Yanbu is fast becoming an appealing tourist destination, due to amazing dive sites and pristine white sandy shores, many with resorts and private beaches. However, at first glance, the backdrop of refineries and petrochemical plants hardly paints the area in an attractive light. Fortunately, this is the 'new' Yanbu, that sits 15km south of 'old' Yanbu, which has a lengthy history dating back 2500 years to when it was a staging post for the marine spice and incense routes. In more recent history it is remembered as the place TE Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) stayed in.
Yanbu's modest old town is small but quaint, with an unhurried atmosphere not apparent in larger cities, and the historic houses (one of which belonged to Lawrence) are definitely worth a look. Just north of the town is vast, open desert that gives way to blue waters, and this area is where most visitors spend their time.