Globetrotter: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort brings luxe island living to Saudi Arabia

Globetrotter: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort brings luxe island living to Saudi Arabia



The Red Sea Project rivals the Maldives in its luxury offering. 

The Red Sea Project is one of the most exciting megaprojects in Saudi Arabia. Epic in scale, it is an ambitious regenerative tourism project, covering 28,000 kilometres of islands, beaches, deserts, mountains and even volcanos. The aim is to be a leading destination for eco-luxury that will have no waste-to-landfill or single-use plastic, and be 100 per cent carbon neutral.

During my previous visit to the Red Sea Project, I didn't even get a glimpse of the ocean. Instead, I travelled inland and delved deep into the natural landscape of the southern dunes and its desert mysteries. This time, I was excited to experience the "Maldives of the Middle East," fully ready to sink my toes into the powder-white sands and dive into the depths of the alluring Red Sea waters.

The St. Regis Red Sea Review

Much has changed in the six months since my last visit to the westernmost reaches of the Kingdom. Red Sea International Airport is accepting international flights and my shimmering pink Lucid electric vehicle delivers me to the Red Sea Seaport minutes after landing. I'm soon riding the waves on my way to Ummahat Islands. Meaning "mother" in Arabic, the archipelago resembles an umbilical cord connecting to a larger fetus-shaped landmass. If you've ever been to the Maldives, you know what to expect: a speedboat ride flanked by dolphins and the occasional turtle that will lead you to paradise. Seaplane transfers are also available.

The true definition of a desert island, The St. Regis Red Sea Resort floats on a sea of sand above emerald green and turquoise blue waters with an unrivalled clarity. I arrived mere days after footballer Cristiano Ronaldo checked out, giving the property the celebrity seal of approval.

Saudi Arabia resort

Luxurious Living

The St. Regis brand is renowned for its luxury living, saberage and signature butler services, all of which have been elevated for this new waterfront resort. A luxurious haven of enduring elegance, The St. Regis Red Sea features 90 overwater and beachfront villas – ranging from one to four bedrooms – each offering a spacious layout and a private pool.

While the boardwalk of overwater villas, which unfurls out to sea like the tentacle of an octopus, will be the preference for many. The beachfront villas are ideal for families. Ensconced into the sand dunes, my appropriately named Dune Villa rises from the shifting sand like the Fremen in the recent Dune movie. The unique accommodation blends organically into the desert with its undulating roofs, hiding a luxurious abode within. Each villa has been designed by Kengo Kuma and epitomises seashore chic with an abundance of blonde wood and a neutral colour palette mirroring the curvature of the sandy shoreline upon which it sits. 

The St. Regis Red Sea Review

I enter the living area with its low-slung couches, bar cart, and large television. A set of double doors with ornate handles replicating slender strands of seaweed leads the way into the bedroom. Here, a comfortable king-sized bed awaits, topped with plump pillows and a deep duvet for a relaxing night's sleep. Ample closet space, fluffy tubes, and plush slippers complete the space. 

Through another set of doors lies the gorgeous bathroom with a free-standing tub, separate shower area, and WC. Double vanities, large mirrors, and not one but two outdoor showers will leave you feeling at one with nature. The decor is a showcase for Saudi storytelling, with floors throughout the villa resembling the pattern of turtle shells, while wooden carvings on the walls are scuffed and engraved to resemble woven palm fronds.

Cocooned from prying eyes, each villa offers a tempting terrace with a private plunge pool and ample sun loungers. With the sand on your doorstep, you can immerse yourself in the waters of the Red Sea mere moments after exiting the villa through its handy electric doors.

The St. Regis Red Sea Review

Destination Dining

As a regular traveller to the Maldives, the culinary experiences can be underwhelming due to the limitations of the destination. However, this was not the case at this remote resort in the middle of the Red Sea. The last thing I expected was a Michelin-worthy meal, but Chef Thomas Colette's degustation menu at Tilina was superb. The two menus are inspired by the shades of sand or the depths of the ocean and are served in a conical shell-shaped restaurant floating above the reef. Tiled to resemble the reflective surface of the shell, the dining room offers a seven-course reeftop dining experience focusing on locally grown and international ingredients.

The St. Regis Red Sea Review

A Japanese restaurant in the middle of the Red Sea is an unexpected treat, but Gishiki 45 deliver a modern izakaya experience anchored around superb sushi, robust ramen and tasty tempura while a violinist deftly plays hits from Dua Lipa to Maroon 5. And because Gishiki means ritual in Japanese, you can expect tableside service and Insta-worthy plating. At the adjacent St. Regis Bar, marvellous mocktails are served, and sunset saberage occurs against an incandescent mural depicting marine life and mermaids.

Positioned at the water's edge, The Beach Club at St. Regis offers a toes-in-the-sand dining destination anchored around light bites and casual fare, while Nesma is a day-to-night eatery serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and a superb weekly seafood night where prawns and calamari are flame-licked to perfection from a live grill.

Beach Club

Fantastic Facilities

While you may never want to leave the villa, there are plenty of ways to luxuriate. The St. Regis Red Sea is home to two swimming pools and a kids club bursting with island-inspired activities.

On the shoreline, the WAMA Watersports Centre encourages guests to enjoy an array of environmentally safe water sports, including sailing, kayaking, wing foiling, and the ever-popular e-foil. For something more serene, guests can snorkel around the Ayqah Pinnacles or dive the Umlujj Wreck, discovering an area vastly untouched by humankind where the coral is intact and teaming with marine life.

The St. Regis Spa is a large complex in the island's centre inspired by the local Saudi culture. Henna designs are intricately traced upon the walls, while an abundance of woven ropes and textiles bring textures and colour to the space. With separate areas for men and women, the spa uses gold-infused AMRA skincare products across its series of signature treatments, which include massages with gold and platinum stones. Sauna, steam rooms, an indoor plunge pool, an outdoor lap pool and a 24/7 fitness centre.


The Verdict

The Red Sea is surrounded by the world's fourth-largest barrier reef system, covering an expansive 28,000 square kilometres. Visitors to The St. Regis Red Sea Resort have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the stunning underwater world including the renowned Blue Hole, a natural marine cavern that separates the property from its luxe neighbour: Nujuma, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve.

After writing about The St. Regis Red Sea resort for several years, seeing it come to fruition in renders and Instagram videos did not prepare me for the luxe island experience that unfolded. From the personalised butler service to lavish accommodations and fantastic food featuring fish caught from the Red Sea waters and locally sourced Umluj mangos, the "Maldives of the Middle East" comparison may be inevitable, but this resort offers much more. 

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort

Visitors to The St. Regis Red Sea can enjoy an unexplored archipelago of pristine natural beauty in one the last remote regions of the world anchored around Saudi culture and St. Regis elegance.

Stays at The St. Regis Red Sea Resort start from SAR 7,000 per night.

GO: Visit for more information.