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Closest luxury hotel to AUH (Abu Dhabi) airport? (12 hour layover)

Closest luxury hotel to AUH (Abu Dhabi) airport? (12 hour layover)

Old Aug 16, 14, 8:19 am
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Closest luxury hotel to AUH (Abu Dhabi) airport? (12 hour layover)

Hi all:

Getting in from Cairo to Abu Dhabi at 10:30 pm....departing at 10:30 am...

Looking for the best luxury option within 30 minutes drive of AUH.

Thinking: (1) Park Hyatt, (2) St. Regis, or (3) St. Regis Saadiyat Island.

Wanting: good breakfast; spa; luxury rooms/beds.

Probably no chance of sight seeing, but hoping my drive to the airport will include a stop or two at some "sights" - if that's possible.

Am I missing any options? Which is the best of the bunch?
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Old Aug 16, 14, 8:32 am
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I've stayed at the Park Hyatt and looked in at the St Regis next door. The Hyatt has beautiful modern architecture, great food and service and a pool that looks great in pictures but isn't in real life as most of it is purely ornamental. I'm not sure the Hyatt is fit for a one-night stand as its qualities only emerge after a few days.

The St Regis has better pools but is in that overwrought bordello-style of that particular chain. To get there you drive past Ferrari World.

I'd recommend the Emirates Palace - not stayed there but looked in and it's a total spectacle. Incredibly OTT in every respect and it's right on the harbour so you get views of the skyline. The Palace is just pure opulence and vulgarity while the St Regis is far less so and therefore less fun.

All the hotels are within easy reach of the airport so not a real issue, I think.
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Old Aug 16, 14, 8:42 am
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Originally Posted by Pausanias View Post
All the hotels are within easy reach of the airport so not a real issue, I think.
It seems every hotel (with the exception of the 'desert' hotels) are within 30 minutes of the airport.

My plan for sight seeing is to hire a taxi or a driver to do a 'drive by' style tour before getting to the airport.

Thanks for your help!
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Old Aug 16, 14, 9:46 am
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The Park Hyatt is a nice hotel, if you opt for a suite, but it hardly has that luxury/resort feeling because it is simply too big and it feels that way, too. Like the rest of the hotel, the Spa at the Park Hyatt is massive in size, but treatments lack training. Saadiyat Island is not very developed yet - not much to see.
You could have a look at one of the hotels closer to the city center? Hyatt Capital Gate for example is great and also a good starting point for sightseeing.
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Old Aug 16, 14, 9:54 am
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Originally Posted by scented View Post
Hyatt Capital Gate for example is great and also a good starting point for sightseeing.
Good idea.

Realistically, for a 10:30 am flight out to the US, how much time would I have for drive-by sightseeing? Any experience w/ AUH pre clearance facility?
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Old Aug 17, 14, 8:49 am
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You could also consider the Yas Viceroy on Yas Island. Only about 10 mins from the airport.

Breakfast is outstanding and the ESPA is probably the best Spa service in AUH.

It is a very modern hotel, however, and the style is not to everyone's taste. Cool setting on the race track.

You could easily see the Grand Mosque (around 15 mins by car), Ferrari World is next door to the hotel if you fancy that and the tour of the F1 track is quite interesting as well.

There aren't that many sights in AUH anyway, other than a dune bashing safari tour, which I would not recommend on a lay-over:-)
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Old Aug 17, 14, 6:03 pm
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You'd have to head back to the airport at 9am at the latest - how much sightseeing can you do? The grand mosque is probably the only thing.
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Old Aug 17, 14, 6:09 pm
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Originally Posted by erik123 View Post
You'd have to head back to the airport at 9am at the latest - how much sightseeing can you do? The grand mosque is probably the only thing.
Pretty much the only thing I want to see.
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Old Aug 18, 14, 11:01 am
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Although I rarely stay in Fairmonts, one of the best hotels in Abu Dhabi is Fairmont Bab Al Bahr - http://www.fairmont.com/abu-dhabi/ . It is a superb experience and you can see the Mosque from across the bay - have a look at the website and you will see what I mean. Very good food, service & spa. A real surprise in this part of the world.

Emirates Palace is, IMHO, one of the most arrogant hotels I know. I like the Yas, but it's a bit out of the way compared to the Fairmont.
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Old Aug 18, 14, 11:13 am
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plus one for the fairmount. I know it may not suite in your case but we also found the club benefits great for the additional cost. It has a Marco Pierre White Steak House which was very tasty and the views as pointed out are great. I think it was less than 15 min from the airport; mind you that was late at night both times.
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Old Jan 14, 15, 11:52 am
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Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri: Review


A few weeks ago, I found myself in Abu Dhabi on a 12 hour layover. Needing something close to the airport, and preferably a Virtuoso property, I booked a night at the Shangri-La, Qaryat Al Beri. In short, it is impossible to experience this hotel on such a short stay. The place is massive, and pretty reminiscent of the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada. "Hotel" probably isn't even the best word to describe the Shangri-La, and I'm starting to think "compound" is probably a bit more apt. You need a map to adequately navigate the property without getting lost. While the property is huge, the hotel itself is only a bit over 200 rooms. Therefore, most of the space is dedicated to shopping and eating - a true destination hotel.

Because I was on such a short stay [and saw such a limited portion of the property], this review will be shorter than most. That said, I did see enough to get a general feel for the place, so I do think a review is warranted.


