Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 21 October 2019

A complete guide to Hatta: what to do, where to stay and how to get there

From adventure sports to beekeeping farms, here is a practical guide to everything you need to know before visiting Hatta

Hatta is Dubai’s mountainous little sister. An exclave of the emirate that sits on the border with Oman, it benefits from some fantastic natural scenery and a more laid-back pace of life than the UAE's big cities. Less than a two-hour drive from Dubai, it’s a good pick for a weekend escape and close enough for a mini-daycation. In winter, Hatta is the go-to spot for hiking, biking, kayaking and adventure, while in summer it's worth a visit for its cooler climes. If you're planning a trip out east, here's everything you need to know from where to stay and what to do to where to go for the best local food in town.

Is Hatta in Dubai?

Hatta's Hollywood-style sign
Hatta's Hollywood-style sign

Hatta is part of the Dubai emirate, but it is not located within the city’s main boundaries. Instead, it lies some 130 kilometres south-east of the city, high in the Hajaar Mountains. Formerly part of Oman, the town was given to Dubai around 1850 when the Omanis realised that they were no longer able to defend it against Buraimi tribes. These days, it's a popular spot for Dubai-based families to escape to in summer thanks to its cooler temperatures. Even today, the town retains much of its Omani laid-back pace of life.

How to get there

Getting to Hatta involves a journey of around 90 minutes by car from Dubai and the Sharjah-Kalba route is typically the fastest. From Abu Dhabi, you're looking at a two-and-a-half-hour road trip. If you’re coming by public transport, you'll need to get to Sabkha Bus Station in Dubai where you can hop on the E16 bus. The bus takes a little over two hours to reach Hatta.

Where to stay

Hatta Fort Hotel

Chalet rooms at JA Hatta Fort Hotel. Courtesy JA Hotels & Resorts
Chalet rooms at JA Hatta Fort Hotel. Courtesy JA Hotels & Resorts

The oldest hotel in Hatta, this four-star resort is perfect for a family stay or a romantic break. Rooms and chalets are quaint, in keeping with the rest of the hotel, but you’ll get plenty of space for your money. The two outdoor pools are temperature-controlled, so you can take a dip all year round. The Senses spa is a good place to relax and there’s plenty of activities to keep the whole family happy with everything from mini golf, pétanque and archery to air-gun shooting, a zip line and even a maze. There’s also an indoor recreation centre with a pool table, air hockey, foosball and more. Little ones will love the resident deer and fawns who live right beside the kids covered play area. Picture opportunities await at the top of Hatta Fort Park, some 273 metres up, or in front of the mountain backdrop with the Hollywood-style Hatta sign in the background.

Rooms start at Dh405, jaresortshotels.com

Hatta Caravan Park

Hatta Caravan Park. Courtesy Hatta Wadi Hub / Meraas
Hatta Caravan Park. Courtesy Hatta Wadi Hub / Meraas

The UAE’s first caravan park is located inside Hatta Wadi Hub. Ideal for families, these static caravans come with a fully fitted kitchen, flat screen television, wifi, a faux fireplace and the option of one or two bedrooms. Kids will love bedding down in the bunk beds and the area around the caravans is a great spot for them to run around and play. There are BBQ areas right outside the caravans as well as food trucks serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Rates start at Dh900, park closes annually from early May to early October, visithatta.com/en/caravan-park

Damani Lodges Resort

Escape to a mountain retreat in Hatta 
Escape to a mountain retreat in Hatta

Nestled in a makeshift mountain town, the Damani Lodges are sleekly designed huts that are cosy and simple but very well equipped. You’ll have everything you’d expect from a regular hotel room including housekeeping services, comfy beds, wifi and modern bathrooms. Standard rooms sleep two adults, standard plus rooms can cater for two adults and a child while the mountain suites sleep a family of four. The highlight of staying here is being able to step out of your room onto your private decking area where you’re totally surrounded by nature. You need a dune buggy to reach the chalets, drivers are on hand 24 hours a day. You can also order food from any of the on-site options and it will be delivered direct to your door.

