Love the beach but hate the crowds? Check out these secretive sandy spots
The UAE boasts about 700km of coastline, dozens of beach clubs and a handful of very decent free beaches, complete with lifeguards and 24-hour kiosks. As we approach October, average temperatures dip to 35.4°C, falling to between 20°C and 30°C right up until next May. So what’s stopping you from grabbing your sunnies and heading out to lie on the sand, or to float in the supremely salty Gulf? Is it the fact that everyone
else is feeling the pull of the beach at just the same time? We thought so. That’s why we’ve come up with
10 spots around Dubai and the UAE that are more or less guaranteed to be empty all year round. While some require an entry fee, many don’t: all you’ll need are the directions in this magazine, a towel and some sunscreen. And, relax…
1 The empty beach Why is this little beauty of a bay so great? Because it’s central, yet there’s hardly ever anyone there. In fact, we even debated whether to tell you about it. Right next to a small jetski and boat port in Umm Suqeim, the sand here is flanked by villas and there are rocks to the right of the beach, which means the water is always perfectly still and clear. We usually spend a good part of our Saturday afternoon lounging on a lilo or, if we’re feeling a bit more active, playing a spot of volleyball on the free court. Alone – because no one else is there… Off Jumeirah Beach Road; take the first right turning after
Umm Suqeim Library. Access is free
2 Al Ghantoot A few years back, this beach – located right on Dubai’s border with Abu Dhabi – was regularly alive with parties, when revellers ended up camping out all night. Yet soon enough Dubai’s mini Ibiza was silenced, allegedly due to noise complaints from the nearby luxury bungalows. Today the area is desolate except for watersport fans (who love the flat water in the neighbouring canal), long-term beach bar regulars and the occasional private event (we witnessed paint-spattered carnage the morning after a Diwali party last year). A Dhs100 day pass gains you access to the medium-sized beach, while wakeboarding and waterskiing sessions cost extra, as do drinks, burgers and hot dogs. The last time we visited we also spied a half-built ‘beach bar igloo’, which has to be a first in the region. Follow Sheikh Zayed Road towards Abu Dhabi and take the Ghantoot turn-off (exit 399). Follow signs for ‘Bungalows’. After five minutes, just off a roundabout, there are gates leading to Ghantoot beach. Beach access costs Dhs100 (Dhs50 for children). Al Jazira Golden Tulip Hotel (02 562 9100), www.goldentulipaljazira.com. Double rooms start from Dhs700 including tax and breakfast.
3 Al Shalal Beach Club This Palm Jumeirah beach club has only been open 18 months, and claims to be the most boutique venue of
its kind in the city. As could be predicted, then, beach entrance isn’t free – you need to pay Dhs100 (Dhs150
with gym use), although entrance to the pool bar is always fee-free (and the beach itself is open to residents). We highly recommend paying the fee and luxuriating on the peaceful 200m beach, taking in the impressive Dubai views and making full use of the infinity pool and kayaks. What’s more, while the food in the club’s restaurant, Gusto, can be hit and miss, the service is friendly and the club’s regulars lend it a real ‘community’ vibe. As for the boutique tag? Al Shalal is fending off the competition from Shoreside in Jumeirah 3 – at time of going to press the latter was still closed and incommunicado (keep an eye on Shoreside’s Facebook page for updates) – although new management at Al Shalal could swing the balance… Palm Jumeirah, between Shoreline Apartment Buildings Al Nabat and Al Haseer (buildings 7 and 8). (04 430 9466), www.ifa hotelsresorts.com. Day pass Dhs150 (including gym); Dhs100 (excluding gym). Week pass: Dhs500 (excluding gym). Month pass: Dhs1,600 (excluding gym). Access to pool bar is free, open daily 11am-10pm.
4 The Secret Spot on Jumeirah Open Beach Jumeirah Open Beach is one of Dubai’s few free beaches. It’s vast and usually packed, at all hours of the day –
shuffle down at 6am and you’ll find bathers (often fully clothed), bootcampers, picnickers, runners and speed walkers. During the day there will always be sunbathers by the water, and diners on the picnic tables. But, if you walk for about 15 minutes up the coast, past the first main jetty (and its rollerbladers) and onto the next beach, you’ll find a far quieter spot, with less litter and even the occasional surfer (we saw one, once). In terms of tranquility it could be an entirely different beach altogether. Head to Dubai Marine Beach Resort, follow signs to the Open Beach. Walk left until you pass the first jetty: then head onto the beach. Access is free.
5 The Secret Spot on JBR Open Beach Yes, we know this is usually the most cramped spot on the coast, as all of JBR’s residents attempt to relax on one stretch of sand. However, if you head to a specific spot between the skydiving centre and the Ritz-Carlton hotel, you’ll find an empty oasis. If you’re after quiet respite from the heaving fast-food chains in the area, from here you can dive into Café Havana, which serves cakes and snacks both inside and out and attracts the older, cigar-smoking set. What’s more, while at night there are always dozens of heads bobbing in JBR’s waves, this area is always quiet. It’s also
a superb spot for a barbecue (which is legal, according to the person we spoke to this week at the Municipality). Head towards JBR on Beach Road. Pass Grosvenor House on your left and keep an eye out for the first turning on
your right, for The Walk. Follow the road straight, but at the corner where the road curves to the left, take the slip road off to the right, which takes you straight onto the beach. Access is free.
