Make the most of the good weather and explore outdoor Bahrain
Time Out Bahrain staff
While the weather is perfect take full advantage of the fact that you’re actually on a tiny desert island complete with palm trees, sand dunes and swim-up bars. Here’s our guide to doing it all in style.
If you’re sat reading this on the couch in the comfort of an air-conditioned room then shame on you! The weather is never quite as perfect in Bahrain as it is in November, following the long and humid slog of summer and just before the nippy breeze of winter. It’s the time when the idea of staying on a little desert island is tropical and could easily encourage spurts of jealousy from friends and family far away. That’s what we’re here for after all – to fully enjoy the alluring laid-back and friendly nature of beautiful Bahrain. So here’s our essential guide to doing just that…
Let’s get tropical
What better way to enjoy the cooler climes than by floating around in a pool, juice in one hand and a good book in the other? Every so often, take a quick dip to cool off, do a little breaststroke (at least make yourself feel like you were active) and jump right back on your inflatable. Quite possibly, Bahrain’s most tropical facilities are over at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa, which features on our front cover this month, where a beautiful pool area merges with a stunning, lengthy beach strip across from their notable standalone island. Not only can you enjoy the exotic ambience but you can also benefit from some great poolside dining options. Pop by poolsideOverlook Café for a light snack or smoothie, or try the chicThai Lounge for a selection of mixed beverages, Thai bites and delicious sushi.
To find out about rates for week day and weekend passes you need to contact the hotel directly. Call The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa, Seef, www.ritzcarlton.com/bahrain (1758 0000).
Novotel Al Dana Resort Also boasts a small strip of beach and popular seafood joint, La Perle. BD10 (weekdays), BD25 weekends and public holidays. Kids go for BD5 or BD12 respectively. Muharraq, www.novotel.com (1729 8008).
Bake yourself on the beach
If you’re looking to kick back at a friendly beachside club with access to a swim-up bar in the infinity pool, shore-side tanning spots and a range of exhilarating watersports activities, then look no further than Coral Bay on the Al Fateh Corniche. We love this spot, not just for the abovementioned reasons, but also because bar spot Karma Lounge has some excellent daily deals, restaurant Rayes serves some of the island’s best Lebanese food and you even get the opportunity to work off all the guilt with full gym and spa access too! It’s BD10 for access on weekends or BD8 on week days including a towel and locker. For kids it’s BD8 or BD5. Call Coral Bay, Al Fateh Corniche, www.coral-bay.net (1731 2700).
Other recommended spots Al Jazayer One of the few decent public beaches in Bahrain, it’s also known as Zallaq Beach on the western coast of the island. It’s located near the sailing club and boasts white sands and blue seas.
The Yacht Club Go back to basics at this friendly members-only club with a beach, marina, pool and restaurant/bar. If you’re a member of the Rugby Club, Dilmun Club or British Club then pay BD1 (weekday) or BD2 (weekend) to enter, or find a member friend to sign you in. Alternatively it’s BD200 (single) or BD300 (family) for an annual club membership. The Bahrain Yacht Club, Sitra, www.thebahrainyachtclub.com (1770 0677).
The ultimate desert staycation
As you drive towards Al Areen Palace & Spa you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled upon a mirage. This stunning desert oasis happens to be a luxury five-star hotel that boasts 78 fabulous pool villas, an epic 10,000 square metre spa, as well as a number of great dining outlets including the dreamy South East Asian spotKeizo. Your Desert or Royal pool villa features separate living areas, modern amenities, 24-hour butler service, a swimming and jet pool. Meanwhile, the Royal Spa Al Areen offers the epitome of tranquility with a Hydrothermal Garden featuring 15 signature rainmist corridors, a vitality pool, nine hydrotherapy stations, a Garden Hammam and much more. Whether you head here as a family to take advantage of their great kids’ facilities or book a romantic weekend away for two, this place could hardly come more highly recommended.
Enquire directly with the hotel for up-to-the-minute room rates. Call Al Areen Palace & Spa, Al Areen, www.alareenpalace.com.bh (1784 5000).
