Our favourite outdoor activities in the UAE's 'Garden City'
Jebel Hafeet When you approach Jebel Hafeet by car, the mountain rises so high before you that it seems to be part of the sky. And no surprise; it is 1,250m tall.
As one of the UAE’s tallest mountains, it’s naturally a very popular destination, with tourists flocking to the desert peak for an extra special view from the top. Of course, this means a lot of outdoor activities to be had. Try cycling to the top, navigating the winding roads to the Mercure Grand hotel hidden at its summit. There are plenty of stops on the way up, including car parks, so don’t feel like you have to make it all the way to the top. And if you’re not up to the climb, the Green Mubazzah lies at the base of the mountain, where underwater springs have allowed a verdant foliage to decorate the landscape. Clocking in at 1.6 square metres, it’s the biggest park in Al Ain, so take advantage of both its size and beauty by taking a brisk walk through its natural charm. Via the E66. Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet (03 783 8888).
Hili Fun City If you want to enjoy your weekend to the full – Hili Fun City is an appropriate choice for not just you, but your family too. Established way back in 1985, the park is a favourite in the UAE, thanks to its wide selection of attractions that cater for all ages; there’s the smaller rides for kids, but then there’s the SkyFlyer and Thunderbolt rides for big kids, ensuring your time at Hili Fun City is still an exhilarating one. And if you’re not feeling particularly active, then there’s always the Hili express that circumnavigates the park, and there are areas for barbecues for those who work up an appetite during the activities on offer. Open Mon-Thu 4pm-10pm; Fri-Sat noon-10pm; closed Sunday. Entry is Dhs45 on weekdays, Dhs50 on weekends. Near Al Masoudi (03 784 5542).
Wadi Adventure Are you seeking new thrills? Are you wanting to test yourself in raging waters? Wadi Adventure is the latest attraction in the region, being a man-made water park for a variety of water sports. Though Wadi Adventure may aim for the more hands-on visitor, don’t worry if you’re a beginner; the instructors will get you up to speed, so you can enjoy kayaking, surfing and white water rafting. The kayaking channel itself is an impressive 1.7km in length, signifying the park’s scale; but if you’re not particularly fond of getting wet, there are some great activities on dry land too, including high ropes, climbing walls and, if you’re feeling up to it, a 14m swing. Within this controlled environment, you won’t have to worry about the unpredictable conditions of a natural river. Rates differ according to guest, but an all-day pass is Dhs50, with individual activities costing anywhere from Dhs25 to Dhs150. The park operates from 11am-8pm on weekdays and opens its doors an hour earlier on Fridays and Saturdays. Slap bang in the centre of the desert, Wadi Adventure is definitely a peculiarity, but a most welcome one. Al Ain, via the E66 (03 781 8422).
Al Ain Raceway If you’re in the need for speed, Al Ain Raceway is the perfect opportunity to crank your go-karting skills up to 11; a 1.6km circuit awaits for you to manoeuvre its bends and shoot up its straights. With their ‘arrive and drive’ pricing, you can dart around the track for Dhs140 for 15 minutes, or enjoy some private lessons, if you’d prefer to polish your abilities before hitting the track, for Dhs400 for 30 minutes. But the most exciting feature is probably Al Ain Raceway’s ‘Formula’ racing, where eight to 25 drivers (from Dhs180 per person) have it out in a full-on, high-octane competition. To help you beat your friends, attached to the kart’s steering wheels are screens displaying information such as your lap times and race position – and, if you’re good, you may even end up on the leaderboard. Al Ain Raceway, via the Al Ain Road (03 768 6662).