Dubai Marina is where you’ll find one of the city’s premier stretches of beach: an impressively wide stretch of golden sand, backed by a long line of huge high-rises. Most people head for the strip of free beach in the heart of the Marina between the Sheraton and Hilton hotels, which has plenty of white sand to loll about on and comes equipped with changing rooms, showers, loungers and a couple of waterspouts operators – although it can get very busy, especially at weekends.
If you want to get away from the hoi polloi (and also have the use of a swimming pool and other facilities), most of the hotel beaches are open to non-guests for a (generally hefty) fee. The cheapest is usually the Sheraton Jumeirah Beach (from around 140 AED on weekdays); prices at top places like the Ritz-Carlton and Jumeirah Beach Hotel can cost 500 AED or over, although some of this may be redeemed for food and drink. Prices also generally rise at weekends, and it’s always a good idea to call the relevant hotel in advance to make sure that they’re accepting outside visitors when you plan to visit – some places close to non-guests during busy periods.
Backing the main section of beach (between the Ritz-Carlton and Sheraton) is the vast Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR): a 1.7km-long sprawl of forty sickly-orange high-rises with living space for ten thousand people, the towers rammed together in what looks like the architectural equivalent of a motorway pile-up.
It’s one of the ugliest things in Dubai, although partly redeemed by the The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence (aka as “The Walk at JBR” or just “The Walk”), a long promenade running along the sea-facing side of the towers and lined with a long straggle of cafes, fast-food outlets and fancy boutiques. It’s one of the very few places in the modern city which actually encourages people to get out of their cars and has proved a big hit with locals and tourists alike – always busy, particularly at weekends.
Recently added on the sea-side of the strip is the new The Beach at JBR complex, a neat, low-rise cluster of shops and restaurants (some with fine sea views) arranged around a series of pretty little piazzas – an attractively understated contrast to the grotesquely supersized JBR development opposite.