It’s important to note that Ras Al Khaimah boasts two separate and very different Banyan Tree resorts, around 25 minutes apart by car. Until their recent reclassification, this wasn’t entirely clear, and even now web searches may leave you guessing. But fret not, Ahlan! is here to clear up any confusion.
Banyan Tree Al Wadi is nestled in Ras Al Khaimah’s desert and offers falconry displays, horse and camel dune treks and a nature reserve where many indigenous species roam wild.
Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach is, as the name suggests, on the coast. It has a neighbouring marina (guests do the last stretch of the journey to the resort by boat) and boasts its own private beach and a big infinity pool that blends into the ocean views. We headed down to check out their aquatic offerings and world-famous spa.
SANDS: With indoor and outdoor seating, Sands serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails and shisha. Signature dishes include miso-glazed salmon with baby fennel salad; rosemary skewered scallops with celeriac purée and spiced vegetable salsa; and char-grilled sirloin with garlic, shrimp, ginger and onion salad.
SUNSET CRUISE: A one-restaurant resort knows that to avoid dining monotony, alternatives have to be offered. Try the short and sweet champers and strawbs romantic cruise around the bay in a traditional Arabic abra for starters, or perhaps dessert, considering the amount of whipped cream that accompanies the strawberries.
IN-VILLA DINING: Another alternative is to have a meal made for you in your villa or on your own personal beach cabana. A butler brings a portable barbeque to your cabana and whips up a mini banquet of seasoned fish, meats and salads, best enjoyed as the sun goes down – once it’s dark, you may not be able to see much at all in this secluded outpost.
AL WADI DINING: A Dhs35 cab ride will get you to Banyan Tree Al Wadi in around 25 minutes if you feel like sampling some Thai treats at Saffron.
The Beach, Pool & Spa
The communal infinity pool takes pride of place, centrally positioned in front of the resort’s only restaurant, Sands, overlooking the beach. It’s a tranquil setting with a few sun loungers and Café del Mar-style tunes tinkling away in the background – this resort is all about relaxing. If you want to do anything like strenuous watersports or hit the gym, you’ll need to visit the Al Hamra Golf Club next door. However, if spa-time is top of your agenda, you can indulge in hours of pampering at the globally renowned on-site spa. This Thai hotel chain became famous because of its spa, so whether you’re a RAK resident or a visitor from another emirate, you should sample at least one treatment in the therapy bungalows decked out to blend with the scenery (even the AC units are disguised in teak covering).
The massage menu is particularly impressive with nine varieties to choose from, including a variation of a Thai massage using oil, Swedish, Balinese and the Hawaiian Lomi Lomi for those who like it extra hard. Thumbs, palms and elbows pummel knots into submission and your therapist may even walk up your back on all fours. Expect to hear clicks emanating from your joints and kneading of muscles you never knew you had.
Prior to departure from the spa, you’ll be asked to complete a questionnaire that sums up the impressively high standards of this chain. The check list includes: ‘During your treatment, did your therapist check if you would like your eyes covered with an eye pillow?’ and ‘Post-treatment, did your therapist sound the bell (three times) and assist you to get up from the bed and offer you water’. Luckily, our therapist scored full marks.
All villas were created equally and include a TV, shower, his and her sinks, a pretty four-poster bed, a deck with private mini-infinity pool and day beds, plus a beach cabana containing table and chairs. The villas are inspired by Bedouin-style dwellings, but being in the 170sq m tent-topped Beachfront Pool Villas with canopied ceilings inside feels way more luxe than camping out. However, at night, the low lighting throughout adds a sense of snoozing in the wilderness. If you’re looking for a beach retreat far from the madding crowds where you can switch off your mobile phone and read a book, this is it.
Check out our tour of a Banyan suite right here
Room rate: From Dhs1,705
A signature dish in Sands: Rosemary skewered scallops, Dhs80
Signature Massage: 60 minutes, Dhs420 for a combination of massage styles
Sunset cruise: 60 minutes, Dhs375 per couple including sparkling and strawberries
Horse riding: Desert ride in Banyan Tree Al Wadi, Dhs150
INFO: Banyan Tree Ras Al Khaimah Beach, Al Mazraa, Ras Al Khaimah; 800 065 0586, www.banyantree.com