The UAE is a dynamic country with an intriguing mix of old and new; from cultural hotspots to thrill-seeking attractions, picture-perfect beaches to treasures of the past.
Blessed with warm weather, calm ocean waters and long stretches of sand, the UAE offers a choice of beautiful beaches as well as parks for all occasions.
There are three types of beach to choose from: public beaches (limited facilities but no entry fee), beach parks (good facilities and a nominal entrance fee), and private beach clubs (normally part of a hotel or resort). Regulations for public beaches are quite strict: dogs are banned and so is driving on the sand.
Two of Abu Dhabi's beaches have been awarded the internationally recognised Blue Flag certificate for cleanliness: the Corniche Beach and Bateen Beach. Several beaches in Dubai have been awarded the award: JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, Jumeirah Open Beach, Al Mamzar Beach Park, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Le Royal Meridien and the Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort.
The UAE's superb parks are well-maintained and offer a variety of facilities, lawns and play areas, creating the perfect escape from the concrete jungle of the cities. Most have a kiosk or cafe selling snacks and drinks, and some have barbecue pits. Regulations at the parks vary, with some banning bikes and rollerblades, and some parks have a ladies’ day when entry is restricted to women, girls and young boys. Entrance to the smaller parks is generally free, while the larger ones charge up to Dhs.5 per person.
There’s a multitude of sports and leisure facilities within the UAE's malls, hotels and park areas, as well as dedicated sports complexes, often with superb facilities. With everything from bowling and paintballing to skiing and skydiving, there’s no time to get bored here.
Where to go
The winter climate is perfect for outdoor activities, from stand up paddleboarding to kitesurfing, golfing to rock climbing. One thing that can't be missed when living in the UAE is the desert, and there are plenty of companies to whisk you out into the great sandy unknown, or for more information on all kinds of desert and other outdoor activities.
Each of the emirates has sports facilities and plenty of activities to keep you entertained. There are two key dedicated sports hubs in Abu Dhabi: Zayed Sports City, which is open seven days a week and has an ice rink, bowling alley, tennis courts and gym, and Al Forsan International Sports Resort, boasting go-karts, shooting ranges, archery, paintball, horse riding and watersports. In Dubai, there are plenty of indoor activity centres to entertain all ages, from climbing walls at Adventure HQ to the karting circuits at Dubai Autodrome; from ice skating at The Dubai Mall to skydiving in a wind tunnel at iFLY Dubai; and from skiing at Mall of the Emirates to trampolining at Bounce.
Water parks are also a popular way to have fun in the sun and include Dreamland Aqua Park in Umm Al Quwain, Ice Land Water Park in Ras Al Khaimah, Al Montazah Waterpark in Sharjah and Wadi Adventure in Al Ain. Dubai also has Wild Wadi and Aquaventure, while Yas Waterworld is where tourists and locals flock to in Abu Dhabi.