Rates start from Dh630, resort closes annually from early May to early October, visithatta.com/en/damani-lodges

Sedr Trailer Resort

Hatta Sedr Trailers each have their own decking area for mountainside lounging
Hatta Sedr Trailers each have their own decking area for mountainside lounging

If you’re looking to really get away from it all, this is the place for you. Nestled high in the mountains, you can only get here by specially approved 4x4 vehicles operated by Sedr Trailer staff. They’ll transport you and your luggage up into the mountains and help you get settled in your converted Airstream trailer. The gleaming silver trailers sleep two adults and one child and come with a kitchen, dining area, bathroom and outdoor terraced area. There’s a communal fire pit that the staff will light on a daily basis and a BBQ area if you want to grill your own food or there’s an on-site food truck if you’d rather get take out. Perfectly tranquil, the trailers are located by the banks of the bright blue Hatta dam. Book a kayaking package if you want to explore the water or simply enjoy being by a lake and surrounded by mountains, this is what Hatta is all about.

Rates start at Dhs695, resort closes annually from early May to early October; visithatta.com

The Palm House Hatta

Looking for a farmhouse to call you own? The Palm House Hatta give you exactly that. This converted farmhouse has four bedrooms, a private pool and is a beautiful fusion of modern and tradition. There’s a fully fitted kitchen and dining area, an authentic majlis that comes with chalkboard walls that the kids can scribble on, a games room with a snooker table and a gorgeous palm garden for wandering in.

Rates start from Dhs2,000 (weekdays), Dhs2,500 (weekends); @thepalmhousehatta

What to see and do

Hatta Wadi Hub

Hatta Wadi Hub offers a range of activities including archery, axe-throwing, cycling, zorbing and more. 
Hatta Wadi Hub offers a range of activities including archery, axe-throwing, cycling, zorbing and more.

If it’s adventure you’re after then Hatta Wadi Hub is a must-visit. This purpose-built facility is surrounded by the mountains and offers a whole host of adventure and activities. Take your pick from downhill carting, zorbing, a human sling shot, axe throwing, archery, free fall jumps, adventure rope courses, wall climbing or trampolining. The centre can also arrange kayaking and hiking trails in the nearby landscapes.

Prices vary per activity and the centre closes in summer; visithatta.com

Mountain biking

Hatta is one of the best places in the UAE for mountain bike trails. 
Hatta is one of the best places in the UAE for mountain bike trails.

Hatta is one of the best spots in the country for exploring on two wheels. The Hatta MTB Bike Centre has developed around 50 kilometres of biking trails spanning a network of various terrains and distances. Colour-coded to reflect the trail's difficulty, beginners can start with the easy trails marked in green while experts will want to tackle the black routes. Riding is free if you bring your own bike and the trail centre is open 24 hours a day with free parking so you can easily leave your car. If you want to hire a bike, or get some expert instruction, the team at Hatta Wadi Hub can help you out. Download the app to help you navigate the trails and don’t forget to pause to take in your surroundings - you’ll see natural lakes, craggy mountains and deserted grasslands.

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days per year; hattamtb.ae

Horse ride through the mountains

Venture out on horseback for a very different vantage point of the Hatta mountainscape. Hatta Golden Horses offers sunrise and sunset rides on Arabian horses. The rides are suitable for everyone, even if you've never been on a horse before. Riding stops during the summer months and restarts every October.

You have to book at least one day in advance and rides start from Dh100 for a one-hour ride; @hatta_horses

Get active at JA Hatta Fort Hotel

Go ziplining at JA Hatta Fort Hotel
Go ziplining at JA Hatta Fort Hotel

Even if you're not staying at Hatta Fort Hotel, you can visit as a day-guest to try some of the activities on offer. The nine-course mini golf course is ideal for adults and kids alike and is set beside the hotel’s resident deer pen. There's also a giant chessboard, archery and air gun shooting, a climbing wall, zip line and a huge maze.

