With kilometre after kilometre of beach fringing the capital, coastal culture has always been a vital part of life in Abu Dhabi.
These days there’s more emphasis on leisure than ever before and as the quantity of beach bars and restaurants has risen, so has the quality. Here’s a selection of the very best on offer.
Perhaps the Sheraton ran out of vowels during the naming of B-Lounge, which the hotel insists is “the place to B”. The alternative is that someone just thought it would make for good marketing. There was no need for such gimmickry – this comfortable outdoor bar has a garden lounge feel coupled with a gentle rising amphitheatre. Sitting there under the palm trees with a budget bucket of hops is an experience that’s hard to beat.
Open daily noon-1am. Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Corniche Road East (02 677 3333).
There’s a little separation from an actual beach, but coastal chilling is the vibe of this neat alfresco spot. The succinct menu might not be the most inspired in Abu Dhabi, but it is very reasonably priced and the menu of mixed drinks includes some unique offerings designed for the property.
Open daily 9am-9pm. Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, Al Zahiya (02 697 9000).
The Park Hyatt’s beach property is open until the small hours every day but never busier than when the sunset and pre-dinner crowd come for their Instagram moment on the sand. Not wanting to spoil any appetites, the bar offers a high-end selection of finger food and hors d’oeuvres, as well as an extensive drinks menu that matches Beach House’s gorgeous setting.
Open daily 5pm-1am. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1138).
If you prefer your backdrop palatial and your nibbles premium, then head on down to the Breeze Lounge. Located just off the back lawn of the ever-spectacular Emirates Palace, it’s probably the fanciest beach bar in town, where the bar snacks take the form of freshly shucked oysters and wagyu beef sliders. As you can imagine, the drinks menu is very much at the high end, too.
Open daily 5pm-1am. Emirates Palace, Corniche (02 690 7999).
This great beach bar and restaurant has plenty of appeal. As well as the beautiful al fresco setting, there’s a pretty serious focus on food, with a bold selection of pan-Asian dishes going far beyond the usual bar snacks. A significant number of the crowd will arrive later though, when a DJ appears to play the sunset soundtrack.
Restaurant: Sun-Wed noon-1am; Thu-Fri noon-2am. Bar: Sun-Wed 5pm-1am; Thu-Fri 5pm-2am. The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi (02 498 8888).
Cabana Beach Bar and Grill
The Cabana Beach Bar and Grill occupies one of the most coveted sections of beach anywhere in Abu Dhabi (and also our cover this week. Sitting at the end of the Corniche, it’s part of The St. Regis Abu Dhabi and is right at the heart of the beachfront activity. Of course that’s not the main motivation for going – the views out to the Arabian Gulf, the hearty bar food and the easy access to the ocean are all reason enough.
Open daily 10am-11pm. Nation Riviera Beach Club, The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Corniche West (02 694 4780).
There’s precious little information on the taxonomy of mermaids, but given how much time they’d probably spend in the sun, it seems unlikely that many, or indeed any, would actually be ginger. Perhaps this is a subtle message of the rare quality found at this beach bar on Zaya Nurai Island, where you’ll discover enormous cushions to relax on while you order from the rather impressive sushi menu.
Open daily 10am-7pm. Zaya Nurai Island (02 506 6222).
Technically a pool bar, Loop at least has marvellous views from the Corniche out to the Gulf. For people who aren’t fans of sand and salt-water this makes it an ideal choice for a sundowner, with sprawling views out across some of Abu Dhabi’s less-visited islands. Meanwhile, in the bar there’s the usual selection of house beverages, grape and hops, plus an extensive list of bar snacks that are low on nutritional value and high on moreish taste.
Open daily 10am-midnight. Bab al Qasr Hotel, Corniche West (02 305 3333).
There are presumably no horses at Mare Mare, the shiny beach bar in Jumeirah’s brand-new Saadiyat Island property. There is, however, very easy access to the beach, with this glimmering coastal property resting right up against Saadiyat’s famously protected shores. The name of this beach bar-restaurant actually hints at its Italian roots – there’s not a more relaxed place in the capital to have a slice of pizza while the sun sets.
Open daily noon-midnight. Jumeirah at Saadiyat Resort, Saadiyat Island (02 811 4444).
Nasma Beachfront Bar
Having only opened towards the end of 2018, the Nasma Beachfront still has that new-bar smell. Making the most of Saadiyat’s quieter beach vibe, it gets its name from the Sufi term for the astral body, a rather high-falutin’ moniker, perhaps, but it at least lets you know that they’re aspiring to provide something transcendent. If you’re looking for a party, this probably isn’t your place, but if you want to relax, then pull up a beanbag.
Open daily 5pm-midnight. Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 697 0000).
The looming pillars of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers don’t exactly scream: ‘relax on a beach’, but once you’re in (and out the other side) you can pick up that kind of vibe thanks to the Pool Bar. There is a shisha service, regular happy hours and a well-judged menu of light meals ranging from fresh salads to fish burgers. All this without the need to worry about sand blowing into your fries.
Open daily 10am-12.30am. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, Corniche Road West (02 811 5666).
Pool Bar and Lounge
The Corniche and Saadiyat Island don’t have monopolies on the beach bar scene, as proved in some style by Shangri-La’s evergreen offering. Once known as the Ess Lounge, the hotel has since given it a more standard name. The chances of you having a bog-standard time here are slim, however, thanks largely to the stupendous views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with the sun setting over its mighty minarets every night.
Open daily 5pm-midnight. Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi (02 509 8532).
Perhaps the purest form of beach bar anywhere in Abu Dhabi are those found over on the private Yas Beach. More than anywhere else, the focus here is on getting slightly too hot on your sun lounger, cooling off either in the ocean or the on-site pool, then sliding over to the bar to pick up your favourite refreshment. It can get full to capacity on weekends, but the rest of the time you’re likely to find it very chilled.
Open daily 10am-7pm. Yas Beach, Yas Island (02 565 1100).
Saadiyat Beach Club
If you don’t want riff raff milling around on your beach, then a private club like Saadiyat is the choice for you. With memberships costing around Dhs2,300 per month, you’d be right to expect the service to be superlative and the facilities top-notch. With four bars and restaurants, a spa, a male salon and a pool, there’s plenty on offer – and that’s before you’ve even set foot on the golden beach.
Open daily 8am-8pm. Saadiyat Beach Club, Saadiyat Island (02 656 3500).