What to do outside in Abu Dhabi

The summer is over, so it's time to explore the great outdoors at these super-cool capital spots Discuss this article

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Are you in or are you out? Now that the raging summer has finally given way to cooler climes, there is no need to hide yourself away in the air-conditioned comforts of your home for a minute longer. There is so much to see, do, eat and explore in the capital – and it’s all so much better with the sun on your back. This is the season when Abu Dhabi’s social scene really hots up – even as temperatures are falling – so get ready to soak up some culture, enjoy a lazy day at the beach, take in some stunning views while you dine and dance the night away on a party island. The forecast is for fun.

Eating Out

Asia De Cuba
There is no culture clash here as Cuba and Asia blend together in perfect harmony. Asia de Cuba delivers some of the best bites in the city. While the classy dining area is a great place to savour the menu of innovative culinary creations, the venue really comes alive when you step outside onto the beautiful beach deck, complete with its own outdoor bar and cabanas where you can really enjoy your stay in style. It’s a huge part of the reason Asia de Cuba is our reigning Bar of the Year. You just have to have a night out at this glitzy beachfront favourite, or suffer a real fear of missing out.
Open Sun-Wed 3pm-midnight, Thu 3pm-2am, Fri-Sat noon-2am. Nation Riviera Beach Club, Corniche Road (02 699 3333).

Barfly by Buddha-Bar
This brilliant bar, lounge and restaurant is one of the coolest spots in the city – especially when the heat is off. Enjoy the striking architecture on show as you amble through vibrant Venetian Village before taking up a perch in the pretty outside terrace at Barfly. Indulge in some people-watching as beachgoers top up their tans on golden sands and boat-loads of seafarers cruise through glistening turquoise waters. It’s not just a feast for the eyes, here, though, with the delicious array of Pan-Asian flavours providing a tasty treat for all the senses.
Open Sat-Thu 6pm-2am, Fri 4pm-2am. Venetian Village, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (056 177 7557).

This sophisticated Italian eatery is beautiful inside and out, as you’ll be able to see from this week’s cover. The super-stylish restaurant really catches the eye, but no visit is complete without taking up a seat in the picturesque outdoor terrace, where you can while away an evening in splendour. Sit back and relax and let the wonderful views of Yas Marina, with luxury yachts moored on the waters and the stunning Yas Viceroy dominating the skyline, wash over you. Enjoy an inspirational taste of Italy in the Middle East.
Open daily 6pm-midnight. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 657 5400).

You’ll be hooked as soon as you walk through the doors of this wonderful waterside restaurant. The light and airy dining area has a chilled-out vibe, but you will be drawn to the splendid views on the outdoor terrace. Tuck in to fantastically fresh seafood while looking out onto the clear blue waters where your tasty meal was caught that day. The Beach Rotana restaurant benefits from a beautiful backdrop and serves up fine food that will keep you coming back for more.
Open Sat-Wed 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm (bar 6pm-1am), Thu-Fri 12.30pm-3.30pm, 7pm-11.30pm (bar 6pm-2am). Beach Rotana, Al Zahiya (02 697 9000).

Toro Toro
So good they named it twice, Toro Toro is one of the most exciting new additions to the Abu Dhabi dining scene. Spearheaded by celebrated chef Richard Sandoval – who has already made the brand a food lovers favourite in Miami, Washington and up the road in Dubai – the refined restaurant takes diners on a rich culinary journey packed with Pan Latin flavours. Take advantage of the cooler evenings by enjoying a drink on the outside terrace, with lovely views of the calm waters and a plush private marina.
Open 7pm-3am. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5882).

Thrills and Spills

Yas Marina Circuit

Strap yourself in for the high-octane trip of a lifetime. The home of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a petrolhead’s paradise where motoring dreams really can come true. Live life like Lewis Hamilton for a few precious minutes by squeezing yourself in the cockpit for a drive in a super-fast Formula Yas 3000 around the F1 track. If you prefer two wheels to four, you can saddle up and cycle around the twisting corners of the world famous circuit or even put your best foot forwarding by going for a jog with TrainYAS, which offers a free workout session every Tuesday. Whether you want to get on your bike, walk tall or get in the driving seat yourself, you will find the formula for success right here.
TrainYAS: Free. Every Tue 6pm-10pm. Formula Yas 3000 driving experience: Dhs1,700. Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Island (800 927).

