Summer might be looming large – but there are some excellent getaway deals across the UAE. As we enter what the hotels across the country like to call ‘off-peak’ season, the scene explodes with great value weekends away, just an hour or two out of town. There is, quite literally, no better time to explore what this exciting country has on offer and sort the trip you’ve been promising yourself ever since you arrived.
And yes, it may be warm, but there’s no need to melt during your adventuring – we’ve pulled together some of our favourite activities that will allow you to have the greatest possible amount of fun without needing to reach for ten litres of electrolyte drinks. Get inspired, and get booking.
Cool ways to beat the heat across the emirates
There’s more to the capital than enviably efficient road systems (they run on a New York-style grid). Soak up some rays on Saadiyat Public Beach, operated by BAKE (www.bakeuae.com), which offers sun loungers, towel and locker rental, showers and changing rooms, shops selling beach buys, a café and lifeguards. There’s also an emphasis on staying active and keeping your hard-earned beach body in shape, with stand-up paddleboard rental, lessons and tours, as well as kayak rental, lessons and tours, both priced from Dhs100 per hour. Once you’ve showered and changed, kick back as the sun goes down at the stunning waterside Ornina at Raha Beach (www.ornina.ae, 02 556 6090). A stylish Mediterranean lounge, pull up a comfy stool on the small terrace facing the sea, or soak up the chilled beats inside.
Take a road trip around Ajman, just 45 minutes from Dubai, checking out historical sites such as The Red Fort, Al Mareer Fort and Hassa Buweid (White Stones) Castle, Masfut Castle and the Bin Sultan mosque, also in Masfut (www.ajmantourism.ae). Finish with a stroll around the Ajman Museum, an old fort that previously housed the ruling family and also acted as a police headquarters. All that driving making your stomach growl? Look no further than the Bukhara at the Ajman Kempinski on the Ajman Corniche (www.kempinski.com, 06 714 5582). This delightful, atmospheric Indian restaurant serves lunch and dinner every day except Mondays, and though it’s certainly not cheap, the food is fantastic and the staff firmly encourage patrons to eat with their hands. We recommend the rarra gosht, mopped up with a couple of roomali rotis.
There’s nothing that makes the east coast of the UAE more worth visiting than diving and snorkelling, with the chance to spot turtles, puffer fish, moray eels, highly poisonous lion fish and enormous whale sharks, to name just a few. A two-dive trip with Divers Down (www.diversdowndubai.com, 04 422 8346) will set you back Dhs440 with full equipment, while for those who prefer to snorkel Al Boom (www.alboomdiving.com, 04 342 2993) runs trips to sites with shallow pinnacles such as Dibba Rock, Martini Rock, Sharm Rocks and Shark Island to ensure you see plenty of marine life from the surface. Trips are Dhs250. A day in the water will no doubt leave you feeling pooped (diving burns as many calories per hour as jogging, and most people will do it for a lot longer), so head to Le Méridien Al Aqah Beach Resort (www.lemeridien-alaqah.com, 09 244 9000) for refreshments. Grab a seat at Gonu Beachside Bar & Grill to take in the beautiful views with a kebab and a cold drink.
Umm Al Quwain
Housing the smallest population of any emirate in the UAE, Umm Al Quwain is something of a time portal – during a visit, you’ll get a fairly good idea of what the country’s bigger cities looked like 30 years ago. Its dated vibe, however, is part of the charm, and certainly makes it feel a world away from Dubai. Perhaps its best known attraction is Dreamland Aqua Park (www.dreamlanduae.com, 06 768 1888), beloved of many for the fact you can enjoy a cold beverage in the waist-deep moat that surrounds the park’s bar. At the nearby Flamingo Beach Resort (www.flamingoresort.ae, 06 765 0000), crab-hunting trips (complete with spears) are offered. It’s the laid-back Umm Al Quwain Marine Club (www.uaqmarineclub.com, 06 766 6644) that offers the most crowd-pleasing day out, however, with a quiet beach and pool, plus wakeboarding, fishing, cruising and even barbecuing available, too.
It may surprise you to learn the emirate is a goldmine of interesting experiences, from picking up bargains in the air-conditioned Souk Al Arsah (supposedly one of the oldest in the UAE) or Central Souk, to exploring the Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum (www.sharjahtoursim.ae) with its retro dinosaur displays. Spend a half-day on the seas fishing for local catch – fishfishme (www.fishfish.me) organises four-hour trips starting either at 7am or 2pm, priced at Dhs2,200 for up to six people. Expect, or at least hope, to reel in impressively sized kingfish, queenfish and cobia. Feeling peckish? Try Fish Corner (06 556 8884), located on the wharf at the Sharjah Al Qasba canal for simple fresh seafood.
Ras Al Khaimah
There is absolutely loads to do in the UAE’s most northerly emirate, from splashing in the shadow of fake icebergs at Ice Land Water Park (www.icelandwaterpark.com, 800 969 725) to playing 18 holes at Al Hamra Golf Club (www.alhamragolf.com, 07 244 6464, ext. 302), everyone’s covered. The adventurous should pay a visit to the Jazirah Aviation Club (www.jac-uae.net, 07 244 6416), where you can take to the skies in a gyrocopter, microlight or even a paramotor (you’re in a parachute, with a motor strapped to your back). There are piloting lessons available, too.