The best places to chill out and stay cool in green Abu Dhabi spaces

Chilling out and staying cool…

With things cooling down in the capital, we’re finding ourselves seeking out spaces to enjoy the great outdoors beneath the convenience of canopy. Abu Dhabi is blessed with an abundant network of greenery, of genuine manmade and natural desert oases. These are our favourite spots in Abu Dhabi to wander in wonder, commune with nature and feel serene in green.

Abu Dhabi Corniche parks and beach

There’s a verdant patchwork of award-winning ‘free-to-enter’ parks along the 8km stretch of the Abu Dhabi Corniche, each with a slightly different theme. The Family Parks (1 and 2) have a range of safe play areas with a fun mix of installations appropriate for a wide range of ages. You’ll also find a skate park and sport courts for active escapades, a splash pool and barbecue pits if you want to ‘make a day of it’. Lake Park unsurprisingly pairs its greenery with watery vistas, here too — a quaint park bridge that’s perfect for profile shots and romantic promenades. Formal Park has also got a lot going on, aside from the plethora of places to park-up and chilll, rec fans will find a maze and sports facilities including an outdoor gym. At the far Eastern end of the Corniche, head into Heritage Park for dhow harbour views, fountains, play areas, picnic spots and buildings inspired by the nation’s past.

Al Ain Oasis

If you’re looking for green, Al Ain AKA ‘The Garden City’ is a pretty good place to start.  This 1,200-hectare desert oasis is found in the middle of Al Ain and attained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011. It contains more than 147,000 date palms, trees bearing mangos, oranges, bananas, figs and jujube. With its whimsical shaded pathways beneath fractal canopies it’s a place that provides a shuddering contrast to the urban jungle of Abu Dhabi’s cityscape. There’s also an Eco-Centre that offers insight into the conservation efforts at the oasis, and a look back at its history.

Al Ain, open daily 9am to 5pm. Tel: (03) 711 8251, take a virtual tour at visitabudhabi.ae

Al Ain Zoo

al ain zoo

This 400-hectare park’s animal register includes gorillas, lions, cheetahs, giraffes, jaguars, lemurs, hippos, chimpanzees, wolves, and crocodiles. It also offers off-the-beaten-track experiences, Al Ain Zoo recently opened a pair of mountain biking experiences (from as little as Dhs15), allowing you to take a tour through the local landscape under your own steam.

Al Ain Zoo, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, daily 10am to 6pm, adult price of park tickets Dhs29. alainzoo.ae

Al Fay

Brand new and boasting some serious eco honour badges. Spanning 27,500 square metre area of verdant abundance, with over 2,000 types of plant, the park was engineered to recreate a forest environment. Its high tree density combined with an innovative irrigation system, means that it’s a concept that requires 40 per cent less water than traditional park set ups. There’s also sports facilities such as mini-golf holes, table tennis, courts for badminton, basketball, volleyball and football, skate zones and a climbing wall.

Al Reem Island, 7am to 11pm. dmt.gov.ae

Al Gurm Corniche

Abu Dhabi has just opened a brand new waterfront promenade, Al Gurm Corniche — and it has far more than simply (cor)niche appeal. Its shaded walkways and Mangrove National Park views are open seven days a week, 24 hours each day and dotted with engaging opportunities to rest, get fit, or learn about the local area and its inhabitants. There’s a cycle track; three outdoor gym-style exercise platforms; kayaking adventures; areas designated for alfresco yoga sessions; a range of food and beverage outlets; overwater cargo net chill stations that are perfect for getting lost in the pages of a riveting read. There are also nodes dedicated to edutainment — with activities including water play, swings and installations that teach kids about tidal movements, nature and gravity; binoculars to peer into the green beyond in search of fascinating forna; there are historical hubs, filled with fascinating facts about the region’s past and local ecology; and also fun-filled play areas.

Al Gurm Corniche is located along Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Street, next to Anantara Eastern Mangroves. Find out more at @algurmcorniche

Al Hayer Oasis

This brand new 2,337 sqm recreational space opened in Al Ain last week. Al Hayer Oasis offers recreational fun times, acres of green space and nursery crop cultivation. Wherever possible, natural materials were used in the construction — palm fronds, for example, were used in creating shades for the play areas. There’s a food kiosk area and central plaza where seasonal events are planned to take place.

Bab al Nojoum — Hudayriyat

Hudayriyat Island’s own private campsite, Bab al Nojoum is an attraction all of itself. There are an impressive 124 units of glamping accommodation to rent, including oceanfront tents, duplex tents and vintage campervans. Guests can revel in the alfresco life with barbecue and bonfire facilities, kayak hire, a beach cinema, kids playground, hammocks and assorted beach-based fun.

Open daily, facility hours vary, hudayriyatisland.ae

Delma Park

A ‘Green Flag’ certified park located in the Al Nahyan area of Abu Dhabi, Delma Park is packed with active amenities such as tennis courts, a gym, climbing wall, rubber running track and a clutch of crafty kid’s playground equipment.

