Last Updated on June 20, 2023
The Sultanate of Oman is located in the Middle East near the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. Oman is known for its beaches, desert, water sports, camping, hiking, and hospitality. The airport is expected to reopen soon so this could be the place to check out when travel resumes.
Many people visit the capital Muscat, but two hours south is a coastal town called Sur. In ancient times this city was a shipping port and wooden boats called dhows are still produced here. I have lived here for just over two years and would recommend taking the time to explore this city. Visitors, and even locals, do not realize the many things to do here.
Here are six suggestions to check out when visiting:
Kayak at Al Batah Beach, near the main bridge. It costs three rial (about $7.80) for one hour. Only single-seater kayaks are provided. The water level isn’t too high, so in some spots there is a chance to get out and walk along the water. The guy renting the kayaks will give you advice on which direction to go depending on the wind and current.
Paddling around the water on a bright colored pink, green, or orange kayak is very relaxing. One can marvel at the dhows cruising along the sea or leaving the marina to go fishing. If you go toward the bridge, there’s a chance you might see turtles bobbing their heads up and down. If you go away from the bridge and feel that you are a strong kayaker, then you can paddle your way toward the marina. Painted walls featuring people, animals, and other designs will grab your attention along the way. Getting here takes about 30 minutes from the check-in point if you are a fast kayaker.
You do not need to book an appointment to secure a kayak. The best time to go is in the afternoon starting from 4 p.m.
2. Sunset Boat Ride
Watching the sky going from cotton candy pink and blue to a golden yellow seems to be better while on a boat. The reflection from the water makes for a good picture too. The driver will take you around the sea for one hour just before the start of sunset, so it is best to go around 5.30 p.m. While on this ride, photos can be taken of the watch tower, lighthouse, the marina, and turtles if you are lucky enough to see one. Many people rent the boats, so it’s recommended to reserve ahead of time.
The boat can seat about eight people maximum. The boat costs 7 rial (about $18) for locals and 10 rial (about $26) for non-Omanis. While this may seem expensive, the one-hour trip is worth the price. The driver will go as fast you want or is happy to go super slow if you just want to drift around waiting for the sun to set.
If you do not mind waiting, then you can always go down to the same spot as you would for kayaking and wait for a boat to become available. Some will try to charge 20 rial (about $52) for the boat, tell them no and look for someone else.
Emerald and turquoise water, turtles, starfish, and sting rays should make you want to sign up for this activity. Imagine five sting rays in a row passing by or watching a few turtles swim underneath you.
The first snorkeling stop is near a turtle reserve and then the boat will take you to a coral site. On the boat you may even catch turtles mating and can witness them jumping above the water. Depending on the tide, there may be time for one more stop, but it depends on how quickly the tide and wind changes. The trip will take around four hours.
A snorkeling excursion costs 15 rial (about $39) and includes water, karak tea or coffee, snacks, and equipment, complete with snorkel set and flippers. The price is worth the trip. There’s a short break on the boat so everyone can have snacks such as mini bread pizzas, mini stuffed bread with cheese, fruit, and drinks before going to the next snorkel site.
4. Shipmaster Museum
A straw-colored wooden door with hand-carved flowers on it is the first thing to notice when entering this museum. Filled with traditional Omani items, one can find woven baskets and bowls, copper and silver kettles, and even ceremonial clothes full of red, blue, black, and gold stitching all around. Badr, the man who owns the museum, is happy to show you around and give a history lesson about Oman. Make sure you go upstairs and sit on the rug with cushions all around; this is called a majlis, or sitting area, where people visit each other and usually have coffee and dates.
It is best to visit in the morning between 8.30 a.m. and 11.30 a.m. or after 4.30 p.m. Entry costs 500 baisa (about $1.30), but double check before going in case prices have changed. This museum is in Alyjah just over the main bridge. There is always something new that Badr has added to his collection.
5. Wadi Tiwi
The big rocks in the water, lush banana and date trees, and other greenery are good reasons to come and hike here. Tiwi is about a 25-minute drive north of Sur. There are many ways to do this hike.
If you have a four-wheel vehicle, drive up the winding road until you see a white sign that says Wadi Bani Khalid. Park there and then start walking down the stairs. There will be black, yellow, and red flags for markers. A four-wheel vehicle can also drive to the top to the last village called Mibam. They recently built stairs where you can climb down to a beautiful waterfall.
If walking is better, then park the car at the bottom after going under the bridge; drive five minutes and just before the road starts ascending there will be an area for parking. Hiking up to Mibam takes about 1.5 to two hours, depending on the pace. The rolling hills get harder as you get further along, so do not underestimate the level of hiking. If you plan to go to the Wadi from Mibam, it will take another twenty minutes or so.
There are locals to lead the way to the waterfall if you have any navigation issues. Just give them a small tip of between one to two rial (between about $2 and $5). If walking gets tiresome, usually a local will stop and offer a ride. It is usually okay to take pictures of the local children but ask first. Do not take pictures of the women.
6. Bait Al Ajaib Wonders
Warm, fluffy fried bread with a hint of sugar and coconut is a specialty at this Zanzibar restaurant. Other snacks include sambosa, similar to samosas, and sweet-chili-flavored potato balls. These snacks are sold after 4.30 p.m.
The restaurant is open for lunch starting at noon, serving a variety of fish and chicken curries, which are prepared on the sweet and tangy with a chili kick. Sometimes they prepare them with some red chili powder so make sure to have some water nearby if spice is a problem. The rice is a mix of sweet and spicy with caramelized onions on top. Calling ahead is okay for vegetarians and the staff will be more than happy to prepare something special.
They just started grilling mishkek, grilled BBQ meat on skewers mixed with pepper, cumin, and other local sauces. They start serving this after 8 p.m. The prices vary from 400 baisa to 2 rial (about $1 to $5.20).
There are four dining tables or if you prefer to sit Omani-style, then choose to sit on the floor in the private rooms. Their Instagram account is @baitalajaib or call +968 95111626.
There are many things to do to keep busy while visiting Sur. Do not just breeze past over the bridge to carry on to other beaches. Stay a few days, relax, learn about the local culture, and enjoy nature.