Abu Dhabi holidays: perfect for romance and relaxation

written by
Natasha Amar

updated 07.06.2023

You might not picture Abu Dhabi when you think of a romantic holiday, but the city’s breathtaking natural landscapes and sophisticated luxury resorts make it a dazzling destination for couples and honeymooners. Do you love to relax in the solitude of pristine places or prefer to bond over thrilling adventure experiences? Whatever your particular love language, the Abu Dhabi holidays do not disappoint.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for visiting the world.

You will be (pleasantly) surprised by the beaches

Between Abu Dhabi’s 200 islands and 644km-long coastline, there are plenty of sun-drenched beaches. The private Nurai Island, a mere 15-minute boat ride away from the city, is ideal to escape the crowds.

This luxurious resort Nurai Island Resort is home to Nurai Beach Club. Here visitors can spend a day relaxing on the picturesque white sand beach. Swim in turquoise waters – and don’t miss those Instagrammable ocean swings! A day pass includes access to the private beach, pool and spa, and speedboat transfers.

When you get hungry, choose from fresh seafood, pizza, Asian cuisine and more at five restaurants. Afterwards, unwind to the sound of waves while enjoying a couples’ massage at Nurai Spa.

And the best part? Every villa at the resort comes with a private temperature-controlled pool set on an outdoor terrace overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Nurai beach © image courtesy of lastminute.com

Nurai island resort beach [Image courtesy of LastMinute.com]

Abu Dhabi hotels are straight out of a fairytale

Whether you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion or to splurge on a luxurious stay with your significant other on your Abu Dhabi holidays, the Emirates Palace offers a romantic setting that’s straight out of an Arabian fairytale.

First, there’s the location—scenic, yet close enough to the city’s main attractions. Set among lush manicured gardens, the property has a 1.3km private beach, two swimming pools and a marina. Then, there’s the opulent design. The hotel’s central dome (one of 114) is made of gold, crystals and mother-of-pearl, and over a thousand chandeliers adorn the interior.

A stay here is certainly fit for royalty. Contemporary comforts and top-notch amenities meet Arabesque design in the spacious rooms and suites. A butler is available 24/7 to ensure every need is attended to.

Eight restaurants serve a variety of cuisines. Don’t miss the award-winning Chinese restaurant Hakkasan, beachfront BBQ Al Qasr and fine-dining Indian restaurant Martabaan by acclaimed chef Hemant Oberoi.

Read our guide to the Best Abu Dhabi hotels and activities for an unforgettable trip.

Emirates Palace hotel © SAKhanPhotography/Shutterstock

Emirates Palace Hotel - one of the best places to stay on your Abu Dhabi holidays© SAKhanPhotography/Shutterstock

Spend your Abu Dhabi holidays in a luxurious desert fortress

The luxurious Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort is built like a desert fortress. It stands among the golden dunes of Rub Al Khali or the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world.

Bedouin design touches are seen in the carved wooden furniture, antiques and traditional carpets. But rooms and suites are not lacking in modern amenities. Private terraces offer sublime views of the surrounding desert. Pool villas come with private, temperature-controlled pools.

The resort can arrange desert drives, guided night walks, fat bike tours and sand skiing. The resort pool, tucked away among palms, is a great spot to cool off after a day of activities.

The glittering capital of the Emirates has plenty to prove, from inspiring architecture to its fabulous coastline. On this tailor-made Abu Dhabi Luxury Stopover you will get a taste of Emirati culture and heritage and experience life in this impressive, ultramodern desert oasis.

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort © Natali Poroshina/Shutterstock

Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort © Natali Poroshina/Shutterstock

Nothing beats the romance of dinner among dunes

To appreciate the tranquillity of the desert and spend some alone time, book a private dune dinner on your Abu Dhabi holidays. Most operators include visits to a camel farm and dune bashing in a private 4x4 as an exciting introduction to the desert landscape. Other optional activities might include a camel ride in the desert and a photo shoot (including Bedouin-style robes and headgear!).

Watch the sunset, then find yourself at a private majlis-style candlelit dinner for two, complete with floor cushions and rugs. Surrounded by tiki torches, enjoy a barbecued feast and smoke shisha under the starlit desert sky.

Abu Dhabi romantic dinner © image courtesy of lastminute.com

A romantic dinner in Abu Dhabi [Image courtesy of LastMinute.com]

Abu Dhabi is a fantastic destination for shopping

Abu Dhabi holidays offer shoppers everything from vast shopping malls stocked with renowned international and regional luxury brands to souks (markets) selling one-of-a-kind handicrafts and traditional clothing. The opportunities are endless for those looking to loosen their purse strings.

At Yas Mall, Abu Dhabi’s largest shopping mall, there are over 370 stores, nearly 60 restaurants and a multiplex cinema. For high-end purchases and private VIP room shopping experiences, visit Avenue at Etihad Towers. Here, brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Versace showcase exclusive collections.

For a more cultural shopping experience, make your way to Al Ain to wander in Souk Al Zafarana. Browse beautifully embroidered robes, spices, incense or traditional coffee pots. At Souk Al Qattara, shop for locally-made handicrafts.

On this tailor-made trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, you will discover the cultural heritage from the world's tallest skyscraper and largest shopping mall to Ferrari World and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Spices and flavors sold in the Indoor Souk of the World Trade Center Mall Abu Dhabi © Shutterstock

Spices and flavours sold in the Indoor Souk of the World Trade Center Mall Abu Dhabi © Shutterstock

Find romance with a side of adventure

If your idea of the Abu Dhabi holidays involves an element of adventure, make your way to the Yas Marina Circuit on Yas Island. The venue for the annual Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the circuit offers plenty of action-packed motorsport experiences.

