Things to do in Kalba Sharjah
From left to right: Enjoy the Kalba Hanging Gardens, kayak at the Kalba mangroves, or sail around the Al Hefaiyah Lake. Image Credit: Supplied

The Eid Al Fitr long holiday is here and if you are planning to explore the UAE during the break, how about taking a road trip to the east coast of the country?

Nestled between the Hajar mountains and the eastern coastline, Kalba is a popular destination for ecotourism in the UAE, with opportunities to go wildlife spotting while trekking, kayaking, as well as scuba diving. It now has some of the most recently announced tourist attractions, including the Kalba Waterfalls and the Al Hefaiyah Lake. But it also has one of the oldest mangroves in the region. With plenty of scenic spots and glittering waters, Kalba is a great, budget-friendly escape, for Nature, adventure and wildlife lovers alike.

So, pack your bags with essential snacks for a road trip, and your most reliable adventure gear, because you will have the option to hike, kayak or enjoy other motorsports in this quiet town.

How to get there

Image Credit: Gulf News archives

An exclave of Sharjah, you will need to the east coast if you are travelling from Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. The easiest way to start your road trip is to take the E102 highway (Sharjah-Kalba Road), which you can get on from the three main highways – E11 (Sheikh Zayed Road), E311 (Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road) and E611 (Emirates Road).

- On E11, take the exit from Sharjah City Centre towards S112 King Faisal Street, which will then lead you on to E102.
- If you are on E311, take Exit 65 from either direction to get on to E102.
- If you are on E611, take the exit from the Sharjah Mosque interchange, to get on to E102.

Once you are on the highway, you will have to drive for approximately one hour to reach Kalba. The city is located 120km east of Sharjah city.

1. Hanging gardens

Hanging Gardens opens in Sharjah
Hanging Gardens opens in Sharjah Image Credit: WAM

The first stop will be one of the newest attractions that has opened up in the UAE – the Kalba Hanging Gardens, which has stunning waterfalls.

Once you enter the mountainous regions on your route, you will pass through the Kalba tunnel. Right after the tunnel, you will see the Hanging gardens to your right. These are a perfect start to your trip, spanning over 1.6 million square feet and boasting over 100,000 trees, at a height of 281 meres above sea level. You can park at the free parking area there and explore the Hanging Gardens on foot, or even take a scenic train ride around the area. If you are in for some exercise, how about exploring the hiking routes up the mountain range, which are suitable for all skill levels.

The area also has playgrounds for children and eateries serving light meals.

2. Al Hefaiyah Lake

Al Hefaiyah Lake
Image Credit: Supplied

Once you are done with some family-friendly activity, how about taking it easy and enjoying the serene Al Hefaiyah Lake, which was inaugurated on March 3), and is just a kilometre down the road to your right?

The lake holds significance for the area, as it is a strategic water reservoir, but once you are there, you can choose to either walk around the lake, or simply drive in the area on the 3km dual-lane road that surrounds it.

The lake also has a rest house, with direct views of Kalba’s high mountains and the Hanging Gardens and waterfalls.

Here you can enjoy water sports, explore the hiking trails, let the children free in the shaded play areas or take some time out to explore the Al Hefaiyah Mosque, which is decorated with geometric and floral themes and has a library inside.

3. Al Qurm Protected Area

Kalba Mangrove - Sharjah

After the mountains, it’s time to explore the coastline and all the biodiversity and watersports that come with it. The next stop on your trip can be at the Al Qurm Protected Area, also known as the Kalba mangroves, which are located right at the east coast, where the E102 highway ends. The mangroves – or qurm in Arabic – house rare bird species, sea turtles and mammals. This also happens to be the northern-most mangrove forest in the world.

Here you can spot the endangered Arabian-collared kingfishers flying over the mangroves, or hawksbill and green turtles nesting on the nearby beach. If you wish to spend more time there, how about a guided kayak or a paddle board tour at the natural reserve. If not, simply remember to carry a pair of binoculars to spot wildlife from a distance.

4. Kalba Corniche Park

Kalba Beach

After the mangroves, drive down to the corniche park, which is popular with residents and tourists. It is a great place for families, and has jogging paths and play areas, as well as shaded seating areas suitable for enjoying family picnics.

5. Kalba Beach Corniche

Right after the park, you can hit the beach, with its long sandy beach and clear turquoise waters of the gulf. Here, too, you will be able to enjoy several facilities built for visitors, including a rubber track for jogging, shaded benches facing the sea and rest rooms. This is a great, quiet way to end your long road trip.

Other places that you can also add to your intinerary are Wadi Al Helo, or the Sweet Valley, which will fall early on in your road trip and can give you a great hiking option if you leave early in the morning for Kalba, or the the 18th century Khor Kalba Fort, which can be a stop towards the end of your trip, as it is on the coast. There is also the Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Centre, which can be a great place to take children, as it hosts various species native to the desert habitat. The centre is located on E102, and will be on your right as you drive down from the Al Hefaiyah Lake.