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A Bohemian's Guide To Dubai

A Creative's Visual Guide to a Dubai

Senior Travel Editor, Maranda Pleasant

Yes, I did laugh as I wrote the title. When I tell people about our 2+ months in the heart of the UAE people stare in disbelief. Our little corner of Dubai reminded me of Santa Monica or a fun surf town. Food trucks, surf shacks, daily kayaking and paddle boarding, string lights, fitness zones, and of course, kite surfing.

We found our pocket of joy and stuck with it after discovering super-commercialized and over developed beach areas, and hard to access seacapes in almost every other area. Flip flop connoisseurs, surfers, and the outdoor crowd gather each day celebrating never having to check the forecast. Spoiler, it's always sunny.

Check out the wall mural to the left; my screensaver for the last year. Vibrant, colorful shacks, boutiques, and indie shops and juice bars lined the little nomad heaven of Kite Beach.

Kite Beach Magic

The strand/boardwalk runs along Kite Beach, beginning at Salt Restaurant and running down past the sand volleyball courts for rent, adult trampoline pits, my fav fruit pop truck (pure ice pops with no sugar added), street art murals, and even a beach school bus renting surf boards and paddles.

This was our daily starting point each day (pictured above). The only place that resonated with us for a laid back, outdoor feel. Here's something I never thought I'd say, Groupon saved us in Dubai. We are daily kayakers, and that can get expensive quickly, especially when we don't like to share a double, because we paddle at very different paces.

This is before we were stopped by Police for biking (unknowingly along the walk path) on the boardwalk. We hear the new bike path is now open so you can coast along the beach for miles.

Watch out for Kite Surfers in the bay while you're kayaking. We preferred to stay out in the open looking for turtles and listening to the call to prayer from the water, a soul transforming experience. We'd look at each other and think, oh my gosh, we're in the Middle East, which was pretty exciting for us both.

Look for the magic school bus. Friendly folk, selling and renting surf boards, paddles, kayaks, and water gear. They also teach surfing and kiting lessons throughout the week.

Table tennis, beach boutiques, perfectly branded beach hideouts and eateries were scattered along the path.

If you get really lucky, there's a fitness expo each October/November for 30 days.


After wincing a bit over the cost of private fitness classes in Dubai can be a bit pricey ($20-30 per person, per class). We saved thousands of dollars in classes by attending this free event on the beach held each year. We discovered our love of Padel (similar to tennis but on a much smaller court).

The Dubai 30x30 challenge let us try spinning, rebounder classes, TRX, free kayaking and paddle boarding, primal fitness, and a host of other workouts each day from experienced license trainers. We worked on American time starting at 5pm, so we'd wake up and run down to the fitness area until it was time to head back. In three weeks I could tell I difference in my strength levels.

My partner focused on the spinning while I convinced the rebound trainer to play my 80's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Playlist. I also discovered Y-bells (like kettle bells but better).

I now have an active mini trampoline practice because of these few weeks. How often are you working out with the sound of the waves and Cyndi Lauper?

If you aren't here during this challenge, always look for free events or intro classes.

Salt, pictured above, will be your starting point and the best place for an Uber drop off/pickup. There are better

plant-based options nearby if you wanna grab a snack.

In between the mini beaches near Kite Beach, there's a tiny patch of privacy, a private place to relax at sunset or park your gear and take a swim. Bikinis are allowed on all of these beaches.

This is the face I make when I'm nervous he's going to drop the phone in the water. Check out all of the kite surfers behind us. Bring a visor or hat because the sun is intense, even in November.

The Middle photo is from the secret beach I mentioned earlier. We were usually the only ones there.

The first photo is from the Surf Cafe, disappointingly it only had a few vegan options, and high prices.

It can take a long time to get anywhere, even when it looks close on a map, so chose your base wisely. We stayed near Downtown by the Burj Kalifa, and would've stayed closer to Kite Beach if we had known. Saves a lot of time and coin from Ubers everyday.

Ok, now I'm going to overwhelm you with some of my favorite snaps from our 8+ weeks in Dubai.

We were normally back in the office working during sunset, so being here on the weekends was super special. If you are working remotely on American time, I've found that Dubai is as far as you can push it traveling east, working 5pm to 1am, and keeping a normal sleep schedule.

Below are the cute beach cafes, food trucks, juice bars, and board walks that feel like a cross between Santa Monica and Tulum. No, I'm serious.

When we'd manage to change out of our beach rags, we'd walk around the Burj and always end up at Wild and the Moon cafe, even better than the ones in Paris. Their menu is plant-based with raw options, gluten-free vegan deserts, and the best golden lattes. It's also organic, so take all my money. They did.

Like anywhere, you just have to find your place. Palm Jumeriah mainly only had space on the beaches if you lived there and most access wasn't open to the public. It wasn't our scene.

If you need bodywork, check Groupon for massage discounts. I bought a hotel package and got 10 massages in the 3 weeks before our trip to Asia began. Also, check for fun events each week online. Dubai Watch Week allowed us to geek out and meet our favorite Swiss watch makers and see some of the most creative new pieces hitting the market.

Everyone in Dubai has a story, and has some of the most colorful fun characters you meet on your travels. It's an eclectic melding of cultures, in a mind-binding juxtaposition of new and ancient where's there's a place for everyone, even a pair of beach loving nomads.


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