There’s an island for every mood in Abu Dhabi…

Living in our gleaming towers and villa complexes, it’s easy to forget that the emirate of Abu Dhabi actually involves some fascinating geography. There’s the desert of course, and the mountains, mangroves, beaches, forests and then there’s the fact that the coastal is fringe is actually comprised of over 200 individual islands. The greater portion of Abu Dhabi – the city, is actually sitting on its own little island cluster, connected to the mainland with a series of bridges.

But what other exciting sea-clasped gems are ripe for exploration in this beautiful mosaic land? These are just 17 of our favourite Abu Dhabi islands, that you can visit right now.

Al Maryah

Al Maryah, the island formally known as ‘Sowwah’, is located just to the East of Abu Dhabi’s city centre, and is easily accessible by bridge. The appeal of this destination to visitors comes largely in the form of The Galleria, Al Maryah Island and its two adjoining hotels — Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi and Rosewood Abu Dhabi. The Galleria is an absolutely huge mall, offering a diverse and modern shopping and entertainment experience. But we like to think of it as the high-end foodie island of Abu Dhabi. Between the mall and the two luxury hotels, the density of outstanding dining destinations is dizzying. Within a short walk you can find Coya, Zuma, LPM Restaurant & Bar, Bentley Kitchen, 99 Sushi Bar & restaurant and Dai Pai Dong.

Al Maya

What price paradise? The dreamy Al Maya Island & Resort is just a 10 minute boat trip southwest of Abu Dhabi’s mainland. They’re offering a Horizon pool and beach pass from Dhs105 (weekdays) with Dhs50 back to spend on food and beverages at the hotel. Weekends are a little higher at Dhs199 but you get a cool Dhs150 chunk of that back to spend on dining and drinking in the resort (or unlimited hops between midday and 3pm). Return boat transfers are included in the cost of your pass. Al Maya Island, from Dhs105, near Presidential Palace Gate One, (use the Google Map location for Al Maya Boat Dock). @almayaisland

Dalma Island

Dalma Island can be accessed via a ferry from Sir Baniyas ferry terminal, there’s a Dhs20 ticket to go on foot or you can bring your car for Dhs100.  Once you reach the island, you’ll feel a world away from any city. It’s a very quiet island, so don’t expect much in the way of iced lattes or multiplex cinemas — instead find nature’s raw allure, laid bare with enchanting untouched scenery and a large population of nesting socotra cormorants.

Ghagha Island


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Peter Spencer (@pete_the_spencer)

Ghagha is the westernmost island in the UAE, with around 20 archaeological sites to its name. Explorers have discovered stone tools belonging to the Arabian bifacial tradition, ‘red-ridged ware’ pottery, likely originating from Bahrain, dated from around 2000-1700 BC.

Moon Island


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Moon Island Resort (@moon_island_ad)

This island resort sits just a short 10 minute sail away from Saadiyat. The villas are currently under renovation, so there’s no currrent overnight offering, but you can come and spend the day here. It’s Dhs200 for a day pass and you get all that back in F&B credit, facilities include an infinity pool, adult and kids pools, mini aqua park, a kid’s play area, watersports, a football pitch and volleyball courts, as well as the private stretch of island beach. @moon_island_ad


Just a short drive away from Al Bateen Beach, over the humpback bridge, lies Hudayriyat Leisure and Entertainment District. The island-sized activity hub from developers Modon, offers inside and alfresco active adventures, and is rammed with awesome activities. Some are paid attractions, such as the Circuit X skate park, splash park and OCR Obstacle Course. Other such as the bike parks, public beach, outdoor gym, Heritage Walk and overwater cycling track, are free. @hudayriyat.island

Jubail Island

The main headliners on this island are undoubtedly the mangrove park and Pura’s eco glamping set up. The former offers intimate access to a huge expanse of emerald-tinted wilderness, a meandering 2.3km boardwalk, ranger-led guided boardwalk (from Dhs50), kayak (Dhs100), and e-canoe tours (from Dhs80), unique wildlife interactions and a chance to learn more about this fascinating ecosystem. For a longer stay, there are now a series of glamping pods on the island. Stays at Pura Eco Retreat start around Dhs2,000 per night call (050) 383 7878 to book or visit

Lulu Island

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.

Reem Island

This is another of the central clutch of Abu Dhabi city islands, the jagged skyline is sketched o by sky-scraping towers offering a mix of prime residential and commercial real estate. Very soon the island will play host to a new giant shopping centre, Reem Mall which is currently in the final phases of construction. In addition to shops and nourishment stops, the mall will feature Snow Abu Dhabi, ‘one of the world’s largest snow parks’. Elsewhere on the island you’ll find some gorgeous parkscape in the form of Al Fay, and Reem Central Park.

Saadiyat Island

We know you know, but it never hurts to have a reminder. This, what is ostensible, the cultural hub of Abu Dhabi features so much more than museums and galleries (although it does have cracking collection of those, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi and Manarat Al Saadiyat), you’ll also find creative educational institutions (Berklee Abu Dhabi for example), beautiful private beach clubs, luxury hotels, a thriving restaurant and bar scene, public beaches, wildlife encounters, a stunning golf course and there is so much more to come.

Sir Bani Yas

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 website, starting at Dhs1,999 with full board and all inclusive options. 

Shuweihat Island

This beautifully unique island is surrounded by red rocks and erosion-carved cliffs, with pristine beaches. Unfortunately due to littering and mistreatment, these areas have now been completely fenced off to the public. However if you do make the trip, you can enjoy the view from a distance.

Yas Island

We’re fairly confident you’ll be well acquainted with this marginally off-shore entertainment district as well. It’s recognised for being packed with big hotels, wild theme and water parks, golf courses, stadiums, arenas, marinas, Abu Dhabi’s F1 circuit, and a hugely exciting new waterfront leisure district that will be opening very soon.

Zaya Nurai

A day pass to the island is available for Dhs480, which includes Dhs420 back to spend on dining, drink, watersports and spa activities. Ferry crossing is charged at Dhs60. There’s a daily double happy hour between 5pm and 7pm across Hooked, Dusk and Frangipani where select drinks are available on a 2-for-1 deal. The resort’s legendary Flowrider — an artificial surf contraption, not the US ‘Low‘ rapper — will be pumping out gnarley barrels for the wave hungry for Dhs300 (includes a free boat from the welcome centre). Apple-bottom jeans and boots with fur are not recommended. Zaya Nurai’s spa offers premium pamper opportunities, the latest trending treatments and relaxation as standard. Need to occupy the little ones too? There’s a nautical tonne of activities for kids including waterpark and flume adventures, shell painting and a packed fun-tineray at the dedicated Petit Z club.

Zaya Nurai, is a 15 minute boat ride from the Welcome Centre on the east side of Saadiyat Island, near exit 14 of Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Highway, guests should arrive at least one hour before session start time. Book your space now, by calling (02) 506 6229,

Images: What’s On Archive