We’ve all had that end-of-holiday feeling. The feeling of relaxation and contentment, combined with the longing to live like this forever: never having to cook or make your bed; never having to vacuum the lounge or water the garden; never having to dash to the grocery store in the rain on the way home from work; always having the time to eat a proper cooked breakfast rather than a cereal bar on the train; never having to sort the laundry and vainly try to match pairs of socks, or do the ironing. But even as a teen I remember these feelings being tinged with the faint longing to be home again, among all the messy familiarity, back in the comfortable routine of the everyday. I’ve felt like that on every holiday I’ve ever been on – but not when I stayed at One&Only The Palm in Dubai. I was so serious about staying forever that I even caught myself sizing up the wardrobe as a place to stow away and never leave.
The One&Only brand was founded in 2002 and despite having only eleven properties around the world, the brand has become the become the benchmark of excellence in the luxury resort industry and is a favourite of the rich and famous. The brand’s meteoric rise can be attributed both to the huge amount of attention to detail devoted to giving each of their properties an architectural sense of place, as well as their strategy of making branding the responsibility of each person in the company through the delivery of consistently excellent service. Both of these elements are very much in evidence at One&Only The Palm.
Situated on a man-made peninsula at the furthest point of one of the outer fronds of The Palm island in Jumeirah, the property is as far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown Dubai as you could wish for. It’s a fairly long drive as you have to drive up the entire “trunk” of the palm to its apex near the Atlantis resort, and then turn left and drive all the way back down the outer frond, roughly parallel to the way you have just come – but once you arrive, you feel as if you are miles from anywhere with only the view across the water to the Dubai marina to remind you that you are only a short boat-ride from the action. Set in vast grounds containing manicured gardens, tinkling fountains, palm trees and masses of frangipani, the low-rise, low-density resort exudes luxury and serenity as soon as you walk into the cool marble-floored lobby and are welcomed with an iced drink.
The hotel has just shy of 100 rooms (including 25 suites) spread across the main Manor House building and six free-standing beach-front Mansions each containing a cluster of 8-10 rooms and suites, some with pools. Grandest of all is the Manor House Grand Palm Suite, the penthouse of the Manor House offering a whopping 250m² of living space and a panoramic view of the resort and the glorious 850 square metre pool. Accommodation comprises a lobby and guest loo; a small but well-equipped kitchen; an open-plan lounge and dining room (including a workspace); one (massive!) bedroom with a walk-in dressing room/closet; a large bathroom with separate shower decorated with beautiful mosaics; and a huge outdoor terrace. The décor is plush and understated and has a subtle Arabic feel, and guests also have the personalised 24-hour services of a private butler.
If you are looking for a more secluded and tranquil hideaway close to both the beach and the pool, each of the abovementioned six free-standing low rise Mansions incorporates a cluster of eight to ten independent Premiere Rooms, Junior Suites and Executive Suites. Palm Beach Executive Suites are situated directly on the beach and comprise a generous 130m² of living space including an integrated lounge and dining area and grand master bedroom with private balcony or beachfront garden patio. Two Executive Suites with 20m² pools are available at a supplement. Palm Beach Junior Suites offer the same except with 100m² of living space and a choice of seven suites with 20m² pools available at a supplement. Both these suites also come with a private covered gazebo with loungers on the beach, metres from your room.
Palm Beach Premiere rooms, like the one where we stayed, offer 65m² of space, with private balcony or beachfront garden patio, furnished with elegant outdoor seating. The room was situated in one of the freestanding mansions accessed via a private courtyard complete with tinkly fountain. Compared to most hotel rooms, it was enormous – in many hotels rooms of this size are considered junior suites – and the little patio outside was fringed with frangipani trees and sweetly scented all day long. In the room, there was a large flat-screen TV, complimentary water, tea and coffee (and a Nespresso machine!) and a minibar, as well as complementary toiletries, robes and slippers – also Panama hats! There was a small lounge area with comfy sofas at the foot of the bed as well as a desk with free WiFi connection, iPod docking station and a phone, should you feel the need to work while in paradise. It was the gigantic bathroom, though, that I loved the most, with its masses of cupboard space, separate “storm shower” and toilet cubicles, enormous free-standing bath and an elliptical chandelier made of teardrop-shaped pieces of glass. I was smitten.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from your beautiful room, One&Only The Palm offers a wealth of leisure activities. For starters, there is the One&Only Private Spa overseen by Espa which offers customised treatments in a tranquil complex of courtyards and fountains. There are nine treatment rooms (including couples rooms), each with its own small patio. For VIPs there is also a mosaic-adorned treatment suite with its own private outdoor shower and a separate entrance for arriving and leaving discreetly. You also have the option of getting a massage in the seclusion of your own room or suite.
