The Pavilion Marina & Sports Club, Jumeirah Beach Hotel: This beach club is jam-packed and action-packed, with separate spaces for all ages and desires, including three beaches (top for tots is Marina beach with its shallow waters and free non-motorised watersports) and four pools including the family pool with fountains and a water chute. There are lots of loungers – get one by the shallow end, so tots can toddle in and out while you lie back and lick free ice lollies. Kids will love the huge novelty ship that is Sinbad’s Kids Club, providing morning, afternoon and evening sessions where tots as young as two can play in the toy-laden play area, huge indoor sandpit, art room, movie room, and ball area or enjoy sing-a-longs, dancing, painting and aqua fun in the shaded pool. Older kids (5-12) can play squash and dodgeball and get competitive with limbo and sandcastle building. You can even book them in for lunch, and if you plan to stay for dinner, the hotel lays on evening parties, discos and talent shows, with movies and storytime for little ones. For adults, there’s the gym, squash and tennis courts and free aerobics classes.
Conclusion: Pricey, but there’s enough thrown in to keep kids active all week.
Cost: Dhs66,938 per couple with one child, Dhs78,188 with two kids, Dhs11,250 for each extra child. 20 per cent off F&B and spa, 50 per cent off motorised watersports, 10 per cent off Seawings and Wild Wadi discounts.
(04 406 8800).
Ritz-Carlton, The Walk: A haven amid the urban Marina jungle, a beautiful pool with meandering streams, water jets and a gurgling fountain is perfect for older kids (and lounge-about parents), and the stunning stretch of beach and pleasant hotel gardens are obvious natural attractions. The hotel is undergoing a major expansion yet still retains a wonderfully serene, luxurious feel. But staid it is not. Look behind the scenes and this place is a hive of activity and a boon for busy parents. The kids’ pool with its slide and nearby shaded playground is a great place to make friends, while cheery, qualified staff at the Ritz kids’ club will happily keep nippers aged four to 12 entertained with all sorts of wacky activities. Little explorers will be fascinated by treasure hunts, hotel tours and hunt-the-nationality contests, while bouncing bunnies can work off some of that pesky energy with relay races, footie games, obstacle courses and dance-offs. The club is also an ideal place for cooling off with its comfy TV sofa, games aplenty and loads of supervised quiet activities such as mask making, science experiments and origami. But it’s the sports facilities that really set this place apart. Adults will doubtless appreciate the well-equipped and spacious fitness centre and extensive range of classes (including pilates and cardio pump), wonderfully individual personal training as well as tennis and squash courts, but there’s plenty going on for mini fit-freaks too. From Junior Gym to teen fitness, boot camps and martial arts, junior can partake of all his after-school activities here, as well as holiday camps and parties (all available to non-members), while mum and dad do their thing.
Conclusion: Good for multi-taskers, you’ll use these facilities day after day.
Cost: Dhs29,000 per couple, Dhs6,000/10,500/13,000 for one/two/three children. 10 per cent discount on F&B and spa, discounts on classes.
(04 399 4000).
Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort & Towers: A quieter spot with a great family feel, the beauty of membership here is the affordable price tag and a six-month option for winter months. Service is fantastic, with staff happy to play table tennis with your tykes and take on the dads and lads in a game of footie on the mini soccer pitch. The Pirates Club seems a little quiet (our son was alone at 11am on Friday) but it’s busier during the week when mums drop their tots and head off to the fitness centre for games of squash and sauna sessions. But there’s lots to do here, everything from DVDs, PlayStation and Wii to board games, crafts, educational computer games, and an impressive kids’ library, as well as a schedule of organised activities which changes weekly, ensuring kids don’t get bored. The activities are pretty basic (storytelling, arts, board games, movies) with few separating sprogs by age, though over sevens can get free banana boat and slinger rides (a three-seater inflatable dingy pulled by a speedboat), badminton and football in select sessions. We discover a shaded tots’ play area near the beach (soon to be a pirate’s ship) and once the close-to-shore dive site is complete, little ones can try snorkeling too. The beach itself isn’t particularly tot-friendly with a steep incline down to the water, but the resort gardens with its palm trees and Balinese Huts provide a great family chill-out space. We also love the large, shallow and shaded kids’ pool, though the main pool has a sectioned-off area for kids too. Other distractions include a fish pond, large chess set and a Henna kiosk, while the poolside café has a great kids’ menu.
