Zero Gravity, Koko Bay, Black Flamingo, Cove, Drift, Nikki, White ... Chances are you’ve visited, or at least heard of, many of these beachside destinations.
And yet, around a decade ago, beach clubs were virtually non-existent in the UAE – save for Barasti in Dubai.
Fast-forward to today and a venue is almost considered lacking if it doesn't feature a pristine, private sandy beachfront, an on-trend food menu and pulsating outdoor entertainment by way of top-tier DJs or live performers.
The array of beach clubs is infusing the leisure landscape with a new dynamic and shaping seaside culture in the region like never before.
The evolution of the beach club
When they launched, UAE beach clubs were luxury venues, limited to those who could afford either membership or elevated prices, despite a rather regular, even rudimentary set-up.
“The public beach was the primary option outside of hotel pools. And those were primarily a copy-paste of one another – stiff, even soulless,” says Paul Evans, chief executive and co-founder of Solutions Group. The company operates hospitality venues such as Ula, Stk, Koyo and Lock, Stock & Barrel.
Over the years, the UAE’s beach clubs have evolved from mere sunbathing spots into multifaceted hubs of entertainment and relaxation. They offer a diverse range of activities, including upscale dining, water sports, wellness experiences, concerts and, to the delight of many, fireworks shows.
Scott Messiah, general manager of Drift Beach Club at One&Only Royal Mirage, says beach clubs have an undeniable allure for both residents and tourists. “The combination of pristine beaches, year-round sunshine and the opulence that comes with a Dubai beach club is a major draw,” says Messiah.
Another huge plus point is that the UAE has invested heavily in building out beachfront destinations, strategically identifying important areas and creatively enhancing them into desirable locations. Case in point: the coming J1 Beach in La Mer and The Link at One by Za'abeel.
Adel Ghazzawi, co-founder of Cove Beach, credits the considerable amount of time and resources spent designing and constructing some of the world’s most beautiful beachfronts for creating the huge appeal. “These efforts are evident in locations such as JBR, Bluewaters and The Palm, all of which have a stunning backdrop of the iconic city that Dubai has become," he adds.
The UAE has indeed emerged as a premier global tourism destination, with beach clubs playing a pivotal role in this journey.
“Exceptional amenities, stylish dining establishments and a continuous line-up of exciting events featuring international performers have positioned cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi above destinations of similar renown, such as Ibiza and St Tropez,” asserts Mario Samaha, founder and chief executive of Capital Motion hospitality group, which owns the likes of Cafe del Mar Beach Club and Tiki Pacifico in Abu Dhabi.
Welcoming the brighter weather
Over the years, both homegrown brands and international concepts have been pushing boundaries to deliver elevated experiences. Ghazzawi says the rise in competition has seen venues continuously upping their game – whether it's service, premium ingredients or A-list entertainment.
This evolution, coupled with the “eight months of perfect weather that’s conducive to an incredible beach club experience”, has led to an increase in the popularity of beach clubs in the UAE, he says.
Embracing the favourable weather conditions is a top priority for most venues right now. “We plan to make the most of the cooler but still sunny months by offering a range of activities and events,” says Messiah.
It is little wonder that the next two months alone will see the launch of, among others, chef Izu Ani’s Sirene Beach by Gaia, Maison La Plage and Nobu Beach Club in Abu Dhabi (see full list below).
Setting gold standards
Above all, the customer is king of the beach club.
“Guests seek to be pampered and indulge in a luxurious lifestyle, even if only for the day, and the UAE caters to this desire like nowhere else in the world,” says Samaha.
From dive-in cinema experiences and brand takeovers to incorporating wellness by the beach, venues are pushing the envelope of innovation.
As the competitiveness of the hospitality scene has intensified, so too has the need for lifestyle destinations – those that create a break from reality, somewhere to recharge the batteries.
According to Evans, there has been a growing desire for approachable beach experiences that either add a certain element of luxury, or transport guests away from the day-to-day by combining "culinary genius with ambient interiors".
One of the most exciting launches of the year was Nobu by the Beach at Atlantis The Royal. Evans says that, as the landscape matures, it will be interesting to see more established or old-school brands team up with F&B and retail pop-ups to offer limited-time experiences.
Messiah puts the success down to a unique fusion of international influences and Middle Eastern hospitality, as well as tremendous design and prime locations, adding: “This blend creates a cosmopolitan and glamorous atmosphere that can't be found anywhere else.”
They mix luxurious cabanas with high-end fashion and art, which add to the opulence of the experience. “The level of entertainment, service and amenities is what differentiates the UAE from the rest of the world,” says Samaha.
Several also offer annual memberships and loyalty programmes, which allow guests to enjoy all-day beach and pool access, plus children’s play areas, restaurants, VIP cabanas or private villas with hot tubs and plunge pools.
“There really is something here for every taste, budget and style – from entry-level to ultra-luxurious and everything in between,” notes Ghazzawi.
According to Evans, the high standard of public beaches and entertainment areas such as The Walk, JBR, mean paid-for beach clubs have to offer an even better experience.
“We go above and beyond, which makes the market fiercely competitive and makes regular beach clubs globally feel a bit bland by comparison,” he says.
Instead of just elevating F&B, they use holistic designs that hit all the senses and tap into a specific market. “Whether that be family, couples, partygoers or tourists, brands take their time and lean into who they are to ensure it is felt from beachfront to bathroom," he adds.
"This region is very good at understanding its audience and being open-minded enough to recognise there is enough business for everyone.”
With that in mind, here are some of the newest and soon-to-open beach clubs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Newly launched beach clubs
- Soluna Beach Club, Kingdom of Sheba, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
- Nobu by the Beach, Atlantis The Royal, Dubai
- Tagomago, Azure Residence, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai
- The 305, Palm West Beach, Dubai
- The Beach by Sho Cho, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Jumeirah 1
- Twiggy Family, Dubai Creek Club, Port Saeed
- Verde Beach, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai
Coming beach clubs
- Baoli, J1 Beach, Dubai
- BCH:CLB, W Dubai - The Palm
- Cove Beach JBR, Dubai
- Gigi Rigolatto, J1 Beach, Dubai
- Zuma Beach House, J1 Beach, Dubai
- Tapasake, The Link at One Za'abeel, Dubai
- Sirene Beach by Gaia, J1 Beach, Dubai
- La Vita, One at Palm Jumeirah by Dorchester Collection, Dubai
- Maison La Plage, Palm West Beach, Dubai
- Nobu Beach Club, Abu Dhabi