Open daily 8am to 11pm, free, Al Nahyan

Eastern Mangroves

Mangroves Abu Dhabi

Sea Hawk offers guided kayak tours through some pretty cool locales, but their two-hour trip through the Eastern Mangrove National Park — is possibly their most chill-filled. Navigate through the calming surrounds of the mangrove forest, led by a kind who’s on hand to dish out nuggets of mangrove wisdom as well as prevent you from getting lost in the botanical maze. The price of your trip includes gear rental, water, a fruit salad and a place to clean yourself up after your adventure.

Eastern Mangrove Promenade, Al Salam Street,Sheikh Zayed, Daily trips; 6.30am, 8am, 9.30am and 4.30pm, Dhs168. Tel: (02) 673 6688, sea-hawk.ae

Emirates Park Zoo

Emirates Park Zoo has an incredibly diverse population of animal inhabitants, some of them cuddly, some of them decidedly less so. They also have awesome immersive experiences where you can get up and close and relatively personal with a select crew of animal pals. The Big Cat Brunch lets you eat lunch in the company of an actual leopard (because, UAE), you can pose questions, take photos and there’s even a private expert-led tour. Too willd? Why not book up the famous ‘breakfast with a giraffe’? The zoo also has its own resort, with chalets, zoo view rooms and accommodation with pool access.

Emirates Park Zoo, 12th St – Al Bahyah, 1pm to 2.30pm, Dhs149 per person (minimum of four people) which includes zoo admission. Tel: (02) 501 0000, emiratesparkzooandresort.com

Heritage Village

Get a taste of life before the skyscrapers and vibey beach clubs at this recreation of a traditional Emirati village, conveniently located next to Marina Mall on the edge of the city. Conceived by the Emirates Heritage Club, you can catch local artisans demonstrating their skills in metalwork, pottery, weaving and glass-blowing. There’s even a mini souk where you can pick-up souvenirs from these time-honoured crafts.

Abu Dhabi Corniche Breakwater, daily 11am to 11pm, Dhs5. Tel: (02)  681 4455, torath.gov.ae

Jubail Mangrove Park

Jubail Mangrove Park opened in January last year, offering visitors the opportunity to explore one of this region’s most fascinating natural ecosystems. Found nestled on a quiet outcrop of Jubail Island — the mangroves became an instant hit with locals, residents and tourists. It features a meandering 2.3km boardwalk and sits about 20 minutes drive from Downtown Abu Dhabi. Park inhabitants include herons, flamingos, turtles, gazelle, crabs, as well as some more mysterious creatures. There’s plenty of ways to explore this fascinating turquoise expanse including ranger-led, guided boardwalk (from Dhs50), kayak (Dhs100), and e-canoe tours (from Dhs80) of the mangroves.

Jubail Mangrove Park, Al Jubail Island (next to Saadiyat Island), Abu Dhabi, 8am to 7.30pm daily, Dhs15 for adult, Dhs10. Tel: (05) 63032423. park.jubailisland.ae

Sir Bani Yas Island

Sir Bani Yas is Abu Dhabi’s very own Jurassic Park, if you exchange murderous giant dinosaurs with an exotic collection of African mammals. Accessed via a 25-minute boat ride from Jebel Dhanna (itself a two-hour drive from downtown Abu Dhabi), the island wilderness is home to a collection of exciting wildlife, architectural wonder, romantic vistas and three luxury Anantara resorts. This castaway paradise is a protected Royal Nature Reserve, flourishing with over 11,000 animals, including 30 different endangered species such as blackbuck antelope and Arabian oryx as well as giraffe, ostrich and cheetah. Guests on the island have the opportunity to go on-safari and snatch memorable opportunities to glimpse these rare creatures, without a single cage or handler in sight.

Sir Bani Yas is located 8 km off the coast of Jebel Dhanna (two hours’ drive from downtown Abu Dhabi), accessible by complimentary water taxi or private seaplane. You can book stays on the anantara.com website, starting at Dhs1,999 with full board and all inclusive options. 

The Founder’s Memorial

The capital’s stunning Founder’s Memorial is a tribute to the “life, legacy and values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan”, founding father of the UAE. Learn, pause for reflection, and enjoy the serenity found in the attraction’s Sanctuary Garden, Heritage Garden, Elevated Walkway and breathtaking central artwork. The Founder’s Memorial is free to visit, although bookings must be made in advance via thefoundersmemorial.ae website.

Al Ras Al Akhdar, daily 9am to 10pm daily, free. @foundermemorial

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Umm Al Emarat Park

This isn’t just a chill spot for a wee walk, oh no, this park flexes big free-time facilities. There’s an amphitheatre, petting zoo, alfresco cinema, botanical garden, a wisdom garden (because you’re never too zen to wise up) and a miniature train tour.

Mushrif area, entry to the park is charged at Dhs10 per person. Located at Umm Al Emarat Park, ummalemaratpark.ae

Yas Gateway Parks

Yas is probably best known for its theme parks, but it’s throwing down pretty hard in the leafy green park department too. The Yas Gateway Parks are a bit of secret alfresco gem, rarely very busy and kept in immaculate condition. They’re divided into ‘North’ and ‘South’ sections, with a selection of kids covered play facilities in the North and group sports courts in the South. Both sides of the park have big open grass spaces that are perfect for an enthusiastic kick about, intense game of frisbee or spot of kite flying.

Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Highway, Yas Island, open 24 hours, free.

Images: What’s On Archive