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Journeys in the land of Frankincense at Alila Hinu Bay

It’s hard not to fall head over heels in awe of the five-star Alila Hinu Bay, beautifully placed between a long, scenic – and very Instagrammable – beach and a freshwater lagoon, the resort borders the traditional fishing village of Mirbat. FACT’s David Tapley couldn’t think of anywhere better to rest, relax and recharge. Here’s how he got on… 

Oman has often been touted as the Jewel of Arabia and an up-and-coming tourist destination. However, getting off the beaten tourist track is highly rewarding in Oman and nowhere more so than in Salalah in the country’s Southern Dhofar region.

Sleepy Salalah is a destination that offers the kind of landscapes that speak to your soul; silent, rocky wadis, turquoise waves lapping white sandy shores and plenty of mountainside moments – where you might spot a tribe of goats moving over rugged ground as 4×4 vehicles whizz by. It is the Middle East after all, and Salalah offers raw, unfiltered surroundings without a single skyscraper in sight. 

Our FlyDubai flight brings us across mountains and wild coastlines during a comfortable 90-minute flight from Dubai International Airport. On the ground, we couldn’t be any further from the busy metropolis from which we embarked. Engulfed in the woody aroma of Frankincense as the Maghreb prayer calls out from spindly minarets, there’s no warmer welcome to Oman.

Well known for its annual khareef (a colloquial Arabic term for monsoon) season, Dhofar and its chief port city, Salalah, is the only place in the Gulf that experiences an annual monsoon season, and its mist-shrouded mountains tend to be a big draw for heat-stricken GCC residents between the months of July and September. However, Salalah enjoys a pleasant climate year-round and the residual effects of the khareef create a dazzling pocket of green in a sea of dust.  

Alila Hinu Bay
Luxurious Living

Nestled amidst rocky outcrops, Alila Hinu Bay is a resort fully immersed in its natural environment, where low-rise villas complement rather than disrupt the landscapes, blending effortlessly into the rugged natural environment. The resort opened in June 2021 and boasts 112 accommodations, including 96 guest rooms and 16 pool villas set back from a stunning stretch of private beachfront. The luxurious resort has been built in traditional Omani architecture that is tastefully accentuated by Hinu Bay’s stark, rugged beauty. 

We arrived late in the evening and were greeted warmly before being whisked off in a golf buggy to get acquainted with our 166 SQM Pool Villa. The Villa was indeed a slice of paradise, decorated in a minimalist Omani style, with a large bedroom, a living area, a bathroom (with rainfall shower and outdoor tub) and an ocean-facing furnished veranda.

Decorated with carved wooden mashrabiya, woven rugs and spinning ceiling fans, the comfortable bedroom was both cosy and inviting. Large sliding doors open onto a spacious terrace with a private heated swimming pool and a sunken majlis that look out across slender palm trees towards the ocean. Given its remote location, don’t be surprised to see herds of camels weaving their way through the resort. 

Alila Hinu Bay
Destination Dining

With three restaurants on-site, Alila Hinu Bay offers something for every palate and preference. From morning coffee rituals or an afternoon slice of cake at The Lobby Lounge to ingredient-led dining inspired by the flavours of the Frankincense Route at The Orchard. Breakfast at the modern all-day-dining restaurant is like walking into a bona fide food paradise; served in the stylish dining room or on the terrace beside the infinity pool, there’s a full-to-the-brim buffet packed with pastries galore, a fruit station, cereal and bread for days, healthy smoothies and juices to kick-start your system, and an egg menu featuring all the indulgent favourites including brick-sized French Toast, Pancakes dripping in maple syrup, savoury classics like Eggs Florentine and even a host of Arabic options such as shakshuka. By night the restaurant transforms into an intimate space where local delicacies such as camel and kunafa-wrapped prawns keep diners returning for more.

However, it’s the ocean-facing SeaSalt that had us enchanted. The elevated restaurant, complete with cabanas and a family-friendly swimming pool, offers a relaxed space to indulge in a menu of Southeast Asian-focused dishes, cuts of meat and fresh seafood straight from the grill. This is the place to indulge in Omani lobster prepared with a variety of sauces, dim sum, baos, spring rolls and a fiery tom yum soup. 

Alila Hinu Bay
Unrestrained relaxation

As a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, Alila Hinu Bay offers several exciting excursions, including mountain biking and sea kayaking. For something a little less strenuous, guests are actively encouraged to participate in sunrise yoga on the beach and a variety of fitness classes and meditation exercises. Alternatively, you can make like FACT’s Editor-in-Chief and hit the spa to experience the age-old healing traditions of Oman. Spa Alila Hinu Bay can be found in a standalone building close to the hotel reception and offers bespoke massage therapies based upon personal preference. We’d recommend the signature Frankincense massage, which uses the resin of the Boswellia tree in combination with deliberately slow strokes to promote deep relaxation and stimulate circulation.

Alila Hinu Bay
Back to nature

At Hinu Bay, you have an impressive topography that sees beaches, mountains and desert, all within 20 kilometres of the resort. Exploring Oman’s Dhofar region is a must when staying at Alila Hinu Bay, as everywhere you look provides a new experience for the senses. There are palm tree-lined roads with open-air shops selling fresh coconuts and spectacular viewpoints over untouched white beaches lapped by the strikingly turquoise Indian Ocean. One can gape at rugged peaks with twisted, yet noble frankincense trees growing improbably out of the rock, whose peeling bark fills the air with a nostalgically ancient smell. Venture to sweeping beaches whose only sunbathers are camels. There is wonder to be found everywhere you go in Salalah, and all of this with hardly another tourist in sight. 

Further inland, one can explore the many wadis and green mountains, and if visiting around the khareef season, you can also expect to see plenty of waterfalls. On the way to Wadi Darbat, we pass through a baobab forest that has sprung to life with vegetation, where treetop canopies are home to giant spiders nimbly weaving impressive webs. We pass through remote mountain villages that are a hubub for shopping, where elderly Omani men recline on plastic furniture at coffee shops that are bursting at the seams as people flock to enjoy the cool climate and mountain vistas.

Alila Hinu Bay

We were pleased to see that Salalah lived up to its fabled natural beauty and was not lacking in the hospitality that is so characteristic of Omani culture. Indeed, Dhofar may yet be one of the last places to capture the allure of Arabia as described in folk stories such as One Thousand and One Nights. It’s a place where you can feel suspended in time.

If you’re looking for a remote retreat, then Alila Hinu Bay is the place for you. Less than a two-hour flight from Dubai, and yet far removed from the over-the-top glitz and soaring skyscrapers, Salalah is the perfect weekend destination when you need a break from the fake.

Alila Hinu Bay

GO: Visit for reservations and more information.

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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As editor-in-chief of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publication, David is a self-proclaimed hip-hop aficionado, championing all things food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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