While words such as “sandpit” and “desert” might have been apt to describe the city in the past, they don’t even begin to capture the essence of modern-day Dubai. Since its humble beginnings, this Arab metropolis has come a long way to inspire urban architects around the world by incorporating into its cityscape everything from futuristic skyscrapers, gushing fountains and manicured gardens to beautiful manmade islands complete with white sand beaches and palatial resorts.
Of course, this means that all you’ve got to do to escape city life is head to one of these artificial paradises to experience beachfront hotels with dreamy views of the Arabian Gulf.
If you’re looking for a bit of sunshine this winter, here are five island escapes in Dubai to cheer you up.
Bulgari Resort and Residences Dubai
If you fancy an Italian getaway fit for a movie star, the only resort on Jumeirah Bay Island offers plenty of privacy just a 15-minute drive from downtown.
Here, every detail spells luxury, from the use of Arabescato marble, Italian onyx and gray Vicenza stone in the design to in-suite touches such as Moroccan wool rugs and Bulgari lamps or the convenience of in-room check-in and personal butler service.
You might be forgiven for thinking you’ve been whisked off to the Mediterranean thanks to the ultra-luxe hideaway’s exclusive La Spiaggia beach club — perfect for lounging with a private stretch of sand, casual alfresco eatery and sparkling pool — and the chic, nautical-themed Bulgari Yacht Club, where Italian seafood specialties are served up with a side of gorgeous marina views.
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
When in Dubai, you don’t have to venture far for a slice of Thai island paradise. This Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star escape channels the vibe of a Southeast Asian fishing village with meandering lagoons, colorful tuk-tuks, Thai cooking classes and a traditional longtail boat for cruising around the archipelago.
The resort also boasts the only overwater villas in the UAE, some even with a glass-floor panel for in-room sightseeing. Decks provide a romantic spot to enjoy breakfast on the water or watch the sunset.
A private beachfront, three lagoon pools and an infinity-edge pool deliver lots of fun in the sun, while the active set can opt for more exciting waterborne pursuits like kayaking or snorkeling.
To turn the romance meter up a notch, book one of the property’s Beach Pool Villas. These secluded sanctuaries come with their own pools, direct beach access and a whirlpool tub for two.
One&Only The Palm
You can’t help but feel a wave of serenity wash over you as you set foot into the ivory and gold interior of this Four-Star Palm Jumeirah hideaway. Here, latticed arches, brass lanterns, grand chandeliers and gurgling fountains welcome you into a quiet haven that feels far away from the city of skyscrapers — but, in reality, is just a 17-minute drive from the mainland.
This beachfront resort provides a distinctive (and incredibly elegant) sense of place with romantic, Moorish-Andalusian influences — think symmetrical arches, candlelit pools, shaded courtyards and Arabesque gazebos.
Perched on the west crescent of the Palm archipelago, the property offers remarkable vistas of Dubai’s skyline across the gulf.
To make the most of your waterfront locale, be sure to book a suite with its own temperature-controlled pool and beach access.
After the sun goes down, make your way to 101 Dining Lounge for tapas, tipples and DJ-spun tunes on an overwater terrace.
Located on its own private island along the Jumeirah coast, the sumptuous hotel excels in one-of-a-kind excursions: helicopter arrivals; chauffeured Rolls-Royce rides; and seeing Dubai from the water in a private yacht.
But even when you’re in the confines of your own duplex suite, the opulent touches come in the form of 24-karat gold iPads, 21-inch iMacs and gold faucets in the mosaic marble bathrooms.
Spend your days being showered with those in-room treats, enjoying the sun with windsurfing or simply lounging on the impressive 107,000-square-foot terrace. The latter is a fantastic addition that features a private white sand beach, a freshwater pool with a swim-up bar, a saltwater infinity pool, 32 luxurious private cabanas and the light-filled Scape Restaurant & Lounge.
Five Palm Jumeirah Hotel
For a modern take on a waterfront escape, check into this trendy Palm Jumeirah stay where dramatic skyline vistas come standard.
Head to the hotel’s private beach for a day of watersport-packed fun against the backdrop of Dubai’s skyscrapers or kick back with cocktails at The Pool Bar.
You also could elect to stay in the shade with a host of treatments, a yoga session or a dip in the rooftop pool at the property’s soothing spa.
Experience the city’s famous nightlife at one of the hotel’s popular venues, such as The Penthouse (a 16th-floor lounge with two glass-lined pools and fantastic views), the very exclusive Secret Room nightclub and Above 21, a classic whiskey and cigar lounge.