With the cooler weather now here (finally!), it is once again that time of year when we can all really make the best of the great outdoors. And the outdoors doesn’t really get much greater than in Abu Dhabi. For all of its wonderful hustle and bustle, it’s sometimes easy to forget just how picturesque and relaxing the shores that surround the capital are.
And so this week we undertook the arduous task of donning our Speedos (there’s an image for you) to investigate the very best the city has to offer. Whether you’re looking for some down-time, a party vibe or a family-friendly spot, there’s a beach to suit your every need and mood. So, slather on that sunscreen, grab your sunglasses and hat and join us on our quest for the best in sun, sea and sand.
Best for families
Abu Dhabi’s pristine Corniche beachfront is a fantastic family spot on which to enjoy the sand between your toes. It’s divided into three sections: Al Sahil is for singles and groups, Gate 2 is for families and has a quiet zone and Gate 3 is for families, especially children.
The seaside boardwalk is four miles long and the walkways are paved and dotted with benches and gardens that overlook the glory of the open Arabian Gulf.
Around 30,000 to 50,000 sun-chasers flock here every month, and the beach is packed with plenty to do for the whole family. Surrounding the Corniche beach there are children’s play areas, separate cycle and pedestrian pathways, cafés and restaurants. There are also plenty of free sports facilities on offer, including five volleyball courts, two football pitches and three playing fields. And if your family likes a bit of adventure then take a speedboat off the Corniche and marvel at the Abu Dhabi skyline, or go snorkelling to discover local marine life. Jet skis are also available for hire and offer a thrilling way to explore the beauty of the open water.
During the week, it’s easy to find a beach umbrella to shade yourself under, but, as you’d expect, on the weekend it’s much busier and they all go pretty quickly. You can’t swim out very far; floating fences keep you within 40m of the beach, and there are plenty of lifeguards around, so you will always feel safe.
BAKE – a beach management company – operates 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 are also a few BAKE shops (Gate 2 and Gate 6) that sell beach gear, swimwear, sunscreen and refreshments. In other words, they have you covered for pretty much everything.
BAKE Beaches open daily 8am-8pm. Dhs10 per adult and Dhs5 per children under 12. Kids under five go free. Dhs25 per lounger. Public beaches open daily 8am-8pm. Free.
Al Bateen Beach
This spot is popular with both expats and locals, thanks to its family-friendly vibe. The beach is also popular for fishing and swimming. The waters are very calm and the views from the 800m stretch of sand are equally soothing. You can see the Hudariyat Bridge, which leads to the empty Hudariyat Island, 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 and get out on the water. There are also a handful of cafés, around 100 car parking spaces and plenty of lifeguards on duty.
Free. Open daily 8am-sunset. Al Bateen, Khalifa Al Mubarak Street, off Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street.
Hiltonia Beach Club
Located along the Corniche Road West, just before you make a right towards Marina Mall, this club features 11,000 square metres of pristine white sand for fun and relaxation. Along with its private beach, the club also offers a fitness centre and various water sports, and there’s even a peacock garden and duck pond to enjoy, too. Water-based action includes kayaking and sailing, while yoga fans are catered for as well. The recently revamped venue is connected to the Hilton Abu Dhabi via a subway and has parking directly out the front, although it can often be busy at night time so be prepared to wait. If you’re looking to just kick back then head to the quiet pool area where the attentive staff are swift at bringing you drinks and food from the vast bar menu.
Sun-Thu: Dhs120 singles, Dhs200 couples, Dhs60 kids five-15. Fri-Sat: Dhs170 singles, Dhs290 couples, Dhs75 kids five-15. Open daily 8am-8pm. Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 681 1900).
This atmospheric beach club is packed with everything you could want for a fun day out. The day pass here grants you access to an adults’ pool, a kids’ paddling pool, a 120m beach and garden, as well as the use of its two squash courts and three tennis courts. If you’ve had your fill of soaking up rays on the sand, you can also use the gym, where you can hire a personal trainer or take part in a Les Mills group fitness class. There are also a load of water sports available to try, which is ideal for thrill-seekers. The hotel’s restaurants are also just a short hop from your lounger, so take a change of clothes and head to seafood restaurant Finz or steakhouse Rodeo Grill for a quality meal – both are open for lunch as well as dinner. The beach is a great spot for some sundowners, so head to one of the two bars and drink in the view. And you won’t have to worry about a parking spot thanks to the underground spaces available.