For the more energetic, there are tennis courts as well as fully equipped gym with personal trainers and fitness classes (where I did not set foot once – mea culpa!). Water sports can also be arranged nearby, or a visit to the amazing waterpark at nearby Atlantis The Palm. Less taxing is the hair salon, the library, free WiFi in all public areas, as well as the services of the concierge. There is also a surprisingly pleasant beach, only a few steps away from most rooms. Sure, there are no crashing waves and it is a man-made beach, but then nowhere in the Persian gulf is known for its big breakers; and the man-made beach has been there long enough now that marine life has flourished along it, meaning that you can go for long sunrise and sunset walks collecting seashells as I did. In fact, my advice would be do not under any circumstances skip walking on the beach! At sunrise, the temperature is almost bearable and you can get great views of the Dubai Marina reflected in the still water. At sunset, the sun becomes an orb of fire dipping slowly below the horizon and bathing everything in a golden light. It’s tranquil and very lovely.
But the leisure activity that we spent the most time indulging in was making use of the truly gorgeous temperature-controlled 850 square metre swimming pool with its Moorish tiled designs and its double daybeds set on little peninsulas along the edge of the pool. Oh man, I struggled to tear myself away from that pool! As soon as you sit down, a member of staff is on hand with iced water and a chilled fruit kabob, top ease you into your morning of relaxation, alternating some light reading with people watching and dips in the pool. If you feel like pushing the boat out, there are also pool cabanas that can be rented on a day basis, each with an indoor and an outdoor lounge area, flat screen TV, private restroom and bar facilities. But for my money, I preferred the proximity to the water that the loungers and daybeds at the water’s edge provided.
Although you are not that far from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, the resort feels as if it is on a secluded island paradise, so in the unlikely event that you feel cabin fever setting in, it is good to know that the One&Only Royal Mirage on the mainland is only minutes away by One&Only water taxi transfer. The free water taxi departs regularly from the jetty at the 101 restaurant and is fully air-conditioned (very important!) with smart leather seats and seatbelts, and the comfortable ride only takes a few minutes while you enjoy great views towards the Dubai Marina.
I’d also heartily recommend going for a stroll around the grounds at sunset and after dinner. The air is fractionally cooler and heavy with the scent of frangipani, and it’s wonderful to watch the colours change as the sun sets and the lights are lit. From the end of the road leading to the private marina near 101 you also get to see fab night-time Dubai cityscapes. And of course, the pool looks even more spectacular by night than by day!
There are three on-site restaurants at One&Only The Palm. ZEST is the hotel’s main international restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. The spacious room’s decor is energising and light with touches of silver leaf and crystal, and both indoor and outdoor seating overlooking the pool is available. The menu is a blend of Western, Asian and Middle-Eastern influences. We enjoyed breakfast there and really loved the impressive spread that they put on. There is a massive buffet with all the usual stuff like fruit, yoghurts, pastries, juices, cereals and breads, but also a large selection of mediterranean and Middle-Eastern delicacies ranging from sun-dried tomatoes to a plethora of soft fresh cheeses, to caperberries, hummus, olives and dukkah to dip everything in. here is also an a la carte menu with waffles, pancakes, eggs and smoothies made to order, as well as a small selection of speciality dishes. One morning from the middle-Eastern menu we had shakshuka (for Nick) and ful modamas (for me), both of which were excellent.
