Bahrain has hundreds of years' experience in welcoming guests. Located in the heart of the Middle East, Bahrain has always been an important transit point for travellers between East and West in past centuries.
Today Bahrain welcomes nearly five times as many visitors every year as its own population. And these guests are spoilt for choice, with more than 100 hotels to pick from, in every budget and style.
One promise that applies to all hotels in Bahrain: you will be pampered by the famous Middle Eastern hospitality. The climate dictates: every five-star and most other hotels offer an outdoor swimming pool, sun-beds and chilled refreshments. Forget about the rain and snow in your part of the world, rest by the pool and sip on a cocktail. Heavenly!
Even if you stay with family or friends, you will still find yourself being drawn to the hotels. Some of the best restaurants, clubs and pubs are located in the hotels. They also host a variety of special events such as balls, fun nights, cultural events and concerts. Check the local media to find out what is on and where.
Bahrain being the financial centre of the Middle East, business travellers get special attention here. Just make a reservation, provide your flight details and leave the rest to the hotels. The leading hotel chains are equipped with special rooms, designed for business visitors. Ask for the Executive Floor to enjoy butler service, extensive amenities, Internet-enabled computers, fax machines and a free meeting room to meet your business partners!
Bahrain's top hotels all offer conference facilities, so whether you're entertaining a party of 10 or 1,000, you will find a venue tailor-made for your needs.
Let me take you on a tour of Bahrain's best accommodations. We'll start at the top of the island, at the luxurious Ritz Carlton (formerly Le Royal Meridien). The only five-star beachfront hotel and resort in Bahrain, it includes 55 acres of tropical gardens, a private beach and a splendid view of Manama's skyline. Don't forget to pay a visit to the Royal Spa. It's treatment that is out of this world!
Construction will soon be completed on 23 deluxe villas and on Bahrain's most amazing apartment complex, the 15-storey Sail Tower. All of these establishments are included in the famous personal guest services of The Ritz Carlton.
As we move towards the centre of Manama, we reach the Regency InterContinental. This is the largest hotel on the island in terms of number of guestrooms. The Regency is just steps away from the Manama souk - which you will find yourself visiting time and again. Le Versace, Bahrain's only five-star French restaurant, is located here.
A few minutes drive down the Corniche is the Sheraton Bahrain Hotel & Towers, located just next to Diplomatic Area, the business district of Manama. The Manama souk is still within walking distance from here, but there are more upscale stores just next to the Sheraton in the form of the Bahrain Commercial Complex (popularly known as the Sheraton Complex).
The hotel is home to two special restaurants - Soie, which offers Eurasian fare, and Golestan, the first Iranian fine dining restaurant in Bahrain.
The Sheraton underwent a major renovation recently, offering not only better-equipped rooms but also a state-of-the-art health club and pool.
The Hilton Hotel is a next door neighbour to the Sheraton. The Hilton accommodates popular Japanese restaurant Kei and the Cavalry Club Bar. If you visit during the Holy Month of Ramadan, make it a point to visit the Ramadan Tent at the hotel.
At the other end of the Diplomatic Area are two more five-star hotels, the Crowne Plaza (formerly the Holiday Inn) and the Diplomat SAS Radisson.
The newly renovated Crowne Plaza will offer brand new rooms and a new restaurant too. Waves is the place to go for seafood lovers. The poolside is a very pleasant place to rest after sight-seeing, and the La Music restaurant to have a snack after.
The Diplomat SAS Radisson hosts Scandinavian Week every autumn, and is worth visiting for its mouth-watering delicacies. One thing you should definitely treat yourself to at the Diplomat is the Friday Brunch. The hotel has a spectacular rooftop restaurant with a live band. Also popular at the Diplomat is the Irish pub Fiddler's Green.
The Gulf Hotel is in the southern part of Manama and overlooks the Grand Mosque. This was the first five-star hotel in Bahrain, having opened its doors more than 30 years ago.
