The best islands in the UAE to visit

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has many beautiful and awe-inspiring places to visit, but its man-made and natural islands deserve special attention. 

Island getaway in the UAE. Image credit: Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

Imagine pristine beaches, uninterrupted views, wonderful wildlife, rich culture, luxurious resorts, fun activities for the whole family, and much more. Whether you’re traveling on your own or with your family, the UAE’s islands offer a wealth of choices for any type of vacation.

While the islands are gorgeous all year-round, be advised that they are popular autumn and winter getaways, so prices are cheaper, and attractions are less crowded if you visit off-season. Just be sure to book a Blacklane chauffeur service, because there’ll be hordes of other revelers looking for taxis. Download the Blacklane app to easily get around your destination in style.

Palm Jumeirah

Location: Dubai

Nearest airport: Dubai Airport

Best nearby hotels: Atlantis The Palm, The Palm Island Resort, FIVE Palm Jumeirah Hotel, Hotel Fairmont The Palm

Dubai is often the first destination that comes to mind when you think of the United Arab Emirates, and with good reason! It’s the home of world-renowned attractions, over 69 lavish malls and souks, and uber-luxurious accommodations. But if you’d prefer a more relaxing experience, you might want to consider nearby Palm Jumeirah Island, located 30 minutes from Dubai’s downtown.

Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest man-made island and one of Dubai’s most popular attractions. And by “largest”, we mean a giant archipelago that is visible from space. The outer crescent of this island is more than 10 miles long. It spreads over an area of 560 hectares and consists of the Trunk, Crescent, and 16 Fronds, together forming a palm shape.

The area is home to a wide array of luxury hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, and more. In addition to its world-class facilities, Palm Jumeirah boasts picturesque views of the surrounding area. Overall visiting The Palm is an experience in itself.

As one of Dubai’s most recognized landmarks, the rose-hued Atlantis sits proudly atop the Palm. It’s home to a five-star hotel, celebrity chef restaurants, and a number of entertainment and leisure activities.

Atlantis the Palm, Dubai. Image credit: Likith T/Unsplash

Aquaphiles will find themselves in a haven of water activities at Atlantis the Palm Aquaventure Waterpark. From swimming with dolphins to discovering a sunken city at The Lost Chamber Aquarium, there are plenty of water-based activities to enjoy here.

Shopping enthusiasts will delight in Palm Jumeirah’s elegant malls including Golden Mile Galleria and Nakheel Mall. Added to Dubai’s never-ending list of attractions, The Pointe is a shopping and leisure haven, located right at the sea-facing tip of the iconic Palm Jumeirah’s trunk. It is also home to the Palm Fountain, the largest fountain in the world. This fountain has an innovative concept and illustrates the harmony between the earth and the universe. Planets are represented by a circle of nozzles, and starry constellations are represented by LED lights scattered throughout. A combination of dancing water and music, along with light and color, creates unforgettable memories for visitors.

Saadiyat Island

Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Nearest airport: Abu Dhabi International Airport

Best nearby hotels: Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort Opens, Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas

A former fishing port, Saadiyat Island (which means island of happiness) has undergone a radical transformation. Today, the island is a vibrant center of culture and art, surrounded by some of Abu Dhabi’s most picturesque beaches and serene waters.

The island is home to several world-renowned cultural institutions, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Opened in 2017 as the Paris landmark’s first international site, it is a must-see.

An extensive and varied collection of Italian Renaissance paintings, ancient artifacts, and contemporary masterpieces can be found at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Most of the artworks come from the sister gallery in Paris, but there are also several local and regional pieces on display. As the paintings change frequently, you are sure to have a different experience every time you visit. 

The futuristic building is a work of art in itself. It is surrounded by lagoons, making it appear floating. The geometric dome filters light into the galleries, creating a mesmerizing sun-dappled effect.

Louvre Abu Dhabi. Image credit: Juliana Malta/Unsplash

As part of its vision, the island aims to become the region’s cultural hub, and is in the process of building its own Guggenheim, set to open in 2025.