Conclusion: A good option for peace, privacy and just-enough amenities at a good price.
Cost: Dhs20,500 per family of four per year, Dhs13,500 for six months, Dhs3,750/Dhs2,500 for extra kids. 15 per cent off spa, 20 per cent off F&B and 25 per cent off watersports and salon.
(04 315 3450).
Mina Club, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort: Spoilt for choice sums up this lively club, which offers access to the facilities of both the Mina Seyahi and The Westin. While our little one is content to splash around in the bijou shaded rock pool, the meandering pool proves to be great fun, and The Westin’s family pool is a huge hit with its kiddie splash slide and swim-to island. To escape, retreat to loungers in the lush, landscaped gardens or head down to the stunning stretch of beach, offering the usual watersports at a discount. The biggest draw for families though is the activity-rich kids’ club with a unique community feel: all the kids seem to know each other and with 300 family members, it’s like a second home. With 60-80 kids in and out of the club every day, it gets pretty hectic, but with eight staff, two large areas (outdoor and indoor), and tons of organised activities divided by age, it works. So, while older ones embark on adventurous ‘Animation Activities’ like snorkeling, field hockey, water polo, baseball and kayaking, the under-sevens get stuck into bandana painting, jewellery making, play dough and games of Pictionary, or let off steam in the large, safe and shaded outside area. Your child can stay for two hours, but you can return them later after a break, while you head off to your own activities (though dad may enjoy the ‘dad-and-lad’ boxing sessions) courtesy of four tennis courts, two gyms and a spa.
Conclusion: For a community feel and kids of different ages, this is the one. Pricey, but worth it for all-week use.
Cost: Dhs40,000 per year for a family of four, additional child Dhs5,000. 25 per cent off F&B, 30 per cent off room rates; three complimentary room nights and 14 free pool and beach passes.
(04 399 3333).
Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa: It’s just 20 minutes down the road, yet after a day here you’ll feel like you’ve had a holiday. Two hotels in one, the lush beachfront Palm Tree Court with its mesmerising fish ponds and roaming peacocks is where we park ourselves, grabbing loungers by the swimming pool and shaded kiddie splash area. With easy access to the gardens and beach, it would be easy to stay here all day, but an abundance of attractions beckon with more water sports than you can swing a paddle at. The Aqua Hut boasts wind surfing, water skiing, kayaking, sailing and more, and it’s from here you can arrange fishing trips or an excursion on the fab Seawings plane. For independent nippers (aged 3-7), the Cool Zone in the Jebel Ali Hotel is an expansive indoor play area with library, TV, video games and toys and on-the-hour activities including camel and animal farm visits, shell collecting and cooking. Tweens and teens are well-catered for with water polo, camel rides, beach walks as well as badminton, football and beach games – all free. The fun stretches into the evening (with karaoke, aqua movies and discos) for families who stay for dinner. With the little ‘uns kept busy, parents can chill at the spa, play nine holes of golf or make use of a wealth of sports facilities. Add in stables, a dive centre (with salt-water pool and kids’ courses), soccer at the JAI Centre of Excellence and a shooting club, membership is a great deal.
Conclusion: Ideal for active families of all ages, but you may not use it during the week.
Cost: Dhs16,000 per couple per year, Dhs2,500 joining fee. Dhs2,500 (ages 12-21), Dhs1,500 (ages four-12), under-fours free. 25 per cent off F&B, 20 per cent off 60-min spa treatments, and more.
(04 814 5555).