Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi: Best Areas & Hotels, 2019
A glittering jewel at the edge of the desert, set on a string of islands in the brilliant turquoise water of the Arabian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates capital is the quieter cousin to showy, neighboring city Dubai. But it's no less impressive. Anywhere along the eight-kilometer-long waterfront Corniche offers a place to find a hotel and make the most of an Abu Dhabi vacation, putting families and couples close to the arts district of Saadiyat Island and business and shopping hub Al Maryah Island, home of the luxury mall, The Galleria.
Enjoy a mix of stunning beaches, gardens, and promenades to stroll or cycle while admiring the city's fanciful high-rises, which seem to defy structural logic. Excellent restaurants and bountiful shopping options, from souks to elegant malls, are close by.
Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced, so getting around from your hotel is a breeze, while organized tours will whisk you to the nearby red-sand desert for a heart-pumping, roller coaster-like ride over the dunes. Feel the need for speed on the world's fastest theme-park coaster at Ferrari World on leisure destination Yas Island, or pause to quiet your mind at the serene architectural marvel, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Abu Dhabi does nothing by half measures — including hospitality.
Where to Stay for Luxury
Luxury hotels abound in Abu Dhabi, and you'll find a wide variety near the prime Corniche area. The Emirates Palace is one of Abu Dhabi's top hotels, pampering guests with deluxe Arabian hospitality. Each room in the massive hotel includes private butler service. There's gold everywhere; it's even dusted on top of the signature Palace Cappuccino, served on a silver tray in the lobby's Le Café. Also near the Corniche, Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi beckons visitors with a rooftop-revolving restaurant offering 360-degree city views.
Between downtown and Abu Dhabi International Airport, you'll find the designated arts, heritage, and culture center Saadiyat Island, home of the new Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat boasts stunning public beaches, and while some hotels may have their own private stretch of sand for guests, visitors can buy a day pass to swim and play at the exclusive Saadiyat Beach Club. Two luxury properties on Saadiyat make the most of the island's charms. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort offers a choice of three outdoor pools or its own private beach, and while guests appreciate the spacious rooms at the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas, there are also suites and villas with garden or beach views and private plunge pools. The hotel is located near the Gary Player-designed 18-hole golf course at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.
The modern, swooping Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is a collection of gracefully curving high-rises housing elegant rooms and suites with views of the Arabian Gulf, downtown, or the Corniche. Get a bird's-eye view from the 74th-floor Observation Deck in Tower 2, a must-stop for a snack or afternoon high tea. The luxurious Rosewood Abu Dhabi puts you in the business hub on Al Maryah Island and has a gorgeous pool area with artistic lighting sculptures that makes it just as lovely after dark as during the day.
Where to Stay for the Best Value
Abu Dhabi is undoubtedly synonymous with wealth, but there are plenty of well-priced hotels for visitors, especially if you travel outside of peak season, and that includes staying near the Corniche. InterContinental Abu Dhabi has a sizeable private beach, while guests can enjoy marina views and varied in-house dining options, including the Belgian Café and Brazilian, Italian, Lebanese, and seafood restaurants.
The Hilton Abu Dhabi has its own beach club, with impressive city views, and is a 15-minute walk from Marina Mall and Heritage Village. The Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort has three pools, a sandy lagoon, and can arrange sunset cruises. Closer to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi pleases guests with a resort-like feel in a quiet area and free Wi-Fi. Kids 12 years and under stay free (and up to age four also eat free in the hotel) when staying in their parents' room.
Where to Stay on a Budget
The Mercure Abu Dhabi Centre Hotel puts guests in the heart of the city, near shopping. It has Abu Dhabi's top-rated French restaurant and offers a free shuttle service to Abu Dhabi Mall and Marina Mall.
Also in the city center, the Al Diar Dana Hotel offers junior single and double suites, with sea or city views, at modest prices.
If you'd like to make family friendly Yas Island your base, the Centro Yas Island Abu Dhabi by Rotana is close to Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld, as well as the three-level Yas Mall, the biggest shopping complex in Abu Dhabi, with international retailers, places to eat, and a 20-screen multiplex.
Where to Stay for Families
One of the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi for families is Yas Island, which offers a wide range of family friendly and fun-seeker attractions, including the world's fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, at Ferrari World. There's also Yas Waterworld, Yas Links Golf, Yas Mall, and a planned Warner Bros. theme park due to open in 2018.
Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi is an ultra-modern hotel that arcs over the famous Yas Marina Circuit, used for Formula One racing, where you can dine overlooking the turquoise racetrack. If you're feeling energetic, join locals in the cooler early evenings for public walks, jogging, or cycling on the track. The hotel also has a private beach for guests.
Park Inn by Radisson Abu Dhabi, Yas Island also puts families close to Ferrari World and Waterworld and has a garden play area and big playpen located near the pool for pint-sized guests.
Closer to the business district, traveling families love that the Beach Rotana is connected to Abu Dhabi Mall, with its shopping and movie theaters. It also has a covered children's outdoor play area, as well as an indoor play area and kids' pool.
Where to Stay for Couples
To sleep like royalty, try the opulent five-star Royal Rose Hotel. Couples should book one of the three tiers of suites, which are all furnished in a European Baroque design with some Arab flair and lots and lots of gold — on mirrors, picture frames, and chairs. They also come with super comfy beds topped with a variety of pillows and, in some cases, round stand-alone bath tubs. If you're celebrating a special anniversary, book the Rose Suites, which come with butler service and limo transfers.
Another top couples hotel is the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, which has an enviable location for views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The hotel is impressive in its opulence and has a romantic Middle Eastern vibe. The rooms and suites make good use of marble and gold mosaic tiles throughout, and all come with private balconies. There are four restaurants on-site, as well as a private beach and adult-only pool at the spa.
Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island is another romantic hotel on Al Maryah Island, which is connected to Abu Dhabi island by several bridges and is easy to access. The hotel sits along a waterfront walkway that connects it to a luxury shopping mall and another high-end hotel. The interior decor is appealing in its luxe elegance with multiple types of marble, prints, and fresh flowers all used to create ambience. On-site amenities include a number of restaurants, a swimming pool, spa, and a sauna and steam room.
Finally, couples will enjoy the Thai-influenced Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi in a glass tower building. It offers rooms and suites with floor-to-ceiling windows and, in some cases, butler service. The hotel gets high marks for quality service. Away from the rooms there are a few dining options — one restaurant serves Thai, another Mediterranean. The rooftop pool and a spa are other attractive perks for couples.