My trip to Abu Dhabi has proven to be quite eye opening – not only did I visit the 3rd largest mosque in the world and stay in a lovely desert villa, I also got to kayak in mangrove swamps and visit a hospital solely for falcons. This little trip with my friends was mostly to visit one of them who is based in Abu Dhabi, and we got up to all sorts of shenanigans and even took a detour to Dubai as well, but one day we decided to have some real R&R, and visited Saadiyat Island and the Monte Carlo Beach Club.
Saadiyat Island is located just 5 minutes by driving from downtown Abu Dhabi and less than half an hour from the airport. It is one of the main destinations in Abu Dhabi set for intensive tourism development and slated to be its cultural centre – some projects in the works included a Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim museum as well as the Louvre. We saw a lot of ongoing construction when we visited the island in 2012.
First we stopped by the Manarat Al Saadiyat, the Saadiyat Island visitor’s centre, to have brunch at Fanr Restaurant. It was a weekday so the place was pretty empty all around, food was so-so, nothing to shout about. I had a Thai green curry that was more like soup than curry, but still decent tasting. Lots of space outside, so quite family friendly.
Maanarat Saadiyat is also an art gallery of sorts, where you will find various art exhibitions – Here’s a pretty eye-catching one with a whole bunch of chairs and benches that you could walk in and around.
One of the main exhibitions is the Saadiyat Story – an interactive exhibition that showcases the history, culture and future plans of Saadiyat. We didn’t go into that, instead choosing to go into a free exhibit called The Island / A Game Of Life, which was actually quite a fascinating insight into what islands mean and how they’ve impacted humans throughout history, literature and the arts as a whole. We weren’t allowed to take pix, so no pix unfortunately.
SAADIYAT BEACH CLUB
After that short detour, we continues along to our actual destination, the Beach Club*
Right off the bat it reminded me of a modern Qasr Al Sarab, so you know this is an expensive chi-chi sort of place and not my usual sort of hangout. KL wanted to treat P and C (the to-be-marrieds) to a nice day out as her wedding gift to them which is why we ended up here. Just so you know, a day pass here costs around 250AED (~S$80!!), so definitely not for anyone on a budget.
We headed out to the pool side to lounge and have a dip. It was a weekday so the place was deserted, save for a private party being set up on the opposite side of the pool. Even so, the fancy cabanas cost an additional 500 AED just to rent so we just opted to lounge in the deckchairs behind the cabanas. Given what you’re paying, service is of course, impeccable. Waitstaff come up to offer menus, ply you with water, shift the umbrellas as you request… this is what being rich must feel like.
I took a dip in the pool, and then had a walk around the surrounding area. You are linked to the beach by a boardwalk and you can go jump in the sea as well – there’s even a lifeguard and a safety flag. The coastal sand dunes are protected land and that turtles often come up to lay eggs on them. It’s a really beautiful place and sunset was very pretty. It was rather windy though, so you had to run for a towel once you emerged from the water.
The pool closes at 6pm, so make sure you get your dip early or like the girls who were too busy talking, end up not getting into the pool at all. The good news is that the facilities in the changing room are open till late, and there are even lounging chairs available in there so you can continue to laze about in there.
We had a nice time soaking in the jacuzzi and sitting in the steam room after we were done with the pool. The showers were divine and we had so much space to dress up for dinner after that. This is definitely a spot you should check out if you’re looking to spoil yourself silly. Apparently it gets rather crowded on the weekends, but it was very blessedly empty on the weekday we were there.
Check out all my UAE posts for more about Abu Dhabi and Dubai.