(CNN) — Overwater villas, golden sands and beautiful turquoise water don’t necessarily come to mind when envisioning a vacation in Doha.
But just off the coast of the Qatari capital lies a top destination that offers all of that and more.
Operated by Thailand-based Anantara, the luxury resort island lays claim to Qatar’s only overwater bungalows, some of which are fully equipped with lounging decks and private infinity pools, as well as one of just two overwater bungalow resorts in the Gulf region — the second is the Palm Resort in Dubai.
World of relaxation
Big on comfort and lavishness, Banana Island strikes a great, Maldives-like first impression with its palm-thatched roofs and opulent rooms overlooking the sea.
The luxury resort can be reached via catamaran from Dhow Harbour (located near to the Museum of Islamic Arts) or by private yacht.
Those who opt for the former will be greeted with warm smiles as they board the ferry, where they can sample Arabian coffee, dates and water during the journey.
Some 20 minutes later, guests are welcomed onto the 13-acre island by the sound of beating drums, ushering into a world of total relaxation.
The 141 guest rooms, villas and bungalows here are decorated with Arabic designs and feature deluxe mosaic-adorned bathrooms, all of which are stocked up with automatically controlled curtains, flat-screen TVs, mini-bars and coffee machines.
“What impressed me the most was how large a basic room was,” Alexander Köhler, a 26-year-old Doha resident from South Africa who makes the short ferry trip to Banana Island every few months, said in 2019.
“I had a comfortable recliner on my porch with a beautiful view of the ocean,” he added. “The bathrooms were very impressive, as was the restaurant on the ocean — you could see fish swimming right underneath you.”
There are 141 guest rooms, all decorated with Arabic designs.
Dimitris Sideridis Photography
When they’re not lounging on the private 800-meter beach, guests have a long list of outdoor activities to keep them occupied.
Think diving, kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddle boarding, or conquering the waves on a surfing simulator.
Those looking for something slightly more relaxing may prefer to jump onto the Instagram-friendly sea swing, which swishes above the ocean shallows.
The resort also provides a number of experiences and day trips and experiences including an afternoon tea tour, a private “dining by design” experience for special occasions and various spa treatments.
Visitors from overseas should remember that Qatar is an Islamic country and, in line with local custom, Banana Island is a dry resort. Guests can’t bring their own alcohol to enjoy in private.
But they can sip mocktails by the lagoon pool, play beach sports and hit the golf course or simply fuel up in one of the island’s numerous restaurants serving anything from traditional Middle Eastern and Asian delicacies to American diner classics and Italian fine dining.
A fleet of electric golf carts is always at hand to ferry you around.
Gulf sun getting too much? Dive in the pool.
Dimitris Sideridis Photography
If the hot Gulf sun gets too much, there are several indoor activities to choose from.
Guests have the option to relax at the island’s spa and wellness center, test their bowling skills in a multi-lane alley, play pool and foosball or curl up amongst pillows and blankets while watching blockbusters inside an exclusive 20-seat movie theater.
A big hit with families, there’s also a children’s cinema as well as kids’ clubs, including a pool with slides.
Apart from overnight guests, particularly from Qatar itself as well as Germany, Russia and the UK, the resort is also popular with day-trippers seeking fun and calm away from Doha’s traffic-clogged streets before taking the ferry back to the vibrant Gulf metropolis.
This story was originally published in January 2019 and updated in October 2021.