Hotel Review: The St. Regis Red Sea Resort

The Red Sea’s first island retreat hits the high notes with its fusion of local flavour and splashy St Regis glamour…

If you’re curious about what the future of Saudi Arabia’s promising tourism sector will look like, The St. Regis Red Sea Resort serves as an excellent window.

In January 2024, this St Regis hotel became the first island resort to open at The Red Sea, a major milestone for a destination that is also a pioneer, serving as the first Saudi gigaproject to welcome guests.

The numbers at this alluring, all-encompassing destination on Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast are astounding: a sprawling 28,000 square kilometres development, 90 untouched islands, the world’s fourth largest barrier reef system. By the end of 2025, visitors will have a choice of 16 hotels to check-in to. By 2030, that number will have reached 50. But still, just 1 per cent of The Red Sea will be developed, ensuring the natural beauty and wildlife are protected.

The project encompasses developments on both land and sea, but it’s on the most remote of the Red Sea’s islands for development – Ummahat Islands – that we find ourselves checking-in to The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. Check-in and check it out with us… 


The St Regis Red Sea Resort is one of two luxury resorts in Ummahat Islands, with neighbouring Nujuma, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, opening later this month.

The remote location of this gorgeous island destination is part of its appeal, but thanks to direct flights to Red Sea International Airport (RSI) from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dubai, it’s becoming increasingly accessible. Once you touch down at RSI, it’s either a 25 minute seaplane or 45 minute yacht transfer to the resort.

On a scenic boat ride, we pass the under-construction Shura Island – where 11 resorts will open next year – and a handful of fishing boats, but the closer we get to the resort, the less we see. Calm ocean hues meld into the gloriously blue sky, the horizon the only differentiator between the two. The resort unrolls against the entire almost 3km-long island, ringed by a pristine coral reef.

Look and feel

The resort strikes the right balance between splashy St Regis glamour and stripped back natural beauty, and the result is a property that offers just the right amount of sophisticated and style, while still allowing the local influence to shine through. Despite being on a remote island, some 300 species of tree and plant have been landscaped into the island, which only adds to its beauty. But the real wow-factor in terms of natural features comes from the water that surrounds the resort, impossibly clear and shimmering a sensational turquoise blue, gaze at it for mere seconds and you’ll instantly feel relaxed. Back on land, guests get around either in butler-chauffered buggies, or by snapping up a St Regis bicycle, the latter becoming my personal preference for best enjoying the island’s natural charms.

There’s a rustic-luxe aesthetic across the property, everything is low-lying, with curved lines, lots of wooden elements, and lots of glass-fronting that ensures even when you’re inside, you feel like you’re outside. Natural hues of soft beige and sand prove popular in the restaurants and spa, laced with artworks made from recycled materials, and textured walls inspired by the endless blue shades of the ocean. Every now and again, the glamour of the St Regis brand shines through in spaces like the Celebration Bar in the spa, where a sparkling glass chandelier adds a touch of razzle-dazzle, or when sundowners at The St Regis Bar come with an alcohol-free Champagne sabering ritual.


A spaciously laid out collection of 90 villas either dot the beachfront – with both sunrise and sunset options; or are set on stilts overwater across two jetty’s, again with either sunrise and sunset vistas. Each a lesson in seclusion and sophistication. Beachfront Dune Villas, designed to look like small dunes themselves, all come with private pools, their own stretch of sand that leads right to the sea, and close proximity to all of the island’s culinary and leisure offerings. But the Coral Villas over the water are the ones to book for true island allure. Coral by name, coral by nature, oceanic notes are everywhere in the villas – from the various shades of blue and white, to the seashell shapes printed into the textural bathroom wall, a coral printed carpet under a king sized bed dressed in Frette linens, and the various coral-inspired artworks across the living and sleeping areas.

These shell-shaped abodes flood with natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows that run much of one side, while an expansive deck set with chairs, loungers and a temperature-controlled pool is a perfect place to switch off and enjoy dazzling views of the water. A bonus for marine-life enthusiasts is the direct steps to the sea. Hire some snorkelling equipment from the resort, and discover the rainbow-hued aquatic world beneath.


On the island, much of the leisure offering revolves around relaxation, and when you can tear yourself away from your private pool, there’s both a family-friendly pool and an adult pool with a jacuzzi adjacent at The Beach Club. The stretch of sand infront of the beachclub is also lined with luxe cabanas, wooden frames surrounded by billowing curtains, within which guests recline on day beds, sipping refreshing non-alcoholic drinks and grazing on the Mediterranean-inspired beach club menu. The resort’s spa is also a sensory treat when you’re in need of a little R&R, with treatment rooms for singles and couples, plus a VIP treatment room with plunge pool and whirlpool bath that can be booked exclusively. Start your experience at the Celebration Bar with a glass of alcohol-free bubbles while picking out your choice of Amara oil, then enjoy facilities including a bubbling jacuzzi, alfresco vitality pool, or steam and sauna ahead of your treatment. Warmly lit treatment rooms are lovely spaces to bliss out as you enjoy a massage or body ritual, then afterwards each come with their own relaxation terrace, perfect for those that seek more privacy. If you’re happy to mingle with other spa guests, head to the mixed Iridium Lounge and enjoy the views of the alfresco facilities and landscaped gardens as you sip a fresh mint or chamomile tea.

