5 Unforgettable Days in Oman with Our Kids

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Visiting Oman with kids marked a special and transitional moment in our family’s life. Our kids were born and raised in Taiwan, but at the age of 4 and 5, in autumn of 2019, we moved permanently to Canada, where I grew up.

After selling our house and getting rid of all our things in Taiwan, we decided to take the opportunity to go traveling in Europe for 10 weeks on the way back to Canada, something we’d both dreamed of doing since before getting married. Besides, there are so many reasons why it is important to travel with kids!

Oman was the first stop on our trip before moving on to Istanbul and then Amalfi Coast in Italy with our kids. I had used Aeroplan points (Canada’s version of Air Miles) to cover all of our flights. Stopping somewhere in the Middle East or Arabian Peninsula required far fewer points than Europe, and we could complete the journey from Oman to Europe on a budget airline.

As I researched countries that I hadn’t been to yet, Oman immediately stood out as special, and the more I read about it and began to plan our Oman itinerary with kids, the more it sounded really suitable for family travel.

Our incredible 5 days in Oman with our kids is a trip we'll never forget
If you enjoy my photos in this post, have a look at which mirrorless camera and lenses I always use for traveling!

This small Arabian nation with an even smaller population boasts mesmerizing desert landscapes, natural wonders such as sinkholes you can swim in, and wildlife including sea turtles and dolphins. It is clean, safe, and the Omani people are gentle, soft-spoken, and polite.

The capital city, Muscat is modern and clean. Your Muscat city tour may include excellent museums, malls with playcenters, and kid-friendly attractions, yet the city retains a traditional Arabian look and distinct lack of skyrises (by order of the Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who the people all seem to love), not to mention one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. Oman is pleasantly off-the-beaten-track, but that is changing quickly as more and more people find out about it.

I must admit I was smitten by Oman right from the start, and I couldn’t wait to experience it with my wife and kids. I knew they would love it, and in the end we all enjoyed it even more than I could have hoped for. Also, since most people don’t know anything about Oman, I looked forward to writing this post and sharing as much as I could of the country with my readers, family, and friends.

My wife and kids in Oman
Emily, Sage, and Lavender in Oman

We spent six nights in Oman, so obviously we didn’t stray too far from the capital. We still saw a lot and got a good taste of the country, but of course there is a lot we didn’t have time to see. We stayed in two different hotels, one budget and one upscale. You can read about the latter in my review of the Grand Hyatt Muscat.

Below I’ll cover my recommendations for the best family-friendly hotels in Muscat, based on my extensive research as I planned our trip, how to get to Oman, things to do with kids in Oman, how to plan an Oman 5 day itinerary, where to eat with kids in Muscat, and places that we didn’t have time to see but will next time.

Oman with Kids Essentials

– If you visit for a short time, you can see the best of Muscat on this half-day city tour.

– You can easily arrange your visa on the Oman e-visa site before arrival. You can use one account to arrange a visa for each family member (including kids, same price as adults)

– Summer is simply too hot to visit Oman, while winter has pleasant weather and is the high season. We visited in the shoulder season (October), and it was still VERY hot, so we took an extended midday break in our room every day. Check Oman’s weather by month here.

– Many things are closed if you visit during Ramadan. Here are the Ramadan dates for upcoming years. Some shops, restaurants, and attractions are closed on Fridays as well, but most malls remain open.

– There are no dress restrictions for young kids (under 7) in Oman, even when visiting mosques. My wife Emily played it safe and wore a scarf on her head at first, then quickly realized it wasn’t necessary. Dress modestly, but there’s no need to overdo it. When visiting a mosque, though, women must cover their head, shoulders, arms to the wrist, and legs to the ankles, and men should avoid shorts and tank tops.

Why We Chose (and Loved) Oman with Kids

I’ve been to nearly 10 countries in the Middle East, including UAE and a stopover in Doha, Qatar in the Arabian Peninsula, on my own before having kids. I really enjoyed them all and found the people to be the friendliest and most hospitable I’d encountered anywhere in the world, but for this trip I wanted to go somewhere I hadn’t been yet.

Oman seemed to provide the perfect balance of fascinating traditional culture and modern conveniences that make family travel easier. It’s super safe, and even after our trip as I write this, my wife and I remain perplexed at just how polite and kind to our kids the people were.

The capital Muscat is a historically rich city sandwiched between mountains and the sea. It has a traditional, ancient look (I pretty much fell in love when I saw images of the row of buildings and mosques lining the Corniche, with arid, desert hills in the background), but everything is efficient and well organized.

Muttrah Corniche, Oman, at night
The highly photogenic Muttrah Corniche, where we stayed for 4 of our nights in Oman

The only obstacles I could see, and they weren’t major ones for us, is that Oman is not super cheap, and the city of Muscat is extremely spread out so it’s not very easy to get around (I’ll explained how we tackled that below).

On our first day in Muscat, several things stood out; the brand new Muscat International Airport is a gorgeous structure, inside and out, the Omani people are really polite, cars stop for you when you want to cross the road, and the streets are clean. We also soon noticed that all the people we were dealing with in shops, restaurants, and so on were all men, but that is pretty standard in this part of the world.

