9 awesome UAE beach clubs

At this time of year, with the weather bordering on perfect, if your first thought on a Friday isn’t to grab a towel and head for the beach, we’d question why you even moved here. Brunch? You can do that any time. Why waste a sunny day?

Thankfully, a new generation of slick, well-serviced private beach clubs has opened in recent months to tempt people away from the chocolate fountain. And if ever there was a country that can perfect the art of luxurious lounging, it’s this one.

It seems the light bulb has finally been illuminated, though. This year alone, we have seen the arrival of Purobeach and the much-discussed Nikki Beach, both international brands, while Zero Gravity launches the mother of all pools this week. The home-grown Eden Beach Club on The Palm hasn’t been open more than 18 months either, yet it has already attracted big-name DJs like Steve Aoki.

But why the beach club rather than the traditional hotel? Rhea Saran, editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveller magazine says it’s all about the unity of the experience. “The essential difference between beach clubs and a hotel can be summed up in one word: atmosphere,” she says. “Most hotels that offer day access will always aim to be family-friendly – so there’s quite a mix of beach users, from kids and parents to serious sunbathers. Plus hotel beaches are always open to guests staying there, which again will be a broad spectrum of people, so there’s no unified vibe.

“The beach clubs opening up here have a much clearer, more targeted demographic. They’re for people in their twenties upwards who have travelled to Ibiza, Mykonos and maybe Miami, where the concept of exclusive day beach clubs is well established. So they’re seeking a cool, exclusive daytime spot to socialise and meet people, show off bikini bodies, eat, drink and chill. But if you don’t have atmosphere, you don’t have a successful beach club.”

So, with all this in mind, team ShortList decided to look at which beach clubs are offering what this spring – and where you ought to be heading in the weekends ahead. As Rhea says, the difference is in the details.

Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE
Where: Golden Tulip Al Jazira Hotels and Resort.
The vibe: Known to many in Dubai as “the ultimate beach club”, it’s an extension of the original venue in Ibiza. The dancefloor is always packed with beautiful people, so are the beds on the shore. Revellers party barefoot on the sand surrounded by entertainers, dancers and a parade of world class DJs, such as Kenny “DOPE” Gonzalez, Sidney Charles and Denney on March 4.
Eat and drink: Outdoor dining that’s opulent with over-the-top décor and delicious cuisine. The menu is varied, but peaks in its choice of seafood such as sea bass, croquette with béchamel, wasabi tartar, crispy saltwater squid and soft shell crab tempura. Forget you’re in a bikini and indulge in a delicious dessert, too.
The best bit: The Bali beds are a great base for your group, so you can wander around and soak up the atmosphere. The Saturday brunch is also a popular way to round off the weekend.
Price: Sunbeds (minimum spend of AED360) and beach beds (AED4,000 for 10 people).
Contact: www.bluemarlinibiza-uae.com

Eden Beach Club
Where: Rixos The Palm Dubai
The vibe: We interviewed former international cricketer Kevin Pietersen, one of the partners in the project, when it opened and he was fairly blunt about his ambitions: “We want to blow everything else away”. There’s no denying it’s a fabulous set-up, and perhaps the most Miami-like venue on the list. There’s an urban vibe, with as much emphasis on swimming pools, skylines and entertainment stages as the open seas. It’s slick. Very slick.
Eat and drink: There’s a restaurant off to the side, which serves up the usual array of salads and sandwiches, but if you are going to order anything here, opt for the sushi, which is considerably better than the usual all-day poolside fare.
Best bit: We are a sucker for the cabanas with the private plunge pools right in front. Swim-up bars are never a bad thing, either.
Price: Day pass AED100 (weekdays and Saturdays) and AED250 (Fridays) with a AED5,000 minimum spend for beach cabanas on Fridays.

Where: Building 8 of The Shoreline, Palm Jumeirah
The vibe: Riva lays claim to a couple of firsts: the first truly standalone independent beach club in Dubai and the first temperature-controlled swimming pool on the Shoreline – with the latter near the well-stocked gazebo bar. The private beach is an impressive 300 metres long with loungers for hire for the day and plenty of watersports. A place for kicking back not dialling it up.
Eat and drink: Riva’s own restaurant – sorry, ristorante – serves up some simple but high-quality Italian staples, such as pizza, pasta and salad. The crab cakes are perhaps the pick of the bunch, though.
Best bit: The views back towards Dubai at sunset.
Price: Free to enter but loungers are AED115 (weekdays) and AED190 (weekends).

Saadiyat Beach Club
Where: Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi
The vibe: This elegant retreat is the kind of place that appears in luxury lifestyle magazines with a model lounging decorously on a white sofa. As a result, it falls somewhere between Mykonos and the better parts of the Florida Keys, offering minimalist symmetry in the wooden loungers and infinity pools.
Eat and drink: Loads of suitably upscale options here. The best are Mediterranean restaurant Safina – yellow fin tuna carpaccio, oysters in the half-shell, beetroot and quinoa salad, that kind of thing – and the De La Costa bar and lounge, which offers snacks and live entertainment in the evening.
Best bit: The 9km stretch of beach on Saadiyat Island has been certified Blue Flag and there’s a decent chance you’ll spot a Hawksbill turtle, who nest in this protected area.
Price: Day passes are AED150 per person (weekdays) and AED290 (weekends).

