Review: Shangri-La Abu Dhabi

Filed Under: Hotels

My flight from Washington arrived at around 8PM, and then my flight the next day to Cairo departed at around 9AM, meaning that I really just needed a hotel for eight hours or so. However, I figured I’d take the opportunity to review something new.

While the Premier Inn is connected directly to Abu Dhabi Airport, it looks more like a dorm room than a hotel, so unless I have a very short overnight, I prefer just heading to a hotel near the airport. In terms of hotels nearby, I’ve stayed at the Hyatt Capital Gate and Westin, both of which are great.

However, I’ve also heard great things about the Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri, which is even closer to the airport than those two properties, and is near the mosque. The rate for one night was ~$175. On the surface that’s more than I wanted to pay for a quick overnight, though I booked it through Shangri-La Luxury Circle, so it included a room upgrade, free breakfast, and a $100 property credit. I’d consider that to be a pretty solid deal for a one night layover.

The drive from the airport to the Shangri-La took under 15 minutes, and the first thing that I noticed as we pulled up is that the hotel was on a massive complex, with a hotel, residences, several restaurants, etc. This isn’t some quiet, secluded place, but rather is a destination resort for many. I was sad I only had a quick overnight to spend here.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi exterior

As I got out of the taxi the bellmen were super helpful and insisted on escorting me to reception, which was located inside the (rather grand) lobby and to the left.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi lobby

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi lobby

Even though I was the first person in line, there was about a five minute wait before I was helped. The check-in process was quick once I was called over, and I was also presented with a letter outlining the benefits I’d receive for booking through Luxury Circle.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi welcome letter

I was told that I had been upgraded to a Premier room, and that my room was on the same floor as reception (the fourth floor). So from the entrance I turned right and eventually found myself in the hallway leading to guest rooms. Probably the first 100+ feet of the hallway had big white sheets on the floor, which I found a bit… odd, as there were no visible signs of construction.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi hallway

It was quite a walk to my room (#437), though eventually I found it on the left towards the end of the hallway.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi hallway

I loved the design of the hotel before even stepping into my room — check out the cool lighting fixtures outside the room.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi room exterior

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi floorplan

Inside the door to my room was a small foyer with some art and a table with flowers.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier entryway

Often you’ll see hotels try to integrate some local elements into the furnishings of the room, though this hotel did a great job even integrating it into the architecture of the actual room. Very well done.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room entryway

Inside the entrance and to the right was the king size bed, which was soft and had great pillows.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room

Across from that was a sitting area with two chairs, as well as a console with the TV and minibar.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room sitting area

Between the two chairs was a welcome amenity consisting of fresh fruit and some dessert, including dates.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room welcome amenity

The minibar had a selection of soft drinks, wine, and beer, and next to it was a kettle. I didn’t see a coffee machine, so I suspect they just offered hot water and instant coffee.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room minibar

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room kettle

In a partitioned off area to the side was an office area.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room desk

Then past that was a sizable closet (at least for a non-suite).

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room closet

And then next to that, back towards the entrance, was the large bathroom area. The bathroom featured a sink, tub, walk-in shower, and partitioned off toilet and bidet.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room bathroom

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room toilet & bidet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room bathtub

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room shower

I was impressed by the number of amenities they had in the room (rather than having to call down for some of these things), though I thought that their toiletries smelled a bit unusual.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room toiletries

The room also had a balcony, which I photographed in the morning when it was light out. It had a chair and table, as well as a cozy nook.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room balcony

The balcony had views of the beach, waterfront, and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the distance.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Premier room view

Overall I thought the room was spacious and well appointed. I loved the way they integrated some local elements into the design, though I did think the room felt maybe a little bit dated. That’s not a major problem, since it wasn’t dated to the point of feeling shabby, but I think in a few years the hotel could use a refresh.

While my stay at the hotel was short, I did try to check out some of the facilities. The hotel’s gym is located in a separate building, I believe over by the Shangri-La residences. While the path would otherwise be a bit confusing, the hotel has signage to guide you, in the form of yellow feet painted onto the floor.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi walkway to gym

The architecture of this property is incredible and surprising. There are some canals where I guess you could take boat rides — hah.

