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The Best Hotels in Dubai for a Truly Local Stay

By Nicola Chilton

Dec 3, 2021

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The Burj Al Arab features 202 two-level suites with views of the Arabian Gulf.

Courtesy of Burj Al Arab

The Burj Al Arab features 202 two-level suites with views of the Arabian Gulf.

Dubai has plenty of hotels to choose from, but these will truly connect you to the emirate and its culture.

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With more than 700 hotels and 130,000 rooms to choose from in Dubai, deciding where to stay can be a formidable task. And there’s more to come, with 25hours Dubai, Atlantis the Royal, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, and Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab all on the horizon. While the city has more than its fair share of hotels in glass and steel towers that feel like they could be anywhere in the world, it also has plenty of retreats that connect visitors to the emirate and its culture. Here are some standout examples of Dubai hotels that will give you a sense of the destination.

1. Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa

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Book now: from $1,470 per night, expedia.com

The most luxurious way to experience Dubai’s desert may smash an entire holiday budget, but a stay in the Bedouin-inspired tented suites at Al Maha might well be worth it. It’s one of the best places to see desert conservation in action: Al Maha is located in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, home to the UAE’s largest free-roaming herd of Arabian oryx, a species brought back from extinction in the wild through rehabilitation initiatives. Guests should keep their eyes peeled for gazelles, too—300 Arabian and 100 sand gazelles inhabit the dunes, and the more inquisitive ones often come right up to the 42 tented accommodations. Water recycling, biodiesel, and solar panels all contribute to Al Maha’s behind-the-scenes efforts to tread lightly on the fragile desert ecosystem.

The Al Seef Heritage Hotel is new but feels old.

2. Al Seef Heritage Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton

Book now: from $120 per night, expedia.com

Located alongside Dubai Creek in the “new” old Dubai neighborhood of Al Seef, this hotel feels remarkably traditional with its wind towers and wooden beams, despite having been built recently. The 190 airy guest rooms, some with private balconies, are spread across multiple small buildings called bait, the Arabic word for house, and they’re peppered with vintage tchotchkes such as rotary phones, brass rosewater bottles, and photos of old Dubai. Carpets and cushions are strewn invitingly around the common area rooftops for lounging. The waterfront setting is easy to explore on foot, with cafés, restaurants, and souvenir shops all close by.

3. Burj Al Arab

Book now: from $1,480 per night, expedia.com

A night at the Burj Al Arab is extra in every sense of the word, from the boldness of its sail-shaped architecture to the mind-boggling scale of its atrium and audacious interior design. All 202 accommodations are two-level suites with views of the sparkling Arabian Gulf. The hotel may be approaching its 22nd birthday, but no other retreat in the city has ever come close to its extravagance. An Inside Burj Al Arab tour just opened to the public reveals the gold-encrusted, silk-adorned, leopard-print filled Royal Suite, complete with rotating beds. Hotel guests have access to the more than 100,000-square-foot terrace, with its freshwater and saltwater pools lined with 10 million gold and azure mosaic tiles; here they can order a bottle of bubbly while soaking up the only-in-Dubai opulence.

4. Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach

Book now: from $1,570 per night, expedia.com

The Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, with its 188 enormous guest rooms, frangipani-filled gardens, buzzing rooftop bar, and five restaurants, is a keen supporter of local producers. Around 40 percent of fresh produce used in the hotel is sourced from within the UAE and, depending on the season, the menu showcases local leafy vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, fruit, seafood, eggs, and more. Head to Folia, a shady spot under towering palm trees, for plant-based cuisine, including such crowd pleasers as vegan spaghetti Bolognese, beetroot poke, and avocado with dukkah. Those interested in heading straight to the source can ask the hotel can arrange a visit to Greenheart Organic Farms, which supplies most of the hotel’s produce.

5. Hatta Dome Park

Book now: from $360 per night, hattadomepark.com

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Opened just in time for the new winter season, this collection of 15 domed tents are located in Dubai’s little-known mountainous region of Hatta and offer a complete change of pace just an hour’s drive from the city. This isn’t “glamping” per se—in-tent bathrooms are functional rather than luxurious, and there’s no 24-hour room service here—but it’s positioned perfectly for exploring Hatta’s hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and kayaking. Each tent comes with a firepit and barbecue grill—stock up on gourmet meats in the city and bring firewood for a Dubai-style cookout.

6. Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf

Book now: from $740 per night, expedia.com 

One of six luxury hotels by Dubai-based hospitality brand Jumeirah, Dar Al Masyaf is part of the Madinat Jumeirah complex, a sprawling seaside enclave full of wandering peacocks, tropical gardens, and Arabian architecture. It’s like a sophisticated theme park—guests can float through canals on little abra boats, visit the turtles in the rehabilitation lagoon in neighboring Jumeirah Al Naseem, or lounge beneath shady palms in one of many pools. The 283 rooms and suites are spread over intimate guesthouses with shared central courtyards, tinkling fountains, and complimentary cocktails daily at 6 p.m.; guests have free access to the waterslide-filled Wild Wadi waterpark next door.

The One & Only is a splurge-worthy retreat.

7. One&Only Royal Mirage

Book now: from $1,140 per night, expedia.com

Opulent doesn’t even come close to describing this arabesque fantasy located on a half mile-long stretch of golden sands opposite the Palm Jumeirah. Life-size sculptures of Bedouins atop camels welcome guests into a world of lofty archways, intricate mosaics, and water features. The Moroccan theme continues in the spa, where winding corridors lead to the heated marble slabs of a traditional hammam. It’s also home to one of the city’s hottest beach clubs, Drift, and a forthcoming dining concept coming soon from Argentine chef Mauro Colagreco. When a change of scenery is in order, speedboat transfers zoom guests over to the sister resort on the Palm for panoramic views of the city skyline.

8. XVA Art Hotel

Book now: from $95 per night, expedia.com

One of the most atmospheric places to stay in the city, XVA is tucked away in a former family home among the restored pearling and trading houses of the Al Fahidi heritage district alongside Dubai Creek. The 15 guest rooms are comfy and cozy, but the common areas filled with contemporary Middle Eastern art and the rooftop sun deck are where visitors will want to spend most of their time. Order a fresh mint and lemon shake from the onsite vegetarian café in one of the shady, birdsong-filled courtyards before checking out the boutique, which is filled with unique caftans, cushions, and contemporary accessories.

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