Bed down in a private cabana
Nothing screams ‘I’m living the life of luxury on a desert island’ quite like staying in a beachfront chalet or cabana at one of Bahrain’s resorts. For a real weekend escape, we recommend booking yourself in to Al Bander Hotel & Resort where the chalets are clean and comfortable, and you have access to a wide range of facilities including the beautiful beach and pool areas, gym and health club, games room, dive centre, tennis and squash courts, and junior kid’s club. There is also a huge marina for docking boats and a whole host of water sport activities on offer. On top of all that, you can also dine in style at any of the on-site food and beverage outlets including our favourite, the award-winningFish Market where you pick your catch of the day and choose how you’d like it cooked. The rates this month for a regular cabana are BD90 per night on weekdays and BD100 on weekends. For a chalet with a bedroom, separate dining area and balcony it’s BD122 and BD146 respectively. Call Al Bander Hotel & Resort, Sitra, www.website.albander.com (1770 1201).
Other recommended spot The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa This five-star hotel boasts the islands most luxurious chalets with multiple bedrooms, private pools, kitchen and living spaces, plus more. Room rates in November start from BD1,015++ per night (costs subject to change). The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa, www.ritzcarlton.com/bahrain (1758 0000).
Go desert glamping
Fancy yourself as Lawrence of Arabia, camping out with your camels and having quite the desert adventure? Or, perhaps, you just love to feel at one with nature, getting back to our caveman roots by bedding down in the sand every once in a while. Well, this November, you’re in luck because official camping season begins mid-month and typically lasts until March. This means you need to register on the relevant government portal so you can legally camp. Then, by all means, head out to an open desert area and set up camp but if you’re a bit fancier than that then glamping with Al Wedyian Camps is a must-try. This company offers 14 variously sized tents in three sites and each feature bathrooms, barbecue stations, kid’s playgrounds, flat-screen TVs and more depending on which option you choose. Costs start from BD70 on weekdays and BD120 on weekends per night which might sound pricey but you can split that cost with plenty of other people. You can also request weekly and monthly rates. Register for camping season on www.southern.gov.bh. Call Al Wedyian Camps, www.campingbahrain.com (6633 7887).
Poolside brunch indulgence
Granted, Bahrain brunches are a little special no matter the weather but as the mercury drops some great outdoor options begin to open up. This year we’re obsessing over the barbecue offering at Elements Pool & Lounge in the InterContinental Regency Bahrain not just because of the stunning and glamorous venue but also because they offer such a genuinely great deal. Every Friday, from 1pm to 4pm, head here for a range of barbecued goodies made fresh to order by their talented chefs while sipping on refreshing mixed beverages, enjoying tunes by DJ Pyrokiss, and taking advantage of complimentary pool access. All for BD25 net per person. Call InterContinental Regency Bahrain, Manama, www.intercontinental.com/bahrain (1722 7777).
Other recommended spot Elite Resort & Spa This incredibly family friendly Friday brunch affair takes place inside and outside, and you can pay an extra BD3 for pool access. BD12 (adults), BD6 (kids under 11). Elite Resort & Spa, Muharraq, www.elitegroup4u.com (1731 3333).
Be pampered in the open air
A good scrub or massage is super relaxing and rejuvenating any time of the year, but, have one outside in weather as perfect as this and you’ll be feeling the effects for weeks. La Fontaine Centre of Contemporary Art & Spa offers the island’s only open-air hydrotherapy services and so this should be your first port of call for your pamper session this month. Ladies, you can try the water jet therapy and cellulite treatment for BD25 (one hour) which stimulates the blood flow, activates the metabolism and loosens up stiff muscles. Then let your worries drain away as you enjoy a soothing outdoor body massage under aromatherapy rain mist for BD25 (one hour). Call La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art & Spa, Hoora, www.lafontaineartcentre.net (1723 0123).
Other recommended spot Sofitel Bahrain Zallaq Thalassa Sea & SpaAt this fabulous thalassotherapy spa, they also offer three spa tents on the beach where you can enjoy a sea view massage (BD60, one hour) or a romantic couples’ massage (BD120, one hour). Daily 9am-11am, 4pm-8pm. Zallaq, www.sofitel.com/bahrain (1763 6363).
