Looking for short escapes from the UAE to make the most of your weekends? Whether you’re a couple in the mood for a romantic break, an active family, or a group of girlfriends looking for an active girls’ weekend away, here are the best weekend trips from the UAE.
BEST FOR… SOLO TRAVELLERS
SAVE: Visit the UAE’s Capital of Culture in Sharjah
A long weekend in the UAE is a great excuse to explore Sharjah, an emirate that is still somewhat under the radar but is an absolute delight for culture lovers. In fact, Sharjah was declared a Capital of Islamic Culture by Unesco in 2014 – a well-deserved recognition, considering that it’s home to several museums and fascinating examples of traditional and contemporary Islamic architecture.
For a bit of time travel, head to Heart of Sharjah, a heritage district with traditional souks selling oud perfume, dallah coffee pots, shisha and frankincense, some of the oldest coral brick houses in the city, now restored as museums, and the impressive Sharjah Fort.
Here, stay at Al Bait Sharjah (best rates on Agoda), a charming waterfront hotel that – with its quaint alleyways and leafy courtyards – feels like having walked through a secret portal into the city’s past. The rooms and suites are housed in five heritage houses once owned by important Emirati families, as well as newer buildings. They feature traditional design – antique furnishings, wood furniture, and low majlis seating, along with modern amenities such as Nespresso machines and pillow menus.
SPLURGE: Take a Weekend to Go Sightseeing in Muscat
A few hours away from the UAE, Muscat is a pleasant escape from Dubai’s frenzied pace. The city’s sense of pride for its heritage is clear at once – whether it’s walking along the Mutrah Corniche looking at whitewashed buildings with mint-hued Arabesque balconies and domed mosques, or standing in the Royal Opera House, awestruck by the intricate details of the architecture.
One of the highlights is spending a leisurely evening visiting Mutrah Souk, a maze of alleys with stores selling traditional attire, frankincense, jewelry, scarves, and souvenirs you didn’t know you needed. To see the grandeur of Omani architecture, don’t forget to visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and the Al Alam Palace, built over two centuries.
Book a stay at the award-winning Chedi Muscat (Agoda offers best deals), a luxurious property with an Omani meets Asian design aesthetic. After a day of exploring, rest in chic, minimalistic rooms, choose from eight restaurants, enjoy the property’s private beach, and relax in the in-house spa, Muscat’s largest.
BEST FOR… COUPLES
SAVE: Island Getaway in Abu Dhabi
For a quick island getaway that doesn’t break the bank, head to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island to spend a weekend at the world’s only hotel located on an F1 circuit. The W Hotels brand is synonymous with luxury served with a side of infinitely cool, and the W Abu Dhabi Yas Island, impressive from the moment you spot its awe-inspiring curved exterior, is no different.
The understated rooms and suites offer remarkable views of the Yas Marina or the racetrack. Seven restaurants and bars offer plenty of dining options, from innovative Indian cuisine to classic Italian dishes. The hotel’s adults-only WET Deck is a great spot to sip on cocktails poolside while you groove to beats by the resident DJs. To relax, book a couples’ treatment or try the hammam at the award-winning spa.
To explore the area, head to Yas Beach, where you can choose to relax or get active with watersports such as jet-ski and kayaking, or chase thrills at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, on the fastest rollercoasters in the world.
SPLURGE: Romantic Weekend in the Desert
Nothing says romance like a weekend together in a secluded oasis, tucked away in the heart of the Arabian desert, far from city life. Located in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, the Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa offers ultimate luxury in a dramatic setting of golden sand dunes, camel caravans, emerald palm groves, and starry night skies.
The resort’s suites offer ample sense of place – think antique wooden doors, rich carpets, hand-crafted wood furniture, tented ceilings, and latticed windows, along with modern amenities such as flat screen TVs and Wi-Fi. Private temperature-controlled pools offer views of the desert and freely roaming Arabian oryx and gazelles, and it can often feel like you’re the only ones around for miles.
A fine-dining restaurant promises a memorable date, al fresco with views of the desert, and you can also ask the resort to arrange a dune dining experience complete with flame torches and Persian carpets. There’s plenty to do here for a weekend – take your pick from horse-riding, camel treks, desert safari, nature walks, archery, and more.
BEST FOR… FAMILIES
SAVE: A Fun Family Weekend in Oman
Located in northern Oman, and an easy drive from Dubai, the multi award-winning Millennium Resort Mussanah (best rates on Agoda) offers a luxurious weekend away for the entire family. Offering excellent value for money, this resort is a destination in its own right with plenty of in-house activities to keep you busy for days.
There are no less than five swimming pools, including an adults only, kids, and family pools and a lovely stretch of beach. The resort’s dive center offers watersports such as kayaking, sailing, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the neighboring Damaniyat Island, one of Oman’s best dive sites.
One of the coolest things to do at the resort is to go ziplining over the resort’s pools and mini-golf course- something your kids (and you) will love. The resort’s floating waterpark, Aqua Fun, features a floating obstacle course and is exciting for kids and adults alike.
