and serves delectable South-East Asian dishes, including banh baos, dim sum, satays, nasi and mee goreng, pad Thai and tangy curries (we ate the lamb shank for dinner every night for three nights straight). Follow this cardinal culinary tip: you can’t go wrong with roti canai.
Read our full review of SeaSalt here.
The Orchard also serves A Journey of Frankincense menu for lunch and dinner, which allows guests to sample heritage Arabian-Mediterranean dishes that were served along the trade route for frankincense, one of Oman’s most endearing and valuable assets.
Oman is famed for its friendly faces, and the staff at Alila Hinu Bay take this up a notch by being at once cheery, discreet and super-competent. From the chefs to the chauffeurs, everyone is all smiles yet all business when called upon to fulfil even the smallest of requests. Little touches such as adding oodles of extra peanut sauce to a doggy-bagged bowl of nasi goring go a long way.
Highs and lows
The awe-inspiring view from SeaSalt and the swimming pool is a painter’s delight. It’s a sight one can drink in for hours on end, which is useful given the hotel is so far removed from the rest of civilisation ― its only low, if that can be termed as such.
Carry insect repellent, so you can make the most of the indoor-outdoor flow of each room without fretting about getting bitten by mosquitoes and other khareef-time creepy-crawlies.
If exploring ― or simply soaking in ― the rugged beauty of the mountains, desert and sea is up your alley, Alila Hinu Bay has you covered in style.
The bottom line
Terrace rooms start from 120 Omani rials ($312), including breakfast but excluding tax. The resort has a Book One, Stay Two offer until September 30.
For more information and reservations, visit www.alilahinubay. com, email email@example.com or contact 00968 2337 3350.
Adverse weather can affect the best times to visit, so check reports on conditions before you travel