Finding opulence, relaxation and family fun in the UAE Desert – our 8 Favourite UAE Desert Resorts
Looking for a break from the beaches of Dubai and Abu Dhabi? No trip to the United Arab Emirates is complete without getting beyond the big cities and hitting the desert, but it is a great surprise to many that you can complement your desert trip with a luxury resort retreat.
From glamping to full-scale luxury resorts, we’ve picked our favourite spots to enjoy the UAE desert in style.
Whether you’re looking for an action-packed family weekend with recreational activities or seeking out a luxury romantic retreat, you can find them all here in the UAE desert.
Top 8 Desert Resorts in the UAE
Click below for instant booking information, or read on to see what makes each special.
- Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa (Dubai)
- Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara (Abu Dhabi)
- The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert (Ras al Khaimah)
- Al Wathba, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa (Abu Dhabi)
- Mysk Al Badayer Retreat (Sharjah)
- Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa (Dubai)
- Telal Resort (Al Ain)
- Arabian Nights Village (Abu Dhabi)
1. Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
Where is it? Located in the Dubai Emirate, about 50 minutes from Downtown in an area called Murqquab off the Dubai – Al Ain Road (E66), this Dubai desert resort is part of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
We love it because: This pick is pure indulgence, a spoil-yourself luxury retreat for grown-ups. Leave the kids at home ‘coz they’re not allowed at this one (no under 10’s at least)!
All 42 guest rooms are stand-alone private pool villas overlooking the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve with breathtaking desert views.
Guests can enjoy a huge range of desert activities on offer, enjoy the extensive luxury spa facilities and dine under the stars – or simply relax in your own private pool in the middle of the desert enjoying, the picturesque scenery.
2. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara
Where is it? Nestled deep in the Liwa Desert, approximately 2 hours from Abu Dhabi or 3 hour’s drive from Dubai via the E11/E65, well signposted and freeway driving until the last 14kms or so.
Start your journey with a car hire from Abu Dhabi airport, and let’s head into the Empty Quarter – the world’s largest sand desert.
We love it because: From the moment you turn off the freeway, the shimmering desert sands transport you to another time. Grand archways welcome you into this desert oasis among the almighty dunes of the Empty Quarter (Rub’ al khali). You are truly isolated here, and everything about the setting exudes Arabian opulence.
It is an equally great location for romantic retreats and family getaways, with a huge array of activities, from the usual dune bashing and camel rides to sandboarding, fat biking, horse riding and hikes into the desert.
There’s a kids club available for parents wanting to grab some time alone, along with a kid’s pool area and babysitting services on offer (extra charge).
Desert hotels in Abu Dhabi do not come better than this!
3. The Ritz-Carlton, Ras al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
Where is it? In the Desert of Ras al Khaimah, about 1 hour from Dubai International Airport along the E311.
We love it because: Every spacious villa comes with its own private plunge pool, yet there are loads of entertainment options around the resort to enjoy too.
Daily shows such as falconry, desert safaris, nature walks and private archery lessons are on offer. The Amara Spa comes highly commended with its hydrotherapy pool and rainforest experience.
Set on the Al Wadi Nature Reserve, it is equally known as a great romantic retreat as it is for a well-rounded family adventure into the desert. Expect to see local wildlife, such as Arabian Oryx and gazelle, or join an evening camel caravan for a uniquely UAE experience.
4. Al Wathba, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa, Abu Dhabi
Where is it? Located just 50 kms outside of Abu Dhabi city, down the E30 towards Al Ain.
We love it because: This secluded desert oasis is close enough to the city and AUH airport to make it perfect for those looking to squeeze a luxury desert resort trip into a short stopover.
As well as 103 rooms and villas, it comes with 10 treatment rooms at the Talise Spa and yoga retreat area, plus numerous dining options, including a traditional Bedouin desert camp dinner.
5. Mysk Al Badayer Retreat, Sharjah
Where is it? In the emirate of Sharjah, just off the E44 on the Dubai to Hatta Road (Margham), approximately 40 minutes from Downtown Dubai.
We love it because: A luxury Sharjah option with only 21 rooms and ten tented villas makes this an intimate Emirati resort worth the journey.
With beautiful bedouin touches throughout, this is a true oasis in the golden sand dunes of Sharjah. Enjoy a palm-tree-lined outside pool, or join a desert safari to explore further the secrets of the desert, followed by a falconry display.
The focus here is on wellness as well as outdoor recreation activities. Enjoy the health club, indoor swimming pool, Hamman spa, and treatment rooms before dinner at Al Madam Restaurant.
The resort is far enough into the desert you will enjoy uninterrupted starlit skies but close enough that it can easily be reached from Dubai downtown and DXB airport.
Note as Sharjah is in a ‘dry’ emirate, no alcohol is served here.
6. Bab al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Dubai
Where is it? This Dubai desert hotel is found near Endurance Village, taking the D63 from Dubai or E75 along the border from Abu Dhabi.
