A luxury family escape at The Ritz-Carlton, Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert

One of Ras Al Khaimah’s most popular staycation destinations has expanded with a cluster of ultra-luxury two-bedroom signature villas.

Complementing the existing tented villas at the five-star desert resort, the new abodes offer modern amenities and stunning views over the desert dunes, plus everything you might need for a luxury family getaway.

The National checked in to The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert to see if its worth splurging on a stay at the elegant hideaway.

The welcome

The day before we are due to check-in, I receive a text message from a butler who asks if we have any special requirements ahead of our arrival, peaking our excitement.

Driving through the desert-surrounded road in Ras Al Khaimah, about two hours from Abu Dhabi, we pull up to the gated entrance, where a security guard gives us an access card that will take us right to the signature villas. We use the card to lower a row of metallic balustrades spanning a private road and drive along the winding roads, passing a few camels and endless orange dunes, before coming to the new villas. Each has been designed to blend into the surrounding landscape.

As we park, our butler exits the villa and introduces himself, then brings our luggage inside and offers delicious welcome drinks, cold towels and perfectly-presented snacks – including unicorn-shaped biscuits for our daughter. Check-in procedures are swiftly handled by our butler from the comfort of the villa.

The neighbourhood

It is a serene property set in the Ras Al Khaimah’s Wadi Khadeja area, the type of desert hideaway that you won’t want to leave when you arrive. Neighbours include antelopes, Arabian oryx and gazelle, who aren’t shy, and guests have untouched dunes to wander at their leisure. A dip in the Arabian ocean is the only reason to venture out of the gates and it’s available about 20 minutes away at the hotel’s sister resort on Ras Al Khaimah beach.

The room

The minute I step inside this villa I’m impressed. A triple height door leads to an open-plan living and dining room, beyond which are floor-to-ceiling windows running the length of the villa with views to a sprawling swimming pool and burnt orange desert dunes.

Sleeping up to four adults, the villas are designed for family escapes. There’s a master bedroom, with plenty of room for a cot or child’s bed, plus a twin bedroom that can also fit an extra bed. A small bedroom at the back of the villa is designed to accommodate any staff guests might want to bring along, whether that’s a nanny or a chef – but it remains empty during our visit.

The master bedroom has a spacious bathroom that’s almost as large as the bedroom and contains three separate areas – a washroom and sink, a dressing area and a bathtub and shower room. Floor-to-ceiling windows lead outside to a beautifully-manicured private terrace where there is an outdoor shower and a water feature.

The twin room has a spacious walk-in wardrobe area and separate bathroom that’s also very spacious. A guest bathroom and private gym is also part of the deal, as is a pantry area with a fridge, microwave, dishwasher and food prep area.

The sprawling terrace has a stunning swimming pool, beautifully set against an endless desert background and temperature controlled. Stepping outside of the villa on to the terrace I spot an Arabian Oryx meandering a few metres away, something that kids will love. Day loungers, an outdoor seating area and a huge dining table ensure the terrace is set up for easy outdoor living.

The service

While much of it is excellent – from the therapists in the spa, to the chef who cooks us a delicious in-house feast (more on that later) – the service is perhaps the most disappointing part of our stay. The in-villa service doesn’t always match the impeccable surroundings.

Our butler is pleasant, but simple tasks are left undone – such as removing empty glasses at the end of the evening, or clearing used dishes from the dining table before setting out our breakfast the next morning. There’s also a lack of communication when it comes to buggy pickups, which means at one point we have to drive our own car, baby in tow, to the main resort, as the buggy we’re expecting never arrived and it’s too hot to walk.

The scene

Part of the joy of staying in the signature villas is that, should you choose, you don’t need to interreact with, or even see, any other guests. This makes it perfect for families hoping to reconnect with some quality time, or for anyone seeking a high level of privacy.

When we do venture into the main resort – for spa treatments and lunch – it’s filled with holidaymakers, from families to groups of friends and couples enjoying a romantic desert escape.

The food

Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert Resort has four dining options, including farm-to-table concept Farmhouse, The Paddock Cafe and Kan Zaman, for Arabian BBQ. For lunch, we head to Kaheela, which serves international and Arabian cuisine.

A pretty herb garden highlights home-grown ingredients that feature in many of the dishes. The chef comes over to welcome us, then offers to blend organic vegetable to make a customised puree for our seven-month old daughter, which is an unexpected treat.

Guests staying in the signature villas are invited to dine privately, with breakfast offered in-villa and a host of dining by design options. We select the Farm Barbeque menu which, at Dh1,100 per person, is not cheap, but having a private chef cook alfresco in our own villa is something very special.

The chef is fantastic, and she serves up a never-ending array of delicious dishes starting with an array of appetisers including a baby spinach and avocado salad and razor thin beef carpaccio. From the charcoal grill we have beef tenderloin, lamb chops, sea bass fillet and marinated Omani lobster, each one cooked to perfection. By dessert – a trio of tasty delights – we’re all feeling full but the peach cobbler is a must-try, although we wished the portion sizes were a little smaller.

Highs and lows

The setting is truly special, and travellers will delight in the wildlife right on the doorstep. Our private in-villa dinner is first-class, and allows us to dine at our leisure once we’ve put the children to bed, without worrying about hiring babysitters in case they wake up. (They don’t, which makes the experience even more special).

The insider tip

Pack your trainers. The villa has its very own gymnasium, with top-of-the-range equipment, yoga mats and a sound system overlooking a manicured courtyard garden that makes it easy to get inspired to work out. And leave time for a trip to The Rainforest, the resort’s hydrothermal experience.

It’s also worth noting that families with very young children won’t be able to partake in the huge array of family desert activities which start from age four and above.

The verdict

Dreamlike villas in a stunning setting are perfect for families hoping to escape the city and reconnect in Ras Al Khaimah’s desert dunes.

The bottom line

Rates start from Dh15,000 per night. Check in from 3pm and check out at noon, but timings can be changed to suit individual arrival/departure times; www.ritzcarlton.com

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel and reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.

Updated: May 23, 2024, 12:04 PM

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