In October, my husband and I honeymooned in Oman, so during our stopover in the UAE, we decided to stay 2 nights at the points and miles bucket-list property Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa.
Located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Al Maha is a one-hour drive from Dubai and about an hour-and-a-half drive from Abu Dhabi.
What makes Al Maha so special — and a top aspirational redemption for points junkies — is two fold: even when redeeming Marriott points at Al Maha the stay is all-inclusive (all meals and select, daily activities), and having your own private infinity pool villa overlooking the glistening desert is a totally epic and a truly unique experience.
I have stayed in numerous overwater villas in both the Maldives and in Tahiti, and to me, Al Maha is just as incredible and as special of an experience. With just 42 villas across the sprawling property, and fiery red and golden sand dunes for as far as the eye can see, Al Maha is hands-down one of my best Marriott award redemptions to date.
I redeemed 200,000 Bonvoy points for the 2 night stay in a King Bedoiun Suite Villa with a private pool. While the resort has larger two and three bedroom suites, which are best suited for families, the King Bedouin Suite with private pool is the standard room type across the property.
Considering that cash rates per night during the dates of my stay were over $1,200, I was perfectly happy to part with my Bonvoy points instead of having to pay out of pocket.
And the suite was incredible and just like something right out of Arabian Nights! From the plush, super-size king bed, to the lovely antiques, and to the lavish decor and furnishings, I felt like I was transported to a desert retreat fit for a Sultan!
Not only was the suite fit for royalty, but it was also super spacious. Clocking in at over 800 square feet, the villa included a sumptuous sitting and lounge area, a comfortable workspace, a large wardrobe for luggage and clothing storage, and a very spacious bathroom. I loved the huge walk-in shower and the generous-sized soaking tub, plus the double vanity. On top of that, I adored the full-sized, luxe Byredo toiletries, which definitely made their way home with me as a little souvenir 🙂
In addition, the large outdoor wooden deck area with a dining table and two cozy sun loungers made the villa seem even that much bigger. I loved being able to open the doors to the room and take advantage of both the indoor and outdoor space at my leisure. Plus, I even had a few cute little visitors come up to my deck throughout my stay!
Being able to intimately experience the wildlife of the desert and to swim under the stars in our private, heated pool were magical experiences in and of themselves, and you’ll be hard pressed to find another resort in the world like this — much less one where you can stay all-inclusive for free on points!
Sometimes when you book an all-inclusive vacation, you come home and are left feeling less than satisfied with the level of service you received. You also may feel like you missed out on culinary delights and that the food you ate was only so-so.
Well, don’t worry, we’ve all been there! But at Al Maha this is definitely something you will NOT have to worry about!
The service at this resort was FANTASTIC through and through, and the food was absolutely DIVINE!
Included in your cash or points room rate are three spectacular meals a day, along with an afternoon tea. Although there is only one restaurant on the property — Al Diwaan — in-room dining is also included with the all-inclusive package.
Breakfast is served from 7-10:30 AM, and is a smorgasbord of delectable egg dishes of both Western and Eastern variety, along with hearty meat dishes, and all of the delicious pastries, fruits, coffee and teas you can imagine. For those looking to eat breakfast in the privacy of their own villa — or for breakfast in bed lovers — Al Maha can one-up the experience with their unique “Floating Breakfast” option. For a $65 upcharge, you can have anything off of the al la carte breakfast menu delivered to your room on a floating tray, and indulge in a scrumptious meal all while sunning in your own private pool. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s an experience not to be missed!
Lunch is served from 12:30-2:30 PM and is a full three-course meal with an appetizer, entree and desert of your choice. If you want to avoid a food coma during your stay at Al Maha, then definitely take it easy during breakfast and lunch, or you will never make it through the five-course dinner! Served from 7:30-10 PM on the al fresco veranda, dinner is the shining star meal at Al Maha. It was unbelievable how fresh the seafood was for a resort being out in the remote desert, and each course was a delight of the senses!
One really unique aspect of the all-inclusive offering at Al Maha is that two desert activities per day (one in the morning and one in the evening) are free during your stay. Guests are accompanied by an experienced field guide at all times during the activities, in order to not only ensure guest’s enjoyment and satisfaction, but also their safety.
- Falconry — Starting at 6 AM, you’ll witness the traditional Arabic art of falconry in this thrilling demonstration.
- Nature walk — Also beginning at 6 AM, your guide will interpret the amazing diversity of life in the desert and will provide an informative and educational rapport about all of the wonders of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
- Ghaf tree walk — Another early morning activity at 6 AM, you’ll embark on a short ten minute drive into the conservation area to a grove of Ghaf trees. You and your guide will wander through the “forest,” while your guide tells you more about these fascinating life-giving trees.
- Horse riding — Another activity for early birds starting at 6 AM, during this experience you’ll have the chance to see the desert from the back of an Arabian horse at sunrise. Of note, this activity is only for experienced riders and an 85kg weight limit applies.
- Desert drive — Departing at 7:30 AM, for an additional charge of $75 per person, you can embark on an extreme 4×4 dune-bashing drive to take in the magnificent desert scenery.
- Archery — Offers a lesson in the noble art of archery, which features heavily in the heritage of Middle Eastern and Bedouin culture. Guests can select to partake in this activity at 9:30, 10:30 or 11:30 AM.
- Wildlife drive — One of the afternoon activities, which begins at 4 PM, on this desert drive you’ll have the opportunity to see the famous Arabian Oryx (Al Maha) and other indigenous wildlife, fauna and flora.
- Camel trek — Beginning at 5:15 PM, you’ll trek 30 minutes from the resort into the heart of the dunes, where you’ll watch the sunset and toast it with sparkling wine and other refreshments.
- Sundowners — Starting at 5:30 PM, this activity is an alternative to the camel trek. After a short 15 minute ride through the desert, your vehicle will stop at the top of the dunes where you’ll relax and toast with sparkling wine to the setting sun.
I absolutely loved all of the activities, and it made Al Maha that much more of an incredible and thrilling experience. Although I have dune bashed before, my favorite was the Desert Drive. What made it better than my previous Dubai dune bashing experiences, was that the area of the Conservation where Al Maha guests get to drive through is the private reserve of the Sheikh, and no other tour companies can explore these dunes. They are the tallest in the entire reserve, and they weren’t beat up and run down like some of the dunes are where the general tour companies operate.
That being said, no matter what activities you choose to partake in at Al Maha, rest assured that you will make wonderful memories and enjoy experiences of a lifetime!
It is no wonder that Al Maha Luxury Collection Desert Resort and Spa is on so many people’s bucket list! This hotel totally lives up to the hype, and I would redeem 100K Bonvoy points over and over again to stay here! I loved it so much, and thought it was such a truly unique experience, that I am already planning to visit again on my next stopover in Dubai. From the phenomenal service of the staff, to the fabulous dining, to the exhilarating activities and more, this is one all-inclusive resort experience that you should add to your bucket list if you haven’t done so already!