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).
Emirates Palace Beach Club
The beach club is split into two sections so it makes it really ideal for all sorts of groups. The West Beach Club is for families and there’s a huge pool with a lazy river, inner tubes and two water slides. There’s no need to go to a water park as you have all the best things here. There kids’ club has plenty to keep little ones entertained including chess, soft toys, arts and crafts, games, ping pong and foosball. On the East Beach Club, it’s a great place for adults with a massive pool and swim bar and not forgetting the amazing in-pool hammocks!
The adult section over on the East Beach Club has a massive pool with in-pool hammocks and a swim up bar. It’s the ultimate relaxation spot. As well as enjoying the beach and sea, guests can take part in a variety of free activities such as sailboats, kayaks and paddleboards. There is wake boarding, waterskiing and donut towing available for an additional and changing cost (dependent upon the price of fuel and other factors—people should call ahead). There’s a 6.4Km jogging and biking trail and cricket, rugby and football pitches, tennis courts and even an A/C indoor football facility. There’s also lawn tennis and so much more, all with a view of the Presidential Palace and Arabian Gulf. Dining options include an al fresco brunch and each club has an outdoor café with a variety of international cuisine and a kids’ menu.
Dhs300 for adults, Dhs150 for kids (weekdays), Dhs400 for adults, Dhs200 for kids (weekends and public holidays); Dhs35,000 for single annual membership, Dhs60,000 for a family annual membership of four (Dhs5000 for each additional child). Six months memberships are also available. 7am-sunset (Beach and west pool); 7am-9pm (east pool), Gym is open 24 hours, 7am-10pm (tennis courts), 10am-sunset (kids club). Corniche West ((02 690 7311).
Best for groups
Saadiyat Public Beach
Close to the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, this sanded area is set on Saadiyat Island’s serene natural shores. The 400m beach is a great spot for a day out with friends and loved ones, to enjoy Abu Dhabi’s clean, warm turquoise waters.
For an extra fee, there are beach yoga classes to ensure guests’ bodies and minds stay in shape, along with eco-friendly water sports activities such as windsurfing and sailing. The Beach Café offers food and beverages and can accommodate more than 100 guests for corporate and private events. The café will deliver straight to your lounge chair, so you don’t have to move at all, which is absolutely fine by us.
To make the beach experience even more enjoyable and relaxing, there are showers and changing rooms, together with sun loungers, towels and lockers for rent.
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 are even weekly beach yoga classes for anyone wanting some sand under their feet, rather than the gym floor.
Open daily 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). Saadiyat Island.
Lulu has become a haven for campers and tourists looking to escape the commotion of city life. The island stretches for 6km from the Abu Dhabi breakwaters to Mina Zayed. There’s been chat for years about how this island is going to be developed, with construction constantly starting and stopping, but right now it’s pretty bare. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Many people come here because the water is generally flat and ideal for water sports, while friends and family hit the beach for a barbecue or a spot of sunbathing. There are some cabanas conveniently dotted along the beach stretch, but not a tremendous amount. Sadly they are not in the best condition, either. There’s always plenty of people here, but fortunately it never feels cramped as there is loads of space for everyone to have a spot of their own. So hop on one of the boats next to Marina Mall and head for a peaceful day out of the capital.
Nation Riviera Beach Club
This private beach is stretched across 200m of unspoiled shoreline and offers a peaceful view of Breakwater and beyond. There’s a beachside lap-pool, as well as a swim-up bar, and the cabanas and Jacuzzi are a big bonus for those looking to really veg out. There’s also a steam room, sauna, water sports and a gym – so there’s plenty to do for those not just looking to chill. There are also some great dining spots (specifically the stunning Catch) to enjoy and a special supervised area for any little ones wanting to expend their energy.
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.
