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This gold-swathed multibillion-dollar behemoth was conceived as an internationally recognisable icon as much as a hotel. And everything is supersized. The private beach is 1.3 kilometres long, the two pools are mind-bendingly humungous (one of them comes with slides and a lazy river) and the minimum room size is 55 square metres. Given the gigantism, the décor in the rooms is surprisingly restrained, but outside ancient statues line the corridors, sculpture exhibitions lead to the beach and riders take part in tournaments on the in-house polo field. Oh, and there's an ATM that dispenses gold. Doubles cost from 1500 dirhams ($500). See kempinski.com/en/abudhabi/emirates-palace.
St Regis Saadiyat Island
Saadiyat has been earmarked as Abu Dhabi's ultra-luxury island escape, and while the developments there are still a work in progress, the St Regis is an immaculate figurehead. The resort brushes against a Gary Player-designed golf course and shares the beach with the odd hawksbill turtle. The trunk-like bedside table and basket-style drawers in the rooms add a touch of old world travel glamour to the butler-serviced rooms, while the sprawling, sun-trap balconies are the best in town. Multiple jacuzzi jets pep up the adults-only pool, while the families and lap swimmers have their own separate spots to splash too. Doubles from 1021 dirhams ($340). See stregissaadiyatisland.com.
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Of the five-star tower hotels that Abu Dhabi seems rather obsessed with, the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers performs the best marriage of style, business and pleasure. The excellent selection of restaurants ranges from Milanese to Lebanese, via seafood and modern Japanese, while the teched-up rooms have futuristic swank. The circular main pool is an eye-popper, and there's plenty of sunbed space on the private beach. The views are a key selling point here, with chaise longues next to floor-to-ceiling windows looking out to see, but the cute little touches such as the toy turtle on the bed add a sense of fun. Doubles cost from 836 dirhams ($280). See jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/abu-dhabi/jumeirah-etihad-towers.
Hilton Abu Dhabi
The Hilton is very much the old dog in the pack of new shiny pups, but classy refurbishments mean it has aged well. It has wisely opted for a fun, family-friendly vibe rather than going for all-out, po-faced luxury. The bars and nightclub are popular ex-pat hangouts, and have regular live entertainment, while the beach club is one of the best in the city. Accessed via an underpass, it contains a kids' playground, a sheesha café livened up by DJs in the evenings, a well-equipped watersports centre and pools that seem to please children and parents alike. Doubles cost from 754 dirhams ($250). See Hilton.com.
Anantara Eastern Mangroves
The point of difference here is the access to nature. Sat alongside one of the few remaining stretches of mangroves left along the UAE coast, it's possible to explore on a stand-up paddle board – either on a tour or under your own steam. The Anantara group's Thai origins are reflected in the lavish (even by Gulf standards) spa, the enjoyably buzzy Pachaylen restaurant and optional Thai cooking experience. The décor veers towards Arabian generic, but the views from the rooftop deck and birdsong coming from the rare slice of Abu Dhabi greenery more than make up for that. Doubles cost from 700 dirhams ($235). See abu-dhabi.anantara.com.
On the surface, this is petrolhead heaven – the Yas Marina Grand Prix circuit goes around (and at one point) under the hotel, while the Ferrari World theme park is on the doorstep. But inside, it's all sleek curves, minimalist whites and beiges, plus 54-square-metre rooms boasting dramatic circuit or marina views. It instantly feels hipper and younger than Abu Dhabi's other, more reserved resorts – with straight line-averse sinuous design and DJ beats on the rooftop deck. It also has the advantage of offering surprisingly affordable rates – just so long as you don't want to stay during grand prix week. Doubles cost from 696 dirhams ($235). See viceroyhotelsandresorts.com.
The writer has been a guest of Emirates Palace, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers and Yas Viceroy.