Abu Dhabi is in a beautiful waterfront location – and its cruises and boat tours allow you to make the most of the surrounding Arabian Gulf during your stay.
There’s plenty of choice too - from sea life spotting to luxury dining and family fun cruises to a romantic rendezvous on the water. These start from a variety of locations too, including Saadiyat Island and Yas Island.
Wherever and whatever you choose, you’re in for a treat. Sample local cuisine on a dhow as the sun sets and the light plays on the water, or head out early to spot dolphins, dugongs and flamingos. Dive off the boat to explore the seabed, or simply sunbathe in comfort from your spot on the deck.
Head out on one of Captain Tony’s popular cruises from Yas Marina to enjoy a different perspective on Abu Dhabi’s attractions.
Setting off in the morning or at lunchtime, you’ll pass picturesque mangroves as you circle Samaliyah Island where you might see galloping gazelle, emus and ostriches. You’ll also see traditional Emirati buildings on the shoreline too.
Book a cruise that offers you the chance to take a dip. You’ll pause at a sandbank surrounded by shallow waters for a swim in the gorgeous, warm ocean before heading back.
You’ll be on a daylight cruise for about 90 minutes (shorter hops last just 45 minutes), leaving plenty of your day left for other activities such as the rich selection of theme parks and attractions on Yas Island.
A dhow is the traditional sailing vessel you’ll see all across the coastal regions of the UAE - and some of the best Abu Dhabi cruises come in the shape of dining tours aboard one of these.
These journeys offer comfort all the way, often starting with hotel pick up in an air-conditioned vehicle. Once on board, you’re served course after course of traditional and authentic Arabian food in a bountiful banquet that might include meat grilled over charcoals, freshly caught fish and seafood.
Book in the evening to catch a glorious sunset over the Abu Dhabi skyline and choose a dhow that offers live music for a fun atmosphere. Whether you’re in a group or with your partner, it’s a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours.
The range of cruises and boat tours in Abu Dhabi is dizzying – from chartering your own boat to deep-sea fishing trips, dolphin spotting trips and even catamarans with your own captain.
Seafaring explorers will relish the chance to captain their own donut ship – which is possible from Eastern Mangroves Marina.
The electric boats move at a sedate walking speed and are simple to drive. You can take one out yourself, or go on a journey with friends, family and colleagues – up to six adults can fit in a donut. These solar-powered boats offer a wonderful way to see the waterways of Abu Dhabi at your own pace and with a degree of privacy, while you’re free to bring your own snacks and drinks to enjoy as you go.
Cruises and boat tours set off from several locations across Abu Dhabi. Here’s where to find three of the best spots to start your maritime adventure.
Yas Marina sits in the north-east of Abu Dhabi. The Sheikh Khalifa Highway (E12) runs across the north and Sheikh Zayed Road (E10) to its south-east. Between them, these two roads connect Yas Marina with most of Abu Dhabi.
The Eastern Mangroves Marina is situated on Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street (E10). From the E10, take the exit for Sultan Bin Zayed The First Street and then merge onto Dhafeer Street.
The breakwater is reached from the south-west end of the Corniche. Head for Corniche Street, then take Al Marsa Street.
The clothes you wear on your Abu Dhabi cruise or boat tour will largely depend on the type of excursion you’ve booked. For a romantic dinner on a dhow, for example, you may want to dress smartly.
However, on tours where you may want to swim near a shallow sand bank or stop off to go diving, you’ll get wet and should have swimwear and snorkels, perhaps with beach shoes. You’ll also want to bring your own towels, as these typically aren’t provided.
If you join a cruise from Yas Marina, chances are you’ll circle Samaliya Island. If you want to actually step foot on the island, you’ll need to contact the Emirates Heritage Club, which oversees this reserve. It’s well worth it – you’ll get closer to the gazelles, rabbits, emus and ostriches, while children can learn about the native flora and fauna.
It’s a beautiful island, covered in fragrant flowers and plants, but also one where you can discover about the local traditions of pearl diving, camel racing, honey making, fish breeding and more besides. It’s an ideal family-friendly attraction to consider adding to your itinerary.
You should pre-book with Etihad, a provider or through your hotel to make sure you have a reservation on your chosen trip. There might occasionally be walk on tickets available but if you have your heart set on an activity, it’s always best to book ahead.
The vast majority of boat tours and cruises in Abu Dhabi are designed for all of the family, no matter the age. Measures are in place to keep young ones safe, while lifejackets for all sizes are on board. Note that most providers will need you to leave prams or pushchairs in a secure place at the marina.
There are free parking areas at all of the major marinas in Abu Dhabi. However, this is on a ‘first come, first served’ basis and spaces are not reserved. That means it’s best to arrive early if you need to park.
Start and finish your perfect Abu Dhabi day with great boat tours and cruises. A peaceful morning tour around Mangrove National Park is the perfect way to begin. Grab your binoculars and a camera and get ready for birdwatching and to spot marine mammals. Kayaks and paddleboarding is available – and there are opportunities for breakfast for early risers who want to give themselves the best chance of spotting the area’s wildlife.
After a calm start, pick up the pace during the day. Jet ski tours offer a high-octane way to take the waters and explore the iconic landmarks of the UAE capital.
That’ll all work up an appetite for your evening entertainment – a delightful dining dhow tour. The boat will be lit up after sunset, sparkling like the Abu Dhabi skyline as you glide across the waters and sample a feast of fantastic fresh Arabic food.
Explore the water in a completely different way with numerous kayaking opportunities across Abu Dhabi. Paddle through Mangrove National Park or around the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Whether it’s offshore, from one of the Abu Dhabi’s numerous islands, or in the creek, expect perfectly clear water for diving and snorkelling.
Witness the fabulous flora and fauna of the mangroves, with the option to explore by foot or on your own kayak. This biodiverse area is home to dolphins, turtles, herons and flamingos.
All imagery provided by © Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi