Jordan’s seen a bit of a growth spurt recently. Since 2008 the country’s coastline has increased by 17km and it’s all down to Ayla Oasis, a remarkable waterfront development that has quite literally transformed the Gulf of Aqaba, but done so with such subtlety and grace that this might be the very first time you’re hearing about it, though it’s unlikely to be the last. ‘Seaside Living Reinvented’ is how Ayla describes itself and there are no arguments on that front.
An elegantly paced development that was eight years in the making, everything here has been thought through and planned to an exceptional degree and it’s obvious that protecting the extraordinary natural landscape and keeping environmental impact to a minimum has always taken precedence. Which is probably why Ayla feels more like an organic community than a commercial development and looks incredibly at home; woven between the desert and the Red Sea, and perfectly complementing neighbouring Aqaba – no mean feat considering Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city, unimaginably ancient and forms part of the cultural triangle which includes legendary Petra and Wadi Rum. But aside from excellent eco-credentials and undeniable beauty is Ayla up to the family holiday challenge? And, most importantly, can it pass the kid test which measures success in terms of minute-by-minute fun, fabulous beaches, heaps of adventure and pretty much non-stop activity?
Tucked between the desert and the Red Sea, five minutes from Aqaba city centre, just over an hour’s drive from Wadi Rum and less than two hours from Petra, it’s hard to imagine how you could improve Ayla’s location. Until you hear that direct UK flights to Aqaba take less than six hours, pretty amazing considering that warm-to-hot weather is the norm here, year round – if you’re thinking winter sun without long haul, you are so right.
Of course nothing goes with fabulous weather better than beaches and Ayla specialises in the white sand variety trimming the edge of calm seawater lagoons – plenty protected and immaculately clean for non-motorised water sports and swimming. Families will love B12 Beach Club for its balance of barefoot atmosphere and high energy activity – it’s home to Jordan’s first ever cable wake park. Youngest guests are carefully cossetted beachside too, with heaps of space for sandcastles and safe paddling. And there’s even an eco-conscious inflatable waterpark – kind to the planet but reliably thrilling for kids.
As well as Jordan’s largest yacht marina – an astounding 300 berth strong – Ayla also has the country’s first 18-hole championship golf course. Designed by Greg Norman it’s a miracle of lush greens, turquoise waters and rolling fairways set against a backdrop of desert mountains and overlooking the Gulf of Aqaba. The views are stunning, but keen players will be just as taken by the dedicated Golf Academy, practice putting and short-range areas, indoor swing studios, plus an additional 9-hole course. And responsible travellers will be pleased to know that, like everything else here, Ayla Golf Club is a model of low impact, sympathetic and eco-friendly design.
Without years to grow a great downtown, Ayla applied some serious creative thinking instead and the result is vibrant and colourful Marina Village. Covering a total of eight blocks, it’s the heart and soul of the resort as well as its social hub, shopping district, art and entertainment centre, relaxed hang-out space and general place to see and be seen, day and night. With its quaint, narrow streets and graceful squares, pretty fountains, peaceful waterfront walks and elegant promenades, Marina Village has all the authentic charm of a seaside original. Though it doesn’t mind breaking with tradition to include over 90 local boutiques and brand name stores, along with cafés and restaurants, street stalls, intriguing art, jogging paths and even an Aerial Adventure Trail.
With its focus on keeping kids happily busy, giving parents plenty of me-time and cocooning everyone in luxurious comfort, Hyatt Regency is a great fit for Ayla. Family rooms and suites have private terraces with views of lagoons, Aqaba’s dramatic mountains or the endlessly fascinating Marina. If you want extra space and more independence, suites with separate living rooms and small kitchens are also available. All Hyatt guests have the run of Ayla’s sporting and leisure facilities as well as the hotel’s own swimming pools and sun terraces, La Plage Beach Club and Camp Hyatt, one of the region’s largest kids’ clubs. And just to make your stay even more effortless, anything from tee-time at Ayla Golf Club to unforgettable days out at Petra or Wadi Rum can be easily arranged, you only have to ask.
Find out more about Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla in Jordan
On the Gulf of Aqaba, 10 minutes’ drive east of Aqaba city.
When to go
Aqaba’s hottest in July and August with temps around 34˚ and pretty much non-stop sunshine. A comfortable 25˚ is average for autumn, and winter weather is sunny with temperatures of 15 – 20˚.
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Aqaba take from five hours, 40 minutes.