Speaking of culture, Manarat Al Saadiyat is one of the most renowned art galleries in Abu Dhabi. As well as hosting the annual Abu Dhabi Art Fair, the exhibition center and its active community bring together local and international artists. Al Saadiyat Island is also home to New York University Abu Dhabi, Berklee Abu Dhabi and Cranleigh Abu Dhabi.

Although the island is rich in culture, it isn’t the only thing it has to offer. In addition to the universities, gallery and museum scene, Saadiyat is a wellness hub and a haven of natural beauty. The island is home to a number of protected habitats for Hawksbill turtles and mangroves.

Offering five miles of pristine white sand and azure waters, Saadiyat Island is the ultimate beach getaway combining luxury, exclusivity, and tranquility. Whether you’re interested in sailing, windsurfing, beach volleyball, or beach yoga, there are plenty of ways to have a fun day at the beach. It also has its exclusive beach club.

The island is located just off the coast of Abu Dhabi. You can take a taxi or a bus to get there. Abu Dhabi International Airport is also only 30 minutes away.

Bluewaters Island

Location: Dubai

Nearest airport: Dubai International Airport

Best nearby hotels: Caesars Palace Dubai, Caesars Resort Bluewaters Dubai, The Address Beach Resort, Signature Dubai Marina Hotel

Bluewaters Island is a man-made island off the coast of Jumeirah Beach. Dubai Eye (Ain Dubai), the world’s largest and tallest observation wheel, makes the island instantly recognizable. With a height of 250 meters, it surpasses the London Eye, the Singapore Flyer, and even Las Vegas High Roller. The wheel can carry 1750 passengers at a time in its 48 air-conditioned cabins. It takes nearly 40 minutes to complete one full rotation, giving you plenty of time to spot some of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks and take in the city’s shimmering coastline. 

Dubai Eye, Bluewaters Island, Dubai. Image credit: Denys Gromov/Pexels

For a truly unforgettable experience here, treat yourself to an extensive range of leisure activities at the luxurious Caesars Palace, the first to open outside of the US. The resort lives up to its brand name for fine hospitality with cutting-edge architecture and interiors, a luxurious spa, and fine dining restaurants that serve exquisite cuisine. And by ‘exquisite cuisine’ we mean world-class signature dishes at multi-Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, which offers the same show-stopping experience as its Las Vegas counterpart.

A visit to an island isn’t complete without relaxing by the water. Make your way to Cove Beach, part of Caesars Palace, and enjoy the view of the pristine waters of the Persian Gulf. Paired with plenty of sunbeds, an outdoor pool, and a jacuzzi, this place has everything you need to relax.

If you want to upgrade your Instagram feed during your time on this island, then taking glam selfies with the superstars at Madame Tussauds Dubai would do the trick. The Middle East’s only Madame Tussaud is located on Bluewater Island, which has a glamorous backdrop. Here you can visit sixty wax statues of your favorite celebrities and superstars up close including Queen Elizabeth II, Victoria Beckham, Jackie Chan, Kylie Jenner, Vin Diesel, Shah Rukh Khan, Mahatma Gandhi, Audrey Hepburn, and many more.

The island’s multi-mode transport systems make it easy for visitors to reach this destination. Dubai Marina Tram Station is the closest public transportation station to Bluewaters Island. Once you reach there, you can take a taxi to cover the remaining distance. In the cooler months, you can walk to the island and enjoy breathtaking views.

Yas Island

Location: Abu Dhabi

Nearest airport: Abu Dhabi International Airport

Best nearby hotels: W Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island, Crowne Plaza Yas Island Abu Dhabi, Radisson Blu Yas Island, Park Inn By Radisson Yas Island

One of the UAE’s most popular entertainment destinations is located in Abu Dhabi. Yas Island is an artificial island spread across 2500 hectares of area. Designed to cater to the needs of every type of traveler, this leisure island has something to offer everyone.

What truly separates Yas Island from its competitors is its never-ending list of theme parks. For speed freaks and thrill seekers, Ferrari World is the place. There are over 40 record-breaking rides there, with Formula Rossa being the most popular one. This roller coaster is the fastest in the world and will give you an experience you will not soon forget. 

