Located just back from the Red Sea-fronting white-sand beach, the Kempinski Hotel Aqaba Red Sea is one of the leading luxury hotels in Jordan’s only coastal resort.
The hotel is shaped like a crescent, with all rooms looking out to the Red Sea and across to the Israeli resort of Eilat. The shops, coffee houses, shisha cafes and old market of Aqaba city are a 10-minute walk away. King Hussein International Airport is a 10-minute drive from the hotel, which can provide a private transfer.
Security at the hotel’s entrance gate was strict and there was a second bag check to get into the lobby. There are seemingly liquor stores on nearly every street corner in Aqaba but city hotels prohibit you from bringing in your own booze. The smallish check-in desk is located at the end of a huge bright and airy lobby that is bookended at one end by one of the hotel’s signature restaurants, the Lebanese themed Rehan, and at the other a bar and lounge area that leads onto a terrace. I was met with a mint and lemonade welcome drink and plenty of smiles. A hotel staff member sat with me as I filled out the various bits of paperwork before waking me to the lift and my room.
My Premier Club Room (627) was spacious, bright and comfortably air-conditioned. The all-white look – wardrobes, floor tiling, bed linen, baths and walls, chair, etc. – gave it a super fresh and clean feel. An expansive balcony, with tables and chairs, looked down on the swimming pool and the loungers and umbrellas on the hotel’s beach. There was a separate bath and shower and toiletries were by Jordanian company Trinitae, with products featuring Dead sea oils and minerals. Other room features included a Dallmayr Capsa coffee machine and a free selection of alcoholic beverages and snacks in the mini bar. Guests in this category of room also benefit from complimentary snacks and drinks in the lounge from 18.00 to 20.00.
Due to its prolific sea life, Aqaba is one of the world’s top locations for snorkelling, diving and other watersports. The menu at signature restaurant Rehan is taken from Kempinski’s flagship resort on the Dead Sea: there’s the largest selection of hummus varietals you will likely see anywhere and a staggering number of meat, fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes to choose from. Anyone who likes the UK versions of a Middle Eastern restaurant will be in seventh heaven here. Two al fresco restaurants are also classy: Oleo – The Grill, with various meat and seafood options, and Crust, a poolside restaurant offering drinks and a menu of prepared salads, oven-baked pizza and pasta.
On the top floor, the refreshingly breezy 700 Lounge is a classy al fresco bar that offers hand-carefully crafted cocktails with surely some of the best views of any bar in Jordan look across the Red Sea to views of both Israel and Egypt. There is a full-service spa (access to Steam and Sauna are complimentary for guests who book any spa experience/treatment), a fitness centre and very large pool with a swim-up bar.
The hotel delivers on all the expected ‘delivery points of what a five-star hotel should be: contemporary and chic, attentive and helpful (and seemingly happy) staff, luxury rooms, top-class cuisine and plenty of communal relaxation spots that pull off the trick of offering lots of privacy. There is a delightful ambience to it, best illustrated at night by the soft facade and pathway lighting, which added a little extra stardust to the moonshine reflecting off the Red Sea.
The Kempinksi Hotel Aqaba Red Sea makes the perfect base for a few days unwinding at the end of a Jordan-wide tour that could include Amman, the capital; Jerash, with its preserved Roman ruins; The Dead Sea, Petra and the desert camps of Wadi Rum (think backdrop for the classic movie Lawrence of Arabia). I visited in August, which, due to temperatures rising to above 100F, is always relatively quiet time – but is the perfect month to enjoy the hotel away from the crowds.
The only slight negative was the very small swimming area in the sea, which meant that I could never get out of my depth before hitting the boundary rope. I suspect this is in place mostly to stay away from the glass-bottom boats sightseeing boast that pick-up and drop off guests from the small wooden pier at close to the end of the beach.
Note that flights with Turkish Airlines operate from Aqaba to London, via Istanbul.
Rates for a Premier Club room start from around 250 Jordanian dinars (about £300) for a night in August. The hotel’s website lists several flexible rates and stay and dine packages.