Here’s one absolute truth: Dubai has so much to offer newlyweds looking for a memorable honeymoon experience. It's a very easy transition from any American city while still feeling wildly exotic and exciting. Additionally, Dubai is a major hub for airlines like Emirates (whose amazingly comfy business-class seats are like a preview of the luxury and hospitality you’ll experience in the city) and makes a great several-day stopover en route to other destinations in Europe, Africa, or Asia. Another major boon: It gets 300-plus days of sunshine a year.
If you know anything about Dubai, you know it’s a place that’s striving to be the best—at everything. The luxury hub of the United Arab Emirates, it’s a place made up of expats (only a small percentage of the population is native) who share the great vision of toppling world records and stereotypes. It has some of the world’s best shopping, tallest architecture (the Burj Khalifa, at 2,717 feet, can’t be missed, and there’s a gorgeous new Danish-designed opera house), richest dining experiences, and even an indoor ski resort. Yet, a couple decades ago, none of that existed.
In fact, when the out-of-this-world-opulent One & Only Royal Mirage was built in 1999, it was the only property on its stretch of eggshell-colored beach outside the downtown area—and there was no manmade palm-shaped island in the Arabian Sea in front of it. Despite the flurry of construction that continues everywhere in Dubai, the sprawling resort (which is actually made up of three hotels) is still one of the most sought-after reservations, especially for those seeking romance—or who simply want to feel like a king and queen.
In its very nature, Arabian design is grand, royal, and enticing. All the high ceilings, arabesque archways, and intricate lanterns that let just the right amount of light radiate through magical shapes set the stage for an alluring experience. The first step to a once-in-a-lifetime Dubai honeymoon is selecting the perfect resort or hotel. There’s something for every taste. The famous sail-shaped tower, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, billed as the world’s only seven-star hotel, is all but dripping in diamonds; there’s 24-karat gold leaf galore (the iPads each guest receives as a virtual concierge is even made of it), 30 types of marble, a bath menu, and an actual revolving bed in the Royal Suite (which starts at almost $9,000 per night, by the way).
But not everything is so outrageous. Entering the One & Only, you no doubt feel like royalty, but it doesn’t feel showy. As you walk in together as husband and wife, they’ll hit a gong to announce your entrance. At the Palace, the palette is rich and patterns are intricate, with a North African feel, while the Arabian Court has a lighter arabesque aesthetic and is linked by a hallway with seven dramatic domes, each representing an Emirate. The Residence is the smallest boutique hotel in Dubai, with intricate carved wood and ultimate privacy. (Guests at the other two cannot access the Residence’s pool.) The flower-strewn spa is where you can experience more-expected types of treatments and locally inspired therapies, along with a famous traditional and incredibly authentic Moroccan hammam, staffed entirely by Moroccan natives.
Stretching over 65 acres, there are endless places to feel alone. Eight distinct restaurants, Dubai’s longest stretch of beach, and lush gardens have that effect. And throughout, there’s a sense of seduction, maybe thanks to the rose petals, candles, and incense that take staff one hour per property per evening to place and light. It’s also possible to arrange an intimate, low-lit dinner on the beach in a gazebo, which is so special, it’s where many proposals occur. One thing to note when it comes to Dubai’s world-class dining scene is that restaurants outside of hotels do not serve alcohol, which makes it even more appealing to stay ensconced in your chosen resort.
Many of Dubai’s hotels are massive, especially on the ever-popular “island”—the now-iconic Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, for example, has more than 1,500 rooms and a water park. The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort is smaller, with nearly 400 rooms, along with a celebrated spa, while if intimacy is what you crave, look to One & Only the Palm, which has just 94 accommodations. It’s because of its petite size that personalization is big at the bright white Andalusian- and Moorish-inspired resort: Your fantasies are usually made reality—like the “ultimate romance” dinner served by the pool on a candlelit table topped with rose petals. That meal promises to be memorable, thanks to the three Michelin Star chef who overlooks the culinary experiences. (For dessert at Stay by Yannick Alléno, pastry chefs can customize a half-meter or one-meter dessert platter for you to share.) The Guerlain spa features a flowing couples suite ideal for an ultraluxe private hammam treatment you give each other—including a bubble bath with rose petals and a body masque you’ll rub on your sweetie (and vice versa) before rinsing off in a rain shower.
During a Dubai honeymoon at one of these resorts, it may feel hard to leave the glorious confines of the property, but there are a few other musts. One is a journey into the desert, which may include a camel or two, some stately wild Arabian oryx, and a lesson in falconry. (You can even go on an overnight if sleeping under the stars like a Bedoin tickles your fancy.) If you don’t have a fear of heights, journey up to the viewing deck of the Burj Al Arab in New Dubai. Or have sundowners at the 52nd-floor observatory at the Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel, where you can see the full palm island in all its glory. For a taste of Emirati culture, venture to old Dubai, where the gold souk and spice souk (markets) are worth a wander. And a private sunset cruise through the aquamarine water on a luxurious yacht is key—with a bottle of bubbly, of course.