Ferrari World, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Image credit: Victor Malyushev/Unsplash

The Yas Marina Circuit is another attraction for motorsports enthusiasts. Every November it hosts the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which is a Formula One motor racing event. The venue offers a number of unique racing courses for adults. Here, you can drive the race cars of your dreams, like an Aston Martin GT4. There are also a variety of other motorsport activities, such as drag racing and drift taxis.

When you’re here, be sure to visit Yas Waterland. With a variety of attractions that appeal to both kids and adults, it is considered one of the best waterparks in the UAE. The waterpark features 40 attractions, including Falcon’s Falaj- the Middle East’s longest colossal water coaster ride at 300 meters, Cineplash, which is an underwater cinema, and many fun rides. This is the perfect place to get your much-needed dose of fun.

And it doesn’t end here! Warner Bros. World is a recent addition to Yas Island’s tourist attractions. Located near Yas Waterland, this theme park celebrates some of the most iconic cartoon shows of all time. There are six zones in the park, each with rides themed after popular television shows such as Batman, Tom and Jerry, and Looney Toons. You’ll find the characters you grew up watching in this park, and it will definitely be the highlight of your kids’ Abu Dhabi vacation. 

There is nothing like some serenity after a good deal of screaming. Especially if you’re surrounded by white-sand beaches and crystal-clear water. Yas Beach is a tranquil escape in the emirate’s entertainment hub, offering a peaceful retreat. This sandy escape offers an elegant infinity pool, private chalets, and a number of trendy cafes and restaurants.

Done with outdoor activities, now it’s time to indulge in some retail therapy. Yas Mall is a holistic destination offering fun, shopping, dining, and entertainment for everyone. It is home to more than 400 high-end brands, a 20-screen cinema, a food court for all tastes, and a huge family entertainment zone. It has a direct connection to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and thanks to its location at the heart of Yas Island, it is 15 minutes from Abu Dhabi International Airport. The island itself is also very close to Abu Dhabi International Airport, and you can easily reach the island via bus or metro. 

Al Noor Island

Location: Sharjah

Nearest airport: Sharjah International Airport

Best nearby hotels: Mysk Al Badayer Retreat, The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah, Mysk Kingfisher Retreat

The city of Sharjah is located on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, adjacent to Dubai and bordered by the Persian Gulf. It is home to several tourist attractions and landmarks including Al Noor Island.

This man-made island is a picturesque eco-friendly getaway, located in Khalid Lagoon. An oasis of peace and tranquility, the island cultivates a sense of connection with the surrounding environment and nature. 

The highlight of the island is its Butterfly House, which is home to more than 500 butterflies of 20 different species. Located inside an ergonomically designed, nature-inspired structure, this habitat is covered mostly with tropical plants that retain humidity, and allow in natural light, making it the perfect sanctuary and camouflage for butterflies. There are many exquisite winged species, such as Emerald Swallowtails, Tailed Jays, and Pink Roses. The omnipresent sound of waves crashing along the shore enhances the tranquility of the ambiance. The relaxing music that plays in the background also contributes to the overall experience.

Butterfly House, Al Noor Island, Sharjah. Image credit: Eslam Tawakol/Unsplash

Al Noor Island’s greenery consists of more than 70,000 plants and trees, both locally grown and imported. With towering cacti, bottle-shaped trees, medicinal plants, and a 200-year-old olive tree, the flora here is worthy of all the admiration it receives.

Evenings on the island are the most magical as bright neons, twinkling fairy lights, and luminescence light up trees, walkways, art installations, buildings, and even the bridge. This stunning display is one of the things you can’t miss on Al Noor Island. 

You can access the island through a pedestrian bridge that connects it to the mainland. The area does not have public transportation, but taxis are plentiful. If you are coming from Dubai, ferries are the easiest way to reach Al Noor Island. There is a ferry every half an hour from Dubai to the island, which takes about 30 minutes to reach.