(CNN) — Stepping off the speedboat onto soft white sand dotted with lush tropical vegetation, it could be easy to mistake this resort for Bali or the Maldives.
The resort is the first to open on the World Islands, an archipelago of 300 islands in the shape, as its name suggests, of the world. Think of the Hamptons of Dubai on the Arabian Gulf.
Unlike the Palm Jumeirah, the “South American” Coronation Island resort is completely secluded, with access via a James Bond-style speedboat tour.
No one can enter the island without registering their passport, thus guaranteeing those who come, including royalty, the utmost privacy and security. A heliport will also soon open on the island.
Blending the chain’s Thai roots with the essence of Emirati tradition, the resort, now the new ultra-private playground for the rich and famous, is sleek and stylish. Natural finishes are profiled with elements of nature and landscaping has been spared at no cost.
Eight hundred and fifty coconut palms were brought from Oman, along with 500 palms and another 4,000 or more other native tropical and desert plants. A greenhouse also grows a variety of tropical fruit trees while a giant birdcage now houses around 200 tropical birds to raise the island’s own native colony, in addition to the 12 feisty peacocks that strut around the site.
Dubai’s hottest new address
A giant chandelier made of hundreds of oyster shells hangs majestically in the pergola structure in which new guests are welcomed, shimmering in the wind and paying homage to the pearling history of the United Arab Emirates.
The resort has 70 keys, 40 of which are pool villas. Although there’s plenty to do here – from tennis to spa treatments, a state-of-the-art gym, cinema under the stars and water sports – our guide, Dev Panjala, tells us that most people come to eat, rest, relax. It is, he says, an urban escape for those who can.
“People are happy to come here and enjoy the room, the pool, the beach,” he says. “It’s all about relaxation.”
The global project has been in the works for nearly two decades. First announced by Nakheel in 2003 with construction completed in 2008, it has been beset by a series of setbacks including the global recession and practical challenges such as the islands’ water and electricity supply.
The multibillion-dollar megaproject was designed by Dubai businessman Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman and CEO of DP World, who also has a home on the island, but it’s not just the wealthy and celebrities who can enjoy Dubai’s hottest new address. .
With rates starting at $440+ for ocean-view rooms with balconies, the new Anantara resort is on par with most high-end properties in town, only every room is steps from the sand.
For a taste of ultra-luxe, guests can snag one of the 424-square-meter four-bedroom Beach Pool Villas that cost up to $9,800 a night. Secluded beachfront properties make guests feel more like they’re on a private island than a resort.
Serenity and simplicity
Outdoor dining at sunset.
Courtesy of Anantara
On the evening of our visit, the stars shine down on the resort, which exudes a serenity and simplicity unlike the city’s other island destinations, which always push opulence over the vibe. Instead, bamboo and palm-leaf villas dot the shoreline, and sandy walkways wind through the resort.
As Dubai’s dramatic skyline fades into the distance, the air is filled with birdsong rather than car horns in this otherworldly natural wonderland, its lights barely visible from the shore from Dubai.
“For Dubai, that’s what makes this place unique,” says resort manager Giacomo Puntel, who says it’s a “sophisticated” take on island life. “Here the only sounds you hear are the sea and the birds. You won’t find that anywhere else in Dubai.”
Offering an island escape from the hustle and bustle of city life is what will attract customers who can taste the tropics right on their doorstep.
“There are no cars, the air is clean, it’s peaceful, and that’s why people come here. It’s a bit like the Maldives without even leaving home. We want to replicate the same experience , the same feeling and the same feeling of relaxation as you I would go to the Maldives.”
He says the much smaller capacity makes it a welcome change from the UAE’s plethora of mega hotels; here, each guest is greeted by name and served by an individual room host.
Celebrities and VIPs
Created from sand dredged from the Gulf, each of the islands, backed by millions of tons of rock, ranges from 250,000 to 900,000 square feet and the entire collection covers approximately 5.4 miles in diameter.
Properties around the development and even entire islands have been bought up by the rich and famous around the world and there is no doubt that now that it is officially open it will be the last destination for the long line of celebrities and visitors Dubai VIP.
The Black Eyed Peas recently came to the resort for dinner after playing Expo 2020 Dubai.
As the resort is still only recently open, there is still plenty to come, including glamping experiences, “bubble dinners” on the ocean in floating plexiglass orbs, and new food outlets.
Currently, the main dining destinations are Qamar, an Arab-Indian restaurant, the place for fine dining and shisha, while Helios is a casual Mediterranean restaurant by the beach with views of the glittering city skyline, including Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.
There’s also a South American bar and lounge, Luna, and a cafe, Grand House, in the lobby with views of the resort’s main pool and terrace.
In an effort to offset the damage caused by construction in the area, the islands are now home to one of the largest coral nurseries in the world, while marine experts cultivate a whole new marine ecosystem.
At the resort, efforts to be more sustainable include limiting plastic, introducing a recycling project as well as solar-powered pool cooling systems.
“We really do what we can to make sure everything stays as sustainable as possible,” says Puntel.