Nevertheless, Emily also noticed that she wasn’t getting any creepiness or stares from men, much different than other countries we’ve traveled to (for example, in India, yet about half the population of Oman is of Indian descent). Overall, we felt incredibly safe and welcome the entire week we were in Oman.

Another thing we noticed is how intensely they blast the air conditioning in Oman. And we are coming from Taiwan, a sub-tropical, hot, humid, AC loving nation. But the Omanis turn their AC a few notches stronger than what we are used to, so the contrast between the sweltering outdoors and freezing indoors was even more extreme.

Our daughter interacting with local Omani people in a vegetable market
Local Omanis engaging with Lavender. We never made her approach them; she did it on her own.

The Omani people loved our kids. They were regularly saying hello and asking them questions, and passersby would often pat them on the head. This is something to be aware of if you don’t like people touching your kids, but for us we could tell that it was just something that they do and only mean good by it.

At the end of our Oman visit, when we flew from Oman to Turkey, the plane was full of families with young kids. The parents let their kids play and run up and down the aisle throughout the flight, and we noticed that random passengers would just grab other people’s kids and hold them for a while, talk to them, or play with them. One male flight attendant even took our kids for a while to play with them. It’s impossible to imagine all this happening in a Western country!

I’ve said this many times before but I’ll repeat it again; the majority of people in all the Muslim countries I’ve been to are family-oriented, hospitable, kindhearted, and passionately welcoming to guests. Oman is no exception!

Read about our travels in Taiwan, Croatia, and Austria with kids!

Getting to Muscat, Oman

We decided to go to Oman as a stopover between Taiwan (I cover Taiwan extensively on this website; start with my Taiwan guide if you want to know more) and Europe.

From Oman, we took advantage of the Oman-based budget airline Salam Air to complete our trip, flying to Istanbul to start our European adventure. Our flight from Muscat to Istanbul was only 4 hours and 40 minutes.

Salam Air also offers connections to Nepal, Egypt, and Dubai (where you could find a greater number of connections to anywhere), and various other Middle Eastern and Arabian destinations.

A number of major airlines fly into Muscat, including Lufthansa, Qatar, and Emirates. It is also possible to travel overland from Dubai/UAE to Muscat by bus, taking about six hours in total.

Our hotel was able to provide pick-up from the airport for us; if yours doesn’t, you can arrange your airport transfer here.

Getting Around Muscat

Many people suggest renting a car for visiting Oman, especially if you plan to travel much beyond the capital, Muscat. Even Muscat is extremely spread out, not easy to get around, and taxis are quite expensive.

We only did one day trip out of the city and stayed in two hotels near most of the sights we wanted to visit, so we decided not to rent a car. If you decide to, use this link to find the best car rental deals on RentalCars.

Note that cars seats are mandatory for children under 4.

Another option is to try the Muscat Hop-On-Hop-Off bus, but it has a limited number of stops and doesn’t hit all the main sights.

We found one very useful public bus was the #4, which travels from the Muttrah Corniche past Riyam Park to Old Muscat, where several major attractions are found. The bus costs 200 baisa (kids free) and comes every 20 minutes or so.

Where to Stay in Muscat with Kids

Wrapping my head around the layout of Muscat and figuring out where to stay was a challenge at first. The city stretches over 70 kilometers along the coast, with the airport in the far west. The different neighborhoods of Muscat are so separated that they feel like different cities, and you have to drive on a large highway for several minutes between them.

Heading east from the airport, you’ll pass Qurum (Qurm), an upscale area with several malls, embassies, luxury hotels, and the city’s best beach, then Muttrah and Old Muscat, home to some of the most famous sights, and finally more ports, beaches, and upscale hotels in the far east of the city. The inland district of Ruwi is a transportation hub and home to Little India and a few budget accommodations, but it isn’t close to any major attractions.

Muscat abounds in upper mid-range and luxury hotels (according to Grand Hyatt, where we stayed for 2 nights, in Muscat “beauty has an address.” So if you have a higher budget, you are going to be spoiled for choices.

Luxury Hotels in Muscat

Swimming pool at Grand Hyatt Muscat with kids
Sage in the pool at the Grand Hyatt Muscat, where we stayed for 2 nights

There is cluster of luxury hotels around Qurum Beach (roughly in the center of the city on the coast), including:

Grand Hyatt (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) where we stayed for two nights! See my review here.
Crowne Plaza (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) on Qurum Beach
Intercontinental (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) for reasonable prices
Kempinski (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) a newer choice, right beside the airport
Chedi Oman  (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) for ultra, ultra luxury

In the far east of Muscat, there are two more notable luxury accommodations that are isolated from the city on private beaches:

Al Bustan Palace (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) ultra upscale, and
Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisors), which is made up two hotels, one of them being the super kid-friendly Al-Waha Hotel (if you can afford it!)

Budget Hotels in Muscat

On the budget end, Muscat has far fewer options. For budget travelers, the inland neighborhood of Ruwi has a few choices, and is convenient for those planning to catch buses out of the city, since the bus station is there.

One notable exception is Naseem Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) right on the Corniche in Muttrah, where we stayed for four nights (see “Where we stayed in Muscat” below)

Serviced Apartments in Muscat

One great option for families would be serviced apartments. I think these would be perfect if you decide to rent a car for your stay (which we didn’t), otherwise most of them would be a little difficult to get to without taking many expensive taxis.

