You’ve heard of Dubai, its dramatic skyscrapers and over-the-top construction projects that race to out-achieve one another. And you’ve heard of Abu Dhabi, a cultural diamond with one of the world’s most beautiful mosques and the second outpost of the Louvre. But chances are you’ve never heard of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the lesser-known of the UAE’s seven emirates, and a popular beach destination for locals and foreigners alike.
A little over an hour drive from Dubai — and easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world thanks to luxurious non-stop flights to Dubai on Emirates — Ras Al Khaimah is unassuming from the highway, past the jungle of glass mega-structures and into the wild desert where herds of camels lounge in the distance. It’s here, in this sandy abyss, you’ll find the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, a luxurious desert oasis tucked away with a pristine private beach, swimming pools, world-class restaurants, and one of the most gorgeous hotel lobbies you’ve ever seen.
Ras Al Khaimah is a great destination for two types of travelers: people looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai and travelers looking for an off-beat beach destination that offers more than just sun and sand, (beach sand, I mean) as the Emirate also offers plenty of adventurous activities. Ras Al Khaimah is great for families and, if you root yourself at the Waldorf Astoria, everyone in your group will find an activity that will make them smile.
An obvious draw is the turquoise water. On the beach of the Arabian Sea I found scores of families — babies to grandparents — lining the beaches, soaking up the warm Middle Eastern sun while influencers floated in the water on unicorn floaties. While there are plenty of chairs to spend a day basking in the sun, the resort offers a wide array of water sports for people looking for a little more action. Rent a jet ski to get out on the water or go parasailing to get a bird’s-eye view of the castle-like hotel. For the family, spend a day deep sea fishing or pile onto a banana tube for some serious laughter.
While the beach is fun, no relaxing escape is complete without a visit to the spa — and the Waldorf’s is no exception. Designed with an underwater theme to compliment the nearby sea, the spa offers 12 treatment rooms, plus one swanky suite perfect for couples, to pull you away from the stress of your life. The spa’s signature treatment, the Emerald, will have you wrapped in fresh seaweed while warm and cool stones work to give you “perfect energy equilibrium.” Whatever treatment you decide, be sure to spend some quality time simply relaxing in the steam rooms and signature herbal sauna.
With 10 restaurants and bars, the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah has food for every palate, and international options that will probably have you trying something new. Umi gives guests a taste of Japan, offering sushi and sashimi creations and a Teppanyaki grill. For a traditional but elegant Middle Eastern meal, book a table at Marjan, located high above the beach with sweeping views of the sea. After dinner, head to Peacock Alley in the stunning hotel lobby for cocktails and live music from a stunning white grand piano. Or, if you want to turn up the volume, head outside to Siddharta Lounge for a club-like atmosphere with live DJs, fresh cocktails, and a pool.
But besides the luxury of the beach and the resort, adventure activities in the area are a big pull for guests to the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. The hotel can help guests join a desert safari with bedouin people and belly dancers under the stars or rent dune buggies to go off-roading on sand dunes. Or for an elevated thrill (literally) glide on the world’s longest zip line through the Hajar Mountains with a stop at the highest foot bridge in the UAE dangling off the side of a cliff.
I had the opportunity to take advantage of Waldorf Astoria’s partnership with Aston Martin, where guests can take one of the powerful sports cars on a solo or accompanied drive through the local streets and highways. Cruising through the desert with the windows down in a car that’s more accustomed to the rich and famous was a feeling I’ll never forget. The roar of the engine of my Aston Martin Vantage was a different feeling than the roar of Brooklyn’s J train. Even if you don’t make it to Ras Al Khaimah, Waldorf Astoria lets guests drive Aston Martins on select dates at properties around the world including Shanghai, Las Vegas, and more.
But of course, after a long day of swimming in the sea or pool, relaxing in the spa, gorging on sushi, and driving like a professional racecar driver, there’s nothing better than collapsing in a comfortable room. Swing for a king deluxe room with a balcony and sea view so you can watch the sunset while listening to waves ebb and flow on the beach below. When you finally pull yourself back inside, rest your head on down and feather pillows to drift off to sleep thinking about the fact you get to it all again tomorrow.
Waldorf Astoria and Aston Martin provided support for the reporting of this story.