We love it because: Not too far from the hustle and bustle of inner-city Dubai, but you feel you could be a million miles away in their infinity pool overlooking the desert.
With several restaurant choices and a range of swimming pools, this Dubai desert hotel has something on offer to suit a wide range of traveller interests, from fun party weekends to family retreats. Traditional Arabesque tocuhes throughout lend themselves to this unique Dubai hotel experience.
Gguests can enjoy a great array of outdoor activities with falconry, camel rides and options to hire gear, including fat bikes and dune buggies. For younger kids, there’s the Sinbad Kids Club and a dedicated children’s area among the three guest pools.
Due to its proximity to Dubai and great weekend brunch packages, it does attract quite the party crowds at the weekend, so do factor this into your timing if you are seeking a quiet romantic retreat or family time!
You can see a full review on the Bab al Shams family experience here with Wandermust Family.
7. Telal Resort, Al Ain
Where is it? On the northern outskirts of Al Ain, off the E22 from Abu Dhabi, approximately 90 minutes from the capital
We love it because: A bit of a hidden gem, set on a nature reserve with a traditional Emirati look and feel but all the modern amenities and luxuries you expect of a boutique resort.
Local activities on offer include horse/camel riding, falconry and cycling, and the Zaman Lawal Heritage Village.
On-site is a traditional Emirati restaurant, an international dining restaurant, a gym, and a relaxing spa. There is a small infinity pool – not huge, but beautiful and perfect for the setting.
Family-friendly with great big rooms (2 bedroom villas and suites can sleep up to 6), but also a perfect setting for a romantic couple retreat with spectacular dune views and a great ambience – hammocks, four poster beds, the ideal place to come and switch off.
8. Arabian Nights Village, Abu Dhabi
Where is it? In Abu Dhabi Emirate, an area called Al Khatim. Heading from Abu Dhabi down the E22, you pull off about halfway to Al Ain; then it’s 30 minutes inland, off-road, but manageable in most 2WD vehicles.
We love it because: This is definitely an understated luxury alternative to the big desert resorts in Abu Dhabi. Accommodation on site is limited to just a handful of traditional “bayts” – based on traditional Bedouin building design but with all the modern fittings.
Most visitors come on desert safari day trips from Abu Dhabi, but it’s absolutely worth turning this into an overnight experience and staying at this boutique Abu Dhabi desert resort.
As the sun goes down and the heat drops, the evening’s entertainment schedule fires up. Camel rides are on offer (I’m sure you probably greeted some on your drive-in, too), dune buggies, dune bashing (over 6’s), sandboarding, or you can relax in their resort pool before an entire evening program of entertainment.
You can read a full family review of Arabian Nights Village here.
More Desert Experiences in the UAE
An increasing number of desert camps are springing up each winter, providing a wide range of options for getting closure to nature in the United Arab Emirates.
We’d classify many of these as glamping, rather than resorts – so do pop over and see our ultimate family guide to UAE Glamping, too!
There are a few further hotels that sit more on the resort’s end of things too that you could consider, such as the cheap and cheerful Tilal Liwa Desert Retreat in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi (near Madinat Zayed)
And we’d be remiss not to mention that there are further Mysk retreats in Sharjah, including Mysk Al Faya Retreat, Mysk Moon Retreat and Mysk Kingfisher Retreat in Kalba (an exclave of Sharjah on the eastern coast).
Desert Day Trips in the UAE
Not got time for an overnight stay in the desert? Plenty of companies operate half-day experiences in the desert for those strapped for time or only wanting a taster (trust me, the sand and the heat can get to us all after a while!).
We recommend using a reputable agency such as Get Your Guide for booking desert tours in the UAE. Read the fine print carefully though, and check what’s included by each operator (such as hotel pickups and meals).
Also, be conscious of age limits, as many desert day trips will involve an element of dune bashing; children under a certain age may be restricted, or alternate itineraries may be recommended (ditto if you are pregnant or have back problems).
Abu Dhabi Desert Tour Recommendations
Dubai Desert Tour Recommendations
Whilst you’re in the UAE, don’t forget to check these other posts out too:
- Best Family Beach Resorts in the UAE
- Where to find the best areas to stay in Dubai with family
- 15 Exclusive UAE hotels with private pools
- UAE Resorts with their own water park
- When is it best to visit the UAE?
- Best of the outdoors & the UAE in winter
- Top Eco-tourism destinations in the UAE
- Where to ride a camel in Dubai
Have you stayed at a desert resort in the UAE? Any family favourites we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below!
Disclosures: Some of the resorts mentioned in this post have previously provided our Editor with complimentary services in exchange for reviews. The article contains affiliate links; if you book one of the recommended resorts on this page we may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This guide was originally published on OurGlobetrotters.Com in 2017 and republished here with permission. Pricing and information correct to best of our knowledge as at August 2019.