x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

A guide to the UAE's premier beach clubs

It's your last chance to enjoy the great outdoors. Our ultimate guide to the UAE's beaches.

The stretch of Jumeirah Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence is free to the public, and JBR features a fine selection of restaurants and cafés.
The stretch of Jumeirah Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence is free to the public, and JBR features a fine selection of restaurants and cafés.

The mercury has started to rise and it won’t be long before even the most sun-obsessed beach bunnies are sent scuttling indoors to while away the summer to the whine of the air-con unit. But fret not, there’s still time to enjoy the great outdoors – specifically, the cornucopia of beach clubs in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Whether you’re channelling Nikki beach or looking for a family-friendly pool, Zaineb Al Hassani has found something to suit everyone in the last month of swimsuit season. So stock up on that sunscreen, don’t forget your book, and... relax.

Abu Dhabi

The Public Beach

• What to expect: you’ll find this a welcome, safe (there are plenty of efficient guards on patrol), and cheap distraction from the hustle and bustle of city life.

• Atmosphere: if you’re looking for somewhere quiet, with only the nearby ocean for company, your best bet is to head there as early as possible. Anyone who has a delicate relationship with the sun can shade themselves on one of the 170 sunloungers with umbrellas available to hire at an extra cost. As can be expected, things tend to get pretty busy at the ­weekend.

• Cost: it’s free at some beaches, and just a few dirhams for the family-only and women’s beaches.

• Amenities: whether you seek an ice-cream cone, savoury snack, or inflatable rubber ring, the row of shops along the boardwalk by the beach is ready to cater to your every whim. The beach also has children’s playgrounds and several volleyball nets – should anyone wish to indulge their competitive side.

Hiltonia Beach Club

• What to expect: situated on the Corniche, with the public beaches right next door, this popular family spot comes equipped with four swimming pools, a selection of places to sit and eat and its own private stretch of sand. The view from the water is pretty spectacular, with the Abu Dhabi skyline stretching out in front of you.

• Atmosphere: the Hilton has succeeded in creating a polished summer hangout. It’s refined and the atmosphere on the beach is relaxation, relaxation, and, you guessed it, relaxation.

• Cost: day passes are readily available here – weekend passes are available at Dh185 per adult and Dh90 per child. During the week, expect to pay Dh150 if you’re an adult and Dh70 for children. This price includes a towel and locker, but does not get you access to the health club or spa.

• Amenities: all the bases are covered when it comes to swimming pools. There is a baby pool, a pool with water slides for older children, a family pool and an adult pool.

The Club

• What to expect: a home from home for many of Abu Dhabi’s expats and one of the oldest beach clubs in the city, the laid-back ambience belies the waiting list.

• Atmosphere: given its popularity, The Club is constantly brimming with people either enjoying the heat on one of the many sun loungers dotted along the beach, or floating in the decent-sized pool a few metres away. Not a place to go if you crave anonymity, the club has a community, family-orientated feel.

• Cost: unfortunately, all this comes at a hefty price. To experience all The Club has to offer, you will need to join a waiting list to sign up for a membership, with adults having to fork out an annual fee. If that sounds like too much effort, you can use the pool and beach as a guest of a member. Find a friend who is a member, and as an adult you will have to pay Dh140 at the weekend or just Dh70 during the week. For children aged between four and 17, you’ll have to pay Dh70 (weekend) or Dh40. Those under the age of three will be charged Dh35 or Dh20 at the weekend and during the week respectively. If you are a member and have family visiting from abroad, they can pay Dh275 for a one-week ­membership.

• Amenities: you might have to sign up for a year, but you won’t regret it. Aside from the usual range of places to eat, there are scuba diving, sailing, and plenty of activities for kids and social events for their parents.

Le Meridien

• What to expect: one of the more picturesque beach clubs in the city, with its smattering of trees and, admittedly, man-made waterfall, Le Meridien’s spacious pool and small but decent beach are a haven for anyone looking to escape for a few hours.

• Atmosphere: the staff here are welcoming and friendly. There are plenty of places to sit, eat, or have a relaxed drink, and all are a short walk from the pool and private beach. If you cannot bear to drag yourself too far from your seat, the beach bar will sort you out.

• Cost: with all Le Meridien has to offer, Dh145 at the weekend (Dh275 for a couple) for access to the pool area and beach seems rather reasonable. Expect to pay Dh90 or Dh150 (for a couple) during the week.

• Amenities: if lying by the beach feels too much like hard work, then Eden Spa will massage all your woes away. For the more energetic, tennis courts are available.

Fairmont Bab Al Bahr

• What to expect: the sort of place that demands a designer swimsuit. Come here for a refined day lounging by the pool.

• Atmosphere: this may be home to some of Abu Dhabi’s most upmarket restaurants (such as the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse & Grill), and it might well be dripping in glamour, but don’t let this put you off: the overall feel is relaxed ­elegance.

