A hidden hillside village on the shores of the Arabian Gulf
The Globetrotters have been hitting the road in the UAE again, this time to visit one of the most up and coming Emirates of the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah. Known as much for its outdoor adventures and its rugged mountains as it’s beautiful beaches, we were off to explore hidden gem, The Cove Rotana Resort.
Whether it was having our own private villa, or the majestical sunset views from the infinity pool there’s something truly special about the Cove; It has a unique character and feeling far removed from any of the other UAE resorts we have stayed in.
With the village-like beauty of the hills and the water, would this luxury resort still stand up to the Globetrotter family test? Join us as we whisk you on a journey through this amazing Ras al Khaimah resort.
This post is part of our Family Accommodation Review series – Come and see our other worldwide family-friendly hotel recommendations
Arriving at The Cove Rotana in Ras al Khaimah
We’ve actually driven past The Cove Rotana Resort probably a dozen times over the years without actually realising it was there! Neatly tucked over a hillside, the resort is not visible from the E11 highway that runs all the way from Dubai to RAK. Through a discrete entrance, up a hill and through a traditional archway you will be greeted with the grand views of the Arabian Gulf before you.
Staff are on hand to immediately valet our car and unpack our (multiple) bags – will we ever learn to travel light? Check-in is in two separate areas; a counter for the hotel complex that adorns the hillside near to reception and the restaurants, and a private check-in room for guests staying in the hillside and waterfront villas.
We arrived mid-afternoon which was perfect, but do note if you are weekend staycationing, the busiest points of the week and when queuing can be expected are Thursday evening and Friday immediately before lunch.
The Rooms at The Cove Rotana Resort
There is a lot of flexibility in the rooming choices at The Cove Rotana which is what makes it appealing to families and groups. The resort is split into several parts, although everything seamlessly blends.
The main hotel is set out in rows across the hillside and villas dotted throughout the resort from the hillside down to an extensive waterfront lagoon. Some of the villas are privately owned, whilst Rotana operates 78 of the 1, 2 and 3 bedroom villas.
Families with just one or two children may find a hotel room sufficient, whilst those with several children or a larger group to cater for may prefer the flexibility of size that comes with the villas, along with the huge added bonus that villas have private swimming pools.
As a family of 5, we stayed in a 2 bedroom villa on the hillside. I’ll admit at first I was a little disappointed as I had been ogling the beautiful lagoon front villas on Instagram before our trip.
Given the proximity to all the resorts main restaurants, pools and other facilities, staying at the top of the hill is definitely the best choice for families that have little legs to consider, especially in the summer heat.
Our two-bedroom villa actually consisted of 2 separate apartments with each having its own key but interconnecting. Downstairs is a spacious living room and kitchenette along with master bedroom and master bathroom with tub.
Upstairs the children’s room had two king singles, ample space for adding extra beds and another mini-bar area/change room and bathroom.
The kitchenette does have cooking facilities but these are disabled on the short-term guest suites, so all you really get is the tea and coffee area plus a large fridge. You will be more than catered for in the food department across the resort but I know with young kids it can be great to serve your own snacks and wash bottles in the room.
The villa pool is immediately adjacent to the living room and includes a small sun deck and a lawn for hillside villas.
All the luxury amenities you can think of were fully stocked in each bathroom, along with plentiful towels in colourful and imaginative creations that we know the Rotana Housekeeping teams are famous for.
These little touches really brighten the kids day on arrival and were, as always met with squeals of delight (followed by the fighting over who gets which towel, of course). A little welcome note from the housekeeping team as repeat Rotana customers was very much appreciated too.
For those not needing as much space or on a tighter budget, we also took a little tour around the hotel complex. All rooms are 30sqm and consist of a king-size bed or twin, small living area, bathroom and balcony.
They have a minibar, bathroom amenities and space to sleep an extra child on the sofa, plus a baby cot can be fitted (and at a squeeze one more bed). Interconnecting room options are also available.
Pricing for the hotel rooms only varies on location within the resort. Classic rooms do not have a view, whilst Deluxe rooms have partial views and Premier rooms have the arched ceilings and balcony views to the sea.
A little note for parents with young kids, whilst I’m sure every effort is made to keep the resort safe, do be aware there are many balconies, steep drops and water features throughout. Our little Globetrotters are now old enough to know better (well, just!) when it comes to these things, but a vigilant eye is needed for toddlers who like to explore.
Meal times at The Cove Rotana
If you thought the resort itself was the highlight, be prepared for a culinary journey! There are two main dining options at the resort, as well as four bars serving food and drinks.