The Shangri-La is a Virtuoso preferred partner.

The Virtuoso amenities at this property are:

Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability

Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests, served at Sofra Bld

Welcome Amenity, in room

$100 USD Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay

Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Other Virtuoso properties in the area:

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas

The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort

Emirates Palace

Qasr al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara


The hotel is equidistant between the airport and downtown Abu Dhabi. Being that the hotel is 20 minutes away from center city, I wouldn't consider the hotel's location to be all that great. That said, the location is perfect if you need to be near the airport, or if you're less concerned about being a stone's throw from downtown. It's a perfect layover property.

If you're a sucker for hotels with good views, you're at the right place. The hotel is perfectly located for those who want in-room views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque [which are nothing short of spectacular].

Closest international airport: AUH [0:19]


I'm not too sure what to make of the lobby. On the one hand, it's a beautiful space that is perfectly suited to its surroundings. There is a distinct Arabesque/Moorish aesthetic to the lobby that lets you know you're in the Middle East. The decor is spot on, as is the overall vibe you get upon walking in.

Positives aside, the lobby was a little on the "big" side for me, and again, a bit too reminiscent of Las Vegas. There's something to say for smaller, more intimate lobbies - something this hotel missed the boat on entirely.


The Shangri-La, which was last renovated in 2007, has a total of 214 rooms spanning 7 room categories. Four of those room categories are suites, and the other three categories are standard rooms.

Standard Rooms:


Executive Garden



Executive Suite

Garden Suite

Speciality Suite

Presidential Suite

My Bedroom [Deluxe]:

Overall, the room was comfortable. Nothing spectacular, but well above average. Like the lobby, it was a huge plus having a room decorated with an Arabian flair. [It's a huge pet peeve of mine to fly half-way across the globe, just to end up in a hotel room that is culturally & aesthetically agnostic.]

It's worth noting that all Deluxe rooms come with balconies facing the canal [the perk of facing the canal: the Grand Mosque view]. The balconies are substantial in size, and come with plenty of sitting space. The outdoor furniture is of quality, too.

My Bathroom [Deluxe]:

The bathroom was more than adequate, but didn't really scream "luxury." Like many aspects of the hotel, it felt a bit more Westin than Shangri-La.


Despite the short stay, I had just enough time to squeeze in breakfast at Sofra bld ["intercontinental dining in a traditional Arabian setting"].

The buffet was a monstrosity. Just to get a feel for the sheer quantity of food they offer: it took me almost 20 minutes to walk the whole buffet. As most travelers know, the common problem with buffets of this size is the lack of quality. It's almost impossible to cook this many types of food, and have it come out hot & delicious. True to form: that's exactly what happened here. Almost every single item I had was cold, flavorless, and inedible. After multiple trips to the buffet - in vain attempts to find something decent - I finally gave up and settled for fruit.

Grounds & Outdoor Space

The grounds and outdoor space were immaculate. Walking around, it's easy to get the feeling that you're strolling amongst a luxurious Moroccan riad.

The building's facade, on the other hand, was eerily reminiscent of the countless McMansion-styled condominium complexes that have been popping up around the United States for the past 20 years. Not exactly good looking.

Service & Soft Product

My experience with the hotel's staff product was quite limited. That being said, those employees I did interact with were exceptionally friendly, knowledgable, and accommodating.


The hotel was comfortable, but didn't have the feel of a true luxury property. Everything felt a bit too much like a Westin or a Hilton for my taste. That's not to say I had a bad experience here. Nor does it mean the Shangri-La is a bad hotel. Quite the opposite, really. It was a great experience - it just didn't scream luxury.

I'd go so far as to say I'd come back - so long as "coming back" means "coming back on a layover." For any stay longer than 12 hours, even if you're just in Abu Dhabi for a day, I highly recommend staying at a hotel closer to downtown [preferably, on the beach].

For pictures, you can check out the whole blog post here: http://www.isserbtravels.com/blog/20...qaryat-al-beri
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Old Jan 15, 15, 12:21 am
formerly jonjparr
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I would highly recommend the Rosewood Abu Dhabi. Excellent rooms (really spacious, well designed and great views) and in a great location on Al Maryah island. It's where I stay when on business in Abu Dhabi. Although not a Virtuoso property per se my Virtuoso travel agent was able to negotiate a Virtuoso type rate with them for me.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 9:07 am
Join Date: Jul 2013
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I'd recommend the Emirates Palace. Its quite unique (looks like a real palace) and luxurious (even though service at the restaurants can be inconsistent)

Last edited by Carlos Araujo; Jan 15, 15 at 12:48 pm
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Old Jan 15, 15, 9:32 am
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I also did something similar (36 hour stop-over) and stayed at the Ritz Carlton, which is also right next to Sheik Zayed Mosque.

It did the trick perfectly, especially as the Mosque was my primary reason for stopping. In the future, once the Louvre and Guggenheim branches are completed, I am sure I will return on a trip transiting, and I would happily stay there once more.
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Old Jan 15, 15, 10:17 am
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The Shangri-La Abu Dhabi is one of the worst hotel experiences of my life. It is a frightful place! Inedible food, tired rooms and suites and stupid Venetian-style gondolas sailing a fetid stream. This is, in no wy, a luxury experience.

Much better is The Fairmont next door, which, surprisingly, is an extremely good hotel - one of Fairmont's best. It has the same views as the Shangri-La, but a very different and more acceptable approach to service and food.
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