Dubai Pool Clubs Are The Freshest Way To Holiday
In a city as persistently hot as Dubai – its coolest month, January, still has average temperatures of 24 degrees and summer temps often top 40 degrees – finding places to swim is more necessity than desire. Luckily, Dubai pool clubs and beach clubs are like those in no other city.
The good and very glam news is that travellers on a budget don’t need to be hotel guests to access the pool clubs. We’ve rounded up four where you can sample Dubai’s high life for a day, a weekend or on stopover. Before you flinch at the fee – remember you can stay all day!
Dubai Pool Club 101
A pool club is a place to swim and lounge on sunbeds, hammocks or in shaded cabanas. You’ll be greeted at the door and have the packages explained to you. You can splash some cash on a VIP cabana and ice-cold Moet if you want to live like a celebrity for a day. But more affordable options are possible too.
Entry gets you a bed, a towel, attentive service and a menu of great food and drink. Swim-up bars, infinity pools and in-house DJs are common, and whether it’s people watching, or gazing up at Dubai’s famous skyline, the views are pretty great. Lots of Dubai pool clubs are on the beach, too, so the waters of the Arabian Gulf beckon.
While the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Muslim country – don’t forget the weekend here is Friday and Saturday – the dress code in pool clubs is similar to what you’d expect in non-Muslim countries. Though you might see women in hijabs sitting at a swim-up bar.
Bear in mind that Islamic law prevents unmarried couples from staying in a hotel room together. This may rarely be enforced but public displays of affection are unwise. As is appearing publicly drunk or tipsy. Watch your alcohol intake.
Women travellers should ask pool clubs about their ladies days and nights (often Monday and Tuesday) because discounts (and freebies!) for women are standard in the UAE.
To reduce costs further, consider nipping into Dubai’s best cheap eat, Zaroob, and pack a lunch. This delicious Levant street food café has six Dubai locations and does deliveries. Play by the rules, though, and ask your pool club it’s OK to bring food.
Drift is the stunning pool club of The One & Only Royal Mirage Hotel, set on Palm Island Bay. A buggy will escort you through the hotel’s lushly landscaped grounds to this tranquil escape from Dubai’s traffic and pace.
Drift’s infinity pool is immaculately maintained but I swam in the calm and clear ocean instead. The ocean cabanas were quieter in the beach section (the music was quite loud around the pool) and I even saw a Eurasion hoopoe bird pecking around the sand vines.
Dubai loves to impress its with its food. At Drift’s restaurant, chef Maxime Le Van serves up Provençal cuisine until 5pm. There’s a bar menu and fun cocktails too. As it was my first full day there, I opted to stay hydrated instead, and drank watermelon juice and fresh coconut water.
The sun lounge and pillows were plush: you could sleep off your jet lag here for sure. Keen for a game of croquet? You can do that too.
Packages start at د.إ250 per person (AU$93) which includes a sun lounge, a towel, a cold face cloth, fruit and water. Open daily from 10:30am until 7:30pm. Over 16s only.
Nikki Beach Dubai
Nikki Beach claims to be “the first and original luxury beach club concept”. You couldn’t invent a more glam list than its 14 global locations, which include Ibiza, Saint Tropez, Miami, Mallorca, Monte Carlo, Bodrum and Barbados. When model Naomi Campbell threw a party in 2002 at Nikki Beach Saint Tropez, insisting all her guests wear all white, the tradition continued, with one club throwing an official White Party each year.
Nikki Beach keeps the design consistent across its clubs – think white décor, tribal influences and Taittinger-branded ice buckets to keep your drinks cold. Champagne is the specialty of this brand, which emphasises the enjoyment of its female guests. Even if that involves dancing on tables (which is why the tables have such sturdy legs!).
With female DJs like Mademoiselle Sabah spinning, the club takes its motto of “celebrate life” seriously. The DJs do constant heavy drops (the decks are in the middle of the swim-up bar, natch) and the spirited vibe sees up to 1000 people pack in to party here on a weekend.
Chilling out is possible too. You can float on a pineapple-shaped lilo, smoke shisha on the terrace or graze on the club’s Mediterranean-slash-East-Asian-influenced menu.
General access is د.إ150 (AU$55) on weekdays or د.إ250 (AU$93) on weekends, a sum that’s redeemable at the bar. Open daily from 11pm to 8pm; closed in July and August. Over 21s only.
The Palace is classy and low-key and steps back from the party a little. Its pool is open to all ages and looks up to the world’s tallest tower: the Burj Khalifa (and all its attendant water and light shows).
Palm trees and sun beds fringe the pool with cabanas on either side with soft beds, broad tables and even a lamp for a cosy evening touch. The Buhayra Lounge, meanwhile, has traditional Arabian tents with mezzeh and a selection of shisha flavours.
I liked the relaxed and diverse vibe a lot, as well as the cold towel scented with peppermint oil. With the shade cloths lowered, my cabana a private haven just metres from the pool. My fattoush salad couldn’t be flawed and the service was super friendly.
Take a stroll through the Moroccan-influenced hotel foyer, too, to inhale its signature scent – a blend of amber, musk and secret oils.
Entry is at د.إ250 (AU$93) per person on the weekend and د.إ200 per person (AU$75) on weekdays. Open daily from 6am to 6pm.
Close to Dubai Marina is the 35-story Rixos Premium Hotel. Its pool club is Azure Beach and while it’s bigger, busier and less personalised than the others, it leaves nothing to be desired.
While infinity pools and swim-up bars are common, Azure Beach ramps things up with an ice-cream stall and whole fresh fish on ice where you can choose which you want cooked up (in the restaurant).
The families give way to a younger crowd as the evening approaches, with the adjoining Azure Lounge open until midnight.
Consider lashing out on an island bed (surrounded by water). You’ll need to get up for the loo but with staff circling in shirts that read ‘Mr Service Happiness Provider’, you’ll can stay horizontal for pretty much everything else. (One employee offered to clean my sunglasses?)
Azure Beach is a good place to try shisha because its roaming ‘Shisha Crew’ can sort you out. You can get deals on buckets of five beers, as well as cocktail jugs, and if the Spicy Tuna and Tempura Rolls are still on the menu – don’t miss out.
Weekday entry is د.إ300 (AU$112), weekends is د.إ400 (AU$150) with both fees redeemable for 200د.إ (AU$75) in food and drinks. Open daily from 10am to 7pm.
(All images supplied by each venue)