The spectacular One&Only The Palm resort, stretched out over the Persian Gulf on Dubai’s tree-shaped Palm Island archipelago, has all the indulgent service, spa treats and impeccable dining you’d expect from a luxury UAE hotspot, topped off with superlative sea and city views.
Ninety-four, including 25 suites and four beach-front villas.
Noon; earliest check-in, 2pm (both flexible, according to availability).
Double rooms from £1508.47 (AED7,350), including tax at 22.5 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of AED20.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates include buffet breakfast.
Get a massage in the seclusion of your room.
At the hotel
Beach, tennis court, spa, gym, personal trainers, fitness classes, hair salon, library, WiFi (free for limited use, from AED 100 if you need more bandwidth), concierge. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, CD player, iPod dock, Nespresso machine, WiFi, laptop safe, Exvoto toiletries. Free water, tea and coffee is available in every room.
Our favourite rooms
Standard king rooms here are so large they’d be junior suites at a lesser hotel; each has an array of cosy sofas in addition to the enormous bed, so you won’t lack places to flop after a hard day lounging in the sun. The vaguely Moorish-inspired decor in neutral tones is pleasingly relaxing, too. If you’d like a private terrace, too, opt for a junior suite.
Take a dip in the temperature-controlled outdoor pool, which overlooks the Persian Gulf. Expect your drinks to be whisked to your lounger instantaneously, and your sunglasses to be meticulously polished as soon as you set them down.
The One&Only Private Spa is overseen by Espa and offers customised treats amid a tranquil complex of courtyards and fountains – each of the nine treatment rooms has its own small patio.
Bring your bling-iest bikini to fit in by the pool or man-made private beach.
All public areas are wheelchair accessible, as is one specially adapted Manor House Premier room.
All ages are welcome. Children aged six and under stay free in extra beds or cots in their parents’ rooms (AED550 a night for over-sixs). A kids menu with healthy options (steamed salmon and vegetables) and tried and tested comfort food is served.
Most rooms have space for a cot or an extra bed. Rooms with gardens or terraces (some suites even have their own small private pools) might be ill-advised for unsteady toddlers, but could also be ideal if older kids who need extra room to let off steam.
There’s no crèche, but all little guests are welcome in the free KidsOnly kids club.
Waterskiing, swimming lessons and tennis can all be arranged, and the gardens are ideal for running amok.
The heated outdoor pool is family-friendly and supervised by a lifeguard.
Kids are welcome all the time in the outdoor Zest restaurant: during school holidays, there’s an early dinner for children. Over-9s are welcome in Stay by Yannick Alléno for dinner, and in 101 Dining Lounge and Bar, kids of any age can have lunch or dinner, and there are highchairs at hand. Children are welcome any time in the lobby lounge. Children’s menus – serving child- and parent-pleasing dishes, including mini salads, hot dogs and home-made ice cream – are available and dishes can be adapted for younger guests.
Give at least two days notice if you’d like a babysitter; they’re available for AED 75 an hour (minimum, three hours) for children aged three and above.
No need to pack
The hotel has its own prams and pushchairs to borrow.
Grab a shady spot on the terrace for lunch, or a table inside by the windows if you want to keep the view but escape the heat.
In Stay by Yannick Alléno, dress up for dinner. At the seaside 101, a chic-but-casual look will fly until 7pm, when you’ll want to pull out your fashionable finery. Flip-flops and shorts are out after 7pm wherever you choose to eat.
Three, all overseen by acclaimed French chef Yannick Alléno. 101 Dining Lounge & bar serves up tapas and Mediterranean-inspired meals by the resort’s private marina: it’s a definite see-and-be-seen hotspot, with a DJ on most evenings. French restaurant Stay by Yannick Alléno, decorated in dark reds, has a unique ‘pastry library’ that showcases some truly Instagram-worthy desserts, as well as a sharing table for dining as a group. There’s also the outdoor Zest restaurant, which is the most laid back.
Next to the lobby, you can sip cocktails, enjoy sweet and savoury snacks, or take afternoon tea at the Lounge.
