The islands of Abu Dhabi
What was once a modest island settlement (apparently discovered by wandering antelope) is now a bustling, cosmopolitan city. Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital, is a fascinating archipelago made up of over 200 islands, many of which are accessible to visitors. Whether you’re on a solo trip or touring with the family, myriad discoveries await, from wildlife to watersports, mangrove forests to historical landmarks and more.
Abu Dhabi city itself is on an island 250 metres (820 feet) from the mainland. There are a number of bridges that connect it to the mainland and other islands, including Saadiyat Island and Reem Island. With so many islands to explore, it can seem a tad overwhelming. We’ve rounded up the most popular ones with insider tips on what to do and where to stay.
Sir Bani Yas Island
About 250km from Abu Dhabi city, Sir Bani Yas Island is one of eight islands making up the desert islands of Al Dhafra and it is home to the incredible Arabian Wildlife Park, a wildlife reserve that has over 17,000 free-roaming animals.
Alternatively, you can mountain bike ride through sandy wadis (valleys), ride horses or visit a centuries-old Christian monastery. If you wish to stay longer, ultimate five-star luxury awaits, with three Anantara resorts on the island.
Zaya Nurai Island
Just a quick 15-minute boat ride from Abu Dhabi city, prepare to discover glittering turquoise waters, powder white-sand beaches, lush landscapes and five-star luxury accommodation with never-ending views of the Arabian Gulf - the remote and private Zaya Nurai Island.
Check into the boutique Zaya Nurai Island Resort - a 32-bed all-villa hotel that boasts a luxurious spa and five fabulous restaurants. You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to indulging in watersports and land-based fun.
Al Maryah Island
For a more dynamic pace, head to Al Maryah Island, where business and a glitzy lifestyle are where it's at. Indulge in shopping and socialising at The Galleria Mall, home to hundreds of designer and high-street stores (including Chanel, Jimmy Choo, H&M and Zara), and some of the best dining establishments.
Book your five-star stay at the luxurious Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel, set on the bustling Sowwah Square waterfront, or the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi nearby. There are a number of bridges that connect Al Maryah to Abu Dhabi, and the easiest way to get there is by taxi.
Abu Dhabi's premier entertainment and family destination, Yas Island has it all. Its exhilarating theme parks include Ferrari World Abu Dhabi (cue the fastest roller-coaster on the planet), Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi.
Golfing enthusiasts will relish a round on the par 72 championship Yas Links Abu Dhabi golf course while Formula 1™ fans will delight in driving a high-performance car around Yas Marina Circuit. Head to the pristine Yas Beach where you can enjoy the sunshine and thrilling watersports or experience the rush of record-breaking indoor skydiving and climbing at the family-friendly, CLYMB™. Indulge in a shopping spree at Abu Dhabi's largest luxury mall, Yas Mall or unwind at one of the five-star luxury hotels nearby, like the edgy W Abu Dhabi.
From arts and culture to nature conservation, the natural Saadiyat Island offers a multitude of experiences.
Get your cultural fix in the Saadiyat Cultural District, home to the iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi, the prestigious Berklee Abu Dhabi music school, and Manarat Al Saadiyat, where you can discover exhibitions and enjoy the annual Abu Dhabi Art fair.
Whether you are looking for a vibey day at the Saadiyat Beach Club, a sun-kissed tan courtesy of Kai Beach or want to play a round of gold at the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club (the region's first ocean course) - this island is recreation central! Extend your vacation at one of the island's five-star luxury resorts such as the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort.
The island is also home to the critically endangered Hawksbill sea turtles as part of the Hawksbill Turtle Conservation Programme.
Known as one of the earliest sites of human habitation in the UAE, Dalma Island is a significant historical pearl-diving island. Hop on a ferry from Marsa Jebel Al Dhanna port to get you to the island. An interesting site to visit is the fortified home of a pearl merchant, Mohammed Bin Jassim Al-Meraikhi. Made of beach stone and coral it is thought to have been built around 1931.