Beautiful Shangri-La Abu Dhabi property

Beautiful Shangri-La Abu Dhabi property

Beautiful Shangri-La Abu Dhabi property

Beautiful Shangri-La Abu Dhabi property

The walk to the other building took about five minutes, and once there I saw the door to the spa and gym. The gym is open from 6AM until 11PM, so I visited just shortly before it closed. The hotel has a separate gym for men and women.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi gym signage

The gym itself looked fairly good.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi gym

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi gym

There was also an outdoor pool area on the roof with an incredible view of the mosque.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi pool

View of Sheikh Zayed Mosque from Shangri-La Abu Dhabi

I worked for several hours and then eventually ordered some room service, given that I had the $100 food & beverage credit to spend. I still didn’t even get close to spending that, and in a way I need to stop accounting for food & beverage credits for quick one night stays where eating unnecessarily really isn’t in my best interest. 😉

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi room service

Shortly after sunrise I checked out the hotel’s beach. Ultimately it’s not as nice as what you’ll find on Saadiyat Island (where the Park Hyatt and St. Regis are located), but it’s still a nice area.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi beach

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi beach

The views of the mosque were equally beautiful during the day.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque by day from the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi

The hotel has multiple pools, so below is a picture of one of the pools near the beach.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi pool

Breakfast is served at Sofra bld, one of the hotel’s restaurants, from 6AM until 10:30AM. The restaurant is large, and I was among the only people there. I found the service to be disappointing — I was offered coffee when I arrived, but wasn’t offered any refills, and plates weren’t cleared. It’s one thing if there were servers in the area and I could have flagged them down, but I rarely saw anyone.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi Sofra bld Restaurant

The buffet itself was over the top, as you’d expect in the region. If I had one complaint, I wish that they had Indian food (I’ve had some of the best Indian food outside of India in the Middle East, and many hotels incorporate this into their breakfast buffets).

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

On the plus side, the hotel did have ice cream, as any civilized breakfast buffet in the region should. 😉

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi breakfast buffet

At around 7:30AM I checked out of the hotel and headed back to Abu Dhabi Airport for my flights to Cairo and back. Unfortunately the check-out process took about 15 minutes. I’m not sure why, but that was despite the fact that there was no wait to be helped. Instead the associate just took forever to process my check-out.

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi bottom line

I had a good stay at the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi, and a quick overnight wasn’t enough time to experience all that the hotel has to offer. This hotel has a convenient location if transiting through Abu Dhabi Airport, and is right near the mosque, which is one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular tourist attractions. Beyond that, the Shangri-La is a popular destination for the great restaurants, beach, and other activities it offers. With Luxury Circle benefits, I’d say this was a pretty good value as well.

So, would I return? As much as I’d recommend the hotel for certain types of people, personally I probably wouldn’t. If I’m actually visiting Abu Dhabi as a destination, I prefer to stay closer to the city. Meanwhile for a quick overnight I’d rather earn elite credits in my preferred hotel loyalty programs and stay at the Westin, Aloft, or Hyatt, but that’s just me.

  1. Never stayed at a Shangri-La and maybe it was just the lighting of the room in the pics that you took of the room but it looks a little underwhelming considering I’ve always thought of a Shangri-La as a ultra high end hotel chain. Granted, I always thought a Shangri-La is usually priced in the $300 and above range but you were able to get this one for $175 a night so my perception may be totally off.

  2. Ben, great review as usual.

    However, you mentioned a lack of Indian food at the buffet. Not sure if you noticed but one of your breakfast photos has chana, batura and sambar in it, which are Indian breakfast items 🙂

  3. That place is a must for me. I stay at the Traders, which is on the same resort and has excellent value for money, especially since you can go to the main Shangri-La for dinner -the dinner buffet is lavish, I paid 250 AED flat and I probably ate 500 AED worth of caviar, and the vietnamese restaurant is also gorgeous-. While there are better hotels in Abu Dhabi, this place is a very relaxed area and unlike other places it doesn’t feel like an island, you have a big area at your disposal and are not limited to one hotel property.