The Gulf Hotel is a rarity among the five-stars in that it is not part of any international chain. It is one of the most socially active of all hotels, with food festivals, rock concerts and even ballets being staged here.
I will also recommend the Sherlock Holmes pub - a place with personality! The Gulf Hotel has some great restaurants and always has something new to offer. A long time favourite is Sato - in my book the island's best Japanese restaurant. This year's latest addition is the Royal Thai Restaurant, which has truly stunning fare.
If you have a function to organise, the Gulf Hotel offers some of the best conference facilities in Bahrain. Its dedicated conference centre is the largest of its kind on the island and can accommodate functions for up to 1,000 participants. It also offers 2,500 square metres of exhibition space.
The prices in the five-star category range between BD50 to BD70 ($132 - $185) for a single standard room for a night. If you are on a tighter budget, there are plenty of cheaper options, even as low as BD8 ($21) a night.
No business, only leisure? Why not stay at one of Bahrain's resort hotels?
The exquisite new Novotel Al Dana Resort has just opened its doors. The four-star deluxe hotel is situated by the Shaikh Hamad Causeway, in the Manama-Muharraq lagoon, and has its own private beach. Every room at the Al Dana has its own balcony, perfect for breakfast or a romantic supper.
Like a scene from the 1001 Arabian Nights, Al Dana is romantic and exotic. The architecture is traditional Bahraini, right down to the windtower. In La Perla, Al Dana has one of Bahrain's most spectacular restaurants, offering mouth-watering seafood delicacies.
Al Dana Resort offers all the facilities that parents are looking for to keep the whole family happy, including baby-sitting!
The Al Bander Hotel & Resort on the south-east coast is only a 25 minute drive from the city centre, but is miles away from the hustle and bustle. Cosy cabanas and chalets, private beach, swimming pool, a busy marina and a stunning sea view awaits the visitor. Al Bander is the perfect holiday resort not only for couples but also for families and groups of friends.
Hawar Island has been the pride of Bahrain ever since the International Court of Justice ruled in this country's favour over a territorial dispute with Qatar. Hawar is perfect for a family vacation, an out-of-the-ordinary business meeting or a company conference. The four-star resort belongs to Baisan International, so you can arrange your reservations there. The boat ride itself is worth it!
The Ramada is a four-star hotel in Manama's Adliya district. The hotel prides itself on its "five-star" personalised service and focuses primarily on corporate customers.
Ramada's best-known restaurant is the award-winning Le Jardin.
Al Safir is a brand new hotel with a difference. Its modern exterior fits well into Manama's Juffair district, but step inside and it is very old-world, very romantic and Oriental. This could very well be a palace for the Maharaja of Jaipur.
Another new, but already well known Juffair hotel is the Ramee International. Remember the name, because it is where the popular nightspot Rock Bottom is at!
If you plan on a long stay in Bahrain, you should pay a visit to Elite Apartments. Elite combines the facilities of a hotel with the convenience of an apartment complex, offering longer-term stays in a fully-furnished room which is even equipped with a kitchen.
Seef Residence is also highly recommended for long staying guests and especially for families. It is only a few steps away from the main shopping malls and cinemas!
If you'd like a reasonably-priced hotel in the heart of Manama, try the Atlas Hotel. For BD30 ($80) a night, two people can stay in a very large yet cosy room. The service is excellent and the location is close to the city centre.
Bahrain also has a Youth Hostel, a very good one in fact. The Guest House belongs to the Golf College of Hospitality and Tourism.
It costs only BD8 ($21) for a single bed and BD15 ($40) for a double for a night. The longer you stay, lower the daily rate.
Hotels reported a 40 per cent jump in occupancy following the opening of the King Fahad Causeway linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in 1986.
Many hotels offer reduced rates for bookings made through local companies in Bahrain - isn't it time you tapped those contacts? Alternatively, if you are travelling as part of a large group, you could still be entitled to a sizeable discount.