7 unique UAE staycations to add to your bucket list

Pick from beach resorts to glamping, private islands and more…

The UAE is a melting pot of unofrgettable experiences and staycations are no exception. Below you’ll find our picks of the UAE’s most unique staycations, with brilliant check-in options for when you’re looking for something a little different.

Dubai: Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort

Retreating to an island paradise no longer requires a four-hour flight to the Maldives thanks to Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort. Set within the ambitious World Islands development, be whisked away on a 15-minute boat ride to an inspiring escape that pays homage to Anantara’s Thai roots. Flaunting its best bits from the moment your feet touch the red carpeted jetty, this all-villa resort has a barefoot luxury feel with curated experiences all happening on island time, so you can truly switch off and relax. There are 70 villas: on the city-facing side are one-bedroom garden pool villas, on the opposite side of the island, you’ll find one- and two-bedroom villas with direct beach access, facing the rest of the World Islands. All villas have the same rustic yet light aesthetic – and many come with a private pool on the wooden deck.

The whole island oozes tropical allure: Swaying palm trees surround the lagoon-sized swimming pool, a growing garden spills down to the sugar-white sandy beach, and thatched roof villas all make the most of their outdoor areas, many of which have a private pool. No experience is complete without a trip to the Anantara Spa for a relaxing Lomi Lomi massage, which can also be arranged at the beach under the shade of a spa cabana. 

Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, South America, World Islands, from Dhs1,098. Tel: (0)4 567 8777. anantara.com

Dubai: Hatta Dome Park

When you need a break from the bustle of the city, head for the Hatta hills. A 90-minute drive out of Dubai, this mountainous region of the UAE has undergone a renaissance in recent years and it’s got endless appeal for adventurers. The latest addition to its array of glamping options – which already range from cosy wooden lodges to a retro caravan camp – is Hatta Dome Park. A collection of 15 dome-shaped tents come with a swish Dubai upgrade, each fitted with a mini-fridge, TV and a hair dryer. Each one has a panoramic window for making the most of the scenic setting, and its own neat outdoor area with a private barbecue and a fire pit, where guests can gather for storytelling or toasting marshmallows after a day of adventure. 

What you’re really here for though, is to take advantage of the myriad outdoor activities on your doorstep. Hike or mountain bike your way across the trails of varying difficulty, or take a short stroll from Hatta Dome Park to the Wadi Hub, where adrenaline-pumping activities such as wall climbing, ziplining, paragliding and water slides await. Then there’s skill-based fun like archery or axe throwing where you can compete against your mates, or more low-tempo experiences, such as a sunset horse ride. 

Hatta Dome Park, Hatta, from Dhs1,675. Tel: (0)4 852 2200. visithatta.com

Dubai Terra Solis

terra solis tomorrowland

This unique getaway is a little off the beaten track, but the drive out is worth it to experience Terra Solis – a desert retreat with a luxe Tomorrowland edge. Forgoing Tomorrowland’s hedonistic image, there’s very little around Terra Solis, making it the perfect desert destination for those who are looking to escape the city, but not leave behind a sense of luxury and fun. The resort blends into its sandy surroundings perfectly and the rooms spread out into the desert landscape give the experience an adventurous edge.

A stay in thePerseid lodge comes with an en-suite bathroom, and a king size bed with pillows that have just the right amount of weight. The room has a minimalistic feel to it with white linen and concrete floors. Wooden accents and black hardware in the bathrooms are sleek and modern, with a walk-in shower. Other options include the Polaris tents, and the ultra-VIP Orian lodges. All of the room categories include breakfast, as well as access to the facilities and a sun lounger by the pool.

Terra Solis, Dubai Heritage Vision, Exit 29, Jebel Ali Lehbab Road, Dubai, from Dhs3,128. Tel: (0)4 456 1956 terrasolisdubai.com

Dubai: The Nest by Sonara

With 14 exclusive half-dome structures, built to seamlessly blend into the surrounding dunes at Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, each sleeps two people (plus two children upon request). There are three options: sunset-facing, sunrise-facing, and dune-facing. All of the Nests face out in a semi-circle, ensuring privacy and seclusion for every guest. An extension of the dazzling desert dinner experience, Sonara, The Nest is roughly five minutes drive from Sonara Camp, with each sand hued dome complete with its own ensuite bathroom with a shower and double sink. Each nest is spacious and well-furnished, decorated with rattan tables and boho elements to give it the Sonara touch. Inside, you’ll find a plush bed with fine cotton sheets, a desk, minibar, while outside a sandy terrace is home to a cushion day bed and a fire pit for cosying up at night.

