Whether you’re a last-minute planner and flights are now too expensive to travel far out of town during the upcoming long weekend or you prefer staying close to home and just taking a trip for a brief change of scenery, you can’t go wrong with an old-fashioned road trip. The ideal solution for families, friends, couples, solo travelers—basically anyone who drives or knows someone who does—a road trip gives you the opportunity to visit nearby wonders you may not have had the chance to explore yet. Plus, who can say no to unlimited luggage? Read on for our recommendations of the best local destinations to discover in the UAE, from relaxing retreats in Abu Dhabi to exciting escapes in Fujairah.
1. Ajman: Kayaking the mangroves
Immerse yourself in the natural waterfront beauty of the UAE’s coastline at the one-million sqm of protected mangroves in Ajman. Take a guided or solo kayak voyage through the winding lagoons teeming with 60 species of birds including flamingos, kingfishers, and osprey for a serene outdoor core workout in the cooling temperatures. While a dusk expedition against a backdrop of the setting sun is ideal to elevate your Instagram feed, a moonlit tour is often a more private experience, offering a chance to see feedings and nestings in live-action. Just don’t forget to turn on your camera’s night vision.
2. Sharjah: Learning the local heritage
Decades of local heritage unfolds at the Heart of Sharjah, a cultural project preserving the 1950s version of the emirate’s city center from the Arabesque architecture to the old-style souqs. Home to 17 different museums including one for calligraphy, maritime, and Islamic civilization, Sharjah grants history buffs the chance to unearth archeological treasures, artistic wonders, and religious artifacts at various spots around the potential UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guests can further understand daily Emirati life through visits to restored abodes displaying traditional home decor and handicrafts.
3. Abu Dhabi: Partying on a private island
While there is no shortage of supply of islands in Abu Dhabi from leisure hub Yas Island and cultural center Saadiyat Island to business district Al Maryah Island, there is only one boutique private island: Nurai Island. Check in to the sole resort on this exclusive slice of paradise a mere 15 minutes away from the UAE capital or opt for the day-pass to fuel your adrenaline with one of the many water sport activities or surf pool, indulge in sweeping Gulf vistas from aquatic swings, and jam to live music at the bustling beach club.
4. Fujairah: Exploring under the sea
Nestled at the foot of the Hajjar Mountains lies pristine white-sand beaches and scuba diving utopia for both beginner and certified divers alike. Discover hidden waterfalls, underwater wrecks, vibrant coral reefs, and soothing hot springs at one of the best diving getaways in the region. Head to Snoopy Island with one of the many dive centers in the emirate to swim alongside exotic marine creatures, from green turtles to blacktip reef sharks, in this marine national park—just keep an eye out for a glimpse of a whale shark.
5. Ras Al Khaimah: Embracing the desert landscape
Although it’s sometimes easy to forget the UAE is indeed a desert with only pockets of bustling cityscapes, the vast sandy terrain of Ras Al Khaimah will remind you of the country’s bedouin roots. Adventure to the emirate’s towering dunes via horseback, camel, off-road bike, or foot for uninterrupted panoramas and stay until nightfall for an out-of-this-world stargazing experience at one of the few places in the country constellations are visible. And with a five-star glamping resort within the desert nature reserve offering their own excursions, you can easily be entertained during a long weekend in the wild.
6. Dubai: Rejuvenating at a new resort
When you live in a metropolis as happening as Dubai, why venture from home at all? Plus, with hotels popping up every few months, your new favorite staycation destination is just around the corner waiting to be found. Whether it’s a boutique hotel surrounded by immaculate golf courses, a rejuvenating beachside spa resort on the Palm, or an inviting urban retreat a few steps from the shops, each neighborhood of Dubai promises a memorable mini-vacation for any type of traveler.