9 islands in Abu Dhabi you should see
Sure, you’ve been to Yas and Saadiyat, but did you know some of Abu Dhabi’s greatest adventures are to be found on its smaller islands?
Here’s our guide to finding fun just a short hop away…
One for history enthusiasts, this little island 210km from the city is said to have at one time been central to the UAE’s celebrated pearl trade. Nowadays, it’s effectively a museum at sea, welcoming guests who want to learn more about this important time in Emirati history. Visit the home of a famous pearl merchant, learn about the island’s unique architecture and take in some ceramic finds uncovered du-ring the restoration of the island’s mosque.
Whether you opt to rent a two-bedroom house, plump for a membership for unlimited year-round access, or simply buy tickets for one of the regular events, there’s a way to try out Abu Dhabi’s newest social island getaway. With a stunning infinity pool, seafront jacuzzi, two restaurants and watersports options, it’s a great spot for a day out with friends, while there are also ladies only Saturdays.
Zaya Nurai Island
Fancying a Maldivian escape but not got the time (or bottomless budget)? Splurge instead on a short staycation and you’ll find this luxury island feels a world away from the capital. Developed as a five-star eco-resort, this spectacular outpost boasts just 32 rooms, so you’ll have plenty of privacy to soak up the endless views of white sand, turquoise sea and specially-planted trees.
Sir Bani Yas Island
This stunning nature reserve island is best known as a luxury holiday resort, boasting as it does three high-end Anantara resorts. But did you know this little wildlife haven, 170km south of the city and 9km offshore from Jebel Dhana, can also be visited for a day trip? A basic day package costing from Dhs500 includes lunch and a wildlife and nature drive, while those feeling flush can sign up for a Seawings seaplane trip from the city.
While a sighting of Flipper and friends isn’t guaranteed, a trip to Dolphin Island’s sandbar is still a great way to spend a day. Tour company Captain Tony’s heads to the island regularly on its Island Beach Getaway, a four-hour trip that encompasses a cruise to the bay and plenty of swimming and snorkelling opportunities, priced at Dhs400 for adults and Dhs250 for children aged six and above.
This 1,050-acre manmade island, built as a breakwater to protect Abu Dhabi island itself, has developed almost mythical status among Abu Dhabi residents, thanks to its apparent resistance to development. Initially forecast to house a tourist resort and theme park back in the 1980s, (before the island even had a name), it went on to open briefly to the public. But in 2009 all ferry services were abruptly stopped and the island remains largely empty, despite its prime position in the midst of quite extraordinary development. It’s now in the hands of property developers Aldar, who plan to create both leisure and housing developments there but, in the meantime, if you can find a boat to take you there, you’ll be guaranteed a quiet spot on the beach.
Al Maya Island
Situated just 9km, or a ten minute cruise away, from Abu Dhabi island, this resort is operated by Abu Dhabi Country Club and boasts one, two and three bedroom villas perfect for a getaway with family and friends. On Saturdays it’s also open to day trippers, who can pay just Dhs100 for a cruise to the island and a day’s access to the pool, watersports club and beach facilities, lending the island a real party atmosphere.
Bu Tinah Island
Recognised by the UN as one of the Indian Ocean’s most important turtle sanctuaries, Bu Tinah, 150km off Abu Dhabi’s West coast, is now under environmental protection. Home to two endangered species, the green and hawksbill turtle, it was recently visited by Britain’s Prince Charles, a renowned environmentalist, who was hosted by the Environment Agency Of Abu Dhabi during his official visit to the Emirates in November.
Al Nareel Island
This incredibly high-end island boasts some of Abu Dhabi’s most exclusive real estate, with just 142 villa plots up for grabs. The downside? Sales are open exclusively to Emiratis, with empty plots selling for an average of Dhs18.5million.
How to go island hopping
Eager to get out on the open seas? These boat tour companies will help you navigate Abu Dhabi’s islands
The Yellow Boats
Known for their thrill rides, The Yellow Boats team also runs tours that take in Abu Dhabi’s palaces, the Grand Mosque and the famed Lulu Island, starting
from Dhs200 and Dhs150 for children.
One of the Emirate’s most comprehensive boat tours, Jalboot runs a host of tourist experiences, but we love the whole day passes which allow you to hop on and off their vessels and explore the city’s sights at your leisure, priced at Dhs195 for adults, Dhs95 for children, or Dhs495
for a family pass.
Belevari Marine’s luxury catamaran Saturday Island Cruise can accommodate up to 65 people for sunbathing, dolphin spotting and desert island snorkelling, priced at Dhs349 for adults and Dhs299 for children, while they also offer sunset cruises and private charter options.
Noukhada Adventure Company
Noukhada Adventure Company operates a host of kayak and sailing trips to take in various islands, as well as the city’s mangroves, while dragon boat trips, stand-up paddleboarding and even snorkel safaris can also be booked.