7 reasons to leave the beach in Dubai, UAE
*affiliate links: find out how we are funded and why this helps us remain free to use.
Dubai is somewhere you jet to so that you can lie in the sun, right? Wrong. Seriously wrong. Yes, Dubai is a great beach holiday destination but there is far more to this United Arab Emirate than just those clean, sandy beaches and bath-warm temperatures of the Arabian Gulf.
Getting to Dubai: find fabulous direct fares to Dubai with Emirates*, which departs from UK airports including London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Dubai was literally built on oil. The first reserves were discovered back in 1967, triggering a transformation that has inexorably changed the face of the Emirate with the new wealth spent astutely on developing infrastructure and a skyscraper lined city that echoes Manhattan.
Today Dubai's growth industry is tourism as the Emirate emerges as one of the world's fastest-growing destinations. Much investment has gone into creating a world-class range of things to see and do. Quality is paramount here.
If they choose to build a golf course in Dubai it has to be up there with the best in the world, sculpted by one of the world's most famous designers. I'm a big fan of Dubai and I'd like to share my pick of things to do away from the beautiful beaches.
1. Sparkling hotels
Dubai has some truly spectacular hotels, the kind you literally don't have to leave to enjoy a brilliant holiday. Many of the big-name hotels stretch out along Jumeirah Beach. The most famous is perhaps the Burj Al Arab, or Arab Tower.
Looking like it has just emerged from the set of a sci-fi movie, the Burj Al Arab stretches high into the heavens. I toured it during its construction and even then it was clear that the "world's first seven-star hotel" was going to be something truly special.
It towers 321 metres above the Arabian Gulf and even if you don't stay I recommend dining in its Al Muntaha restaurant, which hangs suspended 200m above the Gulf. It's just one of the whopping nine restaurants inside the hotel!
2. Take to the water
Another Dubai must-do is taking a cruise on the lifeblood Dubai Creek, where the city's story really began. Getting out on the water really opens up a different perspective on the city so try to do this early on in your break.
There are a number of operators but my favourite is the sleek Bateaux Dubai. Designed by a Parisian company, this craft will be no stranger to Paris regulars.
The floor-to-ceiling window format works well in Dubai, allowing diners a sweeping panorama of the city skyline as it sprawls on to the Bur Dubai and Deira flanks of the creek. It's glorious at night with a forest of brightly lit skyscrapers soaring for the heavens all around.
3. Dune bashing
If you only take one excursion in Dubai make it dune bashing. It's a surreal experience heading out of the modern city into the desert wilds, where the tyres of your 4x4 are deflated to cater to the unique demands of taking on the dunes.
I guarantee you will think your Desert Safari Dubai vehicle is going to roll right over as the skilled driver zooms up and down the epic dunes at unlikely speeds and angles.
It's like a very much real-life roller coaster with no rail to keep your car secured. You will scream. I recommend the option where you enjoy a Bedouin banquet under the stars afterwards.
4. Explore the local culture
As the inhabitants of Dubai were, for the most part, nomadic until relatively recently, it can be hard trying to delve deeper into the heart of the country's culture and history.
Fortunately, Al Fahidi Fort, better known as Dubai Fort, is on hand; a fortification that has stood proud since 1787.
It's striking in itself and already shows another side to Dubai, but it also houses the Dubai Museum, which tells the story of this fascinating Emirate from its nomadic tribe days, right through to its emergence as a major global oil player and tourist destination. The traditional sailing boats in the courtyard are a highlight.
5. Make a splash at Wild Wadi
Of the many water parks I've visited over the years, my favourite is right here in Dubai. The Wild Wadi Waterpark is a stunner with 30 thrilling rides sprawling across a vast site down by Jumeirah Beach.
It pulls off the trick of having enough gentle, inclusive rides that are friendly to families with all ages of children, while also offering a good mix of more adrenaline-pumping attractions to keep the big kids happy too.
The Jumeirah Sceirah is a test for the bravest of souls - first you climb up 32 metres and then into one of the two capsules; then the floor literally disappears and you reach speeds of up to 80 kph - that's right, 80 kph!
6. Go golfing
The idea of a golf course in a desert might sound unlikely but Dubai has not only built a flurry of impressive courses for tourists to enjoy but courses of such quality that globally renowned championships are played on them.
There are Colin Montgomerie and Greg Norman-designed courses while the annual Dubai Desert Classic, Dubai Ladies Masters and Dubai Creek Open are all held here, attracting some of the biggest names in world golf.
7. Get active!
Why would you want to lie on the beach when a world of exciting action-packed adventures awaits inland?
Absolute Adventure can organise a wide range of activities in the great outdoors, from hikes in the Hajar Mountains near the border with Oman, through to testing rock climbing, sea kayaking and mountain biking adventures amongst the wild, rugged wadis. What are you waiting for?
Weather in Dubai
|Maximum daytime temperature °C|
|Hours of sunshine (daily)|
|Days with some rainfall|
|Sea temperature °C|
Does Dubai sound like your kind of sun-drenched holiday destination? Check out the latest offers from Emirates and book your next Arabian adventure today.
More about the Dubai
- Best time to go
- Climate guide
- 5-day weather forecast
- Travel advice
- Deals & discounts
Dubai by month
Explore holidays in the sun for less
- Beach holidays
- Family holidays
- City breaks
- Summer holidays
- Winter sun holidays
- Holiday offers
- Top travel brands
- Airlines & flights
- Discount hotels
- Airport parking deals
- British Airways
- easyJet holidays
- Love Holidays
Get your weekly fix of holiday inspiration from some of the world's best travel writers plus save on your next trip with the latest exclusive offers
We promise not to share your details