When you want to recover from all the activities, unwind in the jacuzzi at Zayna Spa and follow it up with a reflexology massage. Five dining venues, including a maritime-themed bar and a poolside lounge, offer something for everyone.
SPLURGE: Stay at The Only Wildlife Safari Resort in the UAE
If you’ve dreamed of taking your family on a real safari, you should know that you can totally do this over a weekend in the UAE, flights not required. Located off the western coast of Abu Dhabi, on Sir Bani Yas Island, you’ll find a protected wildlife reserve where conservation programs work to save endangered species from the region and around the world. The best part? You can stay overnight, choosing from three distinct accommodation types, at Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts.
Our favorite is the Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Al Sahel Resort where luxurious safari-style villas are found among the savannah in the interior of the island, and peacock and wild gazelles wander the grounds freely, sometimes stopping for a sip of water in the private plunge pool on your outdoor deck. The rustic villas also have a living area, modern amenities such as Nespresso machines, and bathrooms with free-standing bathtubs. There are five restaurants including the safari-themed Savannah Grill, and a spa.
The highlight here is the nature and wildlife drive where you can spot Arabian oryx, Barbary sheep, blackbuck, cheetahs, giraffes, and other species. The island is also home to a flamingo lagoon.
BEST FOR… THE ADVENTUROUS GANG
SAVE: Go Glamping in Hatta
Get your adventurous buddies and head to Hatta, the UAE’s new adventure capital. There’s plenty to do here for the active – from hiking through wadis over 32km of trails and mountain biking to kayaking in the calm waters of Hatta Dam. At Hatta Wadi Hub, you can also try your hand at archery and axe-throwing.
Spend the night at the Sedr Trailers Resort (Agoda offers the cheapest rates) on the banks of Hatta Dam, a unique glamping experience where you’ll sleep in an air-conditioned Airstream trailer with Wi-Fi, TV, fridge, tea, and coffeemaker, and enjoy the view of a starry night sky from your private viewing deck. Grab a bite to eat at the onsite food truck or get together for a barbeque at the onsite pit. Toilets and showers are available on the campgrounds.
SPLURGE: Mountain Escape in Oman
When the heat gets unbearable, or to simply make the most of the cool weather, head to the rugged mountain landscape of Jabal Akhdar in Oman, where temperatures around the year are at least 15C lower than Muscat. Here, the Alila Jabal Akhdar is a luxurious resort built to resemble a traditional Omani village, with suites in stone-built houses and an infinity pool that offers spectacular views of the area.
Designed to blend into the surroundings, the resort’s spacious suites come with Omani details in the decor, living areas, and modern comforts such as coffeemakers and walk-in wardrobes. The outdoor terrace is a fantastic place to gaze at the starry night sky.
One of the best things to do here is to go hiking in the area. A variety of self-guided hikes and guided tours are available, from four-hour long hikes to full-day excursions that take you to wadis, caves, terraced farms, and quaint Omani villages. Feeling particularly adventurous? Try the Via Ferrata, where you’ll traverse canyon edges and rock faces with the help of steel wires and a harness.
BEST FOR… A GIRLS’ TRIP
SAVE: Beach Weekend
If you’re planning a quick girls’ getaway but are also anxiously watching your budget for the month, head to the award-winning beachfront JA Beach Hotel in Jebel Ali that offers all-inclusive rates for UAE residents.
The resort offers a host of activities, from golf, tennis, and squash to horse-riding, archery, clay and pistol shooting at the JA Shooting Club, and sailing and fishing trips from the JA Marina. Other than four swimming pools and a private beach, you can also try watersports such as waterskiing and wakeboarding, or take a seaplane tour for a memorable view of the city’s skyline.
When it comes to dining, there are 18 restaurants and bars to choose from, serving everything from seafood to teppanyaki. Afterwards, relax with a session at Calm Spa & Salon.
SPLURGE: Live the Good Life in Zighy Bay
Across the border in Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, winding mountain roads lead to Zighy Bay, a little piece of paradise where the water is a deep shade of turquoise, a private bay is hidden among jagged peaks, and beachfront hammocks invite you to relax under the shade of swaying palms. If you’re looking for a girls’ weekend that serves up blissful relaxation and luxury at its best, don’t think twice before booking a stay at the Six Senses Zighy Bay.
The resort’s stone and timber villas, built like an Omani village, come with local-inspired interiors (think pottery, rattan, and wood) and modern facilities such as espresso machines and home theater systems. Each villa comes with its own private plunge pool and patio.
For the ultimate pampering session, get a treatment at the spa or try the traditional hammam. There’s also an outdoor yoga pavilion and private beach with watersports such as stand-up paddle boarding, snorkeling, and kayaking.
Other fun things to do here are learning how to cook Omani food, chartering your own yacht, paragliding, or going on a sunset cruise with your girls.