Review: Zaya Nurai Island Resort, Abu Dhabi

If you’ve seen my list of bucket list staycations in the Gulf region, you’d see Zaya Nurai on the list of places I’ve been meaning to stay at forever. Fast forward a couple of months and I am getting ready to leave the UAE, so I decided it is finally time to check out this island which I heard so much about. Located 10 minutes by boat off Saadiyat Island and about an hour away from Dubai, Zaya Nurai is a 32-bed, all-villa hotel with five food and beverage outlets, in addition to 23 private residences and water villas.

To access the island, you arrive at the resort’s welcoming center on Saadiyat Island. The arrival experience was underwhelming to be honest as I felt the staff were too busy to greet us despite us being the only guests at the time. However, the boat arrived and off we were to the island. Upon arrival, guests are immediately escorted to their bright, modern, and spacious home-like villas — everything here suggests you are now on a Greek island.

When you get to the villa, it is next to impossible to resist the temptation to jump into the temperature-controlled pool which was just perfect for those chilly November nights in Abu Dhabi. The sea is a few meters away from the villa but the water was ice cold so we opted to stay poolside.

For dinner, we ordered room service, which was prompt and delicious with a decent variety in the menu. The resort is home to 5 food outlets, including a Mexican restaurant and what is supposed to be a legendary Lebanese restaurant, which, in retrospect we should have tried, but there’s always next time.

The hotel is also home to Smokin Pineapple Beach Club, a beautiful stretch of beach which is open to non-hotel guests and has one of the best pizzas I have ever had in the UAE. In fact, I cannot think of a better place in the UAE to grab a beer and pizza with an amazing sunset to match, so I wholeheartedly coming to Smokey Pineapple for a day. From Smokin Beach, you can also try some water sports or give your balance skills a go on the Flow Rider which is a giant onland surfing simulator.

On weekdays, breakfast at Zaya Nurai is a la carte, and while the food was delicious, the staff were a bit unorganized, unenthusiastically bringing us savory dishes then sweets then savory again. The coffee situation should be improved as well. Do not miss the oriental breakfast (for two) which to my surprise included eggs with awarma, which is something I literally haven’t seen outside my home country, Lebanon!

All in all, Zaya Nurai was a surreal experience. In fact, this is probably the only place in the UAE where you can actually forget you’re in the UAE a few minutes after you get there. I would recommend staying for at least a couple of days to get a full experience.

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