Yas Waterworld
Make a big splash at this Yas Island mega attraction. Take a break from dry land to experience 45 heart-pounding rides, slides and attractions. Bring the whole family along to brave Falcon’s Falaj, a six-person water coaster that takes you on a wet and wild ride full of twists, turns, rapids and drops, or make it a “tri-hump-hant” day by taking on Hamlool’s Humps. The exhilarating slide features three massive humps that will make you feel like you are flying high in the sky. And if you are looking for a ladies’ night with a difference, gather the girls for a fantastic Thursday. For one night a week, it’s only girls allowed, with an all-female staff, a woman DJ and fun activities such as aqua zumba, as well as access to all the brilliant rides. Who needs all that tesosterone, anyway?
From Dhs250. Open daily 10am-7pm. From Dhs250. Yas Island (02 414 2000).

Go on a culture trail

Al Ain Oasis
If you reckon it’s all deserts and dunes in the UAE, then a visit to Al Ain will make you think again. It’s not called the Garden City without reason – and the gorgeous greenery on show at Al Ain Oasis is one of its shining lights. The UAE’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage site is spread over nearly 3,000 acres and contains more than 147,000 date palms, spanning 100 different varieties. The cool, shady walkways transport you away from the hustle and bustle of daily life into a tranquil sanctuary. Visitors can learn more about the culture spot by stopping by the purpose-built Eco-Centre at the entrance to the oasis. The sprawling site also features a host of food and beverage outlets and cultural shops to check out during your visit to the city.
Free entry. Open daily 8am-5pm. Al Ain (02 599 5438).

Empty quarter
You can really fill up your day with a visit to iconic Rub al Khali, better known as the Empty Quarter, the largest uninterrupted sand desert in the world. The massive landscape of towering dunes makes for an awe-inspiring vision that has to be seen to be believed (and instantly share on Instagram, of course). If you are planning on a longer stay, book in at the luxurious Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara and take advantage of the opportunity to explore the vast area. You can ride a camel, go fat biking and dune biking or just go for a leisurely stroll over the sands – it’s entirely up to you.
Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Qasr Al Sarab Road (02 886 2088).

Heritage Village
Step back in time and have a blast with Emirati past at this faithful reconstruction of a traditional oasis village. History is vividly brought to life through demonstrations of life from a bygone era, including a campfire with coffee pots, a goats’ hair tent and a falaj irrigation system, attractively displayed in the open museum. Visitors can also check out workshops where craftsmen show off skills such as metal work and pottery while women sit skilfully weaving and spinning. You don’t just leave with happy memories, either, as the village’s snug spice shop houses a range of dried herbs, handmade soaps and much more. Perfect for those who can’t resist a good souvenir or two. You might even send one to your friends back home.
Free entry. Open Sat-Thu 9am-4pm, Fri 3.30pm-9pm. Near Marina Mall, Corniche Breakwater (02 681 4455).

Outdoor adventures

Explore the Eastern Mangroves in a kayak
The lush greenery and azure waters of the Eastern Mangroves truly are a sight to behold, so you should never turn down a chance to view them up close. Throw in a dash of adventure along the way and you are all set for a great day out. You can pick up a paddle and explore one of the most beautiful stretches in the capital during a fun-packed kayak session. You can try out the activity during a stay at the luxurious five-star Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara. While you are out in the waters you can take advantage of the opportunity to journey to some of the emirate’s huge network of idyllic islands and feel like you’ve really left the nation’s capital behind.
Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa, Abu Dhabi by Anantara, Sheikh Zayed Street (02 656 1000).

