It's official: Abu Dhabi temperatures are on the up! And since you’ve been working hard on that beach body since New Year’s Day (we say in hushed tones) it’s time to hit the sand. The capital is spoilt for choice when it comes to public and private beaches, islands and hotel beach clubs, and here’s where we think you should check out this weekend. So grab your towel, don those sunglasses and don’t forget that sunscreen. There’s only one thing left to ask: which way’s the beach?
Stretching for almost 8km, the Corniche beach is large and packed with plenty to do. At the west end (towards Emirates Palace) there are a few beach clubs which we’ll talk about later, but the rest of the shoreline is ready for public consumption.
This pristine area has been awarded the coveted Blue Flag status – which basically means clean and safe conditions – and there are about 1,100 free parking spots just a five-minute walk from the different entrances. Gate 4 is arguably the most popular, as there are plenty of cafés and restaurants close by. This area is free to enter and is heavily manned by lifeguards, while there are some showers and changing facilities too.
Towards the west of the Corniche, in front of that huge car park by Nation Galleria, you’ll see several volleyball and beach football pitches. These are also free and ready for you and your friends to get your game on.
BAKE – a beach management company – feature at Gate 2 (families and quiet zone) and Gate 3 (families and children zone). There’s also an area, close to Gate 4, for singles and groups called Al Sahil. BAKE offers 600 sun loungers and 27 cabanas in these areas. There’s also a few BAKE shops (Gate 2 and Gate 6) that sell beach gear, swimwear, sunscreen and refreshments.
BAKE Beaches 8am-8pm. Dhs10 per adult and Dhs5 per children under 12. Kids under five go free. Dhs25 per lounger. Public beaches 8am-8pm. Free.
Saadiyat Public Beach
Saadiyat Public Beach, which is close to the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, is also worth checking out with friends and family. Managed by BAKE, you’ll have 300 loungers to choose from, a towel and locker rental service, as well as showers and changing rooms. There’s even weekly beach yoga classes for anyone wanting some sand under their toes rather than the gym floor.
8am-sunset. Dhs25 per adult and Dhs15 per child aged six-12. Kids under five go free. Sun lounger and an umbrella: Dhs50 (weekdays), Dhs75 (weekends and public holidays).
Al Bateen Beach
This spot is popular with both expats and locals, thanks to its family friendly vibe. The waters are very calm and the views from the 800m stretch of beach are equally soothing. You can see the Hudariyat Bridge, which leads to the empty Hudariyat Island too, whether you’re lying on your towel or over at the children’s playground. And if you are feeling a little active, you can hire kayaks or stand-up paddleboards to get you out on the water.
There are around 100 car parking spaces, while several lifeguards are on duty from
8am until sunset. Free. 8am-8pm. Al Bateen, Khalifa Al Mubarak Street, off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street.
Luxurious, modern and elegant, Nurai Island is a day trip you must try this year. The unspoiled beaches are a magnet for Abu Dhabi mainlanders and thankfully the resort offers day passes for you to check them out.
Its private boat will collect you from Saadiyat Island and whisk you away on a quick 12-minute trip back to the resort. You’ll receive a complimentary welcome drink before being able to enjoy the infinity pool and white sands of the beach.
Dhs300 per person, including boat transfer. Open daily 10.30am-11pm. Advanced booking required (02 506 6274).
Get on a boat – whether it’s yours, a friends or a rental – and head to Lulu Island. Lulu is parallel to the Corniche beach, close to the breakwater. There’s been chat for years about how this Island is going to be developed, with development constantly starting and stopping, but right now, it’s pretty bare. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many people visit Lulu Island as the water is generally flat and idyllic for water sports, while friends and family hit the beach for a barbecue or sunbathing. There are some cabanas conveniently dotted along the beach stretch, but not a tremendous amount. And sadly not in the best condition either. There’s always plenty of people here, but fortunately it never feels cramped as there’s loads of space for everyone to have a spot in the sun.
Here’s one for those looking for some beats on the beach. Al Maya Island is about 10 minutes offshore and you’ll need to get to the Al Maya boat dock, close to Khalidiyah Palace Rayhaan. This is a place for both partying and relaxing. Fridays are always buzzing with guests enjoying both the large pool and the beach with the swim-up bar in the former being a magnet for party-goers. Music is pumping thanks to resident DJs and events organised by DJ ChadPhunk. There’s also a small beach volleyball section if you fancy a game with friends.
Saturdays have more of a chilled vibe with families enjoying a small getaway from the mainland. The food options are pretty good and there are even villas available to rent too.
Dhs100 shuttle boat service on Saturdays includes entrance and use of facilities. Fri-Sat 10am-8pm. www.almayauae.com.
