A guide to Dubai’s beautiful beaches, beach clubs and seaside hotspots
Beautiful beaches, luxurious beach clubs, waterside restaurants and cool surfer cafes are just a few of the attractions of Dubai in the winter. Unearth “real Dubai” neighbourhoods, cool performance pit-stops, beckoning canals, and some of the developments that have made Dubai famous. Pick a starting point, and drive down Jumeirah Road for an effortless self-guided tour of the city's seaside hotspots.
The always-expanding neighbourhood of Jumeirah Beach Residences (affectionately known as JBR to locals), has had a facelift in recent years, upgrading from a rather sleepy small beach to an extended stretch of boardwalk, with ocean-facing restaurants, hotels, and improved beach and water access.
Where to dine? Where to start! Options range from Michelin-awarded chef Tom Aikens' Pots, Pans and Boards share-plate concept (Beach Mall; +971 4 456 1959) to Seven Sands (The Walk; +971 4 551 6652), an Emirati hotspot that serves Bedouin specialities and features a social terrace.
For a more casual bite, pick up a Nutella gelato from Cone Street (ground floor, Rimal building; +971 4 448 6401) and wander down The Walk, a 1.7 kilometre-long beach-facing pedestrian path where you can find live music performances, evening markets, retail shops, children's play zones, and sideshow games of skill.
Big wheels turning
Across the water, see the beginnings of Ain Dubai on Bluewaters Island. Currently an imposing mass of beams and cranes, the completed AED1 billion structure will become the world's largest observation wheel at an expected 260m tall, and able to carry 1,400 passengers at once.
Power of the palms
A 15-minute drive away, find one of Dubai's best known beach features, The Palm Jumeirah, the world's largest man-made island featuring an impressive 78km of shoreline in the shape of a palm frond. Drive up the “trunk” (or catch the monorail for an elevated view over the island), and turn left at the top to explore. Park on the roadside and take a stroll down the ocean-side path popular with the Palm's residents. Perch on the wide sandstone walls for an uninterrupted view of skydivers floating back to earth, and Skydive Dubai's small planes in action over the Dubai Marina.
Heading off the Palm and onto Al Sufouh Road, have the valet take care of the car at the Madinat Jumeirah and take one of the long abra boats down the winding system of canals to the Madinat's private beach. Passes can be bought at reception if you're in the mood for some sun-lounging, or stick around until sunset to take part in a yoga-on-the-beach class. Headed up by one of the accredited yogis from the Talise Spa (+971 4 366 6818 ) and with drop-ins welcome, you'll be led through a session, with the Burj Al Arab as the perfect backdrop for a tree pose selfie. Yoga classes also run in the daytime during the cooler winter months. After sunset, follow up with dinner at Shimmers (+971 4 366 6730 ). The recently-refurbished casual beach restaurant, offering authentic Greek dishes, is metres away from the waves.
Kites & cookies
Continue onwards to Kite Beach, known for the hordes of colourful kites that fill the skies most weekends. Off-shore, the theme continues, with kite and parasailors swooping and soaring metres above the water’s surface. Emirati-owned burger truck, Salt (Street 2D), sits next to the sands; its American-style burgers and cheese fries making a hearty meal for sunseekers. The silver Airstream-turned-burger kitchen was an early adopter of Dubai's Lotus cookie craze, with Salt’s speculoos (caramelised biscuit) soft-serves and milkshakes the becoming the foundation of its repeat order reputation.
Further down Jumeirah Road and a street above the palm tree-ringed Public Beach, The Surf Cafe (+971 4 346 6292 ) is a hub for early-rising sporty types, with paddleboarders, wake-surfers and ocean kayakers fresh from the water congregating for a coldpressed coffee and smashed avocado toast. Or cruise by for lunch and order a bowl of nutritious berries and other super fruits or choose a lobster from the tank. On Friday mornings, walk down the street from Public Beach (the final stop for Dubai's open beaches) to visit Jumeirah Mosque, which is open to the public. You can join a tour hosted by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and learn about culture and religion.
Looking for more waterside activities? Here’s our must-do list.