I checked in for two nights, with the former, towards the end of May to see if the hotel lives up to its promise of “warmth, simplicity and creativity in design”.
The lobby is busy on the Friday afternoon we check in, with plenty of big families spread across its various nooks. A stroll around reveals memorabilia and artworks inspired by the region and the emirate.
Most of these are by Iraqi artist Muhanad Al Nassiri, who produced artworks and sculptures on display in the hotel, as well as Emirati telli handicrafts, khoos palm-leaf mats, crab-fishing baskets, vintage stamps and plenty of pottery.
I could have lingered for longer to read the accompanying descriptions, but check-in does not take longer than 10 minutes and our bags follow suit almost immediately despite the crush.
Arguably the sleepiest of the seven emirates, Umm Al Quwain still has a few hidden gems, many of them a short drive from the Vida property.
A former fort, Umm Al Quwain museum is five minutes away, as are two excellent restaurants for when you want a change in taste: Little Bavaria serves authentic German food while Backwaters offers spice-redolent South Indian dishes.
Both Mangrove Beach and Dreamland water park are about a 20-minute drive from the hotel.
My family of three stays in a one-bedroom suite, with a separate living area holding a sofa-bed and a powder bathroom.
The main bedroom has a tiny balcony, but both rooms offer excellent views of the beach and the well-manicured lawns that surround the property.
There are two televisions, a small, round dining table, and ample seating, storage and counter space, Grown Alchemist toiletries and, perhaps best of all, easy-to-work light switches.
The main bathroom comes with his and her taps, and separate toilet and shower cubicles, plus a bathtub.
The design is all clean lines and contemporary artworks.
A sky-blue paintwork resembling the languid coastline of Umm Al Quwain (its name roughly translating to the Mother of Two Powers – land and water) is etched out over the master bed (a common feature in every room, I’m told).
With 143 rooms, the hotel is in a cutesy, U-shaped, slate-grey four-storey building.
Both its pools are made for children, with one shallow bed of water a few steps away from a shaded splash pad, with vibrantly coloured water-spouting structures.
The main pool is not more than 90cm for nearly three-fourths its length, with the deep end going up to only 152cm.
The infinity-style pool is one short wall haul away from the property’s private beach, which offers water sports from a third-party operator.
The swimmable beach, complete with an Instagram-friendly white swing, is also the centre for child-friendly activities organised by the resort each evening, from a scavenger hunt to a sandcastle-building session.
A few metres away from the splash pad are an outdoor play area – with a slide, jungle gym, climbing ropes and a minuscule rock-climbing wall – and an indoor kids’ club (more on this below).
Unlike many other family-friendly properties across the UAE, this one does not have an adults-only pool, although only grown-ups can hang out by the open-air pool bar, an arm’s length away from the loungers surrounding the teeming pool.
The hotel also has a large gym and the only spa in a Vida property in the UAE.
Warm, friendly and ever-smiling staff greet you at every turn, with many walking first-timers all the way to their destination.
The poolside staff who conduct water Zumba lessons are an energetic bunch who have dedicated participants and casual swimmers swinging along to their high-octane beats.
A special shout-out also goes out to Jenny, who manages the children’s club, and is constantly interacting and playing with the little ones in between clearing up the mini messes that erupt in the room every few minutes.
Pet owners can bring kitties and pooches who weight up to 10kg.
Origins is the hotel’s lone all-day dining restaurant. It aesthetically extends the lobby’s rustic heritage theme, by way of earthenware displayed on floor-to-ceiling shelves, and also has its own wooden workstation with charging points.
The outdoor section, which was too hot to sit in on the days we visited, overlooks the beach.
Breakfast, which is served until 11am, is a study in delicious and diverse fare.
It has the usual pancakes, waffles, breads, baked beans, hash browns, cheese, cold cuts and egg station, as well as an Arabic counter (the foul medammes and zaatar croissants are a must-have).
There is also a healthy food section with chia, granola and fresh fruit options, and a hot food counter with offerings from dal-rice, noodles and balaleet to sausages, porridge and cauliflower gratin.
There are plenty of tasty vegetarian options, and four types of juice each morning.
Lunch and dinner can be had from a buffet (Dh140 and Dh160 each) or a la carte.
Of the dishes we tried, the most impressive were steak in rosemary jus, beef meatballs with toum, shawarma and a hearty club sandwich.
The paneer butter masala is best left for children or those with a very sweet tooth, while the black daal and mushroom soup were both a bit too watery for my taste.
Baby M, most sure of her palate at 3 years old, most enjoyed the cheese sambousek, chicken nuggets and beef sausages.
Desserts come by way of the mini pastries most commonly found in buffets, but were hit and miss in the taste department, with most being quite dry.
Highs and lows
The well-stocked children’s club and shaded splash pad are the highlights of our summer stay.
The club in particular, which is stocked with well-maintained toys galore, plus foosball and air hockey tables, and screen for both cartoons and gaming, is large enough to accommodate two dozen children comfortably.
The aforementioned beach activities aside, the team also put together a daily roster of activities such as leaf and shell painting, indoor treasure hunts and movie time.
While little ones can run riot here, adult-only parties are likely to be confronted by said little ones at nearly every turn.
If you’re looking for a reasonable staycation this summer, the hotel’s shaded pool areas and indoor children’s club will keep families entertained until it’s cool enough to dip into the main pool or head to the beach.
The hotel has a summer offer in place, offering 30 per cent off bookings made before August 31 for stays until October 15.
A family-friendly property with a diverse range of activities that makes good on that promise of warmth, simplicity and creativity (and culture) in design.
The bottom line
Room prices at Vida Umm Al Quwain start from Dh500, including breakfast and taxes. Check-in from 2pm; checkout at noon; www.vidahotels.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.