Fulfil your racecar driver fantasies while driving a 3.0-litre V6 Formula Yas 3000 around the circuit and reach top speeds of 275km/h. Or enjoy a bit of healthy competition while on a karting session at Yas Kartzone. The 1 km-long track boasts three configurations and challenging technical turns.

Yas 3000 Driving Experience © image courtesy of lastminute.com

Yas 3000 Driving Experience [Image courtesy of LastMinute.com]

Spend a day at a water or theme park

Pending completion of the various mega-projects on Saadiyat, most tourist interest is currently focused on the gleaming Yas Island named the world’s leading tourism project at the 2009 World Travel Awards. Motorsports are the main draw here, centred on the Yas Marina Circuit.

There are more fast cars and other adrenaline-fuelled action close by at the vast Ferrari World theme park claimed to be the world’s largest indoor theme park, set in a huge building looking something like a huge, bright-red octopus. Attractions range from a white-knuckle rollercoaster and other heart-pumping rides to gentler attractions and displays on Ferrari’s illustrious motor-racing history.

Other attractions scattered about the island include the state-of-the-art Yas Waterworld Waterpark and the Warner Bros World which features a wide variety of rides, attractions, and entertainment based on the popular characters and franchises from Warner Bros.

You can go on a wildlife safari on an island

On Sir Bani Yas Island, just 8km off the western coast of Abu Dhabi, the Arabian Wildlife Park is a protected reserve. Conservation programs are at work to save endangered and extinct species.

Over 17,000 animals, including Arabian oryx, sand gazelles, spotted deer and giraffes roam freely on the island. Conservation efforts on the island extend to the indigenous flora and mangroves.

Hotels on the island can organize nature and wildlife drives by 4x4. You’ll tour the island’s landscape of wadis, savannah and grasslands, accompanied by well-informed safari guides.

Go horse riding on the beach, try mountain biking or go on guided walks. Watersports such as kayaking, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, diving and snorkelling are also available for thrill-seeking love birds.

Fight of two young antelopes in a safari park on Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE © Shutterstock

Fight of two young antelopes in a safari park on Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, UAE © Shutterstock

Spend the night in a protected wildlife reserve

A good night’s sleep is guaranteed in one of three luxurious resorts around Sir Bani Yas Island.

At the Desert Islands Resort and Spa, modern rooms and suites offer sea views, and villas come with private pools overlooking the beach. The beachfront villas at Anantara Al Yamm Villa Resort nod to the country’s fishing heritage.

For a romantic experience par excellence on your Abu Dhabi holidays, stay at Anantara Al Sahel Villa Resort. Peacocks stop for a drink from your private pool and gazelles wander by your outdoor terrace in the safari-style villas located in the Arabian Wildlife Park.

Abu Dhabi ,angrove kayaking © image courtesy of lastminute.com

Abu Dhabi mangrove kayaking [Image courtesy of LastMinute.com]

Connect over your love of golf

Book a sunset golf session at the remarkably scenic ocean course at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club. Located on Saadiyat Island, the 18-hole Par 72 course is set against a stunning backdrop of saltwater lakes, dunes, white sand beaches and the Arabian Sea.

It’s suitable for players of all levels, with lessons available for those who want to improve their game.

Spa treatments take luxury to a new level

Looking for a side-order of relaxation with your romance? Hotels in Abu Dhabi offer lavish spa treatments in luxurious ensuite couples’ treatment rooms. Often, they weave in a strong sense of place through the use of products made with desert sand, dates, coffee and rose oil.

At Emirates Palace Spa, the Royal Couples Hammam involves two hours of rigorous cleansing, exfoliating and hydrating in a private hammam, as well as time in the ice cave and Jacuzzi.

At Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort’s Anantara Spa, couples’ treatments involve foot rituals, body scrubs, massages, body wraps and a candle-lit, rose-petal-strewn milk bath.


Luxury spa treatment is one of the essentials in Abu Dhabi © Shutterstock

Admire incredible architecture

The architecture in Abu Dhabi also creates a romantic setting ideal for the honeymoon Abu Dhabi holidays and is a treat for the eyes. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and has rapidly established itself as one of the region’s leading tourist attractions. From a distance, the domes and minarets look like something from Arabian Nights.

The Qasr al Watan (Palace of the Nation) is built in the traditional Arabian style, this spectacular palace is worth visiting just for its architecture, but also for its houses exhibits of rare, ancient Quranic and Biblical texts. Qasr Al Hosn is a historical palace and fortress in the heart of Abu Dhabi and is regarded as one of the oldest and most important buildings in the city, dating back to the 18th century.

Right next to the centre, you cannot fail to notice the extraordinary Capital Gate skyscraper, looking like a postmodern Leaning Tower of Pisa. Built at an incline of eighteen degrees, it has been officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘World’s Furthest Leaning Man-Made Tower’.

One of the most striking landmarks in Abu Dhabi is the spectacular Aldar HQ building, which you will see driving down the coastal highway to Dubai. Described as ‘the world’s first circular skyscraper, this is perhaps one of the most remarkable designs anywhere in the region.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Zabi © Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Zabi © Luciano Mortula - LGM/Shutterstock

Ready to take your dream trip? For more inspirational travel tips for your future trips check our Rough Guide books.

If you prefer to plan and book your trips without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

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This article is brought to you in partnership with LastMinute.com.

Top image: Abu Dhabi mosque © image courtesy of LastMinute.com

Natasha Amar

written by
Natasha Amar

updated 07.06.2023

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