Most activities are free for hotel guests, fees apply for visitors, jaresorthotels.com

Hatta Honey Bee Garden

Hatta Honey Bee Garden
Hatta Honey Bee Garden

One of the exclave's best-kept secrets, Hatta Honey Bee Garden is well worth a visit. Best approached via 4x4, or very slowly with any other vehicle, this peaceful garden is the region’s first queen bee rearing station. Don some bright yellow beekeeper suits and head into the garden with the experts to learn everything you need to know about bees. As well as getting up close with the insects you’ll see the types of trees that produce honey, view various beehives and can opt to take part in candle-making or beehive frame-building sessions.

Tickets cost from Dh50 per person; hattahoney.ae

Hatta Wadi Park

Pack a picnic and head to Hatta Wadi Park for a family day out. Here, you'll find over 900 trees, lots of green open spaces, a beautiful mountain backdrop, children's play areas, a running track and pits with sheltered picnic tables. There's also a pretty walkway and lots of water features dotted throughout the park. Didn’t pack your picnic or in need a coffee? Head to Al Yamm Café where you can sit outside and enjoy great vistas.

Hike through Hatta Mountain Conservation Area

Hatta Mountain Conservation area is good for trekking
Hatta Mountain Conservation area is good for trekking

Dubai’s only mountain refuge for endangered animals and plants, this region has the largest population of the endangered Arabian Tahr in the country. It’s also great for hiking. Trek through the foothills of the mountains climbing over rugged terrain. Stop to take a few pictures at Hatta Lake — a striking blue sheet of water amid the sandy-coloured surrounds. As you hike, keep an eye out for the elusive Arabian sand cat. Security clearance from the municipality is required to enter the reserve but the areas around the dams are open to the public.

Find out more at Hatta Mountain Conservation

Kayak on the Dam

Hatta Dam
Hatta Dam

See Hatta from the water with a trip on Hatta Dam. Shockingly blue and surrounded by jagged mountain creeks, this is the ideal place for an afternoon of water-based fun. Hire a kayak, pedal boat or water bike and work up a sweat as you soar across the azure surface. Or book a tour boat with a driver who’ll fill you in on fascinating facts about the region.

Rental prices start at Dh60; hattakayak.com

Visit Hatta Heritage Village

The Hatta Heritage Village is popular with tourists who want to see the not too distant past of life in the Emirates. This restored traditional village is one of the oldest in the country, dating back to approximately the third century BC. Carefully reconstructed stone houses and water wells sit among two watchtowers, a traditional majlis and a fort. There’s also a nice collection of old photographs detailing traditional life in Hatta, a basket-weaving area and a museum space showcasing old tools and weapons. The Al Sharria palm tree farm next door has a great example of the ancient falaj irrigation system.

Entry is free; visitdubai.com

Find some vintage music

Vintage cassettes on sale in Hatta
Vintage cassettes on sale in Hatta

Interestingly, Hatta seems to have a thriving vintage CD and cassette business. There’s more than a handful of tiny music stores in the town, all with faded window posters that are packed floor to ceiling with eclectic music collections. Try Audio Records next to Hatta Hypermarket if you want to pick up some traditional Khalaji tunes or fancy giving some lesser-known Omani artists a whirl. If you look hard enough you’ll also find some English offerings, typically sold without a track list which makes for some very interesting road trip tune-age.

Hatta Hypermarket

Hatta Hypermarket has an eclectic collection of things for sale including giant pool floats and souvenirs 
Hatta Hypermarket has an eclectic collection of things for sale including giant pool floats and souvenirs 

Are you a bargain hunter? If so you'll love the random finds available in Hatta Hypermarket on the Dubai Hatta Road. Stocking everything from toys, clothes, kitchen equipment, luggage, sweets, groceries, beauty products and more, it's also got some Hatta souvenirs. Not worth a visit on its own, but definitely worth stopping by for any last minute staycation snacks or wants, like board games and colourful pool floats from Dh20.

