There’s a hip new beachfront hangout in Dubai that has much to tempt tourists. La Mer is a completely revamped stretch of waterfront at Jumeira 1 looking out onto the sparkling Arabian Gulf between Pearl Jumeirah and Jumeirah Bay. The area’s golden bays have been primped, combed and renamed North and South Beach with new boutique beach facilities and a distinct Californian vibe.
Wooden boardwalks, tall palms and colourful beach huts line the shore. A diverse collection of low-rise eateries and outdoor terraces overlook the sand, and there are plenty of trendy shops to browse beyond the landscaped seafront. A soon-to-open Wharf with a water and surf park bisects the two sandy bays, where you can see surf boards wedged in the sand, and painted rowing boats decorating the top of the beach.
Thoughtfully designed and well spread out, with cool nautical features and decor adding colour and character, its aesthetic is one of La Mer’s most striking features. This is the latest Dubai project from Meeras, which has a knack for designing aesthetically-pleasing developments. The company is also responsible for City Walk, Kite Beach and the new Al Seef development down by Dubai Creek.
At La Mer they have cleverly integrated weathered props to give the area a quirky character inspired by the flotsam and jetsam, driftwood, rusted anchors, barrels, rope and other items often found washed up on the shore. The boxy fusion architecture of the buildings, with slate and steel frames softened by light wood, plus street art, murals and the bold shop branding brings an LA feel to the place, while its name – La Mer – points to relaxed Spanish city beaches.
The fun and funky elements such as pop art painted onto the brickwork, bright murals and street art are counterbalanced with lots of zen landscaping – green foliage, stepping stones across shallow trickling pools, smooth rounded edges, fountains and sail-like canopies shielding some areas from the sun.
Open until midnight, La Mer is intended as a place to hang out in the evenings as well as the day time so the creative attention-to-detail continues after dark too. Thousands of hanging lights strung overhead lend it a magical air at night when you can also spot jam-jar lanterns and other inventive lamps giving the area a soft glow.
All-in-all, its design makes La Mer an interesting district to explore even if you are just there to sunbathe or take a sundown stroll and don’t intend to dine or eat.
Sand and sea
La Mer has conjured a simpatico environment on shore to make its twin arcs of cream sand even more appealing. Boutique touches include hammocks strung above the shallows, novel bucket showers and driftwood benches.
Rattan beach beds tucked beneath red parasols are spread along the sand on South Beach and North Beach. A company called Sea Breeze rents out the sunloungers and cabanas to visitors, as well as offering fresh towels, day rooms and motorized watersports at South Beach.
Toilets, showers and baby changing facilities are housed inside candy-coloured beach huts that sit at the top of the sand, some of which contain day rooms for hire. For a less bucket-and-spade, more barefoot chic experience, the new Sea Spice beach club offers gourmet surf-and-turf, drinks and straight-to-sunlounger service with luxury cabanas on an exclusive section of beach.
The calm clear water sheltered by the breakwaters that flank La Mer naturally attracts swimmers who can visit the beaches for free and be assured by the presence of lifeguards in the wooden watchtowers. For travellers who want to spend longer at the beach, there are modern facilities like free wifi, mobile charging and prayer rooms on hand nearby.
Activities for all
The district has a multi-faceted appeal, and could equally work as a cool place to hang out with friends, spend time with the kids or enjoy a romantic evening meal overlooking the water.
The hub’s sunshine California vibe is reflected in the beachy activities on offer. Painted surf shacks beside the beach act as stores for watersports equipment where you can rent out stand-up paddle boards and kayaks. Cone Surfing sells surfing gear and, once opened, La Mer’s Wharf area will feature a large surf park with artificially-generated waves.
As well as aquatic activities, the beach is geared towards families. Great facilities are obviously a draw for parents with young ones, but there are also kid-friendly features including a wooden galleon climbing frame and kids’ adventure playground, two other playgrounds with giant swings and picnic tables, ice cream stands, helium balloon sellers and welcoming cafes.
A toy tourist train runs back and forth along the seafront and children play happily in the paddling pools, and under the brilliant bucket showers. Novel features such as the wooden galleon, treasure chests, barrels and anchors seem to bring a subtle pirate theme to the place that appeals to children’s imaginations.
But perhaps the best family-orientated feature is the unique inflatable playground Hawa Hawa – a trampoline concept brought to Dubai from Japan. Air-filled rubber mounds create a bouncy landscape that’s enormous fun for kids as well as grown-ups.
There’s a cultural element to La Mer too. Culture vultures will enjoy the inventive events that pop up in the district. A few months into opening and La Mer has already hosted street art and live glow-in-the-dark graffiti demonstrations on the beach after sundown, plus live music shows at North Beach. During notable national celebrations and city-wide events such as Dubai Shopping Week and UAE National Day, La Mer is a hub for festivities and lays on special promotions, entertainment and fireworks over the water.
Grazing and browsing
The city-facing area of La Mer houses most of the shops, while the beachside boardwalk is backed by restaurants and eateries perfect for leisurely brunches and lunches on the terrace before moving to a sun lounger on the beach. With most venues open until midnight, La Mer is an evening destination as well as a daytime hangout. There’s a nice ambience at sunset when the sky changes to mauve and pink over the ocean, and the restaurant terraces start to fill up with hungry diners.
There are so many snacking and dining options, including street food trucks serving up Lebanese meze and cute ice cream stalls, that you could spend two weeks there and never go to the same place twice. Must-visit eateries include dedicated gelato shop Amorino selling a mouth-watering range of gourmet flavours, Aprons and Hammers if you like your seafood fresh from the shell, HQ’s 459 for an amazing brunch, and Zou Zou where you can graze on delicious Turkish meze and sip tea within view of the sea. Those who prefer an organic burger and a beer are in luck as Bareburger has set up shop in La Mer and licensed franchises are rumoured to be coming soon, plus the SALT food truck has rolled up to the beach, offering delicious American gourmet fast food.
Among the shops are beach boutiques selling swimwear and sunglasses such as Trina Turk Los Angeles, alongside street-wear stores such as Via Rodeo, which add to the hip LA feel of the complex.
Access to La Mer is free and you can get there via taxi or public transport bound for Jumeirah 1. If you are driving a hire car, there are more than 1,000 parking spaces at La Mer including overground street parking at the back of the development, free underground parking, and a paid valet service. Close to other visitor attractions such as the Etihad Museum and Dubai Water Canal, La Mer can be accessed quickly from Sheikh Zayed Road – one of Dubai’s main transport arteries.
A hotel is set to open within the development in the near future, but in the meantime travellers who want to stay nearby could choose the Dubai Marine Beach Resort. The nearest five-star hotel is the Four Seasons Jumeirah on Jumeirah Road, while the four-star Ramada Jumeirah is close by too. Popular with locals and ex-pats on the UAE weekend (Friday-Saturday) when it can get quite busy, the complex tends to be much quieter during the week.