Tucked away at the far eastern side of the palm-shaped island, Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort feels like the end of the road. Unlike some of the more developed parts of the The Palm Jumeirah, there is a sense of tranquillity on the Eastern Crescent, a 15-minute drive from the base of the island’s trunk. The resort is vast, boasting 293 rooms and villas, with its low ceilings and warm, wooden furnishings. But once inside, it has the feeling of a quiet hideaway, tucked away at the edge of the world, surrounded by pretty waterways.
We checked in on a busy Friday afternoon with a lively brunch band audible in the resort’s main restaurant. With staff decked in traditional dress and greetings of ‘sawadee-ka’, we entered a hotel lobby inspired by traditional high-roofed Thai homes. The staff were quick, friendly and efficient and we were given the delicious, traditional Thai welcome drink of lemongrass, lime, ginger and coconut sugar, as well as Arabic coffee and dates.
The receptionist explained that the resort, which opened in 2013, is moving towards more eco-friendly practices, including having moved from plastic keys to paper for one year and offering guests a digital newspaper reader instead of printed versions. The Anantara team are also using biodegradable straws, recyclable bags, LED lighting and recycling used soaps: all positive steps in the right direction.
After the briefing and run through of the resort facilities, we were ready to go; taken aboard our colourful tuk-tuk to our room for the weekend.
Staying in a Lagoon View Room overlooking the waterways that run through the resort, we were excited by the cool touches like flip flops marked with a little message: “Life’s a journey.” High ceilings and a huge fan on the upper level complement the dark wooden floors, making for a mellow environment. Guests are given Elemis products in the bathroom, which is separated into three areas for the shower, toilet and indulgent bath. The room is furnished with a desk and a mini seating area, and a large walk-in wardrobe that allows us to spread out, while the private balcony features its own lounge chairs.
On the lower level, guests get direct access to the lagoon itself, stepping from a balcony directly into the water. While you lose the dramatic ceiling, you gain fast track access to the gigantic pool. Nestled in a bay, the waters at the beach are also a pull. Always still, with views overlooking the nearby fronds and Palm landmarks such as Atlantis, and further afield to the towering skyline of Dubai Marina, it offers a pretty respite from the heat.
THE ANANTARA SPA
The expansive 24-room Anantara Spa, perched on the lagoon, is a labyrinth. Blending Asian and Arabian luxury, the soft colours and relaxing yet opulent furnishings, from day beds to wall carvings, give the spa a calming feeling, not least, with its huge water feature as you enter through the heavy wooden doors. I started off with a deliciously cooling welcome drink of cinnamon, lemon and honey before embarking on the Thai massage (US $214 for 90 minutes).
My Thai therapist tells me the treatment will involve, “stretching like yoga” though I’ve done this many times before so am prepared, and know that translates into being contorted into strange shapes. These therapists may be small, but don’t underestimate their strength. Thai massage is like an assisted stretch but with a lot of elbows, thumbs and feet involved too. There is no danger you’ll fall asleep here.
Other offerings include a range of holistic massages, high-tech facials, anti-ageing treatments and Turkish hammam baths. In addition to the more oft-found experiences such as the aroma steam room and bamboo sauna, the spa also offers a crystal and gemstone steam room, herbal bath, liquid sound pool, Kneipp walk and salt inhalation room.
As a fitness fanatic, one thing I always look for when travelling is gym facilities within a hotel, always keen to keep up the routine even when away from home. The gym is big, new and well maintained, with a great range of cardio and strength training equipment to keep you busy between the array of food and beverage outlets you’ll be tempted to try.
They say when you get onto the water, you leave your troubles at the beach, and that definitely feels the case when hopping aboard the resort’s traditional wooden long boat, which was brought from Thailand. It’s hard to grasp the scope of the Palm from land and only when looking inward from the sea can you realise this was one huge human feat. The 30-minute boat journey ($129 per charter) took in the views up to the start of Jumeirah Beach Residence, past the famous Royal Island and Burj Al Arab. Other activities available include kayak and paddle board hire.
TIME TO DINE
Breakfast at the vast Crescendo restaurant had a huge selection of treats, from the usual omelettes, pancakes and pastries to more Thai and Asian-infused delights. Mango sticky rice, congee (Asian porridge) and youtiao (Asian doughnut) all give guests the chance to sample some eastern breakfast treats as well as the typical cereals and fruit options. It was refreshing to see a whole section of gluten-free goodies such as moist and flavoursome raspberry polenta cake and rich chocolate brownies for the growing market who need to observe a slightly different diet, and plenty of options for vegetarians.
For the budget savvy, every evening is happy hour. From as early as 2pm until 1am, guests can find bargains at outlets including Bushman’s bar and restaurant, Beach House and Lotus Lounge. When told of dietary needs in advance, the resort’s chefs were happy to come up with more diverse offerings, in my case vegetarian and vegan meals.
Dewy pink sunsets over Dubai make Beach House the perfect location for whiling away the afternoons, or turning them into a long evening with beverages to match the skyline, accompanied by a DJ-spun soundtrack. Open until the early hours, the blue and white space transforms in the evening into a casual beach lounge, but by day, it offers spectacular views across the ocean. With the benefit of having both indoor and outdoor terrace seating, the very European feeling marine-inspired spot is perfect all year round and is a must for the casual diner. Flip-flops are welcome, as are your shorts, but don’t be fooled: the cuisine is still five star and no corners have been cut.
Though the home-style fries and burgers are still available for those who enjoy casual dining, menu highlights are a cut above. The lavish seafood platter allows you a taste of all the Beach House has to show off about, including Canadian lobster, sea bass, grilled prawns, scallops and mussels. I enjoyed several vegetarian treats, which chef Justin made for me specially, including roasted cauliflower with aioli and baby new potatoes in a ragout sauce. Modern takes on old classics like the Sangria also show the innovative brains behind the dining concept.
MEAL TIME AT MEKONG
The classically Asian restaurant has seamlessly brought together a sense of modern luxury spattered with traditional oriental design. With its quirky rickshaw tables on the terrace, the vibrant colours are the epitome of Asia. There are dishes from all around the region, with a few Chinese and Vietnamese plates too. The pomelo salad in crispy onion is to die for and the juicy Beijing half roasted duck remains a firm menu favourite. The sorbet combo was also a must-have, bringing together all the best flavours of Thai tropical fruits.
DINE DOWN UNDER AT BUSHMAN’S
Bushman’s Australian-themed bar and restaurant has an amazing way of combining the feel of high-end dining with the sense of eating a home cooked meal in a casual atmosphere; but then that’s truly the Aussie way. Australian inspired decor is quirky but stylish, from the boomerang-covered walls of the entrance to the billabong inspired terrace with views over the Burj Al Arab.
Earthy interiors using wood, rope and subtle colour tones make the place feel cosy, though in truth, it’s much bigger than it feels. In spite of their reputation for the ‘barbie’, there is much more to Australian cuisine: Aussies take their food seriously. The delicate wagyu flank salad is a must for beef lovers. Served in pesto aioli and balsamic dressing, the light meat is tender and succulent. There are also exotic meats such as chilli-glazed kangaroo sirloin and emu spring rolls.
The pavlova is a must; the melt-in-the-mouth meringue decadently prepared at the table and served with wattleseed mousse, chocolate soil and sauce, lemon myrtle cream, riberry and raspberry coulis and a side of Davidson plum ice cream and fresh caramelised mango cheeks. It is worth saving space for.
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
East Crescent, Palm Jumeirah
+971 4 567 8888