See the world's largest inclined mural

The Hatta Mural depicts the country's founding fathers 
The Hatta Mural depicts the country's founding fathers 

Perhaps the last thing you might expect to see in the middle of the Hatta mountains is some street art. But you can picnic under the world's largest inclined mural which is a portrait of the founding fathers of the UAE. Located near Hatta Dam, guests staying in the Sedr Trailers will pass the painting on their way to camp. Part of Dubai's Street Art Project, the mammoth image portrays the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum.

Where to eat

Café Gazebo

Located above the pool at JA Hatta Fort hotel this place is a good pick for breakfast or lunch. The buffet breakfast comes with fresh honey from the nearby Hatta Bee Farm. For lunch, take your pick from soup, sandwiches, curries, pastas and other international dishes. Little ones have their own menu to chose from.

Located inside JA Hatta Fort Hotel; call 04 809 9333 for reservations

Jeema

Hatta’s most upscale restaurant retains a nicely relaxed affair. Located inside the JA Resort, it’s open for dinner only and the menu has an eclectic collection of dishes including a seafood platter, lobster thermidor, steaks, curries and more. There’s also a separate vegetarian menu.

Located inside JA Hatta Fort Hotel; call 04 809 9333 for reservations

Sports Athletic Restaurant and Cafeteria

Sports Athletic on the Dubai Hatta road serves casual bargain bites 
Sports Athletic on the Dubai Hatta road serves casual bargain bites 

Don’t expect anything fancy at Sports Athletic but do expect to get some bargain bites. Located on the Dubai Hatta Road, the menu reads a bit like a fusion of every fast-food outlet you can think of — burgers, sandwiches, French fries, fried chicken, shawarma, noodles and biryani. Prices start from just Dh10 and portions are mammoth.

Located on the Dubai Hatta Road

Hatta Wild Cafe

Wild Hatta Cafe in Hatta Wadi Hub serves specialty coffee
Wild Hatta Cafe in Hatta Wadi Hub serves specialty coffee

You'll find this funky little spot inside Hatta Wadi Hub serving up some of the best coffee in town. As well as a wide range of speciality coffee there's also light bites, pastries and desserts as well as some delicious smoothies and milkshakes. The ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been spotted having coffee here, so you know you're in good company.

Inside Hatta Wadi Hub; foursquare.com/v/hatta-wild-cafe/

Tanoor Laham

If you’re looking for traditional Emirati food, you could do worse than this cosy cafe. Just beyond the JA Hatta Resort, Tanoor Laham is nondescript and unpretentious. It serves lentil soup, kebabs, and chicken or lamb tanoor that’s inspired by traditional cooking methods where meat is roasted underground for at least 12 hours. Don’t let the classroom-style chairs and plastic tablecloths put you off, for meat eaters — this place is well worth a visit and prices are reasonable.

Make a pit stop

Refuel enroute to Hatta at the Masfout roundabout food truck stop
Refuel enroute to Hatta at the Masfout roundabout food truck stop

Peckish en route to Hatta? Schedule a pit stop at the food truck located just off the main roundabout in Masfout. Here, you can grab SpongeBob burgers and fries or a decent cup of Lavazza coffee at Fork in the Road or try authentic Emirati eats at Surood Majbat.

Chocolab

Got a sweet tooth? Stop by Chocolab on the Dubai Hatta Road for crepes, waffles, cakes and brightly coloured ice cream. It also serves Acai bowls if you’re trying to be healthy. Opening hours are random — typically it’s closed until 3pm each day, but for an evening treat or a road trip snack it’s worth a stop.

_________________

Read more:

How Hatta has grown into a standalone Dubai travel destination

From Wadi Monay to The Hidden Oasis: a guide to the UAE's best hiking trails

What you need to know before you go hiking in the UAE

_________________

Updated: September 15, 2019 10:46 AM

SHARE

SHARE