With temperatures in the high-rise desert enclave of Dubai ranging from pleasantly warm to blisteringly hot, you’ll want to stay close to its 50km-long snaking coastline, golden beaches and the gentle cooling waves of the Arabian Gulf. Fortunately, the emirate is chock-full of places to catch the sea breeze, stare into the blue or cool off in the sun, from epic musical fountains and submarine adventures to water-sporty beaches and creek crossings by water taxi. Read on for our roundup of the top 10 places to take full advantage of the bounty of aquatic attractions on offer...
Dubai immersive attractions
You may not be able to splash about in them, but Dubai Fountains are as spectacular as a fireworks display. The hundreds of water jets reach up to 45 storeys high, choreographed to sway and dance in time with music – be it classical, pop or Arabian. If you stand close enough, you’ll catch the spray on the breeze, or if you’d rather enjoy them with a meal, the Social House boasts a great view. Although they play at intervals throughout the day, the fountains are best visited after dark when the lights twinkling through the water add a touch more magic to the show.
Dubai doesn’t do anything by halves and its waterparks are no exception. Visitors of all ages can enjoy an epic splash-down at top-notch waterpark Aquaventure that loops around the famed Atlantis the Palm resort on the city’s palm-shaped man-made island. Climbing the stairs up to the precipitous water slides affords panoramic views of the surrounding ocean before plunging down the thrilling chutes and water rides, one of which rushes down through a glass shark tank. For big kids, the Tower of Poseidon waterslide is not to be missed, while the world’s largest water slide – the snaking Aquaconda – is an absolute must on a scorching day.
Buzzing Kite Beach is the go-to place for watersports in Dubai. Here the usually languid Arabian Gulf is whipped up by swift winds making for decent waves and – as the beach’s name suggests – the perfect conditions for kite surfing. Outlets on the shore offer lessons and equipment for hire, and the wide stretch of glistening sand is the launch point for jet-skiing, parasailing, wake-boarding and paddle-boarding too.
Pleasant and authentic, taking a traditional wooden Abra water taxi across Dubai Creek (Khor Dubai) between the old districts of Deira and Bur Dubai is a quintessential Dubai experience, and a great way to see the city while catching the breeze. Alternatively, evening cruises along the creek aboard Arabian dhow sail-boats are ideal for sunset sundowners and a spot of dinner out on the water.
Patrolling the ocean in the belly of a Jaws-shaped sub isn’t necessarily for the feint-hearted but it’s a fun and novel way to explore Dubai’s sub-tropical waters. The metal submarine travels at speeds of up to 100km per hour, has a tailfin that moves like a real shark and breaches the ocean surface in dramatic shark-like fashion, jumping up to six metres from the water. Each passenger gets their own porthole to gaze on the wonders of the deep and passengers booking through Rixos the Palm Dubai can benefit from special packages that include food, drinks, a beach cabana and paddle-boarding.
For families travelling to Dubai with little ones in tow, the Splash Pad is like an inflatable adventure playground by the beach – the ideal place to cool off and a safe environment for family fun on a hot sunny day. Close to Dubai Marina at Jumeirah Beach Residence’s Beach Waterpark, its shallow water, floating obstacles, climbing frames, fountains, slides and trampolines will keep kids cool and happy for hours.
Named after the sea-city of ancient legend, world-famous Atlantis the Palm has various unique water features that are well worth checking out. For those willing to splash the cash, there are underwater rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows facing into the hotel’s enormous aquarium, while the resort also offers try-dives into the aquarium’s watery depths to swim with 65,000 tropical fish. Over at state-of-the-art Dubai Aquarium, there’s a similar experience to be had in the shark tank where divers can get up close and personal with the beasts of the sea.
Wild Wadi Water Park
This fantastic water park themed around the Arabian tale of Juha has bucketfuls of fun rides from rapid rivers to whirlpools. As well as a surf simulator pool and gentle wave pool, there’s a whole host of thrilling attractions including the Burj Surj where you’ll board an inflatable tube to be dropped into a whirlpool and sucked into a tunnel, and the Jumeirah Sceirah with a vertical drop and standing trap-door start. The water park is right next to the Burj Al Arab so you can gaze on one of Dubai’s most iconic buildings while you queue for the slides. If you’re staying at one of Dubai’s Jumeirah hotels, entrance to Wild Wadi is free of charge.
Known for its innovation and world firsts, Dubai is the perfect place for the world’s newest motorized watersport – flyboarding – to take hold. The powerful waterjet-propelled board lets you zoom around like Ironman up to nine metres above the water. Brave souls can try out the unique exhilarating experience in 20-minute sessions at Searide Dubai at Dubai Fishing Harbour.
Designed for families with toddlers and tweens aged two to twelve, Dubai’s Legoland has an enormous waterpark with various aquatic attractions arranged around a half-million gallon wave pool. Fun and enriching interactive features include a build-a-raft river where families can design and build their own customised raft and an imagination station where kids can build bridges, dams and cities out of lego bricks and test their designs against the flow of water.
Stay cool in Dubai
When you’ve cruised the creek, seen the fountains, mastered the flyboard and swam in the belly of a shark, there’s even more aquatic fun to be had in Dubai. Although it’s not renowned for its reefs, the trusty PADI instructors at Dubai International Marine Club can take travellers to explore the wonders of the deep seven days a week. For those who like sightseeing with a twist of adrenalin there are also jetski tours of the Dubai’s coastline with Jetski Dubai taking in the city’s incredible skyline including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab building.