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Soak up the sun at 11 of Abu Dhabi’s best beaches

Abu Dhabi has a beach type to suit every traveller, whether you’re after a laid-back stretch of powder-soft white sand near the city, a family-friendly escape on a remote island home to 17,000 free-roaming animals, or a luxury break on a lush boutique private island with swings that soar over the sea. Many of the emirate’s world-class hotels boast their own pristine beachfront facilities, but the UAE capital’s public beaches are gorgeous too. Whichever you prefer, you’ll soon find a refreshing way to escape the bustle of life, soaking up Abu Dhabi’s year-round sunshine before cooling off in the shimmering turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf.

1. Kai Beach

With pristine white sands stretching along a generous shore, Kai Beach is one of the most desirable beach locations in the UAE.

Previously the Saadiyat Public Beach, and now managed by Saadiyat Beach Club, this gorgeous piece of turquoise heaven has sun loungers, changing rooms and showers you can use. Even though outside food is not allowed on this beach, you don't have to worry. Enjoy a little 'sun-lounger service' with drinks served right to you! A food truck is nearby, serving you everything from tacos to burgers.

The entry fee is AED 75 for adults and AED 35 for kids aged six to 12 (on weekdays); AED 95 for adults and AED 60 for kids aged six to 12 (on weekends). Kids five and younger get in for free.

Directions: You can drive your own car or hail a bus or taxi to get to Kai Beach. The beach is a 10-minute drive from downtown Abu Dhabi over the Sheikh Khalifa Bridge past Mina Zayed. If you are coming in from Dubai, follow signs for Saadiyat Island on the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Highway, past Jubail Island.

2. Saadiyat Beach Club

Luxury meets natural simplicity at the Saadiyat Beach Club, where you can while away a whole day or go for a magical sunset and meal. Enjoy breathtaking beauty on a lounger set on a 9km stretch of Blue Flag-certified beach. Look out for dolphins playing in the bay or for the Hawksbill sea turtles, as the club is part of the protected habitat where these critically endangered creatures have nested for years. Afterwards, take a refreshing dip in the 650-square-metre outdoor chilled pool, surrounded by gorgeous private cabanas that appear to float magically above the shimmering water. After all this activity, you certainly won’t go hungry. The club features a range of top-notch restaurants and hosts regular foodie events, including a Friday bunch.

The entry fee is AED 250 for adults and AED 100 for kids between 7 to 12 (on weekdays); AED 375 for adults and AED 150 for kids between 7 to 12 (on weekends).

Directions: From the Abu Dhabi Corniche, it takes about 20 to 30-minutes to get to the beach club. From the north-eastern end of Corniche Street, take a right onto Shinaf Street, followed by a left onto the E12. Once you cross the Sheikh Khalifa Bridge, take the exit towards Al Dhiba Street, left onto Al Jouri Street and then right at the roundabout for Al Tilal Street.

3. Corniche Beach

This city beach is so popular with locals and tourists for many reasons. The turquoise sea, view of Lulu Island, swaying palm trees and gardens make this spotlessly maintained Blue Flag public beach an unexpected gem in the heart of the UAE capital. Corniche Beach boasts a seaside boardwalk, manicured gardens, walking and cycling pathways, a children’s play area, and several restaurants and cafes. The 2km beach is divided into three sections: Al Sahil (Gate 4, free entry) is perfect for singles and larger groups, while Gate 2 (which has its own quiet zone) and Gate 3 are great for families. Showers, changing rooms and cabanas are available, and sun loungers and umbrellas can be hired. Accessible sports facilities include free-to-use volleyball courts, football pitches and playing fields. To get out on the water, rent a speedboat or go snorkelling.

Entry to the public beach is free, however, the family beach is AED 10 per adult and AED 5 per child up to 12 years of age.

Directions: Just a 10-minute distance from the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station, getting to Corniche Beach is easy - you can either hail a taxi, hop on a bus or drive.

4. Yas Beach

Yas Island, Abu Dhabi’s family-friendly entertainment hub just a 30-minute drive from the city, is home to an F1™ race track, theme parks, a links golf course, stunning hotels, an impressive mall – and the beautiful Yas Beach.

On the island’s tranquil southern shore, Yas Beach is a great spot to relax and enjoy the gorgeous sun on soft sand beside a sparkling sea. There are stunning beach cabanas and loungers available, as well as moreish food and refreshments at the beach’s restaurant and food stalls.

Guests staying at Yas Plaza hotels get complimentary beach access by showing their room card or hotel voucher. If you aren't a hotel resident, the entry fee is AED 50 for adults and AED 25 for children aged 8-16 (on weekdays), and AED 100 for adults and AED 50 for children aged 8-16 (on weekends).

Directions: Yas Beach is situated 30-minutes away from Abu Dhabi Corniche. To get there, drive along the Corniche Road and merge onto the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Highway E12. Cross Saadiyat Island to Yas Island, where you’ll see signs for Yas Beach.

5. Al Bateen Beach

This gorgeous, free Blue Flag beach covers 800 metres of picturesque waterfront in one of the city’s quieter areas. It overlooks Hudariyat Island and Hudariyat Bridge, so it offers unique views. Pack a picnic and pick a gazebo, sun lounger or day bed to settle in for the day. The beach’s two main areas are constantly kept safe by on-duty security and lifeguards. There’s a playground to keep kids busy, as well as a restaurant to satiate your appetite if you’re not picnicking. Activities include football, volleyball and tennis, or renting a kayak or paddleboard from the watersports centre.

The entry fee! Enjoy free access to this beautiful beach and spend a day frolicking under the sun.