Breakfast is served in Zest from 7am to 11am every morning. In 101 Dining Lounge and Bar, lunch is served 12.30–3.30pm, and dinner from 7–10:30pm. In Stay by Yannick Alléno, dinner is served 7–10:30pm. The Lounge is open from 9am to 1am.
Have snacks, drinks or full meals (from steak to seared tiger prawns) delivered to your room whenever you like.
One of the top locations in the Dubai’s cosmopolitan metropolis is the man-made Palm Island archipelago.
The most convenient airport is Dubai International (www.dubaiairport.com), about 45 minutes by car from the hotel. It’s served by more than 6,000 flights a week, bringing in passengers from more than 220 destinations.
If you’re arriving by car, you’ll find free valet parking awaiting you.
If you’re arriving by helicopter, the nearest helipad is at the nearby Atlantis The Palm hotel, a five-minute drive from One&Only.
Worth getting out of bed for
Dubai is a top choice for sun-seeking party lovers with its plethora of cool bars and hot beaches, and its cosmopolitan atmosphere attracts a world-class array of chefs to local restaurants. And, the desert heat combined with human ingenuity means you can do almost any outdoor pursuit imaginable, from water skiing to… normal skiing.
Even if you’re only slightly into skiing, the opportunity to do it in the desert shouldn’t be passed up. Head to Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s first ski resort to try out its five runs and witness its improbable 22,500sq m of real snow (www.skidbx.com). The impressive array of waterworks at the choreographed Dubai Fountain in the vast man-made Burj Khalifa Lake was designed by the same people responsible for the Bellagio’s famous fountains in Las Vegas, and uses more than 6,500 lights in its show. The water shoots up to 500ft into the air; if you’d like a particularly great view, book a terrace table at the Bice Mare restaurant. Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, is a must-visit (as long as you’re not afraid of heights). The At the Top observation deck is open day and night, but sunset is the most popular. Book ahead for AED 125 aper person, or get immediate entry for AED 400 (www.burjkhalifa.ae).
Explore Dubai’s interpretation of a traditional souk: Souk Madinat Jumeirah has meandering alleys, lantern-lit passages and plenty of antiques and trinkets to buy. Super shoppers, you'll find your heaven at the Mall of the Emirates. From Harvey Nichols and Audemars Piguet to H&M and Forever 21, it’s all here (www.malloftheemirates.com).
Charter a yacht at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club and set sail to see the city from the water… the Athena can host up to 14 guests, and a variety of routes are available (www.dubaimarinayachtclub.com).
For Italian cuisine in a sleek and sylish setting, head to Roberto’s in the heart of the Dubai International Financial Centre, between two of the city’s top landmarks, the Jumeirah Emirates Towers and the Burj Khalifa (www.robertos.ae). Possibly the best Japanese restaurant in Dubai, Zuma in the Dubai International Financial Centre is also a good choice for cocktails (www.zumarestaurant.com). And, don’t miss the Friday brunch at Saffron at the Atlantis The Palm hotel; it’s popular, so book ahead (+971 4 426 26 26).
For cocktails, Bahri Bar at Madinat Jumeirah has some of the best views in Dubai: ‘bahri’ means ‘views of the sea’ (www.jumeirah.com). An impressive (and circular) space at the end of a pier, 360º is one of Dubai’s best loved clubs (+971 4 406 89 99). Relieve your Ibiza days (and nights) at the Emirati outpost of Balearic classic Blue Marlin, about 25 minutes from Dubai (www.bluemarlinibiza-uae.com).
Star ratings, diamonds, rosettes – not something us Smiths usually go in for. But in the official relaxation scale of 1 to 10 (1 being ‘all-out warzone’; 10 meaning ‘so calm you’re almost flat-lining’), our stay at One&Only The Palm came in at 9.25. The average was only dragged down after Mr Smith added dried green chilli flakes to his bespoke muesli one morning thinking they were pistachios. Unexpected and not very relaxing for Mr Smith; amusing for Mrs Smith. His excuse? He was wearing sunglasses at the breakfast bar.