For gourmet dining, there is STAY by Yannick Alléno of three-Michelin-starred Le Meurice in Paris. STAY (the acronym for Simple Table Alléno Yannick), is only open for dinner and its international menu and relaxed ambience aims to show that fine food need not be pretentious. I’ll be devoting a full post to our meal there soon!. For more casual dining, there is the very chic 101 restaurant and lounge bar situated on a jetty in the One&Only private marina at the very end of the Palm’s outer frond. The décor is inspired by the blue tones of the ocean and the white of the beach sand, and it looks every inch the movie star hangout. A shaded deck provides table, lounge and bar counter seating as well as great views towards the city and across to Atlantis The Palm. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and serves modern Mediterranean-inspired food in the form of tapas, salads, pastas and fresh seafood. I visited twice during our trip and for me, the standout dish was pan-friend seabass with cauliflower, hazelnuts, croutons and capers. The dish was not only gorgeous to look at but also delicious, with the fish served on a bed of nutty cauliflower puree and the whole dish given texture by the nuts and the croutons. When we visited for dinner we were also impressed by the crunchy homemade chocolate peanut bar – like a mini Snickers! Prices range from 80-140AED (£14-24) for starters and salads; and 100-200AED (£17-38) for mains.
As you can probably tell by the images above, I fell truly, madly, deeply in love with One&Only The Palm. There is the obvious aspect of its physical beauty and surprising tranquillity in a city known more for partying than serenity. The low density of accommodation meant that although the hotel was fairly full, you never felt crowded, and the constant presence of tinkling water and fountains both indoors and out helped both to relax guests and create an air of coolness in the middle of a hot day. I loved the proximity of the beach and the pervasive scent of frangipani which lingers all over the grounds. I was impressed with the surprisingly democratic sizing of the rooms – even the entry level rooms were enormous by most standards and I have to say that my bathroom was not far off that of the largest suite’s. I have swum in a few hotel pools in my time but I am fairly confident in my assertion that this is one of my top three (together with the Beacon Island and the Marina Bay Sands), for its impressive scale, its gorgeous tiling and the clever little inlets all along its length that were shallow enough to sit in and cool off just two steps from your lounger. I found the hotel décor to be elegant and subtle with hints of Moorishness rather than a pastiche, and I wanted to take that bathroom chandelier home with me.
But what impressed me most of all was the service. Things happened without your even having a chance to ask, as if your every need had been anticipated and fulfilled. Water bottles and coffee/tea in the room were replenished twice a day. Iced water and fruit kebabs were brought to your pool lounger as soon as you sat down. At night when you came back from dinner, not only had your bed been turned down but a bottle of water and a glass had also been placed on your bedside table and a pair of hotel slippers put out beside your bed, ready for you to step into. I have stayed in a lot of hotels and even in good resort hotels where staff are friendly and engaging, when they chat to guests you can always see them keeping one eye on business and they make their apologies and move on as soon as is polite. But at One&Only, I saw staff members spend sometimes 10 or 15 minutes by the pool, chatting to guests who obviously felt like a bit of company. And when I chatted to staff, they all waited for the conversation to come to a natural end rather than rushing off at the earliest opportunity. It was really striking also how genuinely pleased staff seemed to be to hear you were having a good time – clearly the company philosophy of every employee being a brand ambassador is more than just words.
Of course, this level of luxury and service does not come cheap (see below) but I was told that there are many repeat customers who come to One&Only the Palm year after year – if I had the money, I am sure I might too. It is the most completely relaxed I have seen my husband (or myself!) in a while and even now, many months later, I can smell the frangipani. If you have a special anniversary or a honeymoon coming up, or you just want a luxury island holiday without the transatlantic long haul flight, One&Only The Palm should be your first choice.
I flew on one of my favourite airlines, Emirates, to Dubai, and they operate three direct flights daily from both London Gatwick and London Heathrow to Dubai. Prices in September start from about £360 per person for a return economy ticket. Quantas and British Airways also operate direct daily flights from London to Dubai and flight time is about seven hours. The Dubai metro runs from the airport terminal into the city and the closest stop to The Palm is Dubai Internet City, from where you can take a cab to the hotel. Note that the metro is closed on Friday morning and only starts running at 1pm on Fridays.
In September, when I visited, Premier Palm Beach rooms like the one I stayed in start from 3,800 AED (about £660) per room per night, going up to 5,800 for a Junior suite (about £1,000) per night or 8,300 AED for an executive suite (about £1,440). Pemier rooms in the manor are slightly cheaper at 3,500 AED (£607). See the One&Only website for more details on room availability and price.
One&Only The Palm
United Arab Emirates
Tel: +971 4 440 1010
E-mail: [email protected]
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DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed a complimentary stay as a guest of One&Only The Palm but travelled to Dubai at my own expense and paid for my own meals at 101. I was not required to write a positive review, retained full editorial control, and all opinions are my own.