• Cost: as one might expect, the Fairmont comes in at a premium when compared with most of Abu Dhabi’s beach clubs. Single adults will be expected to pay Dh150 during the week, Dh240 at the weekend, while couples need only fork out Dh240 during the week or Dh360 at the weekend. The price includes a towel and access to shower facilities.

• Amenities: ah, yes. The pool. Unlike many of the beach clubs operating in both cities, the Fairmont’s pool means serious business. Fifty metres long, and thoroughly sleek, this is one beach club where you can indulge in some strenuous swimming. The beach, by comparison, is a little disappointing.

Emirates Palace

• What to expect: when it comes to glamour, Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace is, of course, the benchmark. Expect beautiful people and an impressive array of pool, beach and pergola options for lounging.

• Atmosphere: high-octane opulence with impeccable service.  

• Cost: you’ll have to book a hotel room in order to have access to the club. Failing that, you can come as a guest of either someone with a membership, or someone who is staying at the palace.

• Amenities: unsurprisingly, the beach club at the Palace is only open to people staying at the hotel, or those with a membership – although there is a long waiting list. If you’re coming as a guest of a member or guest of the hotel, then prepare to pay Dhs300 during the week, and Dhs500 at weekends. This price also includes access to the gym. We say splash out and book a room – in for a dirham, in for a pound.

InterContinental

• What to expect: a short distance from the Emirates Palace, the beach at the InterCon is arguably one of the nicest in the city. Beautiful in its simplicity, this is a great place to relax, all the while knowing that the space around you will never get too busy.

• Atmosphere: come here if you’re looking for something with a little more oomph. The outside bars are perfect for having a mocktail as you gaze wistfully at the boats in the ­marina.

• Cost: this is one of the cheapest beaches in the city – surprising given how great it is. Prices for the day are Dh50 during the week and move up to Dh95 at the weekend.

• Amenities: there is a leisure club – with a 24-hour gym – which includes a jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. You’ll have to be either a member of the gym or staying at the hotel to use these facilities.

Beach Rotana

• What to expect: slap bang in the middle of town, and adjoining the Abu Dhabi Mall, the Beach Rotana is one of the more popular hangouts in the city, and it’s worth overlooking the construction for the facilities the hotel has to offer.

• Atmosphere: although this club attracts plenty of families, the Rotana livens up considerably at night. The outdoor area has more than enough room to accommodate its many patrons, thanks to a deluge of comfy sun loungers.  

• Cost: an adult day pass costs Dh150 (on weekdays) and Dh210 (at the weekend)

• Amenities: great restaurants, perfect after a hard day’s lounging and a relatively impressive spa.

Sheraton Corniche

• What to expect: not the prettiest on the outside, but it’s worth looking beyond first impressions.

• Atmosphere: equally, the lagoon-style pool is perfect if all you’re interested in is lying in the sun (or shade) with a good book to see you through the day.

• Cost: the Sheraton charges Dh145 during the week, and Dh190 at the weekend – although this price includes entry to the jacuzzi, sauna, and spa, among other things. Non-members may also use the tennis and squash courts.

• Amenities: book ahead, and the hotel will organise cruises and fishing trips for its guests (although actually catching fish, they cannot guarantee).

Shangri-La Hotel 

Qaryat Al Beri

• What to expect: this hotel is around 20 minutes out of the city, but is more than worth the journey.

• Atmosphere: understated and chic, the infinity pool is particularly lovely, boasting views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Bag a hammock for the ultimate in lazy afternoon lounging.

• Cost: Dh250 per adult, Dh125 per child (up to the age of 16) – reasonable, we think, given the luxurious settings. As a one-off, and considering what is included in the price, we say it’s worth it as a sporadic treat.

• Amenities: ready? Here we go. Shangri-La has five (yes, five) pools, a health club, a decent-sized private beach, and a yoga room. You may also play football and volleyball – the equipment for both of which is provided by the hotel.

Dubai

One&Only The Palm

• What to expect: this palatial hotel, situated on The Palm, is one of the plushest hotels in a city full of plush hotels.

• Atmosphere: One&Only, with its magnificent view, offers a very glamorous, yet very relaxed, atmosphere.

• Cost: if you’re not staying at the hotel, but book more than 24 hours in advance, entry to the beach club is Dh250. Expect to pay Dh300 if you turn up on the day.

• Amenities: a private beach, several pools, and water sports are all at hand.

Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina (Club Mina)

• What to expect: the beach club here – Club Mina – is one of the most popular in the city.

• Atmosphere: your usual family-friendly club by day and one of the liveliest nights in town when the sun goes down.

• Cost: a not-too-shabby Dh175 during the week; Dh250 at the ­weekend.

• Amenities: a huge expanse of private beach, a steam room, sauna, and plunge pool, four adult swimming pools, and two pools for the children.

Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa

• What to expect: a relatively small pool is compensated for by a particularly lovely sandy cove

• Atmosphere: a popular old-school choice in Dubai, the grassy area gets packed at weekends

• Cost: during the week, expect to pay between Dh135 and Dh200 for full access to the beach club; the latter including a buffet in the price. On a Friday, including a buffet, the price rises to Dh300 (Dh225 without). On Saturday, the prices are Dh250/Dh175.

• Amenities: aside from the glut of excellent clubs and outdoor restaurants, the big draw here is the lovely stretch of beach.

Hilton Dubai Jumeirah

• What to expect: situated in arguably the nicest part of town, The Walk on Jumeirah Beach Residence, The Hilton boasts a wide range of restaurants, bars and outdoor amenities.

• Atmosphere: clubby and fun, this beach club is one for groups of friends – it gets busy, but it’s big so you’re unlikely to struggle for sunlounger space.

• Cost: Dh250 at weekends, Dh180 during the week (Sun to Wed). Children pay a set Dh95 regardless of which day they attend.

• Amenities: if you’re just attending for the day, then wave bye-bye to access to the gym. Jumeirah beach is stunning whether or not you are in a private area, so the seclusion offered by the Hilton isn’t the most alluring part of the beach club. Nonetheless, this is as good an outdoor club as any.

Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

• What to expect: this really is one of the most picturesque hotels and beach fronts in the city.

• Atmosphere: you don’t get much classier than the Saray, which has made its home on the Palm. If you want even more luxurious surroundings, the hotel has a number of villas available for guests to help them truly escape from the drudgery of daily life.

• Cost: unfortunately, in keeping with the exclusive theme, the hotel beach and outdoor club facilities are only open to hotel guests. If you can’t stretch to a room, then book into the spa for a treatment – and get access to the pool too.• Amenities: a spectacular spa with extensive hammam facilities. Truly indulgent.

Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa

• What to expect: it’s safe to say, with 500 rooms and 14 bars and restaurants, this grand hotel has all its bases covered.

• Atmosphere: aside from the palatial atmosphere created indoors, this branch of Le Meridien boasts one of the most picturesque outdoor areas in the thriving city.

• Cost: the pool and beach is available for non-residents at the fairly reasonable price of Dh200. This price is for adults and does not change over the weekend. For children between the age of four and 16, expect to pay a set price of Dh100. The entry fee for adults and children includes a towel and one beverage.

• Amenities: parents – rejoice. If you have children between the ages of four and 15, send them along to the Penguin Club from 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm. Adults can choose between the welcome hustle and bustle of Jumeirah Beach, or one of three of the resort’s pools, where you can lie in the shade of one of the many palm trees dotted around the area. Watch out for sun loungers – they are on a first-come first-served basis .

Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa

• What to expect: don’t even consider it unless your sunglasses feature Swarovski crystals or huge logos. Or both. 

• Atmosphere: one for the posers  – the best spot is the stunning infinity pool that overlooks the ocean.

• Cost: Dh175 at weekends, Dh150 during the week. Day visitors also have access to the water sports on offer without having to pay an entrance fee to the hotel.

• Amenities: aside from the long stretch of beach and decent-sized pools, the Habtoor has a wide range of adventurous activities on offer, from scuba diving to wind surfing.

Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa

• What to expect: the out-of-town favourite, a day trip here somehow always feels like a mini-break.

• Atmosphere: whether you are taking part in a fishing expedition organised by the hotel or basking in the sun by the pool as you eat a fruit kebab, this resort and spa caters to both families and, come sunset, a younger crowd.

• Cost: Dh180 for an adult, during the week (Dh150 if accompanied by a Club Joumana member). At weekends, the price rises to Dh325 for non-members including your lunch. This price also includes access to the beach and all swimming pools.

• Amenities: a picturesque beach, plenty of places to eat and drink for the younger crowd, and even more water-based activities on offer.

Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Resort & Towers

• What to expect: decent facilities on the ever-popular Jumeirah Beach.

• Atmosphere: a beautiful hotel that has a range of great restaurants as well as adult and child-friendly pools. This is an outdoor beach area suitable for all.

• Cost: Dh100 for adults during the week, and Dh60 for kids. At weekends and public holidays, the price rises to Dh180 and Dh100 respectively. This price includes access to an umbrella and the grass area.

• Amenities: A private beach, an adequate number of sun loungers, a spa, and access to water ­activities.

The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence

• What to expect: no matter what time of day you go to this popular hangout, The Walk is always teeming with people. Despite this, the crowds never get too rambunctious, and it is easy to sit and spend some time on your own, either with a book or just soaking in the sun, without being disturbed by the commotion around you.

• Atmosphere: as you can imagine, this is not a haven of serenity. This is a place to let loose, play games on the sand with your friends and people-watch.• Cost: Nada. The best things in life really might be free.

• Amenities: the open sea and an expanse of golden, clean, sand. What more do you need? With The Walk only metres away, you can pick up a coffee or lunch in between enjoying what the beach has to offer.