DESERT V BEACH
1. BEACHSIDE BLISS - The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach
You’d be forgiven for thinking the setting of The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach was more Maldives than Middle East, its surrounding aquamarine waters as iridescent and inviting as the Indian Ocean, and its white-sand beach as pristine as found on a tropical island. But the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has many feathers in its cap, with natural beauty turning this slice of hospitality real estate into a geographical gem.
The resort is just a 45-minute drive from Dubai International Airport – or 35 minutes from RAK International Airport – providing an easy and idyllic escape from the city for anyone wanting something more from their UAE experience. With the waves of the Arabian Gulf lapping the boundaries of the beachfront resort, and wild greenery flanking the grounds, privacy, seclusion and luxury are served in equal measure at this island-inspired natural haven.
Just 32 private villas are spread across the resort’s 80 hectares, so even when the resort is full, you’ll barely see another soul. The design of each villa mirrors the sentiments of the resort, to celebrate the region’s natural beauty and its cultural heritage. An Al Bahar Tented Beach Pool Villa or Al Naseem Tented Beach Pool Villa have generous space for couples or a young family, each with beach views. The tented retreats nod to the days of Bedouin travellers, with a four-poster bed draped in beautiful chiffon fabric, and a striking monochrome colour palette to contrast the bamboo roof. Accents of Arabia exist in patterns carved into tables and mirrors, and stitched into curtains and soft furnishings. To maximise on space, the 181-square-metre villa extends into a private terrace with a private plunge pool – most beautiful at night when surrounded by candles and watched over by the stars above – and your own private tented cabana on the beach, where you can dip your toes in the sand and sea within metres of each other.
An Al Shamal Ocean View Villa takes the living space up a notch, with 194 square metres to play with. Following the same interior design codes, the villa comes with a private pool, a garden with a personal cabana and, the true highlight, a large sundeck with daybed and 180-degree ocean views. Just follow the path from villa to beach, and you’ll find a setting perfect for everything from early morning meditations and sunbathing sessions to sunset contemplations. Other benefits of this beautiful space include in-villa check-in, a welcome gift and bottle of champagne, and one complimentary activity or 15-minute foot massage.
It’s impossible to get bored of these ocean views, and the resort has been built to capitalise on its setting. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Al Hamra Beach is inspired by the calm Gulf waters it sits alongside, and uses its uninterrupted views and the soothing sounds of the sea to create a sanctuary of serenity. The private, waterside pavilions are the secret to transformative wellness, where locally-inspired treatments are prepared with flowers, native spices and other natural ingredients, while facials harness the restorative powers of ESPA and Natura Bissé products. Experiential treatments include a Natural Ocean Experience, a Warm Lava Shell Massage, and a Hot Stone Melter.
When you’ve released yourself from the relaxing hold of the spa, there are plenty of other activities to keep your mind, body and soul occupied. Badminton, beach football, frisbee, bocce, beach tennis and sunset body stretching are all complimentary, while a more exhilarating roster of kayaking, archery, stand-up paddling, water aerobics, sunset boat trips and ‘catch & release’ fishing can be cherry-picked from the resort’s schedule of island-inspired experiences.
Naturally, all this exertion will work up an appetite, so let Shore House restaurant refuel you in its relaxed poolside setting. Once again drawing inspiration from its coastal location, and with elegant maritime interiors, the menu focuses on fresh, locally-sourced seafood, with international dishes and grills. It’s also the perfect place to watch the sun as it casts its final glow over the sea, the restaurant’s poolside bar and lounge a sought-after sunset setting. Lunch is all about easy breezy light beach bites, while dinner ventures into more sophisticated territory, with Omani jumbo prawns, lamb ouzi, squid risotto and grilled whole seabass.
The hotel is the perfect setting for an elevated dining experience too, with its ‘Destination Dining’ allowing guests to create a bespoke event in a private spot around the resort, either on the beachfront or in your villa cabana. Start your day with an Instagrammable floating breakfast in your private pool, enjoy a lavish picnic for lunch along the beach, then finish with a DIY in-villa barbeque experience, where you can ‘be your own chef’.