I do slightly groan at the concept of all-day dining at resorts and that groundhog day feel, but the international buffet offering at Cinnamon certainly left us pleasantly surprised. The wonderful high arched ceilings from the rooms and reception are continued through into the dining facilities giving a light and spacious feel. In the cooler months, the outdoor terrace is beautiful, though there were many hardy souls sitting out there even in summer when we visited!
The variety on offer for both breakfast and dinner was great with even our fussy eater pleased. During Ramadan, the Cinnamon Iftar operates in the evening, and throughout the rest of the year, you can experience theme nights. Opening times are good to cater for kids feeding times and high chairs looked to be in plentiful supply. Breakfast 7am – 11am; Lunch 12.30 – 3pm;Dinner 6.30pm to 10.30pm
The second fabulous dining option is Basilico Mediterranean restaurant. Operating for lunch and dinner with a distinct Italian emphasis, the highlight of the week is the Friday GourMedBrunch. In fact, so popular many visitors will come up from Dubai just for the Brunch.
The GourMedBrunch includes live cooking stations, extensive buffet with a focus on Mediterranean cuisine but also extensive Arabic choices and a roast option. As a great addition, you can also order small plates a la carte, and tasting plates are passed around.
The cheese and fresh seafood selection was extensive and the dessert selection to die for. Being summer, we dined indoors but the extensive terrace will be ideal for winter dining with an incredibly chilled vibe, live entertainment and one of the best brunch views you can get in the UAE.
We thought the brunch was a great value offering for summer (Adults 199AED with soft drinks or 275AED with alcohol) – you can check offers directly with Rotana here.
And in a super added bonus, you can also enjoy a “daycation” at GourMed, staying on to enjoy the lovely pool and beach facilities after brunch has finished.
Whilst there was nothing specific in terms of entertainment for kids at the brunch, junior guests are able to access the resorts Flippers Kids Club which is immediately adjacent. Even better – make it into an overnight trip with a Brunch Escape Package this will also get you breakfast buffet at Cinnamon the next morning.
For the remainder of the week, Basilico operates an a la carte menu for dinner 6pm – 12am and lunch at 12pm – 3pm (Sat only).
Other dining and bar options
Sunset Pool Bar – Located next to the upper pool and overlooking the resort complex this is a beautiful setting (as the name would suggest ideal at sunset) with snacks, juices, cocktails and mocktails served daily 11 am to 7pm with sisha service 3pm-7pm.
Breeze Bar – situated in the main hotel lobby is the perfect way to start your resort experience with stunning views over the resort; coffee to cocktails are served as well as sisha in the evenings. If you want to roll on after dinner this is your ideal venue open until 2am.
Those looking for beachside drinks and meals without needing to return to the main resort complex should check out Breakers Beach Bar & Lounge – casual drinks from 10am to 9pm, food from 12pm to 7pm and sisha from 3pm to 9pm.
Laguna Pool Bar also operates at the lower pool from 11am to 7pm.
Room Service is also available with many suitable all-day dining options – great for when the kids have had a big day and you don’t want to leave the room!
Related Reading: Best summer staycation destinations in the UAE
Exploring the grounds and facilities of The Cove Rotana
Make no mistake, this is a BIG resort! The grounds are well spread out which is great as you don’t feel on top of each other, but it does take time to move around. There are motorised buggies throughout the resort, but understandably on fully booked weekends and peak times you may have a long wait so expect to do some walking.
In summer months you may want to plan your next move a little ahead of time to avoid too much waiting.
The hilly terrain really does give you a distinct feel of ambling through a small village rather than your typical modern, Middle East style resort. The gardens are lush and immaculately kept year-round and the birds can be heard chirping away in the trees – an unfamiliar feeling when you’re used to the concrete jungle!
In the cooler weather and early mornings and evenings of summer, do take the time to stroll and enjoy the magical colours.
As well as your private villa pool the resort has two infinity pools for all guests to enjoy at the Laguna Pool on the lower level and the Sunset Pool below reception. They are open from 7am to sunset with lifeguards.
Families staying in the hotel rather than the private villa with a pool should be aware that the Laguna pool has an age restriction of 6 years plus – something that was not clear to us until we arrived, unloaded, sunscreened up and kids jumped in…..
I understand reserving an adult-only pool in a resort, but 6 years old seems a very bizarre cut off age. This was our only real annoyance of the weekend as the Laguna Pool is at the bottom of the resort and no buggy service in sight made it a very long, hot and unhappy traipse back up the steep hill to the sunset pool where kids are allowed in (very similar pools, both quite deep, infinity style pools? Go figure).
The sunset pool does have a designated toddlers paddle pool under a shade, though it would have been nice to see something like a slide attached. It felt like it was lacking an in-between sized family pool for confident young swimmers who still want to touch the bottom.
