I completed a great 5-night stay at Al Maha Desert Resort. Lots of people have reviewed this hotel in the last several years and reviews of this property are almost always universally positive and...
I completed a great 5-night stay at Al Maha Desert Resort. Lots of people have reviewed this hotel in the last several years and reviews of this property are almost always universally positive and it was my experience as well - we will come back for sure. If there is one main aspect where my opinion might differ is that some folks mentioned that 2-3 days is enough there. We stayed 5 days and we would have gladly stayed another couple of days.
Al Maha is located about one hour drive from Dubai in the Desert Conservation Reserve. Right on the resort premises, several gazelles and oryxes are everywhere and casually walk around. They frequently visited us by our pool.
Our suite was not far from reception in a short alley leading to only three suites, which means traffic there was very limited. Privacy was excellent given the bushes and shrubs on both sides of our suite. From our suite the view of the desert was great. Even though technically we were exposed to the area right underneath, the reality is that nobody walks there particularly not during the summer so our suite felt very private. Even if someone was walking in the desert down the hill it would be relatively far to have any view of our suite anyway.
The Bedouin Suite has a great design suitable for the kind of resort this is, including tented ceilings. It is obviously not new and shiny ??? the resort is about 20 years old. However it is kept in good condition and the room had lots of artefacts from traditional settlers in this area. The water pressure was decent considering we were in a desert, AC was very strong, and the bed was amazingly comfortable. I liked the cool floor tiles everywhere and the stone walls in the bathroom and shower.
One highlight of our stay was dining. All guests have breakfast, lunch, and dinner included in their rate which you can have either in your room or in the restaurant. Having in-room dining as a choice is great because sometimes we just wanted to stay quiet in our room by ourselves. The quality of the food was excellent for all meals and it???s not the junk food you can find in some all-inclusive resorts. The menu has a little bit of everything for all tastes, for example filet mignon (even for breakfast!), lobster ravioli, several fish options, grilled jumbo prawns, etc. It???s clear the resort aims to impress with food rather than trying to save costs. For lunch you can order three courses and for dinner if going to the restaurant it???s a 5-course dinner (amuse-bouche, appetizer, sorbet, main course, and dessert) with a more sophisticated menu than the in-room dining menu. We have thoroughly enjoyed all meals, both in the restaurant and in our room, we have tried lots of different dishes and overall it was fantastic. For the first couple of days we had several hearty meals but towards the tail end of our stay we simply no longer could eat three meals per day and/or we had to skip one or two courses from our meals because the resort had previously done such a good job ensuring we were not hungry! This is on top of afternoon tea available near the hotel bar in the afternoon so you can basically eat all day. The hotel changes its restaurant menu every year which provides some variety to returning guests, but one meal which has not changed over the years is the special Sri Lankan dinner which you must order before 3pm to allow the chef some time to prepare it. We had it a couple of evenings and it comes with four kinds of curries in addition to rice.
Not only was the food great, but the restaurant venue is awesome as well with dining either in the beautiful restaurant or on the terrace outside. One evening was cooler and many guests ate outside so it was a bit crowded, however a couple other nights were hotter and we were entirely alone outside ??? it was like having our own private dinner in the evening desert heat. Even for breakfast I suspect some guests just order in their room, there were a couple of mornings that we were entirely alone in the restaurant ??? talk about a peaceful environment.
The resort has several activities available to choose from and guests have 2 activities per day as part of their package. We were offered two more activities which are normally not on the program: a visit of the Falcon muse and a visit of the horse stable so we had 12 activities in 5 days. We took advantage of everything offered except for horseback riding which requires 3 years of experience minimum. I would note that the desert drive costs 270 AED per person rather than free, but it was well worth it. Drivers are trained before they can take guests out in the desert; in fact our field guide was doing his training the day we went out for a drive and we were driven by someone else on staff while our field guide was following in the SUV behind which makes it clear that the resort does not cut corners about safety. Because the weather is very hot in the summer, some activities start at 5:30am so you need to wake up early if you want to partake. In the winter the schedule is easier as activities start at 7am instead. We ended up doing lots of activities at 5:30am, then go to breakfast, and back to sleep for a morning nap, only to wake up for lunch and continue on with the day. In the evening one key activity is drinking Prosecco at sunset in the desert, we went there three times, once with the camel ride, and twice in the SUV. The sunset views are gorgeous.
Al Maha is a well established resort which lives up to the Luxury Collection brand service-wise. I can say that service was top notch throughout: our field guide, staff at reception, staff in the restaurant, housekeeping, etc. The little details are not missing, for example the cold towels and hand sanitizer they bring to guests in the restaurant, the way food is presented, housekeeping was well done and always exactly at the time we requested, etc. Our flight out was at 1am so I booked a taxi to pick us up from the resort at 8pm. At first we were told we could have late check-out at 4pm as Marriott Ambassador Elite guests, but on the last morning we got a call to inform us that we could stay in our room until 8pm because they had reorganized some things to accommodate us which meant we could enjoy the resort for even longer. Just fantastic service. Also in the restaurant we were told that we could order some meals not exactly like on the menu and they can ask the chef to prepare them. To conclude with service, the resort was kind enough to sponsor my tourist visa even though we were going to a different hotel in the UAE before coming to Al Maha. This is normally not how it works: the first hotel is supposed to provide the sponsorship, not the second. Generally speaking, every time we travel to the UAE our experience ranks very high in terms of hospitality compared to other countries, but Al Maha is excellent regarding service even relative to other great hotels in the UAE.
Overall our stay was memorable and we will be back. The resort provides a unique experience with the fine dining, the desert activities, the wildlife, all that in a peaceful environment with a private pool and top notch service. When writing hotel reviews I usually try to be unbiased and present a balanced picture because no hotel is perfect so there is always something negative to say, and conversely even the worst hotels have at least one or two good things going for them. For Al Maha honestly I am not sure what I can bring up that would be negative, perhaps I wish the rooms were a bit more modern but it???s not a new construction and anyway the age of the resort gives some charm to the property.
View full review