Zaya Nurai Island, also known as the Mini Maldives, is a recent newcomer in the supreme luxury category of hotels in Abu Dhabi. The hotel opened its doors last year, closed for some renovations and reopened last month. I heard about Zaya Nurai Island from a colleague at work when it first came on the scene. I decided to hold off for a bit after reading mixed reviews from the obvious websites for opinions. Zaya Nurai Island was having teething issues. The unhappy travelers gave average ratings citing service, lack of dining options (no room service or rather in villa dining available at the time) and “not living up to its potential” as the main culprits for their lower than excellent scores.
But after spending a beautiful three day weekend there earlier this month, I’m pleased to report that most of the issues have been rectified. Some still do need improvements but would I return? Absolutely.
Beach Villas at Zaya Nurai Island
The beach villas are nothing short of stunning. The architecture and modern interiors fit well with the beach backdrop. Clean lines, floor to ceiling windows, large open layout and seating area, white marble bathrooms with separate shower and tub, bleached wood floors and a monochrome interior design scheme come together in a chic Miami style villa with its own private plunge pool overlooking an exclusive direct access beach area.
The Maldives of the UAE?
Is it a true contender with the Maldives? Mmmm, yes and no. Boat ride to get to the island, yes. Luxury, yes. Romantic, yes. Private Plunge Pool, yes. Same price point, unfortunately yes. Direct access to the beach from your villa, yes. Complete exclusivity, almost. Endless, unobstructed sea views, No. Its fine, we’ll let those last two slide. Zaya Nurai Island allows paid access to the main pool and beach area for non guests and serves up a Friday brunch for the general public. Not a huge deal but you will have to retreat to your villa in order to escape some of that commotion. Complaints will probably fall on deaf ears considering that you have your own pool and share an exclusive beach area only with the other villa guests.
My partner and I spent the majority of the weekend in the sea looking at multi colored sea creatures. The water was clear. Zaya Nurai Island also has a number of water based activities to choose from, at a cost of course.
In Villa Amenities and Service at Zaya Nurai Island
In room amenities were top notch, except for one major thing. More on that in a minute. Acqua di Parma toiletries, Bose speakers, complimentary snacks of dates, oatmeal raisin cookies and premium nuts, fresh fruit and Jing teas, Nespresso machine were all part of the room. Breakfast in the main restaurant also included. Now for the exception. The hotel doesn’t stock alcohol in the mini bars! Its true.
They’ll deliver alcohol to your room but you have to specify exactly what you would like to order with the In Villa Dining department every time. And they weren’t always quick. That was a real bummer. When you order sunset cocktails at 5pm and they show up an hour and a half later once the sun has already set, its a bit unacceptable in my opinion. It also took us four phone calls and three hours to get a cork screw for a wine bottle the first night. I gave the manager a little piece of my mind that day.
Thankfully, the next two days were smooth sailing and service improved.
Restaurants at Zaya Nurai Island
At present, there is only only one restaurant and a couple of cocktail areas with small canapes on offer at the resort. Both need additional staff in my opinion. Menus are somewhat limited and are the same for both the restaurant and in-villa dining…. but you can tell they are trying. We ordered some yummy bites with our drinks off the new menu at Ginger Mermaid and they were delicious.
Side Note: One of the guys there makes a mean dirty martini, just excellent (don’t order it from Frangipani). Breakfast and lunch/dinner at the main restaurant, Frangipani, could be slightly better. No physical spa is currently available but services can be ordered to your villa. Themed nights are set up on the grassy patch outside the reception area. There was a Middle Eastern Night one of the evenings we were there with belly dancer and all. The hotel in general is family friendly and you will see a good mix of couples as well.
Future Development at Zaya Nurai Island
Plans are under way to expand with additional restaurants and spa area. We took a walk around to the other side of the island and discovered large villas under construction. Aside from the beach villa, already constructed larger villas are available for nights too. To be honest, I found the charm and intimacy of the beach villas much more appealing but the bigger ones make sense if you’re coming with several others or many children.
All in all, we had a wonderful stay. It’s one of those places where you take most of your pictures in the first ten minutes because there will be little motivation to once you’ve settled in to your pool.
Truly discerning luxury travelers might take issue with service at the moment. Small signs of wear and tear in the outdoor villa area exist but I suspect Zaya Nurai Island will bring it up to par very soon along with the other facilities and restaurants. It’s definitely worth a visit now. Just remember to relax, enjoy the view and not sweat the small stuff.
Check out Zaya Nurai Island on my YouTube video:
Visit to this hotel was self funded and not sponsored. Reviews on this website are initiated by me unless explicitly mentioned.