Relax at a bar under the stars
On the 20th floor of Diva Hotel in the heart of Juffair sits the chic rooftop lounge SkyBar (Open daily 5pm-2am; 3971 8101) with its vibrant atmosphere thanks to the funky music and trendy crowd. Sip cosmopolitan mixed beverages at the bar or lie back on one of the comfortable canopied beds as you look over the island or up at the cloudless sky. Meanwhile, if you’re feeling more exotic, head out to Mai Tai Lounge (Open daily 6pm-2am; 1758 6555) at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain Hotel & Spa which sits just by the resort’s beach. Take advantage of Trader Vic’s notable bar bites and beverage menus while you cosy up in the numerous intimate seating areas to a backdrop of lounge tunes. Kick back and watch the flamingos saunter around a manmade lagoon surrounded by palm trees. It doesn’t get much more idyllic than this.
Other recommended spot 338 Garden Restaurant The garden terrace at this contemporary fusion restaurant is one of our favourite places for some alfresco beverages as they mix up a mean concoction and host regular happy hours and jam sessions with local bands. Open daily 11am-2am. Block 338, Adliya (1771 0338).
Jump aboard and island hop
Seeing as Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands this shouldn’t be too difficult! Especially if you’re lucky enough to own a boat or at least know someone who does. For those of us who don’t regularly head out to sea, however, there are ways of enjoying extended off-shore staycations that are really worth forking out for. One of our favourites has to be Al Dar Islands as it’s close enough for it to be a day trip but also idyllic enough to make for a great weekend getaway. They have basic but clean and comfortable chalets that you can rent for the day, overnight or a full 24 hours, alongside two beautiful beaches complete with beds and hammocks, as well as other facilities such as water sports, a restaurant and bar. Just head over to the Sitra office where you can grab a ride over to the island. Chalet day rates start from BD30++, overnight from BD50++ and for the full 24 hours prices start from BD75++. Extra charges apply for transportation and other items such as additional mattresses, buffet breakfast, Jacuzzis and corkage. Sitra, www.aldarislands.com (1770 4600).
Other recommended spot Hawar IslandLet’s not forget Bahrain’s treasure island, Hawar, which is approximately one hour by boat from shore. The Hawar Resort Hotel by Best Western has just undergone some serious transformations and now offers the ideal respite for island-dwellers. Reservation office is on Al Fateh Corniche by the Dolphin Park. Visit www.hawarresorthotel.com (1725 2000).
Take the bait for a spot of fishing
Nothing beats heading out to sea to enjoy a leisurely day of fishing, especially in Bahrain as its history is steeped in the industry. So hit up BISS Marine at Amwaj Islands which offers charters for a full day of fishing. From trawling to simple hand-lines, the company provides everything you might need.
You just need to select one of their boats, let them know how many passengers there will be and how long you’d like to head out for, and they can do the rest.
Captain Nabeel grew up in Bahrain and so knows all the best fishing spots to take you to. Meanwhile, the boats offer toilet and shower facilities, and all safety equipment is provided. Prices start from BD250 including drinks, equipment and bait. Visit www.bissmarine.com to fill out the booking form.
Other recommended spots Dolphin watching Bahrain actually has a thriving marine community and is home to plenty of dolphins.
For a short trip off-shore to see the mammals frolicking in their home, head to Al Dar Islands where tours are offered. Al Dar Islands, Sitra, www.aldarislands.com (1770 4600).
Diving We’re on a desert island, surrounded by water, so diving is surely a must-try. Test out the team at Into the Blue BH where they offer a range of certifications, qualifications and equipment. They also offer pearl diving trips, a traditional activity. Visit www.intothebluebh.com (3775 7373).
Snap an #iconic #cultural
#desertselfie Visit one of Bahrain’s most treasured historical landmarks and make sure to pop a selfie on Instagram for a little global education. Bahrain has an incredibly rich history dating back thousands of years so you’re almost obliged to check it out! First head over to the Bahrain National Museum(www.moc.gov.bh), which sits beside the shore offering stunning views across the Arabian Gulf, and where you’ll be introduced to the island’s most important eras.