Here are some apartments that we seriously considered before we decided not to rent a car. The first three are under USD100 per night, and all except the first have a pool.

Farah Hotel Apartments (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) The most budget-friendly choice, very close to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque.

Somerset Panorama Muscat (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) Also budget friendly and has a pool.

Coral Muscat Hotel and Apartments (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) Right in the center of the city near Qurum Natural Park

Millennium Executive Apartments Muscat (see on Booking / Agoda / read reviews) A little pricier than the others but also classier and has a pool and right above the Grand Mall.

Where We Stayed in Muscat

With so many tempting luxury venues, we decided to compromise by spending four nights of our trip in a budget hotel, and the final two nights in a luxury hotel. These are the ones we chose:

For the first four nights, we stayed at Naseem Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) in Mutrah. The hotel is extremely conveniently located right on the Corniche, a few steps from the Mutrah Fish Market and Mutrah Souq, with views of Port Sultan Qaboos (Muttrah Port) from some rooms, where you can even see the sultan’s two giant yachts moored most of the time.

Naseem hotel, Muscat, Oman
Lobby of Naseem Hotel

We found this location extremely convenient, as we were able to walk to most of the places we wanted to visit in our first few days in Muscat. There were also some excellent restaurants only a few minutes from our hotel, including Bait al Luban Omani Restaurant (see our day 2 below), Aroos Al Bahar – Fishers Grilled (see our day 3 below), and the Marina Hotel restaurant, the only place in the area you could get a beer.

Naseem Hotel’s rooms are basic and the air conditioners are really loud. It was still perfectly fine for us. But where the hotel shines is its staff and customer service. The hotel’s manager helped us to arrange everything before we arrived, including airport pickup, dolphin watching tour, and desert day trip. The staff were extremely courteous and welcoming, insisted on carrying our luggage to our room, gave us local tips for the area, and we could order tea or coffee to our room 24 hours a day.

Lobby of the Grand Hyatt Muscat, one of the best places to stay in Muscat with kids
Watching the slowly spinning statue in the center of the Grand Hyatt lobby

For our final two nights, we carefully chose Grand Hyatt Muscat (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) for many reasons. First, we wanted a luxury stay but not one that was ridiculously expensive (which a few of the others are). Second, the hotel is right on the best beach Muscat, not to mention its huge outdoor pool with a “lazy river” (which the kids LOVED) and a swim-up bar.

Disclosure: after narrowing it down to Grand Hyatt, I collaborated with the hotel, writing a review of our stay in exchange for a media rate.

Lazy river in the swimming pool at Grand Hyatt Muscat Oman
Me and the kids in the lazy river at the Grand Hyatt Muscat
Our kids at the swim-up bar at the Grand Hyatt Muscat
A mandatory mango smoothie at the Grand Hyatt pool’s swim-up bar
Kids activities for Friday brunch at Grand Hyatt Muscat
Bouncing castle set up for Friday brunch at Grand Hyatt Muscat

Third, Grand Hyatt is convenient located near several kids’ attractions in Qurum and neighboring area, such as the Natural History Museum, Muscat Grand Mall and adjacent Oman Avenues Mall (which has an indoor children’s amusement park), Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque (the city’s most impressive mosque), and it is closer to the airport than other districts.

Sitting under Arabian tents in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt is one of the fun things to do with kids in Muscat Oman
Lavender in an Arabian tent in the lobby of the grand Hyatt

Staying at the Grand Hyatt Muscat was like staying in an Arabian palace. All of us were wowing as we drove up to it. The huge main lobby is the stuff of Arabian legends, where luxury meets desert tents and palm trees. The kids didn’t believe me at first, but the centerpiece horseman statue spins really, really slowly. You can’t see it spinning, but it was facing a different direction every time we passed by.

Every Friday, the Grand Hyatt holds the best Friday brunch in the city, including kids’ activities and a bouncing castle. We planned our trip perfect, since Friday was our day to stay at the resort all day, and also the day when most attractions in the city are closed.

You can find all the details and dozens of pics from our stay in my Grand Hyatt Muscat with kids review.

Day 1: Exploring Muttrah

Our kids on the beach where fishing boats arrive in Muttrah

We woke up very early on our first day in Muscat due to a little jet lag, which turned out to be a blessing as the heat didn’t take long to get intense.

We started our day at Mutrah Fish Market, only a few minutes from our hotel. The stunning building was designed by Norway and US-based Snøhetta and completed in 2017. It sits near an older fish market dating to the 1960s.

The structure’s flowing parts contrast gorgeously against the blue sky, and are in striking harmony with the city’s white architecture in the background.

Muttrah Fish Market, Muscat
A local worker at the visually stunning Muttrah Fish Market

Coming in from the street, we first entered powerfully air-conditioned fruit and vegetable section of market. There we were greeted warmly by elderly Omanis, eager to share samples of dates with us, the best dates we’ve ever tried!

Date vendor, Muttrah Produce Market
Date vendor in the Muttrah Produce Market

The indoor produce market connects to the covered fish market section. The Muttra Fish Market opening time is 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. When we arrived at 7:30, things were just getting going and loads of fishing were coming in on boats.