6 The Secret Spot at Mamzar Beach Park This sprawling beach park is a perennially popular destination for families and large groups, who take advantage of the shaded, grassy areas to set up all-day picnics and barbecues (some seem to bring the entire contents of their kitchen along, including tables, chairs and – yes, we’ve seen it – a sink). But fear not: the beach itself is divided into four ‘bays’: for a secluded spot of sand, we recommend walking to the furthest, northern bay; it’s usually a lot quieter because few people can be bothered to trek. The bays also ensure the water is calm and clear. Facilities include several shower and toilet blocks, dedicated barbecue and picnic areas and a public swimming pool (entry to the pool is Dhs10 for adults and Dhs5 for kids). It’s even possible to rent an air-conditioned chalet for the day (from Dhs150-200) if you don’t fancy roughing it on the grass and staring at the sand. Al Khaleej Road, Mamzar. From Dubai, follow the D92 Al Khaleej Road (the one that runs alongside the port in Bur Dubai). Go under the Shindagha Tunnel, then continue
north on the D92 until the road bends round to the right in front of the park’s main entrance. Open daily 8am-10pm. Entry is Dhs5 per person, Dhs30 per car.
7 Picnic Beach, Khasab, Musandam Just off the main road to Khasab, this spot is often completely empty (eat your heart out, JBR), save for a family or two and the odd bachelor, so it’s perfect for secluded family outings or a more boisterous camping weekend with friends. It’s also a great spot to have a barbecue, not least because the nearest lunch option
(other than a bag of crisps) is a less-than-stellar caff, which can found at the local petrol station. To make the most of this beach, though, you really ought to camp. By day, the sea is home to scores of dolphins, turtles and rays (bring a snorkel), but take a dip by night and watch the water light up with emerald-green phosphorescence. If you wake up early enough, you’ll witness one of the most perfect sunrises for miles and miles. Follow the Khasab main road from the RAK border (it’s the only road there is) for several kilometres; it’s the second drive-on beach on your right. Access is free.
8 Desert Islands Resort & Spa, Sir Bani Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Though you have to be staying at the hotel to access it, this beach is unimaginably tranquil, apart from the odd dolphin, and there’s rarely a soul about thanks to the relatively small number of rooms at the hotel (it’s designed to feel intimate). Anantara’s Desert Islands resort has plenty to be smug about, but the beach is perhaps its most underplayed ace. As it’s a hotel, there’s waiter service for food and drinks, plus lifeguards on hand in the event of an emergency. The only downside? A weekend at the resort will set you back a fair wedge. From Dubai, follow highway E11 past Abu Dhabi. About 10km from the town of Ruwais, take the Jabel Dhanna turn-off and follow signs to the Sir Bani Yas jetty. Leave your vehicle in the car park and check in at reception before boarding the boat, which takes you across to the island. Rooms start at Dhs1,499 per night (excluding tax).
9 Dibba Beach, Musandam If it’s solitude you’re after, this is the place. The huge stretch of beach next to the Golden Tulip in Dibba is almost always deserted, thanks to its isolated location just over the border in Musandam. Set against the backdrop of the rugged Hajar mountains, you’ll occasionally notice a few motorised hang-gliders sailing overhead – if you fancy a go, try the nearby Absolute Adventure centre (04 345 9900), which also offers hiking, mountain biking and more. The beach is free to use and, while there are no lifeguards on duty and no facilities to speak of, the Golden Tulip’s restaurant and bar can prove a welcome respite from the scorching midday sun. It’s also possible to camp on the beach; the location proves particularly popular in mid-February thanks to its close proximity to the start line of the Wadi Bih Run. Near Golden Tulip, Dibba. Take Emirates Road towards Ras Al Khaimah, then take Exit 119 towards Dibba/Fujairah. Turn left at the roundabout after the cement factory, then follow signs for the Golden Tulip. You’ll need your passport to cross the Omani border at Dibba. The beach is lmmediately before the Golden Tulip hotel. Access is free.
10 And coming up in December 2011… Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi This is under construction near Saadiyat Island, but it’s already setting some staggering expectations: Nurai has already been named ‘Most Luxurious Project in the World’ by Newsweek magazine.
Insiders tell us that once the resort is complete
(by December 2011) it will feature a 45-room luxury boutique retreat, 21 private beachfront estates and 28 water villas, with property prices for the latter starting from a cool Dhs25 million. Nurai is aimed at ‘ultra-high
net worth individuals’, and access will only be possible via charter boat, yacht or helicopter. If you do make a booking at the retreat and manage to make it to the resort, you’ll then be able to visit its world-class spa, fitness centre, restaurants and the planned
Café del Mar sunset lounge. See you there, then? Five minutes by boat from Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. Retreat room prices TBC. See www.nuraiisland.ae.
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NEIL DONALD May 27, 2013 05:38 am
The beach is now closed to the public as have the areas along the bank of the channel. The army has taken over what was the Al Jazira bungalows and have erected big fences around the area. A great unspoiled area lost....