Where: JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort
The vibe: Billed as an “oasis of happiness”, they play up the new-age side of posh sunbathing at Purobeach. They even say the beach has a “magical essence”, the music “rhythmic flow” and there are, no doubt, mystical qualities to the black Balinese granite pool. It’s the second Purobeach in the city, but the first on the waterfront.
Eat and drink: M3 (“m” cubed) is the house restaurant – a fusion of flavours from, if you can picture it, Melbourne, Marrakech and Miami. The pulled lamb wrap is a winner.
Best bit: Opening on New Year’s Eve was pretty special. Now? Probably the Miami Grill Brunch on Saturdays between 1-4pm. Excellent value at AED300 for an above-par selection of cooking stations and grills and endless jugs of everyone’s favourite holiday drink. Order a taxi afterwards, kids.
Price: Free to enter but sunbeds poolside are AED175 (weekdays), AED200 (weekends) and beach sunbeds AED150.

Nikki Beach
Where: Pearl Jumeirah
The vibe: All about relaxing, looking chill on an all-white sunbed or VIP cabana while sipping cocktails overlooking the Pearl Jumeirah peninsula. Described as an “urban oasis”, it first opened in Miami in 1998 (maybe that’s the urban bit) and has attracted A-list fans including Beyoncé and Leonardo DiCaprio. In Dubai, it will attract a crowd seeking opulence and fun. Perfect of the A-list chasing collective.
Eat and drink: There’s Nikki Beach Restaurant & Beach Club, Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai and Café and Satine Restaurant & Lounge by Nikki Beach, the latter is an exclusive, high-end affair, offering world cuisine. Expect bubbles, refreshing cocktails, and some decent signature dishes.
Best bit: Rock up if you like a pumping soundtrack of dance, lounge and signature beats, with live a saxophonist, percussionist and violinist. The Grand Opening White Party on March 17, and Nikki Beach’s iconic all-white party will land in Dubai very soon.
Price: Rates to be confirmed.

Zero Gravity
Where: Next to Skydive Dubai Drop Zone
The vibe: Some love the free Saturday morning yoga sessions followed by breakfast on the terrace, some chill on the beach spotting dare-devil sky divers descend overhead. While others go to dine and some purely to party with some of the world’s biggest live music acts.
Eat and drink: Zero Gravity’s culinary team earned a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence last year thanks to dishes such as beef bolognese, and their ultimate club sandwich. A new menu features delights like Scottish salmon with polenta, caponata and cherry tomato confit and the baked ice cream cheesecake. They regularly hosts BBQs or you can go DIY by booking a cabana on the beach equipped with BBQ and all the food you can possibly chargrill.
Best bit: Events like, 5,000-plus capacity music festival, DXBeach and this week’s launch of their 2,000sqm pool expansion, which includes a 39-metre infinity pool, a brand new stage and new day beds. The launch party will be headlined by house DJs Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano.
Price: Day passes from AED150 (weekdays), AED250 (weekends), including redeemable food and beverage vouchers.

Nasimi Beach
Where: Atlantis, The Palm
The vibe: As a laid-back day turns to night, guests chill with drinks and maybe shisha – or start the party by the water’s edge against the illuminated Dubai skyline to a soundtrack of live house music and soulful tunes from guest and resident DJs. The later it gets the livelier it gets with weekly nights such as Club MTV Dubai presents “The Nasimi Beach Festival” on March 4, featuring the likes of Example, DJ Luck, MC Neat and Artful Dodger. Then there’s Dip Urban Beach on March 11.
Eat and drink: Nasimi offers a variety of decent culinary options ranging from sushi and sashimi to Mediterranean favourites, paired with loads of great beverages.
Best bit: The shoreline terrace with beachside cabanas and white sofas on the sand are super glam. The venue has hosted performances by artists including Basement Jaxx, Nicky Romero, Example, Avicii and SIGMA – proving it’s a credible music venue as well as a beach club.
Price: Loungers from AED150- AED250 per person, minimum spends on food and beverages.
Contact: www.atlantisthepalm.com

Cove Beach
Where: Jumeirah Beach Hotel
The vibe: This is Dubai’s hidden gem of beach clubs – if you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t see it. As a result, the vibe is exclusive and secluded. Beautiful views of the Arabian Gulf and a great spot for chilled sundowners that stretch into the evening.
Eat and drink: Expect fresh, ingredient-driven dishes with a strong Mediterranean vibe. With cuisine inspired by the South of France and Italy – fresh, grilled fish and meats, delicious pastas, gnocchi and risotto, tartares and carpaccios, burrata and basil, and the chef’s chocolate fondant!
Price: AED100 for sunbed, AED150 for single bed, AED350 for double bed (weekdays); AED200 for sunbed, AED300 for single bed and AED700 for double bed (weekends). Special rates from AED50 available on Mondays.
Contact: www.covebeach.com

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