Our kids are pretty accustomed to wet markets and seeing meat and weird sea creatures on display, as they’ve grown up in Taiwan. This market is very clean, with hardly a smell (as far as fish markets go). It’s not huge and there really isn’t much to see, but photographers will enjoy the opportunity to catch some great people and market shots.

Mutrah Fish Market vendor
Vendor in Muttrah Fish Market
Fish mongers at Muttrah Fish Market, Muscat

Our favorite section was outside the back end of the market, where the boats arrive and unload their morning’s catch. I loved it because the light, building and people were giving me incredible photo opportunities.

Port area of Muttrah Fish Market
Backside of Muttrah Fish Market

But for the kids, it was all about the cats. We spent a solid 30 minutes there as they watched and laughed at the hordes of cats who lingered around the boats, waiting for scraps. At the end, we had to pull them away.

Our kids watching cats and fishermen at Muttra Port
The kids spend 30 minutes watching the cats as the fishermen unloaded their boats.

By 8:30 a.m., we were already too hot, and had bags of dates and fruit from the market, so we did a rest stop at our hotel before braving out in the heat again to check out Mutrah Souq, only a five-minute walk from our hotel, and one of Muscat’s top attractions.

Mutrah Souq entrance at night
Entrance to Mutrah Souq at night

The entrance to Mutrah Souq on the Corniche is impossible to miss, with its staircase and dome at the entrance, right at what appeared to be the only pedestrian crosswalk in the entire neighbourhood. The kids were excited to find that at high tide, the water splashes right under the staircase at the entrance of the market.

Our kids just inside the entrance to Muttrah Souq
Our kids just inside the souq’s entrance, with water splashing under the stairs at the back

The market is said to be one of the world’s oldest, with a maze-like network of lanes, yet it is very clean and lacks the chaos or energy of other markets I’ve been to. There were hardly any other visitors when we went, but that could all change when a cruise ship docks in the port. My favorite part of the market was the beautiful wooden roofs with mosaic decorations.

Ceiling decorations inside Muttrah Souq
The ceiling decorations were gorgeous!
Lavender in front of one of the many shops in Muttrah Souq
Lavender in front of one of the countless shops
Lantern shop in Muttrah Souq

We didn’t spend a lot of time in the market. The kids didn’t really care, and we weren’t in the mood to buy anything as Oman was the first stop on our 10-week trip. Still, we spent about 30 minutes strolling, getting a little lost on purpose, and then finding out way back out. The vendors would all invite us to see their things as walked by, but they were never rude, shouting, or too pushy.

We had lunch at Fast Food N’ Juice Centre right at the entrance to the market. It featured pretty standard Middle Eastern fare like hummus, falafel, fries, and shawarma, but it was the first meal of our trip, and we all enjoyed it. The kids were happy to find egg sandwiches, something they always eat from 7-Eleven in Taiwan. Something I’d never tried before was kunafa, a sweet desert made of thin noodles with cheese inside. It was really yummy!

Kunafa at Muscat Souq
Kunafa, a cheese filled Middle Eastern dessert

After that, we had an extended siesta in the room to avoid the midday heat. Around 4:00 we caught bus #4 (200 baisa, kids free) from right in front of our hotel to Riyam Park (5 minutes by bus, 30 minutes on foot, 45 minutes on foot with kids) down the coast.

Riyam Park is the location of the iconic Riyam Incense Burner, a large ornamental lookout tower (which I tried to walk up to when we arrived but the path was closed). The Incense Burner demarcates Mutrah Port for ships coming in, and  is visible from the Corniche.

Riyam Incense Burner and Riyam Amusement Park, Muscat
Riyam Park Amusement Ceter just below the Riyam Incense Burner

Just below the incense burner is the small and slightly run down Riyam Amusement Park. The times may vary, but when we visited it was open 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., but nobody was there besides us until about 5:30, just before the sun went down. We were there on a Monday, so it is surely busier on weekends.

GoKarts at Riyam Amuseument Park in Muscat
Sage riding a mini go-kart
Merry-go-round at Riyam Amusement Park, one of the best things to do in Muscat with kids
Lavender on the merry-go-round
Rollercoaster at Muscat Amusement Park Riyam
Roller coaster that I rode with the kids—it had great ocean views!

The park has a ticket system in place for its 20 or so rides, ranging from 200 baisa ($0.50) to 1 rial ($2.5). There were rides suitable for very young kids, like a small roller coaster and merry-go-round, to the more terrifying Mini Pendulum, which seemed to attract a lot of local young women.

Mini Pendulum ride at Riyam Amusement Park
The most popular ride for local teenage girls
Young Omani women at Riyam Amusement Park
Local Omani teens at the amusement park

Right beside the amusement park, we found an excellent playground, with three-story slides, rope ladders, and kids’ rock climbing. The highway runs right past the playground and amusement park, but you can only get to them from the entrances to Riyam Park at the south end, or at the north end behind the incense burner in the below shot. If you make the mistake of walking around the outside of the park along the highway, there’s a few spots you can hop over the fence to the playground like we did 🙂

Riyam Park playground, Muscat
Great playground at Riyam Park
Slides in playground at Riyam Park
Kids' rock climbing at Riyam Park
Sage rock climbing at Riyam Playground

Riyam Park itself is a well-manicured oasis of calm, backed by Muscat’s signature dry hills, which make it very scenic. At the end of our visit, we walked through the park and all the way back to our hotel.

