Yas Island - Abu Dhabi. Is it worth a visit?

Abu Dhabi. The quieter neighbour to Dubai, somewhere which has intrigued me for some while. This year it was the wife's 50th Birthday, so I had to pull something special out the bag.

Having done plenty of beach holidays, we wanted a more general mix and with my intense, near on anal research done, Abu Dhabi, or Yas Island to be precise was the final choice. We chose to fly with Emirates into Dubai, then a pleasant hour transfer into Abu Dhabi itself.

P.S - You need a PCR Test valid for 14 days to get in anywhere in Abu Dhabi. Or so the rules said. We didn't get asked every time but very glad we played by the rules.

The drive through Dubai and Sheikh Zayed road, reminded me how much Dubai has changed over the years. Giant skyscrapers looming alongside the new skytrain. It is a sight to behold especially if your a Dubai virgin but is it too much nowadays?

Onwards to Abu Dhabi and the skyscrapers left behind to a bleak chalk landscape that seemed to roll for miles.

As I said, we were staying on Yas Island, not central Abu Dhabi. Yas Island is a purpose built leisure and pleasure place. Upon arrival at the newly built Hilton Yas Island, it already felt like I had made the right choice. 

Check in done, up to the room and have a minute. An obligatory cup of tea on the balcony while scoping the landscape and area which would be our home for the next five days. The photo below shows the Yas Island F1 track in the distance.

As is the territory with an overnight flight and no sleep achieved due to watching movies, the afternoon was spent dipping in and out of consciousness around the pool, while aiming to plan the next few days. One big plus point to staying at the Hilton Hotel, it gives you free passes to the Waterworld, Warner Bros and Ferrari World!

We had a wander along the waterfront located outside to get our bearings as you do with any holiday, well worth it to see the sculptures, the main two being "Everyone needs a Break" & "The Emerging Man". They are massive!!!

The first evening we took the Yas Express to the Yas Mall, which is a free shuttle service that visits all the major attractions on the island, every 15 mins. Bonus. Yas Mall is Meadowhall on Acid. Massive. Attached to the Mall is Ferrari World, so all good and planned in.

After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast, which are amazing at the hotel, as was all the food, it was time to start exploring and first up was Warners Bros. A billion dollar indoor world. And its huge. The largest indoor theme park in the world!

The below is just the indoor plaza!

From Batman to Superman, to Scooby Doo and the Flintstones and more. It's all here and you can spend a full day at Warner Bros. Adults & kids alike.

Back to the hotel afterwards for our evening meal (we went half board) & the food was amazing. From Indian to Arabic to Japanese. It's all here. Bellies full, it was time for a relaxing couple of drinks at the Abu Dhabi Cafe Del Mar. Only a couple of drinks as its around £11 pound a pint. No beer monsters here. If you have been to Cafe Del Mar in Ibiza, you know the vibe and they've got it bang on.

The next morning we had an early start, as we had booked a Desert Safari. Dune Bashing, Camel ride and Sand boarding. A perfect break from the modernism of the new Abu Dhabi. Shout to Shajeer our host for the morning at Desert Rose Tourism


After the thrill of the desert in the morning, the afternoon thrill would be at Ferrari World. I rode the worlds fastest rollercoaster at 240 km/h pulling 4.8G & yes, it's very very fast. I have top admit to having full jelly legs after. Ferrari world is stunning, full of Ferrari exotica and rides to boot. A great afternoon spent here.

After an evening meal at the hotel, we took the Yas Express over to the W Hotel. The one that spans the F1 Track. Its a work of art.

We then decided on my wisdom, to have a walk around the track and over to the Marina. Just a steady 10-15 min walk which gave us the look of just coming out the shower. It was that hot and humid, but we did get to see the marina and the yachts which grace its waters.

Now taxis are cheap & plentiful in Abu Dhabi, so we jumped in one to get back to the hotel & have a beer there while attempting to dry/cool off.

Having had a couple of adrenaline fuelled days, we opted for a beach morning, followed by the Water Park. Back on the Yas Express to Yas beach Club

This place was chilled music and white sands & the first time I have ever had Edamames on the beach. (Ferrari World in the distance)

A taxi took us over to the Waterpark, which is as stunning as you would expect, with the added wet roller coaster, that goes around the park, which my daughter struggled to stop going on.


Evenings were spent as I say at Cafe Del Mar or Central, but there are more bars for the adults along the waterfront and I would presume they're all great.

 Abu Dhabi is made up of people from all over the world, & every race creed and colour that I met were very warm & friendly, but I have to be like that anyhow. Not sure the Arabs I played at pool were too happy with me winning though :) Great fun in Central. If you are a big night time drinker, then expect your card to take the hits.

Last full day comprised of a morning round the pool, then a late afternoon visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in downtown Abu Dhabi. We needed a bit of Middle East culture and the Grand Mosque is a sight to behold. It's free to enter, but you must follow the local custom of clothing to enter. It's no issue at all, as you can buy the garments cheaply enough at the Mosque. Definitely one of those must visit places.

Having been to Dubai and seen it grow, I know the same will become of Abu Dhabi, albeit on a smaller scale. I preferred Abu Dhabi to Dubai. It's like comparing Mallorca and Menorca. Same area, different vibe, one big one small.

Would I recommend Abu Dhabi Yas Island? 100%. Yet I would not go back in the near future, as I felt we covered so much.

Dip your toes in the Middle East. It's truly fascinating.

1 comment

Very interesting to read. I lived in Abu Dhabi in 1988 – 1991. There was only a single badly maintained carriage way from Abu Dhabi to dubai. Yas Island was just sand. We used to sail from the British club, through the mangroves, and occasionally round the island. The local Arabs had set up a sailing club on Yas. We raced against them but they rarely followed the rules ….a bit like their driving! I returned in 2014 for a visit and didn’t like it. The magic and innocence of the place had gone.

Ruth Dobson October 26, 2022

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