The Al Maha Resort in the Dubai Desert Reserve is most definitely like an oasis in the desert. I spent a ton of SPG points for our stay here, but I have no regrets, this place is really unique, and a luxurious spot in the middle of the desert.
Dubai Desert Reserve
We had a few days before our Etihad First Class flight, but after reading some reviews of the Al Maha Resort, I wanted to try it out, and even at the high cost, it would be worth it for the unique experience. This resort falls under Starwood’s Luxury Collection brand, which is an eclectic mix of properties. At Al Maha, all rooms are suites, and most rates include meals as well as 2 activities per night. Cash prices for rooms are typically in the neighborhood of $1500 per night. While there occasionally discounts for points redemption; we weren’t so lucky, so I booked at the ‘high’ season rate of 70,000 SPG points per night. It was painful, but I have no regrets.
Getting to the Al Maha Resort
After arriving into Dubai, we collected our luggage and booked a car via Uber. There was a little traffic getting out of Dubai, so it was nearly an hour from the airport when we got to the security gate for the resort. From there it is another 10 minutes or so on a narrow road through the dunes to get to the resort.
Arabian Oryx, some of many that reside within the Desert preserve.
It was late morning when we arrived, so our room was not ready. I attempted to use a “Your24” to confirm an early check in. I’m not sure if it was due to capacity or the hotel’s limited participation in the SPG program, but I was not successful. It wasn’t really an issue. They held our bags then we went to the spa to shower and relax for a while.
Al Maha Resort Spa waiting room
Al Maha Resort Suite
Once our room was ready, we were met at the spa by the agent who checked us in in a golf cart. She drove us to our room and gave us a brief tour.
Each room is a private villa with a plunge pool and large deck. The standard room is called a Bedouin Suite, and while it looks like a tent, it is (mercifully) fully air-conditioned. The room is well-appointed, with a really comfortable bed, and a large bathroom. I’ll let photos tell the story:
My drawing skills are barely beyond stick figures, so I didn’t utilize the easel
Large bathroom with double sinks and a huge tub
Tea, coffee and water
Welcome note and some sweets and mixed nuts.
And a nice fruit plate
well shaded deck faced the plunge pool…
…and an awesome view of the desert beyond.
While we quite enjoyed relaxing in our suite, and the binoculars were appreciated, as the water in the distance from our deck was often visited by groups of Oryx. There are also very tame Gazelles, walking right up to and on the deck, plus near guests all over the property.
Al Maha Resort Activities
Elsewhere on property, we also enjoyed several activities and some excellent meals, all of which were included in our rate. For our activities, we chose a camel excursion which included a champagne toast at sunset in the dunes. Then the next morning we went dune bashing.
The camels and the leader who took us out.
Camel riding was certainly a unique experience. I’ve ridden horses before, but these camels were huge, and both my wife and I rode on the same one. It was a mostly smooth ride at a leisurely pace from near the resort off to a little area in the desert where we tied the camels up again and walked around the dunes a bit. It was nearing dusk, and we were offered a glass of champagne. As the sun set, the heat of the day quickly dissipated, so it was a very pleasant experience. Riding the camels was kind of fun, and getting a pristine view of sunset over the expanse of desert was beautiful.
The next morning we got up early to take part in dune bashing. Basically, this consisted of riding in a 4×4 Land Cruiser driven over and around dunes of various sizes. Living in a place that has snowy roads on during winter storms, I’d like to think I could have done this justice, but wisely, the driving was left to the experts; some of the hotel staff. It was fun, and pretty amazing to have something approximating a roller coaster ride in the back seat of a Toyota Land Cruiser.
There were several vehicles that went out, and they all carried tow ropes in case one of them got stuck. We didn’t see that happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, although the vehicles mostly ride single file. We got out of the cars to admire the expanse of the desert reserve where we were located.
Sand as art
Al Maha Resort Dining
As mentioned, also included in the room rate is 3 meals. I’ve had pretty mediocre experiences with other all-inclusive hotels, but here the meals were fresh and high quality.
The menu was a mix of Arabic, Western, plus some South Asian cuisines. For dinner we sat outside on the patio and enjoyed a lovely candlelit meal under the stars with a view of the desert. Well, the only view was a light out in the desert near some water where we saw some animals moving around. It was a peaceful and quiet spot for our evening meal.
View of the outdoor patio at the restaurant looking down from lobby
We also each had some spa treatments. I just went for a massage, but they offer full spa services. We did our best to relax on this portion of the trip. I’m not always very good at unplugging, but this place is definitely built around relaxation.
Entrance to the Spa
We really enjoyed our time at the Al Maha Resort. We only stayed one night. At the price we paid, that was probably sufficient. But if money was no object, I could probably do 2 or 3 nights here. We made the most of our one day here, spending about 24 hours on property.
Anniversary cake. They brought it at breakfast, but cake is good anytime.
Service was great, and the small size of the resort allowed for very personalized service. I certainly recommend this place. While I like city hotels, and Dubai has plenty of them at all price ranges, if you have some time and SPG points, a stay at the Al Maha Resort is a great experience.
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