In October, The Beach Deck will also throw open its proverbial doors in perfect time for alfresco season. This barefoot-style eaterie serves relaxed beach food and drinks, perfect for anyone seeking the ultimate seafood feast in a truly spectacular setting, serving easy-breezy lunches to sunset soirées and after-dark dinners.
Junior jet-setters are just as important as the grown-ups at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach, and the Ritz Kids club is dedicated to tapping into young travellers’ innate sense of curiosity and excitement. The Ritz Kids program is perfect for children aged four and above, immersing them in adventure and education with curated activities that expose them to the natural wonders and cultural traditions of Ras Al Khaimah. Highlights include archery, nature walks to learn more about the resort’s marine life, and learning how to make a shelter on the beach, putting their teamwork, problem-solving and creative thinking skills to good use. No island experience is complete without a treasure hunt, so the kids will also be sent off around the island in search of the perfect prize.
Those willing to leave the comfort of the resort, can travel to the hotel’s nearby sister property in Al Wadi desert to visit the reserve, connect with nature and, hopefully, encounter some of Arabia’s rich wildlife, from Oryx to the more bashful Arabian Gazelle.
Whether you choose to do much or very, very little during your stay here, the resort promises you one thing... that you’ll leave feeling truly relaxed and revived from your island-inspired escape.
WHAT: The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach
WHERE: Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
2. A DESERT OASIS - The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
A small nugget of geography you may not know, is that some 80 per cent of the UAE’s land is covered by desert. Much of it is still largely unexplored making it rich pickings for intrepid travellers wanting to bring a little exploration and adventure to an Arabian escape.
The beauty of the Arabian desert has been a secret of the Bedouins for thousands of years, and The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert takes advantage of the region’s stunning and expansive sand dune setting by nestling into a corner of the 1,235-acre protected Al Wadi Nature Reserve. Here, tranquility is on tap, privacy is abound and the scenery is almost otherworldly. Save the chattering of Hoopoes and Myna birds in the treetops, you can close your eyes and hear a pin drop it’s so serene.
The real focus at The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert is to allow guests to connect with nature and experience the beauty of the outdoors with desert activities that are carefully curated to engage and educate visitors about the region, its geography and natural world. The resort’s Experience Concierge is on hand to arrange everything from a sunrise horseback hack to an evening of stargazing, while a simple stroll around the grounds may well introduce you to some of Ras Al Khaimah’s wilder friends.
Seamless access to the desert means falconry, archery, fishing (in the resort’s man-made watering hole), camel treks, desert biking, horseriding, and bird-watching are easily available. A few of the more immersive activities include a desert bike caravan, in which you ride specially designed off-road bikes that allow you to climb the rolling sand dunes before experiencing a downhill thrill; a wildlife feeding experience in which you can feed the resident Oryx and gazelles in the Al Wadi Desert Nature Reserve; and heritage forest tree-planting, where you can plant a Ghaf tree and help the resort reach its target of planting over 1,000 native Ghaf trees by the end of this year.
While the desert may appear quiet after nightfall, evening time is when many of its inhabitants emerge, and a night walk with one of the resort’s guides will give you the chance to spot foraging reptiles, rodents and herbivores under the starry sky. Equally, you can take advantage of the clear desert skies with a stargazing session with an astronomy expert, who will help you spot stars, constellations, planets and galaxies.
For the kids, there’s also plenty to keep them occupied, starting with Spot and Fluff, the resident ponies at the Equestrian Centre. Book them in for a Desert Pony Adventure with Spot and Fluff, and let them learn how to connect with these gentle creatures, as well as learn how to take care of a pony through washing, grooming and walking lessons, followed by an introductory ride.
