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 opened just before the summer. Although 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.
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.
Go to the beach for free
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, although they are a bit of a hike (across the parking lot). There is no shade provided, so if that’s a concern bring your own umbrella. Although there have been reports of loungers and umbrellas, on a recent weekend we couldn’t find any.
Swim and run
There are 600 meters of beachfront, meaning swimmers can front crawl for hours. The water on a recent weekend was 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 on a recent Friday was very chill, with a typical mix of families from all over the world.
Eat and drink
There are more than a half-dozen food trucks to choose from on Al Hudayriat Island, each laid out with car access, Last Exit-style. 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.
Marvel at the suspension bridge
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. It has a dedicated bike path, too.
Featured photo: Ann Marie McQueen.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is a journalist with 20 years of experience working in North America and the UAE, much of it as a writer, editor and columnist focusing on the areas of physical and mental wellness.