Gazebo at Riyam Park, Muscat
Picturesque Riyam Park

As we walked through the park, stars were beginning to appear in the sky, birds were squawking in the tress above, and prayer call was filling the night from a nearby mosque; it was all quite a surreal experience! Seeing and walking past the Mutrah Fort, which sits majestically above Muttrah and is lit up at night, was also quite spectacular.

We got a simple dinner from a falafel stand for only 1 rial, making us realize that our lunch (10 rials) had been quite pricey.

The kids were completely drained and begging to be carried by the end, but all in all it was a fantastic first day of not only Oman but our entire trip.

Day 2: Desert Day Tour

We wanted to do one day-trip from Muscat during our stay. While there were several tempting options (see “Things we’ll save for next time” at the end of the article), I decided we couldn’t miss a visit to Bimmah Sinkhole and Wadi Shab, mainly because we love swimming, and it was so hot during our stay.

We arranged a driver for this trip through Naseem Hotel, where we stayed, but you can also visit these two attractions on this GetYourGuide day trip from Muscat.

Bimmah Sinkhole, Oman
Other-worldly Bimmah Sinkhole

Bimmah Sinkhole is one of those stupidly beautiful natural wonders that you see on Instagram and wonder how much it has been photoshopped. Well, photoshopped or not, the sinkhole was every bit as beautiful as we could have imagined. As we left Muscat quite early (7 a.m.), there were only two other visitors at the sinkhole while we were there (which, ironically, I have photoshopped out of the above photo).

Oman Bimmah Sinkhole

The locals say that the sinkhole was formed when a shooting star hit the Earth (the kids loved that explanation), but what’s more likely is that water from the ocean 600 meters away eroded below and a layer sank down. The pool of turquoise water is 50 by 70 meters wide and 20 meters deep, but you don’t even see it until you get right up to the wall built around it. The sinkhole is a 1.5-hour drive from Muscat.

Visiting Bimmah Sinkhole with kids
Can you see little Sage descending the stairs on the left?
Swimming in Bimmah sinkhole with kids
The kids loved swimming in the sinkhole, but Sage didn’t like the little fish nibbling on him
Family-friendly Bimmah Sinkhole

The two biggest surprises for us and the kids were that the water is salty, and it is full of tiny little finish that nibble your skin, just like the ones in hot spring spas in Taiwan where we live. The fish are so slow that you can easily catch them.

In a classic traveling-with-kids moment, Lavender had to use the toilet as soon as we got down to the water, but luckily there is a bathroom/changing room at the parking lot, five minute’s walk from the sinkhole. There is also a small playground on site, but there are no food or drink stalls.

Goats in parking lot at Wadi Shab
The parking lot at Wadi Shab was full of goats. We even saw one standing on someone’s car!

After we swam in the sinkhole, we continued another 20 minutes to Wadi Shab, which is becoming one of the country’s tourist hot spots as international tourism in Oman continues to increase. At least that’s what it seemed to us, as there were dozens of tourist vehicles and tour mini-buses in the parking lot by the time we finished our visit.

Wadi Shab is a highly picturesque wadi (ravine/valley) that cuts a narrow gorge into the dry rocky hills. A 45-minute walk (1 hour+ with kids) brings visitors to an inviting series of blue-green pools that they can swim through to reach underwater cave and waterfall, but you have to be able to swim quite far to do that.

Taking the boat to Wadi Shab hike
Boat ride to the start of the Wadi Shab hike.

Arriving at Wadi Shab, there was a small food and drink truck, and we paid OMR1 each (kids free) for a short boat ride to the start of the hike across the river. Although we’d purposely left Muscat very early, our driver had insisted on one detour and on doing Bimmah Sinkhole first, so it was already about 10 a.m. and extremely hot when we started out on the hike.

We honestly weren’t sure how far we’d be able to make it.

Start of Wadi Shab hike
Start of the hike to Wadi Shab
Hiking to Wadi Shab with kids

Besides the heat, the first three-quarters of the hike was really easy and suitable for kids. It was almost all flat, and was extremely picturesque. However, with kids, after 45 minutes we still weren’t near the end, and the heat had become overbearing for all of us. We decided to stop at a pretty little pool where the kids and Emily could swim, while I ran ahead to the end of the hike.

Swimming hole at Wadi Shab, Oman
The furthest the kids and Emily made it on the hike, but still a beautiful spot.

It took me another 15 minutes (walking at Dad speed) to complete the hike to the final pools. It turned out our decision had been smart, as the final 15 minutes was quite a bit harder (or at least it would have been for my kids), involving some scrambling over large boulders, and the path was not always clear.

The end point, where people get in the water and start swimming to the underwater cave, was not even much more beautiful than many other parts of the hike, so I would say you only have to make it to the end if you plan to do some swimming there.

I think if we had gone in winter, we could have all made it, but the whole hike probably would have taken us three hours return and even then would have been a bit much for our kids (age 4 and 5). Therefore, I would say that the complete hike is only suitable for kids 7 and up, and when the weather is not too hot, unless you are a family that often goes hiking.

