Blingy and barefoot, Zaya Nurai Island in Abu Dhabi achieves the impossible – but even wildest dreams come true in these oil-rich states. Seamlessly combining laid-back, beachy vibes with unrestrained Emirati gloss and glamour, the villas here are supersized, the beach clubs frequented by VIPs and the restaurants deliver global flavours – Italy, Mexico, Lebanon – to the world’s glitziest gulf. Families will feel at home here and kids won’t believe their eyes: zip lines, treehouses, outdoor cinemas and endless watersports will ensure energy is expended by bedtime. Grown-ups can head to the spa, where treatment rooms are strung along the shore, or join the party at Smoking Pineapple.
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Double rooms from £1061.36 (AED5,082), including tax at 21 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of AED10.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates exclude breakfast (available for AED150 a person).
The hotel has its own private patch of white-sand beach.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, beach onsite, gym, outdoor cinema, tennis court, free valet parking. In rooms: Bose media system, Nespresso coffee machine, Molton Brown bath products, air-conditioning, flatscreen TV, free bottled water and minibar with free snacks.
Our favourite rooms
The villas are all pleasingly huge with windows for walls (ergo lots of natural light), private pools and king-size beds. We love the Beach Villas, which line the hotel’s main strip of sand and enjoy direct access to it. Families or groups of friends should book the two-bedroom options, but it’s worth noting that some of these are pretty close to the Smoking Pineapple bar and aren’t as quiet as other villas.
Each villa has its own pool, but there are two outdoor heated infinity ones to dip into as well.
The spa has six treatment rooms, each built on the rocks right at the water’s edge for a natural soundtrack that beats any whale music. Everything from aromatherapy to Ayurveda is available, as well as personal trainers and Pilates and yoga tuition.
Temperatures in the Emirates can regularly reach scorchio: fill that luggage with sunhats, breezy linens and cooling cotton.
There is a Beach Villa adapted for wheelchair access.
All ages welcome. Extra beds and cots can be added to most rooms. Babysitting is available for 50 dirhams an hour, with a day’s notice.
Babies and up.
Each room category is big enough for extra beds; otherwise, opt for a two-bedroom villa.
The kids’ club will give adults serious envy: it includes a treehouse, zipline, swings, kitchen, sandpit, cinema and climbing wall, as well as your average playground.
Arts and crafts, watersports, cycling, pool table, table tennis, face painting, nail art, board games, shell painting...
Lifeguards are on duty and there are various floats and inflatables to use.
Each of the three restaurants has a child-friendly section on its menu, as well as baby-changing facilities. Staff can heat up meals and milk. Highchairs and booster seats are available.
Babysitting can be arranged with a day’s notice; the service costs 50 dirhams an hour plus tax.
No need to pack
No need to pack Swim nappies, black-out blinds, bottle-sterilising facilities, changing mats, socket covers, stairgates.
Baby monitors can be borrowed on request.
The hotel uses locally sourced, organic ingredients that have been grown on-site where possible; local building materials were used in the construction and design.
As close to the shore as you can get – a seat right on the sand at Hooked and a booth next to the glass wall in Dusk so you can see the sea.
These desert principalities aren’t known for their restraint: dig out the designer gear and don’t be afraid to be dripping in gold – that said, anything goes: stay in your beachwear if you like.
There are three: Frangipani, Dusk and Hooked. Frangipani is where to find the enormous breakfast selection, which has various sections, including a bakery and cheese corner, and plenty of Arabic specialities. Dusk serves up some of the best Mexican food this side of the Atlantic: don’t miss the tamarind margaritas, soft-shell-crab tacos, salmon ceviche, tuna tostadas and king-prawn quesadillas. For something more local, head to the beachfront Hooked, which draws inspiration from the Levant; you can also order the catch of the day cooked to your liking and eat it while staring out to sea.
Two: Ginger Mermaid and Smoking Pineapple, each located by one of the main pools. The former is a casual cocktail haunt, with a tempting selection of tempura, sushi and sliders. Smoking Pineapple is a little rowdier, with mainlanders day-tripping over for the buzzy beach-club vibes. The menu here has an Italian slant (ie, great pizza). Both bars serve drinks all day, 11pm at Ginger Mermaid and 10pm at Smoking Pineapple.
Breakfast is served in Frangipani between 7am and 10.30am. This restaurant also opens for lunch (noon to 4pm) and dinner (5pm to 10.30pm). Dusk is only open for dinner (5pm to midnight). Hooked is open from noon until 4pm and 7pm to midnight.
Meals from the assorted restaurant menus can be delivered to your villa 24 hours a day.
Zaya Nurai Island is off the coast of Abu Dhabi, on the sun-soaked shores of the Arabian Gulf.
The Emirate’s international airport is a 25-minute drive away; Mercedes transfers arranged through the hotel cost US $105 each way. If it’s easier for you to reach the global hub that is Dubai, the 140-kilometre drive from the airport should take about an hour and 20 minutes. Contact Smith24 to arrange transfers.
There’s valet parking at the welcome dock, from where it’s onwards onboard the hotel’s boat.
The hotel can only be reached by boat or helicopter. The journey across the water will take 20 minutes.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Smoking Pineapple beach club has all the watersports you could wish for to keep you entertained, but for a little culture head to Abu Dhabi’s Louvre outpost, a 20-minute boat ride from the hotel back on Saadiyat Island. Petrolheads can get their fix at the Emirate’s Ferrari World theme park on Yas Island, where you’ll also find Yas Waterworld.
Unless you want to swim for your supper, most guests stay on the island for mealtimes – luckily there are three restaurants and two bars to choose from.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this beachside hotel in the UAE and unpacked their beach bags and board shorts, a full account of their boutique break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Zaya Nurai Island in Abu Dhabi…
Think of the UAE and you’re probably envisaging seven-star hotels, gleaming skyscrapers and a hell of a lot of hot sand. Zaya Nurai Island offers all the good bits and none of the bad bits. Yes, it’s had a lot of cash lavished on it: the villas are vast, with lots of gloss and glass to show off those sea views. The assorted restaurants and bars leave little to be desired, whether you want Mexican, Italian or just some plain old just-caught fish; even little palates are catered to with children’s sections on every menu. There’s fun for all ages here: big kids can use the swings in the sea, and there are ziplines, an outdoor cinema and teepees on the sand. It’s no wonder Abu Dhabi’s glitterati regularly line up to get on that boat to the beach club: with a name like Smoking Pineapple, it’s a party everyone wants a piece of.