Qatar might be better known for its futuristic skyscrapers, natural-gas riches and 2022 World Cup hosting duties, but this tiny Arabian Peninsula nation, almost entirely surrounded by the warm turquoise waters of the Gulf, also offers plenty of beaches to enjoy a refreshing dip. From family-friendly sands to an emerging kitesurfing destination, get ready to dive in.
The best time of the year to hit the beach in Qatar is from March to May and September to November, when it’s not too hot or cold. As a general rule, men and women should wear a T-shirt and board shorts when swimming at public beaches. At private beaches, bikinis and swimwear briefs are perfectly acceptable.
Katara Beach is the best beach for families
If you want to swim in the ocean but don’t want to venture beyond the capital of Doha, Katara Beach is the place to go. This 1.5km (0.9 mile) beach adjacent to Katara Cultural Village is a pleasant sandy stretch with lounge chairs, shaded areas ideal for sheltering kids from the hot sun, motorized and non-motorized watersports and a sprawling children’s play area. With food vans and restaurants just steps from the sand, you don’t need to go far to find lunch.
Katara Beach charges a fee of QR50 for adults and QR25 for children ages 7–17, but it’s considerably less than you’ll pay to visit a private beach in Qatar. Single men are not permitted in the family section; find the men’s section at the southern end of the beach.
Fuwairit Beach is Qatar's top kitesurfing destination
The crunchy white sands of Fuwairit Beach on Qatar’s northeast coast, about an hour’s drive north of Doha, are fringed by shallow, crystal-blue waters ideal for kitesurfing. The kiting (read: windy) season runs from January to June, and with a kitesurfing resort due to open in late 2022 on this otherwise undeveloped beach, it’ll be easier than ever to arrange lessons and transport.
You can still drive up to Fuwairit Beach at any time of the year to enjoy a swim. From April to July, the northern section of the public beach is typically closed off to protect nesting hawksbill turtles.
Al Maroona Beach is a great day trip with friends
Just north of the mysterious Al Jassasiya Rock Carvings lies one of Qatar’s most attractive stretches of sand, which, like most of the nation’s beaches, is best for swimming at high tide. Popular with western expats on the weekends, Al Maroona Beach (also known as French Beach) is one of Qatar’s few public beaches where the dress code is somewhat flexible, with most beachgoers tending to wear bikinis and briefs rather than T-shirts and board shorts. There's nothing to entertain (or shade) kids beyond the sand and sea at this remote, undeveloped beach, around an hour’s drive north of Doha, but it does make for an ideal day trip with friends. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch. The off-road access is suitable for 2WD vehicles.
Banana Island is a wonderful escape from Doha
Leave Doha behind for a day of fun in the sun on Banana Island, a 30-minute catamaran ride from Shyoukh Port in the heart of the city. This crescent-shaped island is home to the Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara. Dotted with palm trees, it’s the closest thing to a tropical island escape you’ll find in Qatar. You don’t need to be a guest of the luxury hotel to enjoy its peaceful, 800m (2625ft) strip of sand, and you can simply buy a day pass that includes boat transfers and credit to spend at resort restaurants and on watersports. The resort also has a surf pool, with two wide lanes simulating ocean waves.
Sealine Beach has Qatar's best scuba diving
Around an hour’s drive south of Doha, past Qatar’s petroleum refineries and natural gas processing plants, Sealine Beach sits at the end of the road on the nation’s east coast. This is Qatar’s main shore diving destination, and while the dive sites aren’t the best in the Gulf, it’s still fun to check them out. Main sites include New Club Reef and GMC Reef, both artificial reefs where crabs, stingrays and tropical fish hang out in submerged cars and monster tires, and the Dooba, a sunken barge where you may spot a turtle or two.
If you’re not diving, stay at Sealine Beach Resort and you can laze on lounge chairs or in cabanas in your swimwear of choice, or slip into more conservative swimming attire and join locals at the public section of the beach to the south, where you’ll find a few simple places to eat as well as a gaggle of camel drivers angling to sell you a ride.
Umm Bab Beach has a great desert oasis vibe
Most of Qatar’s best beaches lie on the nation’s east coast, but for something different, drive an hour west of Doha to Umm Bab Beach. Also known as Palm Tree Beach for the small clusters of palm trees scattered around the sand, the shallow beach is a popular camping destination for locals in the winter months, so expect to find a few tents and caravans along the shoreline.
Khor Al Adaid is the best beach for adventure
Sign up for a thrilling off-road adventure to Khor Al Adaid, Qatar’s spectacular “inland sea,” where enormous shifting sand dunes meet the azure waters of a unique tidal embayment system that forms a natural border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Don’t forget to pack your swimwear as you’ll no doubt be ready for a refreshing dip after bouncing around the dunes in a 4WD. Organized tours offered by the likes of Qatar International Tours typically run for four hours. The dunes begin around an hour from Doha, directly south of Sealine Beach.
InterContinental Doha Beach & Spa has Qatar's best private beach
If you’re looking for a hotel with beach access, the InterContinental Doha Beach & Spa is hard to beat. It’s home to the capital’s longest private beach, so there’s plenty of room to laze on a lounger and soak up the sweeping views of the West Bay financial district; it’s one of the best vistas in Doha.
Like most of Qatar’s hotels with private beaches, day passes are available to nonguests, but they don’t come cheap – weekend access costs QR350 (US$96). Weekdays are more affordable QR200 (US$55), and rates are discounted for children. There’s a beach bar and several good restaurants adjacent to the pool and beach area, including the Peruvian restaurant La Mar, which is set to open its own pool club in late 2022.
Al Shamal Beach offers the best sunsets over the sea
For uninterrupted views of the sun setting over the ocean, head to Qatar’s north coast. The super shallow and rocky beaches up here aren’t the best for swimming, but when the sun goes down, Al Shamal Beach, which stretches along the Shamal Corniche, is a fine spot to take in the vista. You’ll find public bathrooms, shade structures on the sand and seating along the corniche. Several simple dining options can be found in the neighboring villages of Abu Dhalouf and Al Ruwais.
Local buses run here from Doha, but the trip generally takes twice as long as the 90-minute journey by car.
Simaisma Beach is an easy family-friendly getaway
North of Doha, Simaisma Beach is Qatar’s most developed public beach after Katara Beach, with plenty of family-friendly facilities. With calm, shallow waters and mangroves to explore at the northern end of the beach, it’s great for kids, but the soft, muddy sand is not ideal for building sandcastles.
Simaisma Beach is easily reached in 30 minutes by car, or it’s an hour by public bus.