One&Only The Palm really is at the end of the road. We passed through Dubai's gleaming airport, down the skyscraper-lined Sheik Zayed Road, past a dozen new Metro stations which look like giant futuristic cockroaches, then we snaked down into a pristine brightly lit tunnel which links the mainland to this famous man-made palm-shaped offshore development. When you arrive at the end of the Palm, everything changes. Low-key and low-rise, muted tones and not at all OTT, One&Only has its own end of the Palm crescent. It’s like a boutique-hotel pot of gold at the end of the high-bling rainbow that is Dubai.
At the Andalucia-inspired resort there’s still a nod to the United Arab Emirates location: low-storey buildings surround a palm-lined pool and stretch down to the sea. An Arabic influence makes itself felt in a subtle palette, fretwork and delicate arches carved into creamy browns walls a tad more ochre than a milky hot chocolate. The different levels and terraces give a crenelated effect – it’s a fortress against the tide of gilt and glitz. Contemporary music was just audible over the gently bubbling fountain, and moments after being handed an orange and mandarin welcome drink in the dazzling-white lobby we’d been ushered through the hotel to our room. We’d booked a Palm Beach suite looking directly out onto the sand. Large and light with a no-expense-spared feel, our bathroom was as big as the room itself.
Capacious king-size sun mattresses soon lured us out to the pool. Basking in the sun and the peace and quiet, the stresses of home seemed a million miles away. Only the very tips of skyscrapers were visible between the swaying palms giving away the fact that we weren’t somewhere further flung. For a change of scenery, we decamped to the beach. By now Mr Smith had made space at the top of his Favourite Hotels Ever league table. This ranking was confirmed when he spied the little truck dispensing cold beers and ice-cream directly to folks at their sun loungers: ‘Surely man’s greatest invention?’ he asked. Then we were visited by a man dedicated to de-gunking sunglasses. The chap spent under a minute at everyone else’s sunbed, but we kept him busy for over five. ‘Amazing!’ Mr Smith proclaimed in an almost biblical I-was-blind-but-now-I-can-see epiphanic way. This could be what saved him from further breakfast-bar mistakes.
A dedicated vegetarian section of the menu at Zest, the hotel’s main restaurant, inspired Mr Smith’s next outburst of delight. We had a candle-lit dinner on the terrace – all high-end woven outdoor furniture, cream plantation shutters and perfectly manicured hedges – and home-made ice-cream flavours elicited the verdict of ‘inventive’ from Mr Smith (and he’s something of a pudding connoisseur). After an age of him scouring the desserts and muttering ‘dilemma’ under his breath, he pushed the menu my way and asked what he should choose. This is unheard of. A chocolate-trio affair came out the winner.
My own dilemma loomed in the small but luxurious spa the next day. This time I asked Mr Smith to help me pick a treatment. ‘Dunno’ came the helpful response. Thankfully I was sufficiently intrigued by the much-lauded services of One&Only’s in-house ‘foot virtuoso’, Bastien. The Frenchman has carefully trained staff at every O&O resort, and since I’d always fancied a medi-pedi, I concluded I really had to try it (as I reasoned with myself). When a tiny softly spoken Mauritian lady welcomed me to my appointment, she asked if I’d ever experienced a Bastien pedicure before (no); she then warned me it was a little different and giggled sweetly: ‘Instead of water, we use blades and drills… It’s a bit like going to the dentist. But it doesn’t hurt’. I laughed nervously as she flicked a switch and my bed reclined. An hour later she was done and I can report back that it really wasn’t in any way unpleasant – just a question of holding your nerve against the whirr of the drill bits, and the clink of scalpels. ‘New feet!’ my therapist declared triumphantly. And they really were: soft and smooth with nails buffed to an unbelievable shine.
The rest of our stay was spent alternating between sea-view swimming pool and beach, mesmerised from time to time by groups of parachutists who, having taken off from the marina just across the water, floated gently down seemingly towards ‘our’ pool (none did). One&Only The Palm definitely wins the prize for most services offered to you at your sun lounger. Iced water, fruit skewers (so far, so luxury-hotel standard) but also a sunglasses concierge, chilled Espa face-mist spritzing, iced cucumber slices (I explained to Mr Smith they were for the eyes, not a Pimm’s), fresh iced tea in big clinky glasses, and a grandstand view of skydivers. Having escaped our young children for a few days of grown-up time, the experience of being waited on hand and foot had been just what the doctor ordered.