Jordan is a semi-arid Middle Eastern country located right where the continents of Asia, Europe, and Africa meet. Most people know it for its archaeological sites, ancient cities, and natural wonders of the world; however, you might be surprised to learn that Jordan also has a coastal city, Aqaba.
Aqaba, also known as the Bride of the Red Sea, is the only coastal city in Jordan and is quite large and highly populated. It is located on the northeastern side of the Red Sea, separating Asia and Africa. The coast of Aqaba is 110 miles long, going all the way to Tala Bay toward the south and the Saudi border.
Therefore, if you’re planning a trip to Jordan, take a few days to visit the coastal city of Aqaba for a refreshing getaway from the heat!
In this article, you will find everything you need to know about the places to visit and the best things to do in Aqaba.
Best Time to Visit Aqaba
As we mentioned earlier, Jordan has a semi-arid climate, which means it has dry desert-like weather but slightly more rain than arid regions. Therefore, the best time to visit Jordan generally, or Aqaba specifically, is between March to May.
During these Spring months, the temperature varies between 26 to 36°C and is perfect for enjoying a day on the beach or indulging in fun water sports.
Autumn, from September to November, is also a very popular time for visitors to Aqaba when water temperatures are still warm (averaging around 27°C), and daytime temperatures are more manageable – 27 to 37°C – for outdoor adventures.
You can also have a pleasant trip to Aqaba over the winter. While the capital Amman is quite cold in winter, Aqaba remains relatively mild, with daytime highs of around 21 to 23°C and overnight lows of 10°C. A little too chilly for diving without wetsuits, but nonetheless, many from Europe and other cooler climates will still find this pleasant.
Summers in Aqaba can be unbearably hot on the beach, though ever so slightly cooler than neighbouring Gulf countries; you can expect daytime highs up to 40°C and water temperatures mid-summer up to 29°C.
It’s important to note that Aqaba is equally popular as a resort destination for locals as it is with foreigners. You will find weekends (Thursday and Friday much busier and more expense I’ve than mid-week)
How to Get to Aqaba
The quickest and most convenient way to get to Aqaba is by taking a connecting flight from Amman (AMM).
Aqaba does have its own international airport (King Hussein International Airport – AQJ), albeit most airlines fly into Amman. You can fly into Amman and catch a connecting domestic flight to Jordan with Royal Jordanian. The flight time is under an hour.
However, if you’re on a budget, you can also take a bus from Amman airport to Aqaba, which takes almost 4 hours to reach the coastal city.
If you’re going to Aqaba via Petra, the best way is to go by car or bus. If you go by car, it takes almost 2 hours, and by bus, it might take 15 or 20 minutes more.
You can also cross into Aqaba from Eilat, Israel. The two cities are adjacent to one another, and Eliat is serviced by Ramon Airport (ETM), the second busiest airport in Israel. It takes just 30 minutes (plus border crossing) from ETM to Aqaba.
The other option is a ferry from Egypt. Five times per week, there is a ferry from Taba on the Sinai Peninsula to Tala bay, just 15 minutes from Aqaba city centre.
Best Things to Do in Aqaba
Aqaba is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba; therefore, there are plenty of things to do in the city. Here’s a list of some of the best things to do in Aqaba to make your trip worthwhile:
1. Palm Beach
When you visit a coastal city, and that is also the only coastal city in Jordan, it’s only fair if you want to spend most of your time on the beach!
Therefore, for a quiet and peaceful time, visit Palm Beach. It is a free public beach in Al-Hafayer, on the southern coast of the city, lined with beautiful palm trees. The beach also has three pools and a diving centre, so there’s something for everyone.
So, if you want to experience the true beauty of Aqaba, relax on the seashore and watch the sunset over a refreshing cup of Arabic tea while your kids can play on the soft sand of the beach.
2. Aqaba Marine Park
One of the best places to visit in Aqaba is Marine Park, a natural reserve that aims to protect marine life.
The park has 19 diving sites, including the Japanese Garden and Taiyong Wreck. Then there’s the coral reef, home to around 450 species of fish, 127 coral formations, and different types of seagrass.
Aqaba Marine Park also has a 7 km beach area, offering camping, snorkelling, swimming, diving, and mesmerizing glass boat trips over vibrant coral reefs.
- The beach is free to enter, but activities are payable.
3. Saraya Aqaba Waterpark
Another fun attraction in Aqaba for the whole family is the Saraya Aqaba Waterpark. The speciality of this park is that it is the first of its kind in the entire kingdom!
Spread across an expanse of 28,500 sqm; the waterpark has more than 25 slides and rides for a day full of fun and adventure. The highlight of the park is the country’s first-ever underwater VR experience.
And after you’ve spent your day splashing around, you can grab a bite from the various eateries inside the park.
In short, a visit to the Saraya Aqaba Waterpark is a must if you’ve got active kids to entertain in the heat!
