If you’re thinking about heading for some of the world’s more exotic honeymoon destinations in Southeast Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean—places like Thailand, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Mauritius and Seychelles—there’s a good possibility that you’ll be connecting through the major airline hubs of the Middle East to reach these far-flung locales. So why not break up the travel and make the journey part of the adventure?
After a 12- to 15-hour flight from the states, even the most frequent fliers can use a stretch break. Back-to-back long-haul flights can be tough, even if you’ve splurged on Emirate’s business class, which comes with such perks as a private onboard lounge. (Hello, champagne toast at 40,000 feet!)
A few days on the ground in Dubai will make it easier to get acclimated to the time zone of your honeymoon destination. Even if your final destination is a few hours different, it will no doubt it will be closer to the local time in Dubai than the time back home. (Dubai is 9 hours ahead of the East Coast and 12 hours ahead of the West Coast.)
The bottom line: Adding a Dubai stopover to the beginning of your honeymoon is simply a more relaxing way to ease into a honeymoon state of mind, period. Here’s how to plan a spectacular few days in Dubai.
Stay By the Beach
Dubai has no shortage of superb five-star hotels, including the Armani Hotel Dubai in the Burj Khalifa tower (more on that in a moment) and the luxurious Palazzo Versace Dubai, on Dubai Creek, just a few minutes from downtown and the airport. But you’ll find the greatest concentration of leisure resorts and hotels along Jumeirah Beach and on the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree.
One perennially popular choice for honeymooners: the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, an oasis of relaxation and refinement conveniently located within a short drive of top visitor sights. The concierge team can assist with dinner reservations and excursions around the city, but don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy some of the property’s on-site indulgences, such as a romantic sunset dinner in a private poolside villa.
You can’t be in the same city as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and not plan a visit. Soaring 2,717 feet in the air, the Burj Khalifa is more than double the height of the Empire State Building! High-speed elevators whisk visitors to observation areas on the 124th and 125th floors in less than 60 seconds, and the views are indeed worth it. (On a clear day, you can see the shores of Iran.) For even greater heights, book the At the Top SKY ticket that includes access to the Burj Khalifa’s 148th floor SKY lounge, the current record holder for the world’s highest observation deck with an outdoor terrace.
Back on the ground, you’ll exit into the Dubai Mall, which is definitely worth a wander. The world’s largest mall has a few surprises in store, including a massive aquarium, an Olympic-sized ice-skating rink, a 155 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton and a multistory indoor waterfall. Outside, a spectacular water show takes place in the Dubai Fountain every 30 minutes, beginning nightly at 6 p.m.
Further down Jumeirah Beach, the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, one of Dubai’s most recognizable landmarks, is also worth seeing up close—all the better to marvel at its soaring height, gilded passageways, and endless ocean views. As it's located on a private island, you’ll need confirmed reservations at one of the property’s restaurants or bars to be granted access. Fortunately, there are plenty of options, ranging from the casual and breezy Scape Restaurant & Lounge to one of Dubai’s most date-worthy restaurants, Nathan Outlaw at Al Mahara. Can't decide? The Culinary Flight tasting experience includes stops at several of the restaurants.
If you have time, consider booking an excursion to the desert dunes beyond the city's periphery. The landscapes are incredible and it's fascinating to see how quickly this 21st-century metropolis gives way to vast open spaces. Popular excursions include hot-air balloon rides over the desert, skydiving (in the desert or over the Dubai cityscape) and all types of desert safaris—camel sighting guaranteed.
A Few Essentials
When to go: Dubai temperatures range from warm to hot to hottest. The best time of year to take advantage of a Dubai stopover is between November and late March; temperatures start to climb in April and May, and the summer months can be sweltering, with temps reaching 110 degrees. September is still hot and humid, but by October the thermometer begins to edge downward.
Getting around: As roughly 80 percent of Dubai residents are expats from all over the world, English is widely spoken and English signage is prevalent, too. Also, even when you're staying at a centrally located five-star hotel, getting around Dubai requires a short drive. Hotels will have a taxi queue or can easily call one for you; Uber is an easy option, too.
Weekends (and alcohol): The weekend in Dubai is Friday–Saturday, and Dubai expats and visitors alike love to brunch on these days. Many hotels offer sumptuous brunch setups with live music and free-flowing mimosas. About alcohol in general: Beer, wine and cocktails are readily available at hotels and upscale restaurants and bars across the city unless it’s an Islamic holy day, during which no alcohol is served or sold.