Hatta Rock PoolsNestled in the varied crags of the Hajar Mountains, the Hatta Rock Pools unfold its rocky corridors with bursting waterfalls and turquoise pools. Venture through the narrow passageways to find spring-fed pools that are yet to be discovered. Only half an hour from the ancient village of Hatta, this oasis is a hidden gem. Unfortunately spoilt by rubbish and unthoughtful people, but if you can find a quiet time and a clean place – well worth packing a picnic and getting out of the city. Located on the outskirts of Dubai emirate, the Hatta rock pools – a series of crevices in the volcanic rocks – are thought to be millions of years old. Unfortunately, some of the pools suffer from litter and graffiti, but if you’re picky you can find a nice spot. Distance from Dubai: about two hours from Dubai Marina by car (you have to enter Oman en route, so ensure you bring your passport). Free. Near the E84 Fujairah Road (no number).

Creekside Park

Happily, the city centre is full of immaculately tended public spaces where you can sunbathe to your heart's content. If you just fancy a picnic and a stroll, head for Creekside Park (Oud Metha, near Wonderland; 336 7633; entry 10dhs), an enormous expanse of green on the banks of the creek. Hire a pedal-driven cart for two and ease your way around, stopping to take a coffee at the jetty cafe overlooking the towers of downtown Deira.

Al Mamzar Beach Park

If you're in the mood for some beachside fun, however, take a trip to Al Mamzar Beach Park (Al Mamzar; 296 6201; entry 10dhs; families only on Wednesdays). Dubai is often described as a melting pot of cultures. Visit Al Mamzar on a Friday and you'll see this in action. At the large, pretty amphitheatre by the entrance, Jordanian men pick out tunes on their ouds, local women tap at laptops and Indian kids dash about playing tag. In the barbecue area huge Iranian families spark up homemade grills, Syrians cluster round shisha pipes and Filipino lads organise kickabouts.

While Mamzar's facilities are less impressive than those at the hotels, if you're simply looking to catch some sun and have a swim they are perfect. Women should heed the official exhortations not to 'roam around the park with your swimming suit'.

Catching the sun

Guaranteed winter sunshine is Dubai's most endearing characteristic. The classic tourist option for soaking up the sun is to spend the day at a hotel beach club. These offer pristine beaches and a spread of watersports, but don't expect much change from 150 dhs per person for a day's entry. Even the most reasonable deal, at the excellent Oasis Beach Hotel (Al Sufouh Road; 399 4444; www.jebelali-international.com), comes in at 65 dhs on a weekday and 150 dhs at the weekend, which can mount up if you have your family in tow.