Off the resort, an unmissable part of the activity roster is a chance to experience the colourful underwater world of the Al Jadeer Reef, a 30 minute boat ride from the island with a morning or afternoon of snorkelling. You can tell there’s something special about the reef before your fins even touch the water, as we sit poised to dive in, you can already sea the corals shimmering below the surface. Once we’re in, the true majesty of the reef is revealed. I’ve snorkelled before, but I’ve never seen anything like this. The first part of the reef is shallower, and we drift by shoals of colourful little fish in shades of orange and blue. As we get deeper into the reef, the true diversity of this rainbow-hued underwater world comes to life. Corals in cornflower blue, delicate violet and mustard yellow; fish in every colour – yellow, orange, turquoise, some with lightning stripes of blue, others with leopard prints, unbothered by our presence, go about their day along the reef. The water clarity is unmatched – and even as we go deeper, you can still see the bottom some 12 metres below.

We begin to head back to land, perfectly contented with our fill of aquatic life despite no sightings of turtles or rays that other guests were fortunate to see, our captain Abdulrahman takes a detour, his experienced eye having seen something in the distance. Going off course is rewarding – and a pod of almost 20 dolphins appear out of nowhere, happily jumping alongside the boat, racing us playfully across the Red Sea. It’s a mesmerising way to spend a morning.


A well curated mix of restaurants and lounges means that all tastes are catered to across the culinary portfolio. Breakfast, and all-day dining is offered at Middle Eastern-influenced Nesma, which means sea breeze in Arabic, and is one of several beachfront-facing dining options. For breakfast, there’s a continental buffet of fresh fruits, yoghurt, cold cuts and mezze, and you’re able to order your choice of eggs a half dozen ways, pancakes, or a fluffy french toast with a pistachio crumb.

For a relaxed way to ease into the night, I start one evening perched up on a beanbag at St Regis Bar, a refreshing Coral Mary (their non-alcoholic twist on the St Regis signature) in hand and toes in the sand, before making my way to Gishiki (pictured above), the Japanese restaurant next door. Chef John Mark Gayramara helms the kitchen, inviting guests to dine facing the beach on modern Japanese flavours created – where possible – using locally sourced ingredients.

But my standout meal unrolls against the backdrop of beautiful overwater restaurant, Tilina (pictured above). I find myself here twice in three days. Once when the sunset Sabrage ceremony is moved here from the St Regis Bar. It’s been a cloudy day, so my expectations for a good sunset are low, but despite the cloudy skies, a convoy of ant-like buggies make their way to Tilina at 6.30pm. A violin plays, a bottle of French Bloom is sabered, then glasses of bubbly are passed round to guests, and everyone seems satisfied with the subtle hues of pastel pink that dance on the horizon. Then it starts changing, the clouds that were previously concealing the sun begin to break, their streaks now providing the perfect tapestry for a sunset that starts to turn pink, then red, then yellow, then a glorious flame orange. It’s so moving, I return here the following night to sample the culinary offering, and it’s just as impressive as the sunset the night prior. A degustation menu masterminded by chef Thomas Colette fuses his French background with local inspiration, resulting in a seven-course menu that sees each course inspired by a different layer of the ocean. Everything is prettily plated and packed with flavour, but the ‘Coral’ course is most impressive, a zero-waste dish of grilled lobster, a lobster sambusek, and even a lobster consome made with crushed lobster shell.


There’s a genuine heart to the service that can’t be taught by an SOP manual, and only comes from a true passion for hospitality. The team are well versed in the St Regis brand standards, and my butler Fuzail, reachable via WhatsApp, was on hand to help with packing and unpacking, laundry pressing, spa bookings, and buggy rides wherever and whenever I wanted to go. The butlers are knowledgeable on all the resort happenings, from a sunset Sabrage ceremony at overwater restaurant, Tilina; to the prices of the various watersports offered at WAMA. But they also genuinely care that you’re having a good time.


A one-night stay for two in a one-bedroom Dune Villa starts from Dhs5,390 including breakfast.

This summer, the resort is also offering a special rate with the Summer Splendor package, with villas priced from SAR4,700, including daily breakfast for two and 20 per cent off dining and spa treatments. Book by August 31 for stays from June 23 until August 31 using code YX1.


There’s a lot resting on the debut showcase of luxury island escapes at the Red Sea. But The St. Regis Red Sea Resort sets the bar high with its superlative blend of natural beauty, intuitive service, and Saudi storytelling.

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort, Ummahat Island, The Red Sea, Saudi Arabia 48501. Tel: (966) 14 504 0000. marriott.com