Dhs200 singles, Dhs300 couples, Dhs70 children (five-16) children under five go free. Open daily 6am-8pm. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Corniche (02 694 4780)
Best for couples
Over on Saadiyat Island you’ll find 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. The food on the menu is predominantly Mediterranean, although there are also pan-European and Lebanese staples served in portions that are ideal for sharing. And after dinner, why not head to the rooftop? The bar upstairs is made for sunset views and laidback beats.
Open daily 10am-midnight. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1234).
Recently voted as one of the world’s most incredible private islands by Condé Nast Traveller UK, Zaya Nurai is a day trip you must try this year. Take a ten-minute private boat ride from Saadiyat Island to this luxurious secluded island that is conveniently accessible from all major travel ports in the UAE. You and your special someone will receive a complimentary welcome drink on arrival, before being able to enjoy the infinity pool and white sands of the beach. This place is a magnet for Abu Dhabi mainlanders and thankfully the resort offers day passes for you to check them out.
You can just take a leisurely stroll on the beautiful beach or plunge into an adventure with one of the water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding, beach snorkelling, pedalo boating and sea kayaking. But if you’d rather unwind and let your worries slip away then opt for a day at Zaya spa, where treatments start from Dhs350. There are also plenty of dining options to choose from including Frangipani, which offers dishes that use organic and seasonal produce – and there’s now even a regular Friday brunch.
Dhs300 per person, including boat transfer. Open daily 10.30am-11pm. Advanced booking required (02 506 6274).
Best for party-goers
Al Maya Island & Resort
This is the perfect place to enjoy banging beats and revel in a party atmosphere. You can catch a boat from a dock next to the Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana and then take a 20-minute jaunt over to this resort, a truly isolated spot on an island off the coast of the Corniche. From there, the world is your oyster. Guests can choose to lay out on one of the many sun loungers available, sit around the poolside bar, hit the dance floor and party to tunes being spun by top city DJs including DJ-CJ and DJ Chris Harvey, or jump into the massive pool and socialise around the swim-up bar. There’s also a small beach volleyball section if you fancy a game with friends. Saturdays have more of a chilled vibe, with groups 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.
Styling itself as a “beach playground” big on beats and brunches, Yas Beach is a must-visit location. The club is situated on a revamped area of the existing club, which aims to attract Abu Dhabi’s most earnest party people with a raft of international DJ bookings and dining packages. With 400m of golden sands, this is another venue that caters for pretty much every need you may have. There’s a huge pool and five private chalets to enjoy. There is also an abundance of loungers, so you won’t have to get there early to mark your territory with your towel. There’s a wide selection of dining options including freshly made pizzas and authentic Arabic food, so you’ll be spoilt for choice. If you want to stay active and compete against your crew, there are two volleyball courts available and if you’d rather do your own thing, hit the shores for some thrilling water sports such as stand-up paddleboarding. Staying at one of the hotels on Yas Island? Then entry is free.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-7pm, Fri-Sat 10am-10pm. Dhs50 Sun-Thu, Dhs100 Fri-Sat for a full day pass. Dhs200 beach cabanas Sun-Thu, Dhs400 Fri-Sat (includes two entrance passes). Dhs1,000 chalets Sun-Thu on weekdays, Dhs2,000 Fri-Sat (includes four entrance passes and a mini bar). Children under 12 go free (02 565 1100).
Best for chilling out
Saadiyat Beach Club
The king of beach clubs, this luxury venue caters for the most discerning of the city’s sand-seekers. As secluded as it is glamorous, you’ll feel like a VIP throughout your stay here; the facilities are top notch and the service is second to none. The venue is simply breath-taking, with a stunning infinity pool bordered by cabanas, while the end of the pool eats into the nearby azure waters just adding to the picture-perfect environs.
Apart from pool access, a gym, Jacuzzi and plunge pool, there is an expansive beach to take advantage of. The Arabian Gulf waters are refreshing and you won’t struggle to find a spot to settle down on for the day. What we really like about this beach, though, is the mix of people: families, couples, friends in their mid-20s – both locals and expats.
