Two island retreats in Abu Dhabi

A slick modern hotel versus a Bedouin-style spa on two natural islands off the United Arab Emirates.


What's so special?

The Rosewood hotel is located on Al Maryah, a natural island connected by a bridge to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It mainly attracts businessmen, says Rosemary Behan in The Daily Telegraph, but it is a "slick and smartly buzzing" holiday destination with its eye on attracting more tourists.

How they rate it

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If you've been to Abu Dhabi before, you'll get an exciting new view of the city from the 34-storey tower of the hotel, says Behan, and the slick design by New York-based architects will "wow" you. The bedrooms have "dark-wood panelling, floor-to-ceiling windows and large beds. Businesslike but private and luxurious, the rooms are perfect for a special occasion."

The menu

All the restaurants and bars are "pleasingly different" and range from Spanish cuisine in the Catalan' restaurant, cooked by double-Michelin-starred chef Antonio Saez, to Indian food in Spice Mela'. The underground wine bar is also worth a visit.

The cost

A double room costs from £138 per night, room only. See, or call 00 971 2 813 5550.


Desert Islands Resort & Spa

What's so special?

Sir Bani Yas is a natural island 100km southwest of Abu Dhabi and was once the private retreat of the United Arab Emirates' founding sheikh, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It is now home to this fabulous boutique hotel. The sheikh was a passionate nature lover and played a role in helping save the Arabian oryx (pictured) from becoming extinct.

How they rate it

This Bedouin-style spa and its fine-dining restaurants make other desert retreats look low rent in comparison, says Tristan Rutherford in The Times. This "boutique retreat-cum-wildlife-reserve" is home to a reintroduced pride of cheetahs, as well as more than 170 species of birds, "so there's plenty to spot from the reserve's easily explored four-wheel-drive trails, mountain-bike routes and walking paths". You can "meander past mangrove lagoons and flocks of flamingos", see the Arabian oryx, or try "snorkelling in the "turtle-populated waters". The rooms are "supremely tasteful, with Arabian furnishings", says The Sunday Times Travel Magazine.

The menu

Choose between tapas and seafood, or have a private meal brought to you on the beach or balcony.

The cost

Doubles cost from £210. See, or call 00 971 2 801 5400.


Three great websites for trip savings

To save on the cost of a flight, is invaluable, says Alessia Horwich in The Sunday Times Travel Magazine. It has one of the most sophisticated systems around for finding the cheapest flights, and its Price Trend feature even tells you whether you should buy now or wait until prices drop. And it really works, says Horwich. For example, the website found a flight to Ko Samui for £575, but instructed users of the site to wait as prices would probably fall. Four days later, the same flight cost £547. To find your hotel, go to This website allows you to search all the main online hotel-comparison sites such as,, and simultaneously. Type in your date and area or hotel name and Top 10 will list prices offered by the comparison sites, so you just pick the best rate. A search for a night at the Mondrian in LA turned up a price of £201 £31 cheaper than the best rate on the hotel's own website. If you don't mind a bit of currency inconvenience, is also a good bet for hotels. Book through this website and it will track the price of your room until the day you check in. "If the price drops below what you paid at any time, it refunds you the difference." The hitch is that the site is American, so all bookings and refunds are in dollars. However, the potential savings can make it worth the hassle.

Ruth Jackson-Kirby

Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance. 

Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.

Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.