It’s not often that you stumble upon a pocket of greenery in the middle of Dubai, a concrete jungle that bloomed from the barren landscape within a generation. Tarmacked superhighways link skyscraper neighbourhoods with a few patches of open green space dotted around for dog walkers and picnic parties. But the real urban oasis is tucked away, somewhat ironically, on the city’s iconic man-made island, Palm Jumeirah.
Your first instinct on arriving at Sofitel Dubai The Palm is to reach out and touch the verdant walls of the lobby and hallways, a medley of deep greens with pops of flourishing reds and purples, where the vast variety of plants have flowered. The sound of flowing water permeates the large, bustling lobby, with a series of water features welcoming the mix of holidaymakers, daycationers and fine diners.
Styled on a Polynesian island, the resort takes the ‘green’ approach very seriously. It’s immediately evident at Olivier’s – the lobby-based café where you can kick back and watch the hotel’s microcosmic world go by – where plastic straws have long been banished. In fact, Accor’s Planet 21 initiative is ramping up. For the next phase, the hotel is planning on doing away with plastic bottles in favour of reusable glass receptacles, ensuring an even more sustainable stay.
To emphasise, Sofitel Dubai The Palm is not a typical five-star hotel with a nicely manicured lawn. The expansive site is one of the emirate’s largest luxury getaways, with an eye-popping 500-metre stretch of powdery, pale beach. Unfurl an Olympic running track and add a 100-metre sprint of pure sand, then line it with well-nourished palms, spacious cabanas and the beachfront Laguna Lounge cocktail joint and that might begin to create the right image.
Where much of Dubai has been focused on building toward the sky, Sofitel’s oceanic haven has room to breathe. The muscular main building may only rise five storeys, but it dominates the acres of space afforded to the resort. The next largest building is a large block of 182 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments for longer staying guests, with several other smaller buildings dotted around, including signature dining venues, Moana and Maui, as well as four palatial villas for well-heeled visitors and their entire families – and/or entourages.
Rooms with views
The main hotel building comprises 237 classic and luxury category rooms with 123 sumptuous suites, ranging from the 60 sqm Junior Suite all the way up to the utterly commodious Palm Suite. At 450 sqm, it far outsizes most family living spaces across the city, occupying the entire fifth floor as suite “5000”, with four bedrooms and large terraces offering sea views in two different directions. I didn’t stay in the signature suite, but I did a full sweep, taking in the full kitchen, office and most-impressive-of-all master bathroom, with a lavishly large shower and wet area, large enough for the entire family at once.
The Polynesian vibes continue across all the rooms and suites, with deep hued woods, brightened by pops of colour in the artwork and furnishings, such as the turquoise or purple curtains, depending on which category you’re staying in. The other suite categories, including Prestige, Beach and Opera, have ample space for families with little ones, with no expense spared in terms of amenities; expect Hermes soaps, shampoos, conditioners and other French products for suite stays. And if you have the privilege of a suite, you’ll also be invited to access the Club Millésime lounge, with round the clock indulgences and breakfast away from the (not so) madding crowds.
The hotel’s suites feel a few shades larger than equivalent spaces across the city, with walk-in wardrobe spaces and separate bathrooms. Even the rooms provide sizeable soaking tubs that can be afforded sea views, once you pull back the wooden shutters that conceal the bathroom from the main bedroom space. Needless to say – since this is a Sofitel property – you’re guaranteed the soundest of sleeps courtesy of the brand’s MyBed concept, an all-feather bed with an extra light down duvet, perfect for both of the UAE’s seasons: hot summer and mild summer.
Your first instinct on arriving at Sofitel Dubai The Palm is to reach out AND touch the verdant walls of the lobby and hallways, a medley of deep greens with pops of flourishing reds and purples
If you’re looking for more princely accommodation with privacy for your nearest and dearest, the resort’s quartet of capacious villas provide either three or four bedrooms, with private butlers, discreet pools, dining areas, gyms and staff quarters that are particularly handy for hosting events. Designers or retailers could launch entire fashion lines here, with more than enough room to swing a catwalk model. Even the gardens are tantamount to public parks in some corners of the city.