Go white-water rafting at Wadi Adventure
Brace yourself for an “oar-some” time at a brilliant facility especially made for those who love to get their hearts pounding. For the ultimate white-knuckle ride out on the waters, try white water rafting at Wadi Adventure. The Al Ain club is the UAE’s first-ever man made white water rafting, kayaking and surfing attraction. Whether you are new to the activity or have dipped your toes in the water before, you are in for plenty of thrills and spills.
There are three different levels of white-water rapids available and no experience is necessary. All raft trips include a professional guide, a short briefing on the essentials, and all the safety equipment you could need. Once all that is taken care of, it’s time to make a mighty splash.
From Dhs100 per person. Open daily 11am-7pm. Jebel Hafeet, Al Ain (03 781 8422).

Take a boat trip with Captain Tony
Fancy going out on a fishing trip in the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf? Or how about setting sail for a late-night cruise under the glow of the moon, spotting dolphins in the company of an expert marine biologist or having breakfast a board a traditional dhow as it navigates its way through the waters? Well, you can do all this and much more by getting on board with Captain Tony’s. The boat tour operator, based out of Yas Marina, has grown in popularity at a rate of knots over the years, thanks in no small part to the sheer variety of sea-faring options available. Make sure you pack your sea legs and go on a voyage of discovery in Abu Dhabi with your faithful captain at the helm.
Prices vary. Yas Marina, Yas Island (02 650 7175).

Travel the Corniche
Okay, we will admit it, the prospect of covering the massive 8km Corniche would have brought us out in a not-so-cold sweat just a few weeks ago. But now that temperatures are slowly starting to fall, it is an ideal time to go on a scenic route. This is the most pleasurable of strolls, with beautiful landscaped waterfronts to view and a brilliant beach to visit. The eye-catching stretch is also lined with plenty of restaurants and cafés, too, so there is always a chance to stop off for a refuel during your trip. There are pedestrian pathways for those who want to stride out, plus a separate cycle path if you want to get on your bike and pedal your way through the lovely sights.

Family time

Fire up the barbecue
While in many parts of the world (we are talking about you, Britain) a sizzling barbeque can soon turn into a soggy disaster, rain never stops play in Abu Dhabi. In fact, during the summer months, it is often too sunny to flip your burgers and bangers on the grill. Now cooler times are upon us, though, it’s time for dads across the land to turn into culinary masters for an afternoon and show everyone just how it’s done. A barbecue out in the sunshine makes for a brilliant gathering, but if you’d rather let someone else do all the work there are other options out there, too. Al Fresco Pool and Beach Restaurant, at the glamorous Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, serves up succulent cuts and fresh seafood taken straight from the hot coals every Sunday.
Dhs195 (food only), Dhs230 (soft drinks), Dhs295 (house beverages), Dhs120 (kids aged 13-16), Dhs50 (kids under 12), freew (kids under four). Sun 7pm-11pm. Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta
(02 818 8282).

Have a day out at the zoo
There is double delight for animal lovers in the capital. You can get your creature comforts at both Emirates Park Zoo and Resort and Al Ain Zoo. Over at Emirates Park, there is a magnificent menagerie of more than 1,400 colourful characters to greet you, residing at exotic locations such as Bird Park, Snake Alley, Camel Farm, Equine Enclosure and the Primate Parade. Zoo-goers can even extend their enjoyment by staying over in a chalet, making it your own personal animal kingdom. You can also enjoy a brush with nature at
Al Ain Zoo, an awesome 400-hectare venue based in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet mountains. The vast zoo, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, is home to more than 3,500 animals, has its own sprawling African safari and a wildlife school, the Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre. Most importantly of all, conservation is a priority to the team. They work with groups such as Emirates Wildlife Society and the Species Survival Commission to ensure the wellbeing of their animals comes first.
Al Ain Zoo: From Dhs30 (adults), Dhs10 (kids aged three-12). Open daily 9am-8pm. Nayhan The First Street, Al Ain (03 799 2000); Emirates Park Zoo and Resort: 12th Street, Al Bahia (02 506 9000).