Open daily 9am-sunset (beach club).Singles: Dhs220 (weekdays) Dhs420 (weekend); Couples: Dhs370 (weekdays), Dhs720 (weekend); Juniors: Dhs110 (weekday), Dhs210 (weekend); Dhs75 (kids aged three-12) (02 656 3500).
Shangri-La Beach Club
The Shangri-La’s beach offering caters first and foremost to the hotel’s guests, which is why you get the sense you’re on holiday here even if you only come for the day. That’s a good thing, though. After all, we all need a little time to forget the daily humdrum of working life. Sun worshippers can choose where and how they get their fix; stretch out on the beach, or instead pick a lounger around the pool, or on the lawn set slightly back from the sand. If you’d rather stay in the shade, there are plenty of spots to do so as the hotel has invested in huge umbrellas to keep guests cool.
The beach is a little small, which is the only downside, but you still won’t feel overly cramped and the service here is efficient. There is also a dedicated team ready to take the kids off your hands if you wish.
Dhs260 for adults, Dhs130 for kids. Single annual membership from Dhs6,240, Dhs18,720 for a family of four. Open daily 6am-8pm. Shangri-La, Khor Al Maqta, www.shangri-la.com (02 509 8888).
The Bayshore Beach Club
If you’d rather have a relaxing experience then 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, though.
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 relaxing massage.
Open daily 8am-10pm. Dhs150 day pass, Cabanas Dhs400 Sun-Thu, Dhs600 Fri-Sat. InterContinental Abu Dhabi, Al Bateen (02 693 5285).
Best for budget
Sheraton Abu Dhabi
If you want variety then this beach club has a bit of everything. Activities on offer include boat cruises, fishing trips and snorkelling. Adrenaline junkies will find plenty to be happy about with waterskiing, wakeboarding and knee boarding costing Dhs60 for 10 minutes, or Dhs170 for a lesson. Meanwhile, if you’re keen to avoid anything too white-knuckle, sea kayaking starts at Dhs40 for 30 minutes. When the little’uns get sick of splashing around in the pool and start pestering for excitement, banana boating, starting at Dhs50 per person, should keep them out of your hair. Alternatively a tube ride, also costing Dhs50 for a round, should wear out the little darlings. And once the kids have been packed off on their adventure, adults can take a break at the swim-up pool bar, which serves the usual snacks and sandwiches, as well as mixed beverages and coffees.
Open daily 6am-midnight. Dhs95 singles, Dhs150 couples, Dhs50 kids Sun-Thu; Dhs125 singles, Dhs200 couples, Dhs75 kids Fri-Sat (02 697 0272).
Best for foodies
Asia de Cuba
Since its opening in early 2015, Asia de Cuba has continued to impress us. The authentic Latino 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 provides 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 restaurant’s platos grandes section of the menu is sure to please. However, if you really feel like treating yourself, go for el barrio chino – the wagyu strip steak with glazed Japanese aubergine, 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. Renowned for serving some of the city’s freshest seafood, the expertly mixed drinks and gulf views from the terrace make the visit even more worthwhile. Catch offers many light and refreshing dishes, allowing you to go back to the beach without looking like a whale. Unless you decide to finish the sharing dessert yourself, of course (we speak from experience). The range of appetisers, including gulf prawn cocktail, duck rolls and 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 caramelised black cod with papaya salad. You’ll understand why we recommended it when you’re licking your plate clean.
Open daily, noon-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 stretch 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 such as the cedar wood grilled Scottish salmon and the local red snapper fillet some of the best options. But if you really want to live like you’re on the shore of your own palace, go for one of the steaks. A plethora of cuts are 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).
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, meaning an array of Italian, Indian, Portuguese, Lebanese and Chinese offerings. Meanwhile, the outdoor terrace is always busy thanks to the beach backdrop and gentle sea breeze.
Open daily noon-3.30pm, 7pm-11pm.
Hiltonia Beach Club, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 681 1900).
This beach restaurant is a vibrant venue with a large sunset terrace ideal for unwinding on and enjoying the soothing sounds of the sea. 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 Gulf 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 chilli 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. As the name would suggest, 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 fantastic fishy flesh, you’ll realise it’s totally worth it.
Open daily noon-3pm, 6.30pm-11pm. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 498 8443).