  4. Ben, I was travelling while you were in Abu Dhabi and missed the actual updates and I am sorry. We visited again in April and I found a place you’d love – a private island off Saadiyat (15 mins boat ride) and you can visit just for the day (buy a day pass for $115 which is in fact a food & beverage credit). Very Maldivian and pretty interesting. Here’s a suggestion to a future trip to Abu Dhabi

    I stayed at Shangri La on my first visit, and at St Regis Saadiyat on my second, which I much preferred. This time we had to switch to the St Regis City Centre as more friends decided to join us last minute and Saadiyat did not have rooms for everyone. Next time, definitely Saadiyat again! But with a day trip (or 2, as we did) to Zaya Nurai

  5. The Fairmont, next door to the Shangri-La, is also a nice hotel … but then there is no shortage of nice hotels in Abu Dhabi since most of them are not very old.

  6. Anybody else notice the bro at check-in with the popped collar and pastel shorts?

    We really need to work, as a country, on keeping our douchebags hidden rather than exporting them.

  7. We stayed in that exact room just two levels above you. But those two levels really made a difference in the view. We were over the trees and the view during the day and night was amazing. I’d suggest people ask for a higher floor if they stay at the hotel.

  8. I haven’t stayed there – I was at the St. Regis downtown – but did you there for dinner. Lovely property with so/so service, as is frequently the case in the UAE. The food was well prepared, however.

  9. The Premier Inn you mention is actually decent for what it is. Tarmac views, pretty quiet, and nice staff.

  10. I usually stay at the Aloft in AUH, which I like quite a bit. The service is somewhat better, although not spectacular. The breakfast buffet is not as big, but has plenty for all tastes. And it’s more convenient to the city than the Shangri-La. The Mosque is an absolute must visit if you are in AUH and have the time.

  11. I recently stayed at the Shangri-La in Dubai and I have to say I would make similar comments about that property as well. The hotel was also in need of a refresh, not offensively bad, but with so many nice, new hotels in the market, it really does not make sense to stay at a property that is showing its wear, unless they offer stellar service. Similarly check in and out seemed to take much longer than at other hotels. The only other Shangri-La I have stayed at was the one in Taipei – and that hotel was magnificent! I hope you earned SQ miles for your stay!

  12. Thank you @Faraaz!
    *”Battura and Sambar are Indian breakfast dishes!”*
    (Maybe since they’re South Indian he didn’t know).

    That’s literally the first picture of food after the comment in the review.

    I also thought, “Well you had freshly prepared Indian food at your disposal in the lounge at Dulles, but chose not to eat it…,” but I figured that was too petty to mention.

    Otherwise that’s a beautiful hotel! What a great price even without the credits. But you’re still out if pocket the whole $175+ even if you get a “credit and breakfast”, while a quick check on the price at the link to the Premier Inn you supplied was only $42 including fees/taxes….plus the savings of a roundtrip taxi/Uber–and the extra time for relaxing or sleeping since you can literally walk there and back.

    But I’m glad you sprung for the luxury. It gives me another choice of where to stay.

  13. LOVED this review (as all of your reviews). This hotel is super lavish and i loved the design in the walls & overall atmosphere. Sad beach though. Great review!

  14. I can’t be the only person who clicked on the premier inn link and thought, that looks decent.

  15. Ritz Carlton (seen across the inlet in one of your pics) is my first choice.
    The finest Club Lounge in Abu Dhabi.

  16. Nice review. BTW, you mention, “It was quite a walk to my room (#437)”, but the hotel floor map picture a bit further down shows you were in room #347.

  17. “I still didn’t even get close to spending that, and in a way I need to stop accounting for food & beverage credits for quick one night stays where eating unnecessarily really isn’t in my best interest. ”

    It’s hard to not see a hotel credit as free money. I’m finally starting to look at what breakfast or dinner would cost and only valuing the credit at that amount. It’s way too easy to say that a room is $175 but I have a $50 resort credit and $50 spa credit and late check out. Those amenities only have value if you are staying for a few days, and then the value gets diminished over the length of the stay. I’m sure the hotels are accounting for this “breakage” when they issue these rates.

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