In the centre of the camp are modern four-poster boho lounge areas with chic white sofas and rattan table set up under a canopy of fairy lights. There’s also a bar serving a range of fine wines and cocktails, and a mini-kitchen offering wood-fired pizzas and tapas. After sunset, the camp offers a star-gazing experience, where guests are driven further into the desert and told about the mysteries of astronomy. Or, there’s the option to join the diner experience at Sonara Camp. It starts with sundowners and activities like archery, sand boarding and falconry, followed by a three-course menu of Arabian hits in the restaurant, with jaw-dropping fire and circus shows.

Back at The Nest, other activities are also on offer, such as early morning camel rides in the desert. In the morning, wooden tables are set up under macrame parasols and an impressive spread is laid out. You can choose your eggs from a menu, while pastries, fresh fruit, cold cuts, cheese, granola, bagels and more make their way to your tables.

The Nest by Sonara, Sonara Camp, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, from Dhs2,680. nara.ae

Sharjah: Mysk Moon Retreat


For a retreat away from the city, journey to Mysk Moon Retreat in Sharjah. The luxury glamping site has reopened for winter and offers a unique experience. Home to 10 domes and six private tents, your getaway will be packed with breathtaking desert views, desert activities and more. Most of the pretty domes have their own private pool but all come with a large terrace and a private barbecue space. If you require more space, opt for a private tent. There’s a two-bedroom private tent perfect for families, which comes with a private pool and terrace space. Couples can opt for a one-bedroom tent, which includes just the terrace.

All options come with the necessary DIY barbecue equipment, beds, an air conditioner, a refrigerator, a bathroom and a toilet. For the barbecue, you will be provided with coal and all the meats (or vegetables) and condiments you will need to have some grilling fun. A menu is given before your staycation where you can pick your breakfast, lunch and dinner packages. Post sunset, head outdoors to warm up by the bonfire, peek through a telescope and see the moon (and maybe even Jupiter), watch a movie, have a go at archery or just relax under the stars. Arise early the next day and join a guide to catch the sunrise. 

Mysk Moon Retreat, Sharjah, from Dhs1,800, Tel: (0)6 804 0404. myskhotels.com

Sharjah: The Chedi Al Bait

Chedi Al Bait

The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah is a collection of five heritage houses that were once owned by local families and have now been transformed into elegant guestrooms and suites while carefully preserving the historical structures. Inside the guestrooms and suites, you will find a perfect blend of Arabic and Asian design elements. Our favourite bits include comfortable four-poster bed and the living room, which is inspired by a traditional majlis (meaning ‘place of sitting’) complete with a low sofa and plenty of cushions.

On the facilities front, the pampering spa is a calming oasis where Arabian-inspired treatments offer instant relaxation. Besides this, there is also a small museum, a library with hundreds of antiquarian and contemporary books spanning a variety of subjects and interests and an Emirati-inspired jewellery shop. But of course, this is Sharjah, and for art and culture vultures, there is plenty to see and do. The hotel is snuggly nestled within several must-see spots including Souq Al Shanasiyah, Souq Al Arsah, and much more.

Chedi Al Bait, 79 Corniche Street, Al Shiokh, Sharjah, prices start from Dhs600, Tel: (0)6 502 5555. ghmhotels.com

Ras Al Khaimah: Longbeach Campground Ras Al Khaimah


When it comes to nearby glamping setups, Longbeach Campground in Ras al Khaimah is one of the most unique retreats for adventure, wellness, and nature. Make yourself at home in one of the five different sea-view accommodations, which include beach tents, safari tents, and panoramic domes and prepare for a lot of fresh air, sunshine, activities, and unforgettable evenings.

Surrounded by palm trees and greenery, the campsite is brilliantly arranged for gatherings with a large beach dining space where breakfast and dinner are served buffet-style and a thoughtfully curated itinerary for both children and adults. Why should the little campers have all the fun? Located across 300-metres of private beach, this is the ideal destination for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, beach volleyball, and sunrise yoga. It’s particularly well-suited to those with young children with plenty of space to run around, a splash pool, and a ‘kiddos tent’ with face painting, egg hunting, kite flying, junior chef, and more. Other distinctive amenities? The infinity pool, outdoor spa, live entertainment, and guided embroidery and pottery classes. In the evenings, after marshmallows are toasted, everyone heads to the floating cinema for outdoor family movie night under the stars. You fall asleep to the sound of the ocean and wake up to the sun beaming down on your tent. As wholesome as it gets.

Longbeach Campground, King Faisal Street, Al Nadiyah, Ras Al Khaimah, prices start from Dhs650. Tel: (600) 566 600. bmhotelsresorts.com