Most people know comparatively little about Oman. Perhaps they’ve heard a few whispers about the desert forts, rolling sand dunes and imposing mountains, but that’s probably about it. But this is a perfect family destination. There are endless things to do in Oman with kids, and it is all so easy! The roads are good, the hotels are superb, the activities are varied and enormously family friendly, the people are a delight and it is all incredibly safe.
It takes just 8 hours to get here from London on an easy direct flight, and you have guaranteed winter sunshine. This really is the ideal destination for October and February half terms or for a Christmas or Easter break. .
For a relatively small country it is surprisingly difficult to whittle down our recommendations, but here are our top 10 favourite things to do with kids in Oman.
Oman with kids Top 10
1 – Explore Misfah Oasis
This is a picture perfect oasis that tumbles down the side of a steep mountain, the hillside carved into terraces covered in date palms. Follow narrow paths through the village, along irrigation channels and past ancient stone houses. Stop for lunch (or the night) at the charming Misfah Old House and watch the sunset over the mountains from the rooftop terrace.
2 – Go Dune Bashing
For shrieks of nervous excitement and laughter, and one of our favourite things to do in Oman with kids, take the children dune bashing. Unless you are experienced at driving in the sand, we don’t recommend that you do this yourselves, but ask a local to take you out. This is fantastic fun – careering up and down, driving at terrifying angles down steep dunes then revving hard to get up the other side, bumping over the crest. Go in the late afternoon and stop in a remote spot for sunset to drink in the view.
3 – Hike along the Balcony Walk
Oman is home to the second deepest canyon in the world and this can best be appreciated by the 3-hour vertiginous hike along the Balcony Walk. The hike follows the same route out and back (so can be aborted at any time if the kids get tired) but ends at an old village, allegedly built hundreds of years ago by families fleeing attack. The side of the mountain is carved into narrow terraces that once housed flourishing gardens and the kids will enjoy exploring the now abandoned houses. The views of the canyon are stupendous. The hike is suitable for good walkers (kids perhaps 7 and above, although younger ones can start out and get as far as they can).
4 – Get lost in the labyrinth of rooms in Jabrin Fort
Of all the forts in Oman, Jabrin is probably the most engaging for children to visit, an endless series of rooms, meandering staircases, battlements and look-out points. Although there is the odd drop (so don’t let toddlers run wild), leave the children to go off exploring on their own and take your own time listening to the audio tour.
5 – Play in the dunes
For a less adrenalin-fuelled experience than dune bashing, just head out into the dunes on foot in the early morning or late afternoon. Children will spend hours climbing up the side of the dunes then racing or roly-polying down (even teenagers, in our experience….). You’ll get sand in your hair and just about everywhere else, but it will keep the children entertained for hours!
6 – Jump into the pools at Wadi Bani Khalid
Cutting a dramatic gash through the mountains is Wadi Bani Khalid, a deep valley with a series of beautiful pools surrounded by date palms. You can follow an easy path up through the wadi to a beautiful pool where you can swim. There are numerous rocks that you can jump off, and for the bravest, a high bridge from which you can leap. The first pool is popular but carry on just a little further to a smaller but possibly even more beautiful pool and swim here with spectacular views of the canyon beyond. A definite crowd pleaser and one of our favourite things to do in Oman with kids.
7 – Ride a camel
For the quintessential desert experience, climb on a camel for a gentle amble across the dunes. Ever popular with the kids, these ‘ships of the desert’ lumber slowly from side to side and provide the ideal way to see the desert at a slower pace.
8 – Swim into the cave at Wadi Shab
Another beautiful canyon that is well worth a stop is Wadi Shab, off the main coastal highway. Here you take a boat across a small river and walk for about 40 minutes up the inside of the wadi (canyon) until you get to a pool. Younger children will enjoy playing in the shallows and watching the small fish trying to nibble at their toes. Older children will want to continue on higher up the wadi, clambering over rocks and swimming upstream, eventually passing through a narrow crevice in the rock to get to a cave and waterfall.
The water here is a brilliant emerald green reflecting shafts of sunlight. It is dramatically beautiful and great fun. Teenagers may be able to make their way even further up the wadi, climbing a rope for support, but this writer didn’t make it any further!
9 – Finish up on the beach at the Shangri La
There aren’t that many hotels in Oman. Spend a week or two here and chat to people that you meet along the way, and you will hear a handful of hotels mentioned again and again. The ‘go-to’ beach resort is the Shangri-La, a series of three connected hotels on a stretch of beach just south east of Muscat. The most family oriented of the three hotels is the Al-Waha. Sharing facilities with the slightly glitzier but more business-focussed Al Bandar next door, the Al-Waha is paradise for kids.
There are endless pools, a lazy river, two (small) waterslides, a strip of beach with lots of watersports, child-friendly food and one of the best breakfasts we have ever come across. There are loads of activities for children (water polo in the main pool at 10 for example), and a special ‘adventure zone’ that was completely deserted every time we visited, but which has a soft play area (with daring slides that kept our 12 year old entertained), air-football, pool, table tennis and so on.
In truth, the Shangri-La is not entirely to everyone’s taste – a little bit too much like an uber glitzy Centre Parcs in the sun, but the kids thought it was heaven. We’ve checked out the alternatives and they just don’t compare so if the budget can possibly stretch, this is absolutely the place to end your trip.
10 – Wild camp on the beach near Fins
There aren’t that many places in the world where you can drive along the coast, pick out a picturesque spot and make camp for the night. But in Oman, you can camp pretty much wherever you want and there is endless coastline waiting to be explored. Search for shells along the waterline, watch the sun dip down over the horizon and the stars appear in the night sky, sit down to a freshly cooked barbeque on comfortable Arabian style cushions, watch turtles bob up and down in the surf and sit around the camp fire as the heat of the day dissipates before retiring to bed in a tent. Could this be the perfect thing to do in Oman with the kids? We think so.
Oman with kids extras
We had to whittle this down to 10, so we didn’t get to include dolphin watching off the coast of Muscat, seeing the turtles in Ras Al Jinz, dressing up as a traditional Bedouin, haggling in the souk at Mutrah, snorkelling in the Damaniyat Islands or off the Mussandam Peninsula, crossing the desert and entering the Empty Quarter near Salalah or many, many more activities.
To speak with one of our Oman family experts and to start planning your own perfect itinerary in Oman with kids, simply call us during office hours on 01728 752751 or use our website contact form. We’d love to hear from you.
Liddy Pleasants, MD Stubborn Mule Travel