Recently, my husband and I spent a few nights at the Hilton Abu Dhabi. Normally, we stay at the Marriott Abu Dhabi Downtown, which suits our needs, but we needed to maintain the Hilton Honors Diamond status through to 2019. That’s where the Hilton Abu Dhabi came in.
Although well suited for a family vacation, this hotel wouldn’t be my first choice of hotel in Abu Dhabi for business or pleasure. Read on to find out why.
The Hilton is well situated on the Corniche, the beach, and around 36 km away from the Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). It’s centrally located near all major restaurants, malls and offices. For those wanting a quick shopping trip, the hotel is a short 4-minute cab ride to the Marina Mall. Technically on the Corniche, the hotel is split into two parts: the Hiltonia Beach Club on the beach and rest of the hotel across the street.
Let’s take a little walk into history here. The Hilton Abu Dhabi was Abu Dhabi’s first five star hotel and opened 45 years ago by Sheikh Zayed himself. The hotel went through a renovation in 1994 when it added the Hiltonia Beach Club, and another renovation in 2015 for the rooms. Currently, the hotel boasts 154 rooms, 38 suites and 135 executive rooms. With 8 restaurants, a jazz bar and a nightclub, there is no dearth of evening entertainment options. In addition to this, the Hiltonia Beach Club and Spa gives you access to an amazing gym, 3 swimming pools, a water slide and a private beach.
The first impression upon entering the hotel is of grandeur. With a big chandelier and a grand staircase leading up to the mezzanine level, the hotel is definitely not gunning for subtle. The reception area is spread out over the large ground floor, but the overall arrangement confused me slightly. At first, I passed the guest services desk, then the concierge desk, then the activities desk and finally at the end of a hallway, was the check-in/reception desk. It seemed a little counter-intuitive to me. However, the staff was very helpful and check-in was done in no time.
King Guest Room
As a Hilton Hhonours Diamond member, the hotel had upgraded us to a King Guest Room with a sea view. Stepping out of the elevator on the 8th floor, the hallways gave me a bit of a cramped feeling. The ceilings were not low enough for me to touch but were low enough to make me feel a bit uncomfortable.
The first thing I noticed was that the room was showing its age. Significantly smaller than other hotels, the room is compact, with a small window that does a great injustice to the view of the Arabian Gulf. Mirrors were lined on the walls to give the illusion of a bigger space.
Every feature of the room stemmed from the age of the hotel and the lack of space – the tea/coffee tray was placed on a small table in the sitting area, the power outlets were only on one side of the bed etc. Frankly, I was a bit surprised and disappointed that this was a room that we were upgraded to and for which they charge an extra 20% from the base room with a city view. A colleague was in the guest room with city view and told us the only difference between the rooms was the mirrors on the wall and the view.
The welcome gift was a selection of savoury mezze (olive tapenade, hummus, cheese etc.) and a chocolate in the shape of a key. Unfortunately, they cleared the plate the next morning before we had a chance to have more than a nibble.
The bathroom did not escape the grip of old age either. The tile grout was peeling in places and the tub had slightly noticeable stains on the bottom. As expected, it was cramped but had the usual Peter Roth amenities, like all Hilton Hotels, available for use.
With Hilton Honors Diamond status, we had access to the Executive Lounge on the 10th floor. Distinctly different from the rest of the hotel, the lounge was sleek and modern with a lovely view of the Gulf. For the number of guests at the hotel, I would have thought that the lounge would be a little too small to accommodate those who had access. However, there were plenty of tables available with an interesting selection of food. I noticed one difference between this Hilton Hotel and the others that I have stayed at. The alcoholic beverages were not on display and I had to ask a member of staff for the options, which were quite limited. Between beer, wine and a couple of other options, there wasn’t much available.
Food, on the other hand, was good. In spite of the small, and somewhat unhealthy & greasy, spread, I was able to sample some canapés that were quite moreish. I would recommend the Salmon Mousse on toast and the Artichoke Puree. The spring rolls and the sausage rolls were a pass for me. The desserts were the standout items with cherry tarts and chocolate mousse tarts. Here are some pictures!
The Sausage Puff. A little heavy on the puff pastry for my liking, but was filling.
The greasiness of the spring rolls overpowered the taste of the filling.
One of my favourites that evening, the Smoked Salmon Mousse. Would highly recommend it.
Another great find for me was the Artichoke Puree/Paste. Great with toast or even with chips!
The desserts were spectacular. They flew right off the shelf
More desserts! The cherry crumble tart was standout
Hiltonia Beach Club & Spa
The one redeeming feature of the hotel is the Hiltonia Beach Club and Spa. The gym was big with updated equipment and big windows overlooking the pool/beach. The club also has 2 huge pools, a small waterpark feature for kids, a poolside bar, a health food kiosk and a spa. The private beach area was empty while I was there (peak of summer) The club offers water sports and other activities for adults and children. At the time that I was there, they were advertising a summer camp for kids with a daily rate of $57 (210 AED) and weekly rate of $255 (940 AED).
Do keep in mind that the club is open for membership for non-guests of the hotel, so it can get pretty packed. However, that’s probably why the gym was so well maintained with one or two personal trainers on duty. Also, if you forget your Towel Card in your room, they’ll make noises about giving you a towel without it. I guess they may have had some issues in the past with people walking off with their towels. The biggest drawback is the location. A guest will have to exit the hotel, walk through the underpass and walk through the parking to the entrance of the club. It doesn’t seem like much unless you’re doing it in 45˚ heat and just want to grab a quick workout.
Breakfast at La Terrazza
I chose not to have breakfast in the Executive Lounge, but to head down to the larger breakfast offering in the all-day dining restaurant La Terrazza on the mezzanine level. The options were varied with an array of continental, Indian and Arabic options. I’m always a fan of the Foul Mudammas for breakfast as it’s warm, filling and packed with nutrients. The pastry options were also hard to walk by.
The hotel hosts a number of restaurants and bars that I have frequented as a non-guest. My personal favourites are the jazz bar with live music and a great ladies night and Toki for authentic Japanese food.
There is a spa in the Hiltonia Beach club, which I didn’t use, but had reasonable rates for treatments in a calming ambience.
A King room with city view will range from approximately $60 (221 AED) to $101 (371 AED) with reward nights starting from 18,000 Hilton Honors points. If you want a Sea View, the rate starts from $70 (258 AED) to $116 (427 AED) with reward nights starting from 21000 points.
As I mentioned earlier, the Hilton Abu Dhabi would not be my first choice whether it be for a family holiday or for a short work trip. At the same price point, I would rather stay at the nearby Le Meridien, Intercontinental, Sheraton or the Beach Rotana for a better experience and room quality. The advantages of the Hiltonia Beach Club could not overshadow the cramped rooms and limited views.