The duplex dwellings all have floor-to-ceiling windows for sun-soaked interiors, which range from the modern Polynesia vibes of the hotel to the more Versailles Palace-esque Villa 300, decked out in off-white fabrics that may induce anxiety when you reach for the vin rouge. At 750 sqm, the property’s interior is somewhat equal to the hotel’s Palm Suite, but with the added outdoor space and large private pool, the kids are sure to prefer villa life.
The Polynesian vibes continue across all the rooms and suites, with deep hued woods, brightened by pops of colour in the artwork and furnishings
Dine a dozen
According to some counts, Dubai has just shy of 12,000 cafés and restaurants, which means roughly one thousandth of the emirate’s eateries can be found at the resort. If you’ve already ventured as far as the aforementioned Olivier’s then the signature Porterhouse Steaks & Grills has been sighted. Dubai has a handful of decent steakhouses and this is a firm favourite for those with carnivorous inclinations. Picture a tabletop grill with choice Australian beef rib and Irish lamb carved at the table, along with a grand cru from the cellar to complement the flavours.
The delectable dozen continues with Moana, a pagoda-style restaurant with exquisite Arabian seafood, and Maui, for indoor/outdoor dining on the water’s edge, with various flavours of the tropics, as well as light salads, bar-room classics and Polynesia-inspired libations from noon till closing.
Other favourites include Hong Loong, for Chinese cuisine enlivened with modern touches and live cooking stations, as well as The World Eatery, one of the options for daily breakfast, with international dishes to suit everyone’s tastes, including the fussiest of eaters. Since football season has returned, Replay Sports Bar above the lobby area will ensure you don’t miss a fixture, with seven TV screens displaying all the action.
The luxury of abundant space continues at the gym and spa – two entirely different areas on separate sides of the resort. The multi-level fitness facility is the largest hotel gym in the city, open to guests and residents alike, with pro trainers, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) facilities, a sauna and tennis courts on the roof, plus an exhaustive range of cutting-edge gym equipment on the main floor.
Elsewhere, in one of the resort’s six pools, the gym staff host additional classes such as FloatFit, and there’s monthly full moon yoga for those who like to stretch in the starlight. If you’re truly dedicated, you can explore the option of a Teora membership to make the most of the workout spaces, which includes access to the huge beach, six pools and the Amura Kids Club for little ones.
Over at the spa, expect a sensory overload with huge plunge pools in the separate male and female areas and a collection of private treatment rooms for all manner of rubs and remedies. One of the more interesting options is a vitamin-laden IV drip, ensuring you’re dosed with your As, Bs, Cs and Ds, along with other vital minerals – perfect for the morning after a night at Laguna Lounge. Other highlights include the hammam rooms and the newly upgraded outdoor infinity pool, with pristine new decking.
Designers or retailers could launch entire fashion lines here, with more than enough room to swing a catwalk model
Exclusive and inclusive
Ahead of booking, you should scour the hotel website for a range of exceptional offers. This Sofitel provides perhaps one of the best value offers in the region, with the promise of all-inclusive beverages for a supplement of just AED 225 (US $61) per person per day, which provides free flowing drinks across the resort; a veritable no brainer if you’re likely to indulge in a few tipples throughout the day.
Dubai excels in a great many things, but it is the undisputed heavyweight champion of creating spaces and experiences that conjure up the feeling of being somewhere else. And at Sofitel Dubai The Palm, a French Polynesian paradise, you’ll be lulled into forgetting your coordinates and simply embracing tropical island life, all-the-while on the doorstep of the world’s most connected city. Who could ask for anything more?
Sofitel Dubai The Palm
The Palm Jumeirah East, Crescent Road, Dubai
+971 4 455 6677