- Note the waterpark is only open Thursday to Saturday, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM
- Shuttle services operate to nearby hotels
- Seasonally closed for winter, approx late November to March.
4. B12 Beach Club
B12 Beach Club is a relatively new addition to the attractions in Aqaba. It is situated in Ayla, just a few minutes from Downtown Aqaba, and offers plenty of activities for everyone, apart from clear and calm waters.
For starters, kids can enjoy the thrills and spills of a floating obstacle course on the Red Sea. Then there’s paddleboarding, a swimming pool, and beach volleyball, keeping everyone in the family entertained.
Guests can enjoy fresh juices and meals, so you can easily spend a few hours at B12 Beach Club with your kids as a relaxing break from all the exploring in Jordan.
5. Neptune Submarine Tour
Boat rides, camel rides, and quad-bike rides are pretty common. Why not go for something that beats all? A submarine ride!
The Neptune Submarine Tour offers a 2-hour underwater tour in the natural aquarium, the Red Sea. You can have a look at the famous diving spots, shipwrecks, and of course, the exotic marine life in the ocean from the comfort of an air-conditioned submarine without getting wet.
It is the perfect family attraction where you can take your little ones for a safe undersea adventure to explore the mysteries of the ocean. You’ll find Neptune Submarine Tour in nearby Tala Bay, just south of Aqaba city.
6. Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque
Good for a photo stop, the Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque is a beautiful building on Aqaba’s waterfront. The mosque, named after Hussein bin Ali (Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917), has the largest domed roof of Jordan’s mosques and stands out for its pristine white exterior.
It is possible for non-Muslims to visit the mosque when it is not prayer time. Visitors should be conservatively dressed – for women;, this is the hair completely covered and loose clothing down to ankles and wrists. Men need long trousers and shirt sleeves.
7. Rise Adventure Park
Another fairly new addition to Aqaba is Rise Adventure Park, Ayla. Perfect for your adventure-seeking tweens and teens, you’ll find this ropes and zip line park in Marina Village.
There’s a variety of different climbing elements to tackle in their giant 3-story high and low ropes course (also floodlit for evenings), plus min golf, giant swings and slides and trampolines. For younger children, there’s also a children’s playground.
- Open daily 2:00 PM to midnight.
- Children 12- 16 years 20 JOD, Adults 25 JOD
Now that you know all the best things to do in Aqaba, let’s take you through some of the best day trips from Aqaba to nearby attractions.
Best Day Trips from Aqaba
Southern Jordan is home to several incredible historical sights and archaeological wonders; therefore, if you want to check them out while on your trip to Aqaba, here are some of the best day trips from Aqaba.
1. Aqaba to Petra
One of the most popular day trips from Aqaba is to Petra.
Petra is an ancient city that can be dated back to 300 BC; however, as it was half carved into sandstone rocks, most of its structures still exist. Petra’s buildings, temples, and tombs were built with unique architecture, which draws thousands of tourists to this region every year.
Petra is at a distance of 127.2 km from Aqaba, and you can get there via car, bus, private transfer, or by joining a tour group. We explain all the options for getting to Petra fromA qaba here. In short:
- Going by car will take almost 1 hour and 50 minutes; however, it might be a bit expensive for a single day. Car hire is possible, though, in Aqaba from reputable agencies. Check out Aqaba car hire options here.
- If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, we suggest taking an intercity bus. It takes roughly the same time as a car but costs only $25 for a round-trip ticket. Currently, Jett Bus leaves Aqaba at 8:00 AM daily and returns at 17:00 PM.
- If you go by a private transfer, it costs approximately $113 one-way, but the upside of this option is that you can return any time you’re done touring Petra. And, if you’re going for the first time, going with a tour group is a wise option, as the guide will take you around the ruins and pinpoint famous places.
2. Aqaba to Wadi Rum
Another famous day trip from Aqaba is to Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is famous for its mesmerizing desert landscape and rock formations. You can enjoy camel rides, hot air balloon rides, 4×4 desert safari, and quad-bike rides in the desert.
The distance from Aqaba to Wadi Rum is almost 75 km; therefore, you can easily get there in an hour via a car, bus, private rental, or tour group.
If you go by car or private rental, it costs around $20 to $30 USDand takes almost 50 minutes.
Going by bus is again a cheaper option, costing only $4; however, you will have to travel according to the bus schedule, and there’s no timetable for arrival or departure. Therefore, talk to the drivers before boarding a bus.
- Try this day tour from Aqaba to Wadi Rum – with pick up from your hotel in Aqaba; they will take you on a 2-hour tour through the Wadi Rum highlights with transfers and Wadi Rum Reserve fees
- Make it an overnight adventure; these are the best family-friendly Bedouin camps to experience the vastness of the Wadi Rum desert fully
3. Aqaba to the Dead Sea
If you’re looking for an ultimate day trip, plan a visit from Aqaba to the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is famous for its salty water with 34% salinity. But that’s just one reason! The mud of the sea is said to do wonders for your skin; therefore, if you’d like to spend a day rejuvenating your skin at the ancient spa, take a day trip to the Dead Sea from Aqaba.
