It’s a familiar scenario. You’ve got the complex GPS coordinates of the perfect place to go from your best camping friends (we all have these). You’ve borrowed a tent and bought the whole family sleeping bags. But then the weekend rolls around and the romantic notion of ocean views and roll-up mattresses is fast losing its appeal. That’s why we have scoured the UAE for the best of both worlds, where you feel the sand between your toes right after a decent night’s sleep in your rustic beach bungalow.
Umm al-Quwain, UAE
Wooden cabanas at Dreamland Aqua Park
These are probably about as basic as it gets, but they’re slap-bang in the middle of a brilliantly cheap waterpark, and the overnight cost covers you for two days’ entry to the park, a barbecue dinner, lunch and breakfast, which makes it amazingly good value for money.
The wooden cabanas house up to four people and are equipped with air mattresses, pillows, sleeping bags and a coffee percolator. They’ll also set up a campfire for you for that almost-beach-camping feel (if you remembered the marshmallows, that is) and a sound system provided for your music, handy if you’re travelling in a group and feel like a bit of early-evening party action.
Meanwhile, Dreamland Aqua Park has an impressive range of waterslides, swimming pools and raft rides, and it’s all less than an hour’s drive from Dubai.
Dhs900 per couple, per night, for a wooden cabana (plus Dhs250 for each additional child), including a barbecue dinner, breakfast and lunch. Dreamland Aqua Park, Emirates Bypass Road E611, Umm al-Quwain, www.dreamlanduae.com (06 768 1888).
Al Aqah, Fujairah
Beach chalets at the Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort
This was one of the first beach resorts ever built in the UAE back in the ’70s and there are twenty beach chalets still standing that were part of the original complex, which has now grown into a proper resort (but still retains that retro-minimalist vibe). These simple, one-bedroom chalets have been modernised over the years, complete with a kitchenette and barbecue facilities. They’re still a world away from any glitzy five-star experience, however, and that’s exactly what makes them popular.
Dhs700 per night for a family of four in a one-bedroom chalet. Sandy Beach Hotel & Resort, on the main road of Dibba-Khorfakkan, www.sandybeachhotel.ae (09 244 5555).
Dubai, various locations
Motorhome on the beach
How many times have you spent the day on the sandy shores of Umm Suqeim beach in the shadow of the Burj Al Arab and thought how lovely it would be to stay on after sunset, fire up the barbecue and sleep overnight? Well, actually, you can. Prestige Motor Homes have four motorhomes and four trailers available to hire. We recommend positioning yourself so you’re watching the sun come up over the Palm Jumeirah, sitting in your PJs after a cosy night’s sleep in a proper bed, then going for an early-morning dip before the crowds descend.
The 32-foot trailers are equipped with kitchen essentials and a proper shower, but you’ll need to bring your own deckchairs for reclining on and enjoying that priceless sunrise.
At first glance, a single night’s hire may seem eye-wateringly expensive given you’re essentially just camping on the beach – but it’s not just any old beach, is it?
Dhs3,500 per day, including pitch up to your chosen location and tow away again. Sleeps up to four people. Prestige RV Rentals, www.dubaimotorhomerentals.com (055 953 2064)
Beach chalets at Muscat Hills Resort
There’s a touch of Robinson Crusoe about this little cove tucked away on the dramatic, mountainous coastline of Bar al Jissah, Oman, close to the capital city of Muscat and right next door to the Shangri La Hotel Resort & Spa (although you’d never even know that was there).
Famed for its professional diving centre with training pools and instructors to help you explore the local ocean life, we love the gorgeous beach huts dotting the shoreline, which come complete with open-air bathrooms so you can shower under the stars.
There are kayaks and paddleboards to hire for grown-ups and kids, and almost a kilometre of still water to play in before you’re out of the cove and into deeper currents.
The views are stunning and we reckon you’ll be planning your return trip before you’ve even unpacked the bags.
Dhs1,500 per night for a family of four, including breakfast. Muscat Hills Resort, Bar Al Jissah, Muscat, Oman, www.muscathillsresort.com (+968 24 853000).