Our kids did surprisingly well and only struggled towards the end of the return walk. It was actually me who suffered mild heatstroke (I’m bad with heat). I have no regrets, but if I had known how tough (heat-wise) it would be at this time of year, I might have skipped out on Wadi Shab in our plans, or really insisted that our drive take us there first on our day trip.

Cat at Wadi Shab boat dock
The kids’ favorite part: the cats at the boat dock

In the end, like most places we visited in Oman, our kids noticed and loved the cats the most, both at the boat dock when we first departed, and in the small food truck restaurant where we devoured eggs sandwiches and several bottles of ice cold water at the end of the hike.

Bait al Luban restaurant in Muscat, Oman
Waiter serving frankincense water at Bait al Luban Omani Restaurant

Back in Muscat and after a little recovery time in our room, we treated ourselves to dinner at Bait al Luban Omani Restaurant, a two-minute walk from our hotel. This is the restaurant I had been most excited about trying in Oman. The restaurant serves traditional Omani food (which, apparently, is not so easy to find in Oman, as it is mostly served in homes) and overlooks the Muttrah Port and Corniche.

Traditional seating at Bai al Luban restaurant Oman
The kids loved playing on the traditional Omani seating

Bait al Luban means “House of Frankincense,” and the water at the table is even flavored with frankincense. We chose the traditional seating on cushions inside, which was fun for the kids. Emily had shuwa, meat that is slow cooked for six hours, while I had tuna in coconut milk with cardamom and cinnamon. The spiced milk tea was also excellent, as was our dessert.

Our dessert at Bait al Luban, Oman
Asabe Zainab, or fried cheese sticks soaked in saffron and cardamon syrup with frankincense ice cream

Day 3: Dolphin Watching

We woke up on our third day to find out that our early morning dolphin watching tour was postponed to later in the morning, and then postponed again to a sunset cruise. Looking out at the port from our hotel indeed confirmed that the sea was a little rough, and we had a good time watching people unexpectedly get splash by waves as they walked along the Corniche.

Exterior of Bait al Baranda museum, Muscat
Small Bait al Baranda Museum right by our hotel

To pass the morning, we visited Bait al Baranda, a small and lesser known museum that just happened to be located about 15 meters from the back of our hotel. The museum can’t compete with the top museums in Muscat, such as the National Museum of Oman and Natural History Museum (see the “things we’ll save for next time” section below).

Our kids in Bait al Baranda Museum

Still, popping in to Bait al Baranda was a given for us due to the nearby location, and knowing that there was a dinosaur skeleton inside was enough to make my two dinosaur-loving kids desperately want to go. The museum is housed in a lovely 19th-century home with an interesting history, first as a residence, then clinic, British Council classroom, and finally museum.

Dinosaur bones at at Bait al Baranda museum in Oman
Omani dinosaur skeleton and skull at Bait al Baranda

The museum covers the geology, prehistory, history, and traditional culture of Oman, and only takes about 30 minutes to visit. Entry is 1 OMR (adults), children 500 baisa, and under 4 not allowed (they would probably let you if you tried, judging by our other experiences with such things in Oman). The clerk was so kind as to let our kids in for free even though they should have paid.

After visiting the museum, we had lunch at Aroos Al Bahar – Fishers Grilled, a grilled seafood restaurant right across from the Muttrah Fish Market and next door to Bait al Luban, where we’d eaten the night before. This restaurant was comparatively humble in appearance and a little grotty around the edges. The inside was run down and smelled like fish, as they display the seafoods on a table inside, and then young workers blasted electronic music throughout our meal, which at least got our kids excited and dancing while we waited for our food.

Exterior of Aroos Al Bahar restaurant in Muscat, Oman
Aroos Al Bahar grilled seafood restaurant

Decor aside, the food at Aroos Al Bahar was excellent. We ordered two portions of fish, which they coated in spices and grilled up with red onions. The fish was accompanied by giant flat breads, delicious hummus, spiced rice, and a large salad, all included in the price.

Grilled seafood at Aroos Al Bahar in Muscat, Oman
Our grilled fish meal at Aroos Al Bahar.

After escaping the heat in our hotel room for the afternoon, we were finally picked up around 4 for our dolphin watching sunset tour. The kids had been excited about this for months before leaving Taiwan, as they know about dolphins from a character called ming ming is a Korean cartoon they used to watch.

Our boat launched from Marina Bandar Al Rowdha in eastern Muscat, a picturesque marina full of expensive yachts and site of the popular seafood restaurant Marlin’s Restaurant overlooking it. The kids loved spotting sea urchins and jellyfish as we waited to get on the boat.

Dolphin tour with kids in Oman
Waiting to begin our dolphin tour
Boarding our dolphin watching tour in Muscat
Time to board!

Lavender, who gets motion sickness, passed out in my lap soon after we began, and Sage tried his best to be patient and wait for a dolphin sighting. There were no signs of dolphins as we rode up and down the coast; it felt like more of a tour spotting all the enormous luxury resorts along the coast.

