If you are looking for the best things to do in Aqaba then you are in the right place! Thanks to the ever-increasing low-cost flights to Aqaba International Airport on the Red Sea in Jordan, more and more visitors are arriving in Jordan via Aqaba to start (or base) their time in the country. The city of Aqaba is the perfect base for a trip to Jordan because of its year-round warm climate, its access to Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan’s desert, its underwater marine life just off shore and its beach resort options.
This post outlines the best things to do in Aqaba as well as hints at daytrips from the city. If you are specifically looking for the best Aqaba day trips, I have a post on just that!
The Best Things to do in Aqaba
1. Scuba Diving in Aqaba’s Marine Park
Diving in the Red Sea is one of the best places in the world for serious divers. If diving is your thing, ensure you give yourself enough time in Aqaba to dive into these vibrant coral reefs. There are several dive sites including sunken tanks and the Japanese garden. Some can be accessed by shore and some by boat. There are boats that go out to the reefs daily. Typically they leave before lunch and include lunch on the boat in between dives.
There are also lessons for beginners as well as certification programs in Aqaba.
2. Snorkeling in Aqaba
If you are traveling to Aqaba and not into diving then you need to book a snorkel trip. A day on one of the many boats is one of the best things to do in Aqaba . Besides enjoying time on a nice yacht or glass-bottom boat (I suggest you book a nice boat that you can move around – one that offers food etc) the Red Sea offers some of the most beautiful coral you will see anywhere in the world. The best time for snorkeling is between late spring and fall to enjoy the warm water. It can be quite cold in the winter months.
If you are visiting Aqaba with your family, once you are down this article, check out my guide to things to do in Aqaba with kids
There are lots of watersport options for those who want some excitement. From Banana Boat rides to wakeboarding to kayaking or inflatable obstacle courses, all of these can be found in Aqaba.
4. Berenice Beach
With few beachfront hotels, Berenice Beach offers day use of the beach and pools and a shuttle from Aqaba hotels to its location about 15 minutes out of town. With multiple pools, beach access, and lunch options, it gives visitors to Aqaba time to lounge by the pool, snorkel or dive or enjoy a private beach on the Red Sea. When someone asks what to do in Aqaba, this is always a top suggestion.
5. Visit the Local Beaches
If you want to know what the locals do in Aqaba, check out the public beaches. You will find picnickers, kids playing, women chatting and boat rides, parasailing, and banana boat rides (From April to September). South Beach, which is a 10-minute drive from the city is a popular spot. If you do not have a car, you can wander right down to the beach in Aqaba as well.
6. Shopping in Aqaba
There is a little bit of shopping in Aqaba but no huge malls like in Amman. There are outdoor shops near the beach, as well as the shopping area that sells a little bit of everything. Prices in Aqaba are a bit cheaper for some goods, as Aqaba has duty – free status. Be warned that there are strict limits on how much alcohol can be taken from Aqaba without paying duty.
7. Souq by the Sea
On the weekends, there is a small souq with local artisans that you can browse. They also have a few snack vendors. This is the ideal place for some local souvenir shopping.
8. Eat and Drink
Aqaba has a different atmosphere than Amman. It is a vacation town, it is where Jordanians go for vacation and also where tourists find themselves. The restaurants have a less conservative atmosphere than most other towns in the Kingdom where you will see women openly smoking shisha on patios. In most of the rest of the country, you do not often see women smoking in public.
Shisha is a popular evening activity, and there are plenty of restaurants of all kinds in Aqaba. Some of the best restaurants in Aqaba can be found here.
There are also plenty of places to get a drink in Aqaba. Yes, alcohol is legal in Jordan and very easy to find in Aqaba.
9. Walk the Beach Promenade
One of the Aqaba attractions is the beach promenade along the gulf of Aqaba. It will take you along the beach, past Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and offers plenty of people-watching opportunities.
10. Glass-bottom Boat Tours
If you want to get out on the water but are not interested in getting in the water to snorkel or dive, there are daily glass bottom boat tours of Aqaba Marine Park. They give you a glimpse into the marine life of the Red Sea from above.
11. Ayla Oasis
Ayla is one of the newer places to visit in Aqaba as it was just constructed in the last few years. It was a multi use construction project with residential properties, commercial establishments as well as hotels, entertainment and tourist attractions. The Hyatt Regency is in Ayla and so are plenty of watersports from wakeboarding to cable skiing. Ayla is also home to Jordan’s only Golf Course.
12. Enjoy Aqaba Nightlife
Something that you will not find much of in Petra is nightlife, so enjoy the evening atmosphere in Aqaba. Whether it is patio dining, wandering the outdoors, watching sports on an outdoor TV with locals, shopping or watching the sun set, getting out a night in Aqaba offers a different look to this seaside city.
13. Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque
Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque is a beacon of Islamic architecture on Aqaba’s waterfront. It features the largest dome among Jordan’s mosques. The mosque was named after Hussein bin Ali who was the Sharif and Emir of Mecca from 1908 until 1917. Al Sharif Hussein Bin Ali stood against the Ottoman Empire during the course of the First World War.
After dark, the pristine white structure is a beautiful sight to see as you stroll around Aqaba.
14. Day Trip to Petra
A day trip to Petra is totally doable and one of the popular things to do when staying in Aqaba. I have an entire post about the best Aqaba to Petra tour options if you want someone else to take all of the planning out of your day trip. You can also read my post about getting from Aqaba to Petra to get more details and plan your day.
But you do not need to take a tour to visit Petra if you want to do it on your own. There are lots of other ways to see Petra. After you decide how you are going to arrange your visit, read this guide to visiting Petra.
