I’d like to say it isn’t so, but we all know the countdown to the onset of summer has already begun. Make the most of all the great outdoors has to offer with 10 of the best al fresco activities across the four compass points of the UAE.
Dubai’s meandering shoreline is awash with outdoor experiences, and the newest kid on The Beach, opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence, is Sea Breeze Play’s volleyball and tennis facilities. Get up off the couch and work up a sweat on one of four floodlit courts, after which you can hit the beach or check out the eclectic neighbourhood dining scene.
• 7am to 11pm weekdays, 10am to 7pm weekends; weekdays (10am to 7pm) Dh100 per court, weekdays (7pm to 11pm) and weekends Dh200 per court; beach volleyball maximum 12 players; tennis, maximum four players; www.duplays.com
Unleash your inner Indiana Jones at Mirdif’s 35,000-square-metre Aventura adventure park, with 85 adrenaline-inducing activities to choose from, including tightrope walks, ladder climbs, log crossings and high-wire zip lines, the longest of which whizzes visitors 160 metres through Al Mushrif Park’s ghaf forest. Six circuits suit all ages and abilities, from the child-friendly Discovery and Ranger options to the family-focused Explorador course and Xtreme circuit with its 25-metre leap.
Daily 9.30am to 6pm; Dh150 adults, Dh125 children, tickets valid for three hours; children’s birthday packages, on-site parking and cafe available; www.aventuraparks.com
Ras Al Khaimah’s Jebel Jais is a fitting environment for the region’s first via ferrata, or “iron road” (pictured right). The one-kilometre-long course comprises three routes, each one a heart-thumping combination of hiking, climbing, scrambling and zip lining – all while connected to a system of steel cables and anchors. First-timers break in their hiking boots on the four-hour Ledge Walk before “qualifying” to take the Middle Path or Julphar Scare routes, which feature increasingly vertical ascents that reach up to 120 metres in height.
Wednesday to Saturday, 9am or 1pm slots; Dh400 per person (12 to 65 years, maximum weight 100 kilograms per person, moderate fitness level required; free return transfers available from the Hotel Tulip Inn; www.jebeljais.ae/via-ferrata
Wet and wild
Surf’s up in Al Ain at Wadi Adventure, where 1.1km of white-water rafting, kayaking, wakeboarding and surf-pool action come together to create a wet and wild destination at the base of Jebel Hafeet. Family activities include the new Adventure Island inflatable obstacle course, swimming pool, children’s splash area and a man-made beach. It’s the sometime training ground of Mo Rahma, the country’s first Emirati pro surfer, while ladies get the park to themselves every Thursday night.
11am to 6pm, Saturday to Thursday; 10am to 6pm Fridays, general admission Dh50 adults, Dh25 children (shorter than 1.2 metres), water activities from Dh35 to Dh150; 03 781 8422, www.wadiadventure.ae
Before the UAE’s outdoor markets wind down for summer, pop to a pop-up or stroll through the park with basket in hand. Abu Dhabi residents can head to The Walk at Al Seef Village Mall for the monthly arts, crafts and fashion Twilight Bazaar, while in Umm Al Emarat Park, Saturdays bring home-grown entertainment, food and fun at Ripe Market. Up the road, Handmade Dubai sells unique gifts from local entrepreneurs at Reform Social & Grill, in the heart of the Emirates Hills community, and perennial crowd pleaser The Market at The Beach offers crafty beachfront retail therapy.
Abu Dhabi: Twilight Bazaar, 5pm to 10pm last Thursday of every month; Ripe Market, 3pm to 10pm every Saturday.
Dubai: Handmade Dubai at Reform Social & Grill, The Lakes, noon to 6pm, March 11 and April 15; The Market at The Beach, daily 10am to midnight.
Sand beneath your toes isn’t only a pleasure reserved for the beach: a desert camping trip is a must-do while the weather holds out. Top picks include accessible locations such as Al Qudra Lakes, with its abundance of flora and fauna, and Lahbab’s rich red sands, which is where many Emirati families choose to pitch their winter tents. Farther afield, off the beaten track in the Northern Emirates, is the picturesque plateau of Wadi Sana, with fantastic 360-degree views and mountain biking. Don’t forget to pack a tow-rope and shovel, just in case.
Al Qudra Lakes: Take Al Qudra Road/D63 past Arabian Ranches until the Trek Bikes roundabout, turn left and follow the cycle route until you hit the dunes.
Lahbab: Take the E44 (Al Awir Road), then continue onto the Dubai-Hatta (Ras Al Khor Road) to Lahbab.
Wadi Sana: Take the E88 to Masafi, turn onto the Masafi-Dibba Road (E89) as far as Sana village, then follow the rough track to the top.
Abu Dhabi’s mangrove reserves are a short distance from the city, and a gentle kayaking tour is a great way to shake off stress. Glide through the mangroves to the east of the capital on a 90-minute paddle expedition or upgrade to an eco tour to the mangroves of Al Rahba, where you can learn all about the unique ecosystem. Night-time tours are also available, using LED lights fixed to the bottom of the kayak to view local marine life.
Tours cost from Dh160 for adults, Dh130 for children; GPS location co-ordinates available for each tour starting point or via Google Maps; 02 558 1889; www.noukhada.ae
On the boardwalk
Stroll, power-walk or run your way along the new Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk’s 11km track for a different perspective of the city. Uninterrupted Gulf views make for great photo moments all along the crescent, while the eastern and western extremes offer contrasting, memorable views of old(er) and new Dubai. There is a handful of food trucks already in operation along the route – stop at Pineapple Express for fresh juices and superfood bowls – with a total of 30 trucks expected to be operating by the end of the year.
Follow the main Palm Jumeirah road, then the east or west crescents; 350 free kerbside parking spots are available.
Weekend road trip
Hatta has long been a favourite weekend road trip, while the town’s dam is an attraction in its own right. The winding, if somewhat diversionary, drive to the town is relaxing enough, and the route culminates in a spectacularly panoramic view of the surrounding Hajar Mountains and turquoise waters below. A stark contrast to the sparse desert landscape en route, you can also get out on the water with kayaks, paddle boards and pedalos available for rent.
Watersports equipment rental costs from Dh60; expats can no longer take the direct E44 route to Hatta through the Omani checkpoints, so instead drive to Al Madam, turn left at the roundabout on to the E55 (towards Al Malaiha), turn onto the Sharjah-Kalba Road (towards Shawka), then turn right towards Hatta (back on the E44).
Yas Marina Circuit and Dubai Autodrome both open their racetracks to the public, with the free Daman ActiveLife-sponsored TrainYas and TrainDubai nights every Tuesday and Wednesday respectively. Amateur runners, cyclists and walkers of all ages and fitness levels can get mobile at the Autodrome’s 2.5km floodlit circuit, while rollerbladers can also hit Yas Marina Circuit.
TrainYas: Every Tuesday 6-10pm; registration required; bike rental available; 800 YAS (927), www.yasmarinacircuit.com
TrainDubai: Every Wednesday, 6-9pm; bike rentals available; 04 367 8700, www.dubaiautodrome.com