Sage watching for dolphins on our Oman boat tour with kids
The anticipation…
Lavender watching for dolphins on our dolphin spotting tour with kids
When she finally woke up…

Finally we reached a sunset point and Lavender woke up to see the sun go down. Just as I was beginning to remind the kids that we weren’t guaranteed to see dolphins (and trying to mask my own disappointment), the captain of our boat spotted a large pod of them!

We and the four other passengers ran to the front of the small boat to watch the pod surround us, and some of them passed right by the boat, while others jumped out of the water in the distance. Lavender said, “This is the first time I’ve seen real-life ming mings!”

I didn’t get any pictures because I was too busy holding up Lavender to see them. But our dolphin tour was made a success at the last possible minute, just before we turned around and headed back to the harbor.

We booked our dolphin watching tour through our hotel, but you can also book the same two-hour dolphine watching tour here, or opt for a three-hour tour that includes snorkeling.

Day 4: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

On our fourth day, we checked out of Naseem Hotel early in the morning and checked in to Grand Hyatt Muscat in a completely different part of the city. Grand Hyatt sits among a cluster of luxury hotels, international embassies, and attractions in Qurm district, one of the most upscale areas in the city.

We unexpectedly were able to check in to our room at Grand Hyatt when we arrived at 8 a.m., so we put our things in our room then went ahead with our original plan of spending the morning checking out some nearby sights.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque with kids
Gardens of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

We first went by taxi to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the most impressive mosque in the country and one of the most beautiful in the world. In fact, this mosque is one of the main reasons I was personally looking forward to visiting Oman.

Details and pigeons on the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman

This enormous, modern mosque was commissioned by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said to celebrate his 30th year of reign. The mosque was completed in 2001. The stunning sandstone structure can accommodate 20,000 worshipers and is open to non-Muslim visitors from 8 to 11 am Saturday to Thursday.

Even though Emily had worn clothing to cover her shoulders and legs, it wasn’t enough, as she should have worn full sleeves, so she had to rent a black abaya for 2 OMR. Emily said the clothing was comfortable at first, but after wearing it for an hour, she found it overbearingly hot.

My wife dressing according to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque dress code
Emily in her rented abaya and a scarf we bought in India

The approach to the mosque took us through beautiful landscaped gardens and water fountains, then the Women’s Prayer Hall. The courtyards around the Main Prayer Hall were especially beautiful, with the interplay of light and shadows, smooth reflecting surfaces, and gorgeous white sandstone contrasted with the deep blue sky above.

Lavender running around inside the Grand Mosque, Muscat
Lavender was more than happy to run around for me to get this shot

Reaching the Main Prayer Hall, we saw signs that children under 10 are not allowed, so I went in first while Emily waited outside with the kids. However, inside, one of the local attendants approached me and asked if I wanted a free tour. I told him I didn’t have time because my kids were waiting outside, upon which he told me that I could actually bring them in!

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque chandelier in Main Prayer Hall
Incredible chandelier in the Main Prayer Hall. (see what lens I used to get this shot here)

Before fetching Emily and the kids, I took the chance to photograph the enormous (14 meter, 8.5 ton) Italian designed Swarovski crystal chandelier, which hangs in a stunning 50-meter dome, as well as the 70 by 60-meter hand-woven carpet. Both are second largest in the world, as Abu Dhabi had to go and outdo Oman by making even larger ones for their mosque.

The hall is one of the most beautiful rooms I’ve ever stood in, and I literally said “wow” when I first entered.

My wife in the main prayer hall of the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Oman
Emily in the Main Prayer Hall

The kids were very well-behaved as we brought them in (after multiple reminders), and Sage even sat and said some prayers without us asking him to (he’s used to visiting temples in Taiwan). Usually he prays for things like Transformers…

Are kids allowed in the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque? Yes!
Despite the rules, they let our kids in. Here’s Sage saying a prayer inside

I could have easily spent another hour or two photographing the mosque, but it was time to move on, and I was already more than satisfied that our whole family had got to enter and experience such an impressive house of worship.

Our children at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Outside the Main Prayer Hall
Our kids in Oman's Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Visiting the Muscat Grand Mosque with kids
Visiting the Oman Grand Mosque with kids
Silhouette of a woman at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman
Emily in silhouette

Next, we had enough energy and time for one more attraction, and gave the kids the choice of several, all located in the general vicinity of the Grand Hyatt: the indoor amusement park at Oman Avenues Mall (the largest shopping mall in Oman), the Children’s Museum, which features interactive displays in domed buildings, Marah Land (the outdoor amusement park at Qurum Park), or the Natural History Museum.

Leopard display in the Muscat Natural History Museum, Oman
The Natural History Museum Muscat

The kids went with the latter, the Muscat Natural History Museum, mainly because I had told them there was a full-sized skeleton of a Mosasaurus (a large swimming dinosaur) inside. It turned out I had misunderstood the photos (what do I look like, a zoologist?); it’s actually a plaster skeleton of a sperm whale. Nevertheless, the kids still loved it and the other Omani animal and geology displays.

Skeleton of a whale at Muscat Natural History Museum Oman
Sperm whale skeleton at the Natural History Museum

The museum is quite small and a little dated (we covered it in well under an hour), so I’d only really recommend it if you’re staying in the area like we were and your kids want to see that kind of thing.

After that we spent the rest of the day making use of the facilities time at the Grand Hyatt.

