With more than 700 hotels and 130,000 rooms in Dubai, deciding where to stay can be a formidable task. And there’s more to come, with Atlantis the Royal and Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab on the horizon. While the city has more than its fair share of hotels in glass and steel towers that feel like they could be anywhere in the world, it also has plenty of retreats that connect visitors to the emirate and its culture. Here are some standout examples of Dubai hotels that will give you a sense of the destination.
1. Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa
Location: Dubai Desert Conservation ReserveBook Now
The most luxurious way to experience Dubai’s desert may smash an entire holiday budget, but a stay in the Bedouin-inspired tented suites at Al Maha might well be worth it. It’s one of the best places to see desert conservation in action: Al Maha is located in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, home to the UAE’s largest free-roaming herd of Arabian oryx, a species brought back from extinction in the wild through rehabilitation initiatives. Guests should keep their eyes peeled for gazelles, too—300 Arabian and 100 sand gazelles inhabit the dunes, and the more inquisitive ones often come right up to the 42 tented accommodations. Water recycling, biodiesel, and solar panels all contribute to Al Maha’s behind-the-scenes efforts to tread lightly on the fragile desert ecosystem.
2. Al Seef Heritage Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton
Location: Al SeefBook Now
Located alongside Dubai Creek in the “new” old Dubai neighborhood of Al Seef, this hotel feels remarkably traditional with its wind towers and wooden beams, despite having been built recently. The 190 airy guest rooms, some with private balconies, are spread across multiple small buildings called bait, the Arabic word for house, and they’re peppered with vintage trinkets such as rotary phones, brass rosewater bottles, and photos of old Dubai. Carpets and cushions are strewn invitingly around the common area rooftops for lounging. The waterfront setting is easy to explore on foot, with cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops all close by.
3. Burj Al Arab
Location: Its own island near Jumeirah BeachBook Now
A night at the Burj Al Arab is extra in every sense of the word, from the boldness of its sail-shaped architecture to the mind-boggling scale of its atrium and audacious interior design. All 202 accommodations are two-level suites with views of the sparkling Arabian Gulf. The hotel may be approaching its 23rd birthday, but no other retreat in the city has ever come close to its extravagance. An Inside Burj Al Arab tour launched last year and reveals the gold-encrusted, silk-adorned, leopard-print filled Royal Suite, complete with rotating beds. Hotel guests have access to the more than 100,000-square-foot terrace, with its freshwater and saltwater pools lined with 10 million gold and azure mosaic tiles; here they can order a bottle of bubbly while soaking up the only-in-Dubai opulence.
4. Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach
Location: Jumeirah BeachBook Now
The Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, with its 188 enormous guest rooms, frangipani-filled gardens, buzzing rooftop bar, and five restaurants, is a keen supporter of local producers. Around 40 percent of fresh produce used in the hotel is sourced from within the UAE and, depending on the season, the menu showcases local leafy vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, fruit, seafood, eggs, and more. Head to Folia, a shady spot under towering palm trees, for plant-based cuisine, including such crowd pleasers as vegan spaghetti Bolognese, beetroot poke, and avocado with dukkah. Those interested in heading straight to the source can ask the hotel can arrange a visit to Greenheart Organic Farms, which supplies most of the hotel’s produce.
5. Hatta Dome Park
Location: HattaBook Now
Open during the cooler months, this collection of 15 domed tents is located in Dubai’s little-known mountainous region of Hatta and offers a complete change of pace only an hour’s drive from the city. This isn’t “glamping” per se—in-tent bathrooms are functional rather than luxurious, and there’s no 24-hour room service here—but it’s positioned perfectly for exploring Hatta’s hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and kayaking. Each tent comes with a firepit and barbecue grill—stock up on gourmet meats in the city and bring firewood for a Dubai-style cookout.
6. Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf
Location: Madinat JumeirahBook Now
One of six luxury hotels by Dubai-based hospitality brand Jumeirah that make up the Madinat Jumeirah complex, Dar Al Masyaf is a sprawling seaside enclave full of wandering peacocks, tropical gardens, and Arabian architecture. It’s like a sophisticated theme park—guests can float through canals on little abra boats, visit the turtles in the rehabilitation lagoon in neighboring Jumeirah Al Naseem, or lounge beneath shady palms beside its many pools. The 283 rooms and suites are spread over intimate guesthouses with shared central courtyards, tinkling fountains, and complimentary cocktails daily at 6 p.m.; guests have free access to the waterslide-filled Wild Wadi waterpark next door.
7. One&Only Royal Mirage
Location: Dubai MarinaBook Now
Opulent doesn’t even come close to describing this arabesque fantasy located on a half-mile-long stretch of golden sands opposite the Palm Jumeirah. Life-size sculptures of Bedouins atop camels welcome guests into a world of lofty archways, intricate mosaics, and water features. The Moroccan theme continues in the spa, where winding corridors lead to the heated marble slabs of a traditional hammam. It’s also home to one of the city’s hottest beach clubs, Drift, and the new seaside Beach Bar & Grill by Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco. When a change of scenery is in order, a speedboat transfers guests over to the sister resort on the Palm in just seven minutes for panoramic views of the city skyline.