When you’re ready for some ‘me time’, the resort’s Ritz Kids club is ready and waiting to take your VIP guests off your hands. Designed like a circus tent inside, the colourful space has ample opportunities to engage and enrich their stay, as they learn more about Ras Al Khaimah and the wider UAE, through arts and crafts, cooking, storytelling and games. The nature-lovers amongst them can also watch a falconry and owl interaction, feed or catch and release fish, and go on a Mews and Stables tour. For the even more intrepid mini explorers, they can sign up for Ritz Kids Rangers, where they’ll learn about outdoor survival skills, how to identify native flora and fauna and a whole host of activities, including animal care, bird identification and desert navigation.
The all-villa resort turns traditional bedouin camping into a luxury desert experience, from which to bask in the beauty of the al wadi nature reserve.
While the kids are away the adults can indeed play, and all roads of relaxation lead to either the Oasis Pool & Bar or The Ritz-Carlton Spa. The former allows you to sip and swim all day long, while the latter is an oasis of wellness in the middle of the desert. Blending amidst the dunes, the spa building showcases the intricacy and majesty of Arabian architecture, where luxurious pavilions hold the secrets to nourishment and enrichment. Treatments combine mindfulness and wellbeing techniques to nourish you from top to toe, with everything from a Thai Fusion or Deep Muscle massage to a Cleansing Body Sculpt or HydraFacial Keraviv Scalp treatment. The true pièce de résistance of the spa is its Rainforest Experience. Combining European hydrothermal culture with Middle Eastern bathing rituals, the experience has 16 different state-of-the-art therapy stations, each designed to soothe and revitalise different parts of your body, whilst travelling you one-step further towards ultimate relaxation
Emerge renewed and slip from one tranquil environment into another, as you enter your new home-away-from-home. The all-villa resort turns traditional Bedouin camping into a luxury desert experience, with 100 tented retreats offering their own expansive indoor and outdoor space from which to bask in the beauty of the desert. Choose between Al Rimal Pool Villa, Al Khaimah Tented Pool Villa, or Al Rimal Enclosed Pool Villa for maximum privacy. And if you want even more space, call Al Sahari Tented Pool Villa or Al Sarab Tented Pool Villa your own, the latter of which comes with butler service, complimentary sunset cocktails, a welcome bottle of champagne, a complimentary ‘honor’ bar and an additional 30 minutes massage when reserving a 60-minute massage treatment.
Each of the five villa types have their own private pool and furnished terrace with desert views, as well as comfortable living spaces, and separate rain showers in the bathroom and oversized, deep-soak baths. With a contemporary interpretation of traditional Bedouin architecture, the villas merge the worlds of East and West, old and new, with subtle yet elegant nods to the region’s history and heritage everywhere you look.
You can explore even more of the Middle East through food at one of the resort’s restaurants, each offering a literal and visual feast. The rustic-inspired Farmhouse is filled with light and floor-to-ceiling views of the dunes, complemented by a menu that focuses on wild meats, homegrown vegetables and other fresh ingredients from ‘land, sea and air’. The perfect spot for a nightcap, there is also a Whiskey Lounge, which specialises in handcrafted cocktails.
Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine are served at Kaheela, with buffet and à la carte, for those wanting to dip in and out of both regional and international fare, while the dishes at Moorish draw on Moroccan cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. Oasis Pool Bar and Paddock Café are the perfect spots during the day to sip and eat around the pool or in the company of the resort’s resident horses. In the evening, head to the open-sky Moon Bar where its rooftop setting affords an exceptional vantage point to watch sunset.
If you’re looking for something a bit different, take advantage of your desert setting with an exclusive dining experience that goes beyond breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each experience is chef-led, with wine tastings, brunches, and a private six-course dining in secluded spots around the resort, such as atop Al Wadi Tower which overlooks the dunes.
Two other culinary experiences you won’t want to miss are a desert barbeque, where a table is set amongst the sandy dunes, as your chef turns up the flames to cook you a feast of Western, Arabic and vegetarian grills. And a sunset vintage desert drive in a 1952 Land Rover, which will take you out into the 500 hectares of Al Wadi Nature Reserve so you can soak up sunset over a picnic - arguably the most memorable way to end every day in the desert.
WHAT: The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert
WHERE: Ras Al Khaimah, UAE