Day 5: Beach and Pool

After four long (but very enjoyable) days of sightseeing, we treated ourselves to an entire day of relaxing and playing at Grand Hyatt’s beach and pool. The kids LOVED the “lazy river”; we lost count of how many times we floated down it around 25. The kids can now say they’ve had their first “swim-up bar” experience

The public beach in front of Grand Hyatt is an extension of Qurum Beach, the best beach in Muscat. We found the expansive beach had silky soft said and was practically devoid of people in the daytime on Thursday after we checked in. In the late afternoon, there were loads of hermit crabs rolling around in the surf.

Qurum beach, Muscat
Playing on the beach in front of the Grand Hyatt in the late afternoon

By coincidence, our day 5 was a Friday, which is when the Grand Hyatt hosts an epic Friday brunch, the most popular one in the city. We didn’t indulge, as we’d already enjoyed a buffet breakfast that morning in the same restaurant, but the kids were able to make good use of the children’s bouncing room, games, and snacks that were available as a part of the buffet experience.

On Friday afternoon, when most people have a day off, the beach in front of our hotel was jam packed with locals, a complete change from the day before. For our final meal, we actually ate outside of the hotel, trying the food at a small shisha (water pipe) restaurant called Candle Cafe overlooking the beach right next to the Grand Hyatt.

Candle Cafe, Qurm beach, Muscat
The kids loved the “cocktails” (mixed fruit juices) at Candle Cafe

I didn’t indulge because I was with the kids, but the sweet smell from the shishas was really nice, and the food in the restaurant was excellent (and cheap, compared to the Grand Hyatt), if a little slow.

Muscat Qurum Beach on Friday afteroon
Qurum Beach on Friday afternoon

Things We’ll Save for Next Time

We saw a lot into our visit to Oman with children, but of course we couldn’t see everything in less than a week. Here are some of the things that we considered, and should absolutely be added if you have more time:

1. Visit one of the forts

Muttrah Fort, Oman
Muttrah Fort, visible from the Muttrah Corniche

There are incredible forts all over Oman, and we saw several even in Muscat, such as the enormous Muttrah Fort which looms over the port, and seems to hover in the sky when lit up at night.

The most popular fort to visit as a day trip from Muscat is Nizwa fort. I think any kids would love exploring these desert “sandcastles,” and we almost chose this before we decided on our day trip to Wadi Shab and Bimmah Sinkhole in the end (swimming will always win in our family). Another fort that is suitable for kids is Jabrin Fort.

Here is a recommended day tour to Nizwa Fort.

2. Jebel Shams, the grand Canyon of Oman

Besides Wadi Shab/Bimmah Sinkhole and Nizwa Fort, another popular day trip from Muscat is Jebel Shams, the Grand Canyon of Taiwan. I would have loved to see it myself, but it was further from the city than other options, and I don’t think my kids are old enough to really appreciate it.

Here’s a popular full-day tour to Jebel Shams.

3. Sea Turtles Sanctuary at Ras Al Jinz

Visting Oman with kids, of course we wanted to experience some wildlife. Going to see the sea turtles nesting at Ras Al Jinz was very tempting, but it was a bit too far for a day trip (2.5 hours each way), and you have to stay up past our kids’ bedtime to see it. In the end we chose the dolphin watching boat trip right in Oman instead.

You can visit Ras Al Jinz and see sea turtles on this 2-day Oman tour or this 4-day Oman tour.

4. More Kid-Friendly attractions in Muscat

We thought just under a week would be enough to see the best family-friendly attractions in Oman, but we left feeling we’d just scratched the surface. These are some of the things we didn’t have time to do:

– The sights of Old Muscat (National Museum of Oman (the country’s best, and an exquisite museum from what I’ve read), Bait Al Zubair Museum (with model Omani villages)

– One of the many children’s play centers or amusement parks, such as Marah Land or Funtazmo in Oman Avenues Mall, or the playground that looks like a fort at Qurum Natural Park

– The Children’s Museum in Qurum

5. Stay at Al Waha section of Shangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa

It was beyond our budget, but the Al Waha section of the Muscat Shangri-La, which sits in an exceptionally beautiful and isolated cove & private beach in eastern Muscat, is the most kid-friendly hotel in Muscat. There’s a long list of children’s activities and facilities on offer, so someday if we can afford it, then we’d love to stay there!

All the more reason for us to come to Oman again someday!

Disclosure: We received a media rate for our stay at the Grand Hyatt, but as always, all views expressed are my own.

4 thoughts on “5 Unforgettable Days in Oman with Our Kids”

  1. We had a layover in Oman a few years ago when traveling to Southeast Asia and since then I could not take the idea of traveling to Oman out of my head. I remember how stunning the place looked when watching it down from the airplane and your post confirms my belief that the country is simply stunning. It’s also important to find a place that’s truly friendly for the kids when you travel, and Oman ticks all the boxes for kids as well (and that’s the part I could obviously not see from the plane!). This post is super thorough and if I ever manage to finally visit, I will certainly come back here to plan my trip. Thanks for sharing this!!

    • Thanks for reading, Gabi, and I truly appreciate your comments. And you are right about everything you said; I think Oman is going to become more and more popular in the future!


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