(CNN) — What do you think about when you think of a Doha vacation? Dune-bashing drives into the desert, perhaps? Or splashing out in style inside vast malls and seaside strolling in the shadow of glitzy skyscrapers?
Just off the coast of the Qatari capital lies a whole different proposition.
Operated by Thailand-based Anantara, the resort can be reached via catamaran setting off from Dhow Harbour (just by the spectacular Museum of Islamic Arts), by private yacht, or by helicopter.
If you belong in the first category, you’ll be greeted with warm smiles as you board the luxury ferry where you’ll be offered Arabian coffee, dates and water. Some 20 minutes later, the sound of beating drums will welcome you onto the 13-acre island — and usher you into a world of total relaxation.
Big on comfort and lavishness, the resort strikes a great, Maldives-like first impression — think golden sands, palm-thatched roofs and opulent rooms overlooking turquoise waters.
Rooms, villas and bungalows
There are 141 guest rooms, all decorated with Arabic designs.
Dimitris Sideridis Photography
Its accommodation options range from 55-square-meter sea view rooms to 360-square-meter overwater bungalows fully equipped with lounging decks and private infinity pools.
The 141 guest rooms, villas and bungalows are decorated with Arabic designs and feature deluxe mosaic-adorned bathrooms. They’re all 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,” says Alexander Köhler, a 26-year-old Doha resident from South Africa who makes the short ferry trip to Banana Island every few months.
“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.”
When not lounging on the private 800-meter beach, guests have plenty of options, including a long list of outdoor activities such as diving, kayaking, snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding. You can also learn how to conquer the waves on surfing simulators.
For something more relaxing — and more Instagrammable — you can jump on the sea swing that swishes above the ocean shallows.
You can enjoy 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 you need a break from the hot Gulf sun, there are several indoor options available, including relieving stress at the island’s spa and wellness center. You can also test your 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.
Since its launch in 2015, after construction work that took some three years to complete, the resort has welcomed more than 1.4 million guests, according to Anna Claudia Calderon, the resort’s communications marketing manager.
Apart from overnight guests, particularly from Qatar itself as well as Germany, Russia and the UK, the resort has become popular with day-trippers seeking fun and calm away from Doha’s traffic-clogged streets before taking the ferry — or the helicopter — back to the vibrant Gulf metropolis.