8. XVA Art Hotel
Location: Al Fahidi Book Now
One of the most atmospheric places to stay in the city, XVA is tucked away in a former family home among the restored pearling and trading houses of the Al Fahidi heritage district alongside Dubai Creek. The 15 guest rooms are comfy and cozy, but the common areas filled with contemporary Middle Eastern art and the rooftop sun deck is where visitors will want to spend most of their time. Order a fresh mint and lemon shake from the onsite vegetarian café in one of the shady, birdsong-filled courtyards before checking out the boutique, which is filled with unique caftans, cushions, and contemporary accessories.
9. Jumeirah Al Naseem
Location: Madinat JumeirahBook Now
Jumeirah Al Naseem’s palm-filled gardens and serene adults-only pools and guest rooms draw well-heeled, grown-up travelers in search of a tranquil seaside stay. But tranquil doesn’t mean disconnected here—there are more than 50 restaurants within walking or buggy distance. The 430 accommodations are light and bright, with subtle nods to contemporary Arabian design. The resort also connects guests with local marine life through the Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, an organization based onsite that rescues sick and injured turtles from around the UAE. The organization provides emergency medical care for turtles and rehabilitates them before they’re released back into their natural habitat. Guests (and nonguests) can see the recovering turtles in the sea-fed lagoons that run through the gardens and can take part in occasional feeding sessions. Choose an outdoor table at the pink-hued Flamingo Room restaurant and you can even dine beside them.
10. 25hours Hotel One Central
Location: One CentralBook Now
Despite its size, there’s a feeling of community at the new 434-room 25hours, which is already a popular spot with creatives and digital nomads. Locals and visitors alike congregate in the design-driven, art-filled spaces. The Analog Circus mezzanine level is filled with nostalgic gadgets, including Sony Walkmen, typewriters, and an LP station, all there to be played with. Room themes—Bedouin, glamping, farm stay—are inspired by the heritage of the UAE. Think tasseled fabrics, leather details, and hammocks in some of the suites. The party-perfect maximalist Hakawati Suite even comes with a triple king-size bed. On the roof, Monkey Bar’s terrace is the place to gaze at the extraordinary new Museum of the Future right next door. Add to all of this pod chairs for swinging in the lobby, an astonishingly authentic Bavarian beer hall, and a complimentary four-hour weekday Mini Cooper hire for guests, and it’s no surprise that 25hours is becoming a much-loved fixture of the city.
11. Anantara World Islands
Location: World IslandsBook Now
The first hotel to open on Dubai’s offshore World Islands archipelago, and designed to look like a map from above, the new Anantara World Islands feels a world apart from the sprawling metropolis. But the shimmering skyline on the horizon is a reminder that the city is still only 2.5 miles away.
The decor of the 70 rooms is minimalist, with neutral colors that make the blues of the sky and the sea outside appear even sharper. There’s something special about starting the day with a coffee as a peacock struts by and the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, pierces the sky. Until a few years ago, there was nothing here but sea, and the island still feels new. The landscaping will take a while to flourish, and new restaurants are being built on the far side of the island.
But there’s plenty to draw the curious traveler here, from dining on the beach in air-conditioned bubble pods to the quirky HamacLand floating lounges, like your own private boat with hammocks suspended beneath a canopy. But perhaps the main draw is the fact that you’re in Dubai, but not really. Stand here and you’re actually in “South America,” the landmass that this island is supposed to represent. It’s an only-in-Dubai—but not quite in Dubai—experience.
12. Queen Elizabeth 2
Location: Port RashidBook Now
Yes, it’s that QE2, and though it’s not distinctly Dubai, they both share a love of luxury. The grande dame of the seas has made Dubai’s Port Rashid its permanent home for more than a decade and opened as a 447-room hotel a few years ago, but it never made the splash it truly deserved. Accor has recently taken over the management of the Queen Elizabeth 2 and is renovating and refreshing the rooms and public areas, aiming to bring new life to the icon she once was.
There’s a touch of the 1980s about the ship (the QE2 sailed from 1969 to 2008), and many of the original design elements hearken back to that era, with some of the smaller rooms having portholes as windows. A pool will be added in the coming months, but for now, drinking a pint in the Golden Lion pub is as good a way as any to imagine what life was like onboard. As a piece of travel history, there’s nothing like it—join one of the fascinating daily tours with the QE2’s former cruise director to learn tales, and the odd bit of gossip, of the people and places from the ship’s past.
Nicola Chilton Writer Nicola Chilton tells the stories of people, places, and unexpected adventures from her home base in Dubai.