One of the popular ways is to rent a car in Aqaba and drive to Petra for the day. It takes about 2 hours to drive to Petra and there is free parking across the street from the visitors center (close to the Petra Moon hotel). Petra opens at 6am so you can get an early start if you pick up your rental car the night before. Expect to pay 25-35 JD for a car for one day (24 hours).
Get Your Guide: One Day from Aqaba to Petra
Tours by Locals: Private Guide One Day Petra Tour
15. Day Trip to Wadi Rum
A day trip from Aqaba to Wadi Rum is the second most popular day trip. The Jordan desert of Wadi Rum is an otherworldly landscape that needs to be seen to be believed. As described by T. E. Lawrence, it is “vast, echoic and godlike.” See the stunning landscape from the back of a 4×4 vehicle, sip sweet Bedouin tea by the fire, climb sand dunes for epic views, and watch the sunset from the back of a camel. This should not be missed and is one of the best deserts in the Middle East. There is plenty to do on a day trip from Aqaba to Wadi Rum and it can be done by renting a car or taking a private tour.
READ MORE: How to Get from Aqaba to Wadi Rum
Check Out these Day Trip Option
Viator: One Day Aqaba to Wadi Rum
Get Your Guide: Aqaba to Wadi Rum Tour
16. Day Trip to the Dead Sea
A visit to the lowest place on earth is on every Jordan bucketlist. With a day trip from Aqaba to the Dead Sea you can experience driving through much of Jordan’s landscape until you reach the famous lake in the Jordan valley. After floating and relaxing in the most mineral rich waters on Earth, drive back to Aqaba for overnight.
If the thought of over 3 hours driving each way is a little much, there are private tours to the Dead Sea from Aqaba. They will take care of the driving, offering stops along the way and will drop you off to enjoy the Dead Sea and resort amenities and then bring you back to Aqaba for the night.
Day Trip Option:
Get Your Guide: One Day from Aqaba to Dead Sea and Wadi Mujib
READ MORE: Options on getting from Aqaba to the Dead Sea whether car, bus, taxi or rental car.
All three of these day trip options are listed in my popular post on the best daytrips from Aqaba. Click to read more about your daytrip options as they are popular things to do in Aqaba.
17. Aqaba Castle (Mamluk Castle)
Aqaba Castle, also recognized as Mamluk Fort, stands as a historic stronghold tracing its origins to the 16th century. Originally constructed by the Ottomans, the fortress underwent restoration under the Mamluks, hence its name. Because of its strategic location on the coast, Aqaba Castle served as a vital base for overthrowing the Ottoman Empire.
Exploring the castle ranks among the top activities in Aqaba, providing a captivating insight into the history and culture of the region. Notably, the castle played a pivotal role in the success of the Arab Revolt, with Lawrence of Arabia riding from its premises to Cairo to convey the momentous news.
Summer Hours: Sun – Thurs 8:00 – 17:00 Fri – Sat 10:00 – 17:00
Winter Hours: Sun – Thurs 8:00 – 16:00 Fri – Sat 10:00 – 16:00
18. Hit the Beach Club
B12 Beach Club is the entertainment hub of Ayla. With white sandy beaches, all day dining, and water sports, there is plenty to appease every visitor. While Ayla offers visitors entertainment and excitement, its modern vibe is quite different to that of Amman’s downtown.
B12 Beach Club is one of the few beach clubs in the country. Enjoy the sun, play water volleyball, grab a meal and a drink, and enjoy the vibes. It is open to all ages and has family-friendly amenities
Hours: 10:00 until Sunset
19. Play Golf
YES, you can play golf in Jordan. Home to Jordan’s first 18-hole championship golf course and 9-hole golf academy, is Ayla’s Signature Golf course, designed by Greg Norman. With over 800,000 square metres of rolling green fairways, both beginner and expert golfers are welcome to enjoy this one-of-a-kind eco-friendly golf course. All of the water used to water the grass comes from a desalination plant nearby!
Hours: 7:00am – 9:00pm
20. Wakeboard on the Red Sea
Exclusive to Ayla, cable wakeboarding is a fun and daring water sport, loved by beginners and professionals. Let the clear sea and beautiful location impress you while you push your limits and enjoy. The Wake park is located at B12 Beach Club. Riders must be 12 years old in order to use the wake park.
Hours: 10:00am until sunset
Overwhelmed with Planning a trip to Jordan?
Want to skip all of the planning and access my detailed Jordan Itinerary and Guide? I have been to Jordan several times and after being asked again and again for suggestions, not only did I build this website but I created an interactive PDF guide to help you plan the best trip to Jordan! It includes an interactive map, multiple itineraries for up to 10 days and as little as three days and plenty of practical information about renting a car and driving in Jordan. Get the guide by clicking the button below.
READY TO VISIT?
Where to Stay in Aqaba
BUDGET: Al Marsa
Safety In Aqaba
Overall, Jordan is safe and welcoming to tourists. Common sense goes a long way, whether home or abroad. Pickpocketing is rare and tourist scams are not common practice. Have a read of my post “Is Jordan Safe” so you are aware of local customs, culture and what you do want to watch out for.
5 Things to Bring with You to Aqaba
- Bathing Suit
- Swim Cover Up
- Universal Travel Adapter
Appropriate clothing is the most important thing to bring to Jordan with you. Depending on the season, your wardrobe is going to be quite different as wet and cold winters mean that you will need winter coats if you are leaving the Red Sea Coast. When planning your trip to Jordan, check out what to wear in Jordan.
Lindsay fell in love with Jordan when she first visited in 2016. She now goes back every year to explore more of this special place. Lindsay is also the owner of Amman Food Tours, a social enterprise that is women-owned and hires local female guides. This project provides meaningful employment for women in Amman.