Abu Dhabi has a much-needed, accessible new place to hang outdoors in the 3,000 hectare Al Hudayriat Island, a project a decade in the making that just keeps adding attractions. After 10 years as simply “the bridge to nowhere,” the hanging portal beside Al Bateen Beach leading to Al Hudayriat, which was reportedly built at a cost of Dh184 million, now serves as a majestic entryway to the island. Although you can’t really stop and you shouldn’t take pictures, you might want to take a pass or two, just to soak it all in.
There are big plans for football fields, basketball and volleyball courts (these have been built but aren’t yet open), beach volleyball, kite-surfing, a zip line and even a mountain biking course on the capital’s newest stretch of sand, there’s plenty to do there right now. First up? Cycle, swim, eat, repeat.
Cycle to your heart’s content
Sure you can run on the five and 10-kilometre loop, but what Abu Dhabi has really needed is more cycling tracks in the style of Dubai’s popular Al Qudra. Open each and every day from 6am to 11pm, bikes and gear are readily available for rent from Yas Mena cycles, Dh50 for an hour, Dh75 for two. And it’s only going to get better as the island’s offerings expand. Set out on the wide, flat track with the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers buildings in front of you. The path is well-lit at night, too.
Free beach access
Unlike other local beaches, which can cost up to Dh100 to enter on weekends, Al Hudayriat is free. There are ample shower and toilet facilities and lounges and umbrellas too.
Swimmers can (and do) front crawl for hours along 600 meters of beachfront. The waters is generally calm and clear, with a view of the islands and the odd ship every so often. If you want to, there is space on the beach to get in some good sand sprints, too. The city’s more established beaches – Al Bateen next door, Saadiyat Beach and Yas Beach – can all get well and truly packed on the weekend. This leads to frustration finding a parking spot and in lining up just to enter. In comparison, Al Hudayriat feels a bit like an undiscovered treasure. There is no trouble parking and no delay before feeling the sand between your toes. The mood is very chill, with a typical mix of families from all over the world. And if you want to power walk, there is a dedicated walkway.
The island’s leisure and entertainment district is on the southern end of the island at Bab al Nojoum. There you will find beachside overnight camping options, where you can rent everything from a vintage VW van to a deluxe A-frame with a pool.
Want to finally try your hand at standup paddle boarding, rent paddle boats or kayak? All available at Bab Al Nojoum, the island’s leisure and entertainment district. There’s dining and in cooler months, sound healing sessions and an outdoor cinema.
Newly opened on Hudayriyat Island in Abu Dhabi, OCR Park offers eight outdoor gruelling adult obstacles. They include 10 Feet To Freedom and Escape Path, which consists of two walls. Conquering them takes muscle, grit and agility. There is also Drop And Roll, which requires core strength and hip mobility as you crawl your way to the next stage. Another obstacle, Out Ranked, involves keeping your balance on a 10ft slippery quarter pipe.
There are also obstacles for kids, including the wall-climbing challenge Up And Over, The Sargent, which has young athletes swinging on a rope and I See The Light, which involves crawling through a dark tunnel at top speed.
Eat and drink
There are more than a half-dozen food trucks to choose from on the main portion of Al Hudayriat Island, each laid out with car access, Last Exit-style in the parking lot. While this provides a bit of a concrete, revving engine and exhaust-ish vibe to the parking lot scene if you are on foot, there were a steady stream of cars at each truck on our visit, so the layout seems to be working. Among the choices are Pink Burger, breakfast and sweet treats from Saddle, ice cream and speciality coffee from Shot and Roar. If sit-down is a little more your speed, the Al Majlis Tent is open from 4pm to midnight (1am on weekends), offering indoor and outdoor dining.
Beach and eat
Recent addition Marsana offers a Dubai-style option of indoor-outdoor eating and beach access — a first for the capital. There’s a marina, art installations and a dedicated skate park. On the beach side, there are plenty of showers, loungers and umbrellas, and ready access to toilets and showers. On the eating front, there are more than a dozen options. If you can get a table at hotspot Drvn, we hear the pizza is amazing.
Featured photo: Ann Marie McQueen.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.