Then take a journey through our bustling marketplaces, particularly Bab Al Bahrain Souq in Manama where modernity and customs collide in narrow, winding alleyways filled with everything from tacky souvenirs to alluring traditional wares.
Don’t forget to check out the renovated and preserved Souq Al Qaysarya, too, which is also home to popular Bahraini café Saffron. Following that, we suggest a trip out to the desert where you can see the Tree of Life which grows where there’s no water source. It might not be much to look at these days thanks to some graffiti-ing vandals but it’s the mystery you go for.
Other recommended spots Al Fateh Grand MosqueBahrain’s largest mosque that also hosts the National Library, and is open to the public. Make sure you dress conservatively. Open to visitors Sat-Thu 9am-4pm (not on public holidays). Al Fateh Corniche, Juffair, www.alfateh.gov.bh.
Al Areen Wildlife Park This nature reserve and park was built in an effort of conservation in Sakhir and is a fun day out for the family. Witness teeming flora and fauna, and over 100 animals in a natural habitat. There’s also a film show and bus tour. Tickets are BD1 or free for kids under two. Sakhir, near the Bahrain International Circuit, www.alareen.org (1784 5480).
Explore historical forts
This little island has evidence of settlements going back 12,000 years and is the seat of an ancient civilisation. So there’s no wonder we see remnants of the past still to this day at one of the country’s ancient fortresses.
The Bahrain Fort, or Qal’at Al Bahrain, should be your first trip as it became Bahrain’s first ever UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2005. It’s located on top of a 17.5 hectare artificial hill that’s been in the making for more than 4,000 years of continuous occupation, according to the Ministry of Culture. It is the site of the former capital of Dilmun and recent excavations have revealed plenty of structures lending to its cultural significance.
You’ll also find a site museum consisting of five exhibition halls with around 500 artefacts showcased, and a seaside café. Open to visitors daily from 8am-6pm. The museum is open Tue-Sun, 8am-8pm.Karbabad, near Seef (1756 4654).
Other recommended spots Riffa FortBuilt by Sheikh Salman bin Ahmed in 1812, it’s the only island fort that was wholly built by Bahrainis using local materials. You’ll also find traditional Saffron Café here offering great food and stunning views over the Hunanaiya valley. Call Riffa Fort on 1777 9394.
Arad Fort Built in typical Islamic style during the 15th century but not much is known about the history of this one. It overlooks a number of sea passages into Muharraq’s shallow shores. Plus it’s stunning when all lit up at twilight. Call Arad fort on 1767 2278.
Splash and slide
If lazing about by a pool isn’t always your thing but you love to have a splash about then you should definitely test out one of Bahrain’s water parks. For full outdoor immersion with all the family then we recommend heading out to Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park over near Al Areen.
This enormous park boasts a whole host of attractions such as a range of exhilarating slides, beaches, pools, a Kid’s rain fortress, Paradise river and much, much more. This also includes dining outlets and a merchandise shop.
Entry is BD16 for guests over 1.2 metres and BD7 for shorter folk. They can also arrange group packages. LPOD Water Park, Al Areen, www.lpodwaterpark.com (1784 5100).
Other recommended spot Wahooo! Water Park This 15,000 square metre indoor-outdoor temperature-controlled park is worth your while if you don’t want to be outside the whole time. It features plenty of exciting attractions for all the family and you can also enjoy direct access to Bahrain’s biggest mall with its many restaurants, 20-screen cinema, hundreds of international brands and plenty more. Bahrain City Centre, Seef District, www.theplaymania.com/wahooo (1717 3000).
Throwback island playlist
Create new and fun island memories while tuning in to these tropical oldies
Living on an Island – Status Quo Island in the Sun – Weezer Islands in the Stream – Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers Another Day in Paradise – Phil Collins Banana Boat Song (Day O) – Harry Belafonte Rock-a-hula Baby – Elvis Presley Kokomo – The Beach Boys Red Red Wine – UB40 Three Little Birds – Bob Marley (NB: or absolutely any other song by the reggae king) La Isla Bonita – Madonna The Tide is High – Blondie