The Private Beach
A 600m long glistening beach awaits along the Arabian Coast. I would describe it as more grey than white sand but nonetheless, soft underfoot and scorching hot if you visit in the summer!
I’d highly recommend you pack some beach shoes to get you from your sun chair to the water’s edge! In early June, the water temperature was still pleasantly refreshing versus the outside air, so time your trip right you will still squeeze in plenty of beach time with the kids.
The Globetrotters were delighted to find small fish swimming in the water and an abundance of hermit crabs at low tide. The only regret, we forgot to bring with us our bucket and spade set, it would have been ideal at this point for our little explorers.
Sandal Beach Club
A great set up that families may want to consider when heading down to the beach is to reserve a VIP beach cabana at Sandal Beach Club. A separate area of the beach attached to Breakers Bar, your cabana hire includes a small bar fridge with refreshing drinks and cold towels (summer essentials!).
You can close off your curtains for shade and privacy and enjoy the VIP experience. Your cabana or sun chair hire fee INCLUDES any food and drinks you order from the bar to the value of your hire.
If you think you will be buying meals and snacks during the day (it’s otherwise a long hike back up the hill to the other restaurants), this makes the VIP cabanas an excellent family choice.
We fitted 5 into one cabana, albeit with small kids we didn’t spend most of our time lying down relaxing! VIP cabanas are 399AED to hire, or single sunbeds 100AED each, they should be reserved in advance and subject to availability
Related Reading: Our full review of Fujairah Rotana Resort & Spa
While our little ones were quite content playing in the sand, at the end of the beachfront you will find Marina Adventures who operate water sports and diving activities for guests. Go and talk to the friendly team there to work out what activities are suitable for your age group (there are small non-motorised crafts kids can take around the lagoon). They seemed willing to negotiate great prices with you below the list price.
Flippers Kids Club
Located immediately under the main arrivals area and adjacent to the Sunset Pool, I honestly thought the Flippers Kids Club looked small and a little tired – or perhaps we’ve just been spoilt with some amazing kids facilities in this country?
The staff, however, were lovely and the Globetrotters came out glowing about what a fun time they had. They were really hands-on doing crafting activities with the younger boys and Miss Z discovered the Wii! They were still raving about it after their first visit and very keen to return for a second try.
I would love to see an overhaul of this facility though, along with a few more poolside activities given they are immediately adjacent.
Other facilities at Cove Rotana Resort
For those that like to keep fit and healthy still while on vacation, the Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club operates from the lower level of the main reception building. There are massage facilities within Bodylines but no separate Zen Spa as you might find in other Rotana Resorts.
A small set of shops under the Basilico Restuarant sells beachwear, jewellery and a little convenience store for your essentials and touristy bits. There is also a tour company Nirvana Tours operating from within the Resort.
Related Reading: 100+ Family Things to do in the UAE
Globetrotters Recommend The Cove Rotana Resort
Although getting around such a large resort with multiple children can be challenging, its also part of its beauty and purpose. It’s a place to truly escape the usual UAE expat lifestyle. Slow the pace and agenda and simply relax and enjoy what is around you.
For Abu Dhabi Staycationers, there’s no avoiding the longish drive from and peak hour Thursday traffic – no matter which route you take through Dubai it’s about a 2.5-hour drive up and a 2-hour drive back. But completely worth the drive for a stunning weekend escape – or ideally longer you could easily fill more than a long weekend.
We would definitely recommend families who think they will be frequenting the pools and restaurants more so than the beach to get a hillside villa or hotel room.
If you’re looking for somewhere unique, picturesque and spectacular for your next staycation where children will be enchanted and your guests will be wowed, this is the place for you.
Fast facts & booking The Cove Rotana Resort & Spa
Rooms: There are 204 hotel rooms and 78 Villas
Price: Starting from $160USD per night for a Deluxe King through to $600USD+ per night for a 3 bedroom villa.
Location: The Cove Rotana Resort is approx 85kms / 1 hours drive from Dubai International Airport or 30 minutes from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (charter flights). It is close to 3 hours drive from downtown Abu Dhabi at weekend peaks. There is also conveniently a bus service from Dubai that stops immediately across the freeway from the resort.
Other Inclusions: Free valet, wifi, buggy service
Thanks to all the staff at The Cove Rotana Resort for their warmth and hospitality during our stay
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Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. We were provided with complimentary accommodation and meals at The Cove Rotana Resort for the purpose of conducting a fair and impartial review. All opinions, as always, remain our own. This article also contains affiliate links that may earn us a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase – thank you. Our full disclosures policy can be found here.
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