The Dead Sea is 170 km away from Aqaba, and you can get there via car, taxi, bus, or tour group.
It takes almost 3 hours to get there by car or taxi, but going by car costs around $40 USD, and going by taxi costs $142 USD! You can also go by bus, and even though the ticket price is $1.50, it takes double the time to get there.
Therefore, we’re left with going with a tour group, which is cheap, convenient, and organized. Given the distances involved, do allow a full 12 hours for this experience.
An overnight stay in one of the luxury resorts on the Dead Sea may be preferred, or it makes for an easier side trip Amman.
Best Places to Stay in Aqaba
You will find many luxury resorts in Aqaba on the Red Sea Coast, Tala Bay, and Ayla; however, there are plenty of budget-friendly hotels as well near central Aqaba. Therefore, based on your budget, here are some luxury to mid-range hotels in Aqaba.
1. Grand Tala Bay Resort
The Grand Tala Bay Resort is located on the Southern Beach in Tala Bay. It is a 5-star resort with a private beach, water sports, multiple swimming pools, and deluxe rooms with spectacular views of the Red Sea.
It has two on-site restaurants with delicious regional and continental cuisine, making it a great place to stay, especially if you’re travelling with kids.
Check price and availability on Booking.com | See TripAdvisor Reviews
There are many internationally branded resorts in Tala Bay that would be suitable for families, including:
2. Red Sea Dive Center
If you’re looking for a hotel that offers water sports like diving, snorkelling, and kayaking, we suggest staying at the Red Sea Dive Center.
It is located 700m uphill on South Beach Road. The hotel’s location is just right to overlook the Aqaba and Red Sea coastal line. The rooms are well-decorated, with comfortable beds, air-conditioning, and private bathrooms, and offer a panoramic waterfront view.
As the name indicates, the Red Sea Dive Center is a hotel and a dive centre so that the guests can enjoy several fun water activities, like diving and snorkelling, with proper guides and rental gear.
It also has a swimming pool, 24/7 room service, and amazing meals at the on-site restaurant. You can get single, double and triple rooms here catering to a wide variety of dive-loving travellers.
Check price and availability on Booking.com | See TripAdvisor Reviews
3. InterContinental Aqaba, an IHG Hotel
Families looking for a 5-star resort right on the beach look no further, as InterContinental delivers everything you’d expect of a luxury family beachfront resort in the Middle East.
A 200-metre-long lagoon-style pool is the centrepiece of the resort, with a heated pool and kids pool making this an excellent year-round choice, along with hot tubs and a wellness centre (you may well want this if you’ve recently tackled Petra and Wadi Rum!)
Rooms are generously sized and can fit families up to 4, and there are plentiful family facilities, including a beach playground and lush gardens. Most rooms boast beautiful Red Sea views, ideal for capturing the sunset.
Check price and availability on Booking.com | See TripAdvisor Reviews
Find more Aqaba and tala Bay hotel and resort choices for families here:
Being the only coastal city in Jordan, Aqaba is one of the most-visited places by tourists from around the Middle East and other countries. There are plenty of things to do in Aqaba, many places to visit, and notable areas nearby for a day trip.
Therefore, if you want to beat the heat this summer, we recommend flying into Aqaba to check out the beauty of the Red Sea, explore the mysteries of Petra, and have an up close and personal encounter with exotic marine life!
More on Visiting Jordan With Kids
If you’re planning a family trip to Jordan, you may also be interested in checking out:
- Classic 5-day Jordan road trip itinerary – for those travellers short on time but wanting to see the highlights, we take you through this easy circular loop of the highlights you can easily self-drive in 5 days.
- How to Self-Drive in Jordan – our top tips for drivers unfamiliar with the Jordain way of driving!
- Best Dead Sea Resorts with Kids – a run through all the Jordanian Dead Sea Resorts, along with which have the best family facilities.
- The Best Petra to Amman Tours – no time to make it as far south as Aqaba? No problem, you can still plan a day trip or combine with a stop in Wadi Rum with these tours from Amman.
- Petra By Night – experience the magic of Petra through the candlelit Siq in this exquisite Jordanian experience.
- UNESCO sites of the Middle East – learn more about the region’s fascinating world heritage sites
- Check your Visa requirements for Jordan here before you go.
Jordan Guide Book
For a first-timer looking to visit Jordan, we can highly recommend you download the Step Into Jordan Guide & Itineraries.
This handy digital guide is just $19.99USD and includes:
- An interactive downloadable map
- 36 detailed pages of planning guidance
- Multiple suggested itineraries (10, 7 and 3 days)
- Tips from an expert
- Accommodation recommendations
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