Hiltonia Beach Club
Located along the Corniche Road West, just before you make a right towards Marina Mall, the venue is connected to the hotel via subway if you’re staying there and has parking directly out the front too. The latter can often be busy at night time so be prepared to wait. This spot has a decent stretch of beach where you’ll always see Jet Skis whizzing past. This is also home to Watercooled sports centre, where you can take part in kayaking, sailing, yoga and more. But if you’re here to kick back, fear not. The pool area is quiet and the attentive staff are swift at bringing you drinks and food from the vast bar menu.
Dhs150 adults, Dhs240, Dhs70 kids five-15. Sun-Thu. Dhs185 adults, Dhs300, Dhs90 five-15-year-old Fri-Sat. 8am-8pm. Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 681 1900).
If you’re not looking for a water sport-filled weekend, then maybe this next spot is for you. Bayshore at InterContinental Abu Dhabi is both tranquil and isolated from the nearby downtown hubbub. There are plenty of loungers on the sand and by the pool, but for extra relaxation cabanas and hammocks are available – prior booking is required.
This 300m beach offers volleyball if you fancy getting a little energetic, or you can make your way to the gym which you also have access to. But if you’re in the mood for chilling, try the outdoor Jacuzzi or have a massage.
Open daily 8am-10pm. Dhs150 day pass. Cabanas Dhs400 Sun-Thu, Dhs600 Fri-Sat. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen (02 693 5285).
Sheraton Abu Dhabi
At the opposite end of Abu Dhabi Island is the Sheraton. Here you’ve got three pools to choose from and a waterslide, with one of the pools having a sunken bar. The private lagoon will forever have calm waters, so no crashing waves to worry about. The beach isn’t huge, but it’s large enough to feel comfortable on without feeling squashed in. There’s also a sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi available.
Open daily 6am-midnight. Dhs95 singles, Dhs150 couples, Dhs50 kids Sun-Thu. Dhs125 singles, Dhs200 couples, Dhs75 kids Fri-Sat (02 697 0272).
Saadiyat Beach Club
This place was built to make your jaw drop as you walk in. The stunning infinity pool is bordered by cabanas, while the end of the pool eats into the nearby azure waters – simply gorgeous.
Apart from pool access, a gym, Jacuzzi and plunge pool, you’ve got an expansive beach to take advantage of. The Arabian Gulf waters are refreshing and you won’t struggle to find a spot to settle on for the day. What we really like about this beach is the mix of people: families, couples, friends in their mid-20s, both locals and expats.
Open Daily 8am-sunset for beach club. Dhs150 singles, Dhs250 couples, Dhs75 juniors (13-17), kids 12 and under go free (02 656 3500).
Indulge yourself downtown at the Nation Riviera. Opened in 2015, this private beach club has 200m of immaculate coastline with an array of services available to guests. There’s a beachside lap-pool, as well as a swim-up bar, and the cabanas and Jacuzzi are an extra for those looking to really veg out. Parents will be happy to know there’s a supervised play area for the kids. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s some great dining spots too – but we’ll get on to those later.
This beach club is part of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, which is connected via a subway. You can leave your ride here or in the public car park next to the hotel.
Open daily, 6am-8pm. Dhs200 singles, Dhs300 couples. Dhs70 children (five-16) children under five go free (02 694 4780).
This hotel’s beach club has just about everything you need for your day or weekend out. You won’t have to worry about a parking spot thanks to its underground spaces. You can then head up to the 120m private beach and temperature-controlled pools for both adults and kids. Your little ones can also release some energy on the covered outdoor play area or even in the supervised crèche. That leaves parents the chance to unwind with a massage, sauna, steam bath and Jacuzzi – or simply sprawl out on your towel on the sands. You won’t even have to lift a finger to get some food or drinks thanks to the on-hand beach staff. You’ll have to put your own sunscreen on though…
The beach is a great spot for some sundown drinks too, so head to one of the two bars for a well-deserved beverage.
Feeling like you need to burn off some calories too? Then give one of the water sports a go. There’s windsurfing, water skiing, banana boat rides, canoeing, pedalos and more. We said this place had it all, didn’t we?
Open daily 6am-11pm. Sun-Thu Dhs150 per person, Dhs230 per couple, Dhs90 kids aged five-12. Fri-Sat Dhs210 per person, Dhs310 per couple, Dhs90 kids age five-12. Under-fives go free. (02 697 9302).
A location that has to be on your must-do list this year is Yas Beach. With 400m of golden sands, this is another venue that caters for pretty much every need you may have. The beach club has its own open air DJ booth, a huge pool and five private chalets. There is also an abundance of loungers so you won’t have to get there early to mark your territory with your towel.
Sun soaking is hard work, so take advantage of the food and drink options to refuel. If you want to get a real sweat on, you can hit the gym, play volleyball on one of the two courts or let loose on the non-motorised water sports options: think stand-up paddleboards and more. Staying at one of the hotels on Yas Island? Then you’ll be granted free entry.
