Having lived in the UAE for five years, it’s embarrassing to admit that I’ve only recently mastered reeling off all seven emirates confidently.
But, after spending a blissfully relaxing few days at Vida Beach Resort Umm Al Quwain, this will never be a problem again.
The UAE’s most undiscovered emirate
The least populated of the emirates and the second smallest after Ajman, the city of Umm Al Quwain is perched on a narrow peninsula between Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, a 45-minute drive north of Dubai.
Covering just one percent of the UAE’s land area, but boasting 15 miles of coastline, it’s known for lush, untouched mangrove forests and wild and rugged dog-friendly beaches.
Umm Al Quwain, translated to mean “mother of the two powers” in Arabic, is said to refer to the natural beauty of the emirate’s land and sea.
However, while the beaches and mountains of Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are popular ‘get-away-from-it-all’ staycation options, Umm Al Quwain is often completely overlooked.
A welcome relief after the smog of Dubai and Sharjah, in-land Umm Al Quwain mainly consists of barren stretches of desert.
Providing a full immersion into the UAE’s charmingly undeveloped and authentic side, herds of camels can be spotted everywhere, including right by the roadsides and casually gathered next to gas stations.
Watersports, tennis and more
Umm Al Quwain ‘city’ is so quiet and peaceful, you’d think it was a coastal village. The entrance to Vida Beach Resort is modestly understated too, while the lobby is beautiful, without being too over the top.
Decorated in beachy blues and yellows, it feels stylish yet homey, and the staff are all exceptionally friendly, too.
It’s definitely a place for those who like to stay active. All guests get one hour of free tennis court time and equipment, the gym is open 24 hours and spirited volleyball and water polo matches are organized throughout the day.
Maximizing its position by the smoothest, calmest and most pristine stretch of Arabian Gulf I’ve ever seen, the hotel offers a variety of watersports such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding for an extra charge.
With the luscious mangrove forests visible in the distance, I find lapping up and down the long swimming area of clean and clear water is immensely enjoyable as well.
Our room is huge, and drifting to sleep to the sounds of the gentle waves makes a therapeutic change to the nighttime sounds of my home in downtown Abu Dhabi.
Modern meets authentic
The compostable straws and wooden key cards show Vida Beach Resort’s efforts to cut down on single use plastics, and the medium-sized buffets suggest that food waste is also minimal.
Eating relatively healthy is easy. An excellent spread of colorful and interesting salads, homemade Arabic dips, wholesome soups, grilled meats, and sweet fruits are offered for both lunch and dinner.
The shaded beachside dining terrace is simply lovely, while the rooftop bar is a truly sensational sundowner spot.
Pets are welcome throughout the resort, and there’s a kids club and kids pool alongside the palm-fringed infinity pool.
It opened in 2021, so everything feels modern and barely used, even though the hotel is clearly rather full and busy.
With yellow striped umbrellas and sunbeds, and a funky ‘VIDA VIBES’ swing, it feels fresh, cool and vibrant.
It’s also an affordable staycation option. Under the current summer offer, a full-board night for two costs just Dh699.
If you can drag yourself away from the sunbeds and activities, the rugged streets of Umm Al Quwain old town are just a short walk away. Adding more walking options for future guests, a Creek Waterfront area of parks and walkways is currently being developed right next to the hotel.
On the way home, Mangrove Beach is well worth a quick stop. With a campsite, restaurants, boardwalks through the trees and facilities for biking, horse riding and watersports, all enhanced with sensational mangrove views, it’s basically a vacation in itself.
UAE resident rates start from Dh473 per night for two people with breakfast.