Picnic at the park

We might be out in the desert here in the UAE, but we never cease to be amazed by the lush greenery on show in the capital. There are a wealth of superbly-maintained parks, packed with great facilities, dotted all over the emirate. A trip to the park makes for a fantastic family day out. So pack yourself a picnic, take shade under a tea and let the afternoon ebb away as you wind down on the weekend. Top green spots to visit include Khalifa Park, which spans a massive 500,000 square metres, Heritage Park, which is a little bit off the beaten path and might give you more room to spread out for a picnic, and Yas Gateway Park, which might get lost in the shuffle when you consider Yas Island’s list of attractions, but boasts vast lawns to fly kites, kick a football and pick up a spot for a nice family feed. Life is a picnic in Abu Dhabi.
Free. Various parks, including Yas Gateway Park, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Highway, Yas Island.

Laze at the beach
The great thing about living in a city full of sand is that you are never short of a beach to visit. There are a wide variety of relaxing spots, which really should be on your bucket and spade list. The pristine Corniche beachfront rightly remains a firm family favourite, with thousands of sun-seekers flocking here every week. Whether you want to lounge under a beach umbrella or go swimming or snorkelling, there is something for everyone. Other top beach spots to lay down your towel include the picturesque Saadiyat Public Beach, which has 400m of golden sands looking out onto shimmering waters, and Al Bateen Beach, which has a cool, family-friendly vibe, with a handful of cafés, plus activities on offer including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. So whack on the lotion, grab your shades and head outdoors.
Various beaches, including Al Bateen Beach: Free. Open daily 8am-9pm. Al Mubarak Street, off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street.

Party time

Al Maya Island
That Friday feeling is in full force at this party island destination. The luxurious resort has recently relaunched its regular Maya Fridays event, featuring some of the city’s best DJs taking to the decks for a whole day’s worth of musical entertainment from 11am until 9pm. Ladies have extra reason to get the party started nice and early as they get free entry before 1pm. Meanwhile, Etihad Airways employees can get in for free if they land before 2pm. There is no dress code but, as this is a party on a private island, it’s best to have some swimwear with you. Best of all, tickets are just Dhs100 – that’s just Dhs10 an hour. Surrounded by magnificent blue waters with white sandy beaches, Al Maya Island and Resort is located offshore, around nine kilometres southwest of Abu Dhabi Island, approximately ten minutes by boat.
Dhs100 (free for ladies before 1pm). Every Fri 11am-9pm. Over-21s only. Al Maya Island and Resort (055 114 5311).

Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE
Ibiza vibes are transported to the Middle East every weekend for ten terrific hours of bone-shaking beats by the beach. A stellar cast of top DJs take to the decks for the mega musical marathon, while Saturday revellers can also tuck into a bumper brunch crammed with fine international food and an extensive selection of mixed drinks. Choose to put your feet up by the beach and let the Balearic tunes wash over you, laze on the open terrace or retreat to the shaded sanctuary of a restaurant with a bird’s eye view of the entire venue. The funky beach resort is party central – from morning until night.
Open Fri-Sat 1pm-11pm. Golden Tulip Al Jazira Hotels and Resort, Sheikh Zayed Road, Ghantoot (056 113 3400).

Cachée Pool Party
We all know there ain’t no party like a pool party – and the team at Saadiyat Beach Club are well versed in how to put on a good show. The glam venue puts on a regular spectacular show (next one is October 27) featuring a line-up of crowd-pleasing DJs, gourmet bites to enjoy and premium beverage packages. The massive bash is held around the stunning infinity pool, surrounded by VIP cabanas in which you can really enjoy the event in style. The party gets started at 8pm and stays in full flow until 2am. There are always plenty of reasons to be happy on Saadiyat Island.
Dhs200 (men), Dhs80 (ladies). Saadiyat Beach Club, Saadiyat Island (02 656 3500).

Get sporty

Zayed Sports City
Make this your sport of call for some outdoor fun. The impressive facility plays host to a variety of activities allowing all the family to get fighting fit for free. You can go for a leisurely bike ride around the spacious grounds, kids can go climbing and sliding to their heart’s content at the playground, located near the International Tennis Centre, go running, jogging or walking or try out roller skating without splashing out a single dirham. The state-of-the-art sports hub is also home to nine tennis courts, its own football pitches and even a 4,500 square metre paintball park for those looking for some extreme fun. Good sports should definitely pitch up here.
Prices and opening hours vary by venue. Zayed Sports City, Airport Road (02 403 4200).

By Chris Maxwell
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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