Open 10am-7pm Sun-Thu, 10am-10pm Fri-Sat. Dhs50 Sun-Thu, Dhs100 Fri-Sat for a full day pass. Dhs200 beach cabanas Sun-Thu, Dhs400 Fri-Sat which includes two entrance passes. Dhs1,000 chalets Sun-Thu on weekdays, Dhs2,000 Fri-Sat which include four entrance passes and a mini bar. Children under 12 go free (02 565 1100).
Eats on the beach
Asia de Cuba
Since its opening in early 2015, Asia de Cuba hasn’t failed to impress us. Firstly, the setting oozes pure Caribbean with its white beach, cabanas and toe-tapping music. All you need is some top nosh and you could be in Cuba itself. Thankfully, the fusion of Asian and Cuban food does just that. Grab a starter from the ceviche bar, including lovely red snapper, shrimp and salmon, or even pick away at a bowl of crispy calamari – the orange sesame vinaigrette is delicious. Once that has whetted your appetite, then you have to try the tunapica tartare: diced raw tuna in crispy wonton tacos, olives, almonds and avocado ceviche. Bliss.
And if you’re here for dinner – because we warn you, it may be hard to leave – any dish from the los platos grandes section of the menu is sure to please. However, if you really feel like a treat, go for the el barrio chino – the wagyu strip steak with glazed Japanese eggplant, edamame and steam bao buns. This is a real highlight of this already impressive menu.
Open daily. Midday-3pm lunch, 6pm-midnight dinner. Nation Riviera Beach Club, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi (02 699 3333).
Next door to Asia de Cuba is the equally impressive Catch. With a menu saturated with seafood options but cleverly featuring meats and veggie choices, Catch offers many light and refreshing dishes, allowing you to go back to the beach without looking like a whale. Unless you have a sharing dessert plate to yourself, of course.
The range of appetisers, including gulf prawn cocktail, duck rolls and meagre ceviche are very tasty. We recommend the sushi here too, with the spicy tuna being a favourite of ours. But if you’re going to stick with fish and want something hot, go for the caramalised black cod with papaya salad. You’ll understand why we recommended it when you’re scraping your plate clean.
Open daily, midday-1am, last food orders 11.30pm. Nation Riviera Beach Club, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi (02 611 0909).
BBQ Al Qasr
Is there a more opulent setting for dining than on the beach at a palace? BBQ Al Qasr is set on the private beach at the back of the hotel, with cute cabanas only accessible on raised wooden walkways, all of which are lined with oil lamps – very romantic indeed.
But this isn’t where the quality stops, as the food is just as exciting. The open barbecue aromas often catch the sea breeze and are sent straight to your nostrils, really getting you salivating. The seafood here is meaty and succulent, with dishes like the cedar wood grilled Scottish salmon and the local red snapper fillet as good options. But if you really want to live like you’re on the beach of your own palace, go for one of the steaks. A plethora of cuts cooked to your liking but as you’d expect, some options are more expensive than others – a lot more expensive. We recommend the 250g Irish John Stone fillet which, as the menu says, is ‘simply grilled on charcoal’. Grab a few sides to add to your meal and you won’t be disappointed.
Daily 1pm-midnight. BBQ Al Qasr, Emirates Palace, Corniche West (02 690 7999).
Over on Saadiyat Island is Beach House at Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. The location, on the island’s edge, only adds to the seclusion and romantic vibe. You couldn’t be any closer to the water without being wet so it’s ideal for any beach dweller to saunter over for lunch or dinner.
And after dinner, why not head to the rooftop? The bar upstairs is made for sunset views and laidback beats.
The food on the menu is predominantly Mediterranean, although there are also pan-European and Lebanese staples served in small portions ideal for sharing.
Open daily 10am-midnight. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1234).
Arguably one of the most popular ‘older’ restaurants in the capital, Vasco’s has been proving itself for many years now, both with beach club members and those just dropping in. The restaurant, which is part of the Hiltonia Beach Club, serves dishes that represent the travels of explorer Vasco de Gama, which sees many Italian and Indian dishes, with flutters of Portuguese, Lebanese and Chinese too.
The outdoor terrace is forever busy thanks to the beach backdrop and gentle sea breeze.
Open daily noon-3.30pm for lunch, 7pm-11pm dinner. Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 681 1900).
From the moment you arrive at Turquoiz, you know you’re in for a treat. Guests are surrounded by water, whether it’s from the bubbling fountains or the sea a stone’s throw away. You can’t help but ease into one of the chairs and feel at total peace.
The kitchen team know how to prepare fish and this is what you must try if you go here. So what should you go for? Well, to start you should sample both the salt and pepper squid with smoked chili aioli and the mini duck Scotch egg. From the grill, make sure you taste the tiger prawns. Five chunky pieces come with a choice of one side and one sauce for an impressive Dhs180. Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, go for the whole fish. This daily special isn’t filleted so be prepared to work a little bit for your meal. But, when you get to all of the fish meat, it’s totally worth it. Just be prepared to fight off jealous diners at your table!
Open daily noon-3pm, 6.30pm-11pm. The St. Regis Saadiat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 498 8443).