Directions: Al Bateen Beach can be reached by car, bus or taxi and is 12 to 15-minutes away from the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station.

6. Al Bateen Beach for Women

For a laid-back beach experience, Al Bateen Beach for Women is a private space valued by ladies. Awarded Blue Flag status for its clean beach, water and impeccable environmental and safety standards, this dedicated ladies-only beach accommodates up to 1,100 women and children in its waters. At the same time, the shoreline can welcome nearly 5,000 visitors to sunbathe, relax and enjoy the beach. The lifeguards are women and fences and barriers ensure privacy, with cameras, animals, fishing and camping strictly prohibited. Open from 8am to 9pm, the beach allows swimming only until sunset.

The entry fee is AED 25 for adults and AED 5 for children aged 3 to 12, and boys over the age of 6 are not permitted.

Directions: Al Bateen Women's Beach can be reached by car, bus or taxi and is 12 to 15-minutes away from the Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station.

7. Zaya Nurai Island

For barefoot luxury, head to this boutique private island resort − just a 12-minute boat ride from Abu Dhabi's Saadiyat Island and an hour from downtown Abu Dhabi.

This island escape is popular with those wanting the complete ‘beach retreat’ experience, from luxurious villas with calming plunge pools and a range of restaurants, to tee-pees on the soft sand and swings suspended over the sea.

Everything here is designed to ease stress. Wellness enthusiasts can do some sunset yoga, the Nurai Spa offers a range of rejuvenating treatments right next to the sea, while the range of hammocks and day beds spread around this beach paradise invites you to leave the world’s worries far, far away.

The entry fee for day guests is AED 750 per adult - AED 550 of which is redeemable against food and beverage, spa and activities. This includes beach and pool access as well as the boat transfer.

Directions: Just a 10-minute drive from Saadiyat Island, arrive at the Zaya Nurai Island Welcome Centre where speed boats are available to take guests back and forth to the island in just 20-minutes.

8. Nation Riviera Beach Club

This exclusive beachfront retreat and fitness centre is connected to The St. Regis Abu Dhabi on the Corniche. It’s open to the hotel’s guests as well as members and day visitors. If working out and staying fit is important to you even while you’re on holiday, you’ll be spoilt for choice here as there are many ways you can get active while enjoying sea views. Think swimming pools, personal trainers, beach volleyball, boot camps, and indoor or beach-circuit training. The beach club’s watersports centre also offers kayaking, paddleboarding and more. Prefer something more leisurely? The club’s 200-metre stretch of pristine beach is perfect for a few hours of peace. After, savour a memorable beach-side meal at the club’s Cabana Bar and Grill.

The entry fee for day guests who are non-members is AED 160 per adult (on weekdays) and AED 230 per adult (on weekends).

Directions: Drive, catch a taxi or take a bus to the St. Regis Abu Dhabi located along the Abu Dhabi Corniche Road. The best way to get into the club is from the hotel's main building via an air-conditioned tunnel across the Corniche.

9. Intercontinental Bayshore

The InterContinental Abu Dhabi is something of an institution, as it’s one of the oldest in the city. The hotel is home to a private marina with several eateries overlooking it, as well as the InterContinental Abu Dhabi Bayshore Beach Club. This beach and health club boasts a 300-metre beachfront, lush greenery, infinity pool, separate children’s pool and play areas, premium health and sports facilities, a day spa and a restaurant. Relax on sun loungers on the white, sandy beach, in private cabanas complete with butler service, or in the large outdoor Jacuzzi. Enjoy refreshments at the cool infinity pool with its swim-up bar overlooking the Arabian Gulf. Play squash or tennis at the club’s courts, or discover a whole host of watersports at the beachfront.

The entry fee for day guests is AED 129 for adults and AED 59 for kids (on weekdays); AED 150 for adults and AED 59 for kids (on weekends).

Directions: Just a 10-minute drive from downtown Abu Dhabi, hail a taxi or drive the short distance to get to the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi.

10. Mirfa Beach

This stunning spot, about an hour and a half away from the city in the village of Mirfa in Al Dhafra, is something of a well-kept secret. Come April every year, it hosts the annual ten-day Al Dhafra Watersports Festival. For the rest of the year, this hidden gem offers a tranquil, uncrowded beach escape. Camping facilities, as well as the nearby Mirfa Hotel, make this an ideal destination for a family beach getaway. You can fish, enjoy watersports including stand-up paddleboarding or kiteboarding, or kayak to explore the mangrove forest on the western side of the beach.

Entry to Mirfa Beach is free.

Directions: To get to Mirfa from Abu Dhabi, it is roughly a 90-minutes journey along the E11 highway. There is a public bus as well that you can use to get closer to the destination.

11. Sir Bani Yas Island

One of the desert islands of Al Dhafra, this unique desert, beach and wildlife paradise is the Arabian Gulf's only dedicated cruise beach stopover.

Sir Bani Yas Island is home to ancient heritage attractions and the Arabian Wildlife Park, one of the region’s largest wildlife reserves where more than 17,000 animals, including Arabian oryx, giraffes and cheetahs, roam freely. So, the island is ideal for a family adventure holiday.

On the beach, enjoy beach sports, such as snorkelling, kayaking and paddleboarding. For a high-end stay, there are three Anantara luxury beach resorts on the island.

Directions: If you arriving by car, take the E11 highway from Abu Dhabi or Dubai and drive in the direction of Tarif and Mirfa. After Al Ruwais, take Exit 113 for Sir Bani Yas Island. The Jebel Dhana Jetty for the Sir Bani Yas Island ferry is approximately two and a half hours away from downtown Abu Dhabi. Park the car at the jetty, and hop into the complimentary speed boat.