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Wadi Bani Khalid: is it worth visiting?

Wadi Bani Khalid: is it worth visiting?

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If you are looking for a beautiful wadi in Oman where you can explore and swim easily then Wadi Bani Khalid is the place to head.

It’s easily accessible, is heated by a hot spring and has visitor facilities.

However, as you might expect, it’s no secret.

A view back towards the facilities of the wadi where its possible to see more people gathering at around lunchtime

Wadi Khalid is the most accessible but also the most commercial of the famous wadis we have visited since moving to Oman. It was a bit of a shock to our system after exploring much quieter places but we still enjoyed it. 

Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.

Here’s our experience so you can decide for yourselves whether you want to visit Wadi Bani Khalid or to seek out adventure at one of the other amazing wadis in Oman.

*This post contains affiliate links*

Why visit Wadi Bani Khalid?

Father and two daughters swim in the clear waters of Wadi Bani Khalid with the rocks walls of the valley rising up behind them

Wadi Bani Khalid doesn’t have the same secluded charm of Wadi Damm that we camped at early in our seven day Oman road trip, but it was definitely worth a visit.

It has large warm pools for swimming less than a 10 minute, easy walk from the car park.

For more adventure and to escape the most touristy areas, you can swim a much longer section of the wadi. You can also walk a rocky path along the side of the wadi and avoid swimming altogether while still appreciating wonderful views of the clear water below.

Somewhere that fewer people explore is a cave which is 1km into Wadi Khalid. You can climb inside to discover the hot spring that feeds the wadi’s luxuriously warm waters.

The walk into Wadi Bani Khalid

From the end of the car park you take a raised concrete path with date palms on either side.

Father and two daughters walk along a raised concrete path with path trees on either side

After five minutes this turns into a narrow walk along side an irrigation channel. Just follow the yellow, white and red markers painted on the rocks.

Father and two daughters walk along the side of an irrigation system with palm trees down one side

And that’s as complicated as the walk to the first pool gets.

You’ll soon spot a canopy and bridge over a large pool of water and a restaurant on the left.

This is a place to relax, have your toes nibbled by small fish in the water or go for a swim. It’s easily accessible with young children (although pushchairs wouldn’t make it) and those who don’t want a proper hike.

A view into the valley showing the first pool and the way towards the wadi walk. The family walks in the foreground on the right

If you’re keen to explore further stay on the right side where you’ll spot a sign saying ‘Muqal Cave 1km’.

A brown sign on poles with 'Muqal Cave 1km' written on it in Arabic and English

This is the less trodden path at Wadi Bani Khalid, not because it’s hard, but because most visitors don’t come here for very long.

The path above the wadi is well marked but there are a few uneven sections, slippy rocks and algae covered streams to cross.

But if you are wearing sturdy shoes, not flip flops, it’s not too challenging. Stairs have been built in places to make the walk easier, but you still need to mind your step.

Child walking down concrete steps that have been built into the side f the valley to make it easier to access
Father and daughter wave while treading water in a deep turquoise pool of water with the sand coloured valley walls rising up around them

The walk above the wadi gives you wonderful views of the turquoise water below.

The path is quite wide but there’s no safety rail between you and a long drop into the wadi in some places. Hold the hands of younger children so you know where they are at all times.

After a five minute moderate hike the path comes down to meet the water.

A tall brown toilet tent with a printed sign on the front instructing people to use it to change

This second swimming spot has tents which you can use for changing into swimwear. There was an honesty box requesting 100 baisa (about 25p) when we visited.

The pool here is shallow, warm and ideal for a quick dip. There were lots of people in this small area and some of them wanted to talk to our dog, so I didn’t get a picture.

From here you can continue swimming up the wadi though deeper sections or walk over some rocks and across a shallow section of running water towards the entrance of Muqal Cave, also known as Makal Cave.

Muqal Cave at Wadi Bani Khalid

1km from the first pools and restaurant is the entrance to Muqal Cave. It’s worth visiting because it contains a hot spring – the source of Wadi Bani Khalid’s warm waters.

However, as with all natural attractions in Oman, your health and safety is your own responsibility. A similar site in the UK would either be closed to visitors or only be open for guided tours with hard hats and other safety equipment.

We decided to duck inside based on the fact that other people were coming out looking quite happy.

Below is what we experienced at Muqal Cave to help you decide whether it’s something you’d like to see.

Girl wearing a buoyancy aid and swimwear walks up a concrete ramp built into the side of the valley wall

The entrance to the cave is up a narrow concrete ramp. When we got to the top we weren’t too sure what we were looking at or what we’d find inside. Aside from a bit of graffiti around the narrow opening, there’s no signs telling you about the cave.

We hadn’t even brought a torch, so switched on the lights on our phones as with slithered inside.

Family slithering into the low mouth of Cave Muqal at Wadi Bani Khalid
The entrance to Muqal Cave is extremely narrow. Can you see our dog leading the way?

The cave is dry but you will come out dripping with sweat because the atmosphere is so humid.

It wasn’t possible for us to stand up straight for quite a few meters and when we did it was in small bubble-like chambers with bats roosting above us. As we bowed our heads and continued further in we were met with walls of hot air and the sound of rushing water in the cave below.

It was at this point that we realised about the hot spring. We moved deeper and found a larger chamber with more honeycomb rocks but didn’t find the water. There are different paths leading off the cave, so we must have missed the one that led to the spring.

After 10 minutes my eldest was feeling a bit claustrophobic so we turned around and returned to the entrance.

If you fancy visiting Muqal Cave wear study shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty. Also bring a torch and take it slowly. We bumped our heads in a few places.

You’ll also need a drink of water and another swim when you emerge – it’s like a sauna.

Tips for swimming in Wadi Bani Khalid

As well as the first set of pools Mr Tin Box and our girls swam up and down the length of the wadi while I walked alongside with our dog.

I’d already counted myself out of a refreshing dip after leaving half my swimming gear at our camp in Wahiba Sands!

Mr Tin Box and daughter about to enter the waters of wadi Bani Khalid just beyond the first pool and restaurant area
This is a good place to enter the wadi if you intend to swim beyond the first pool

The rock slopes down into the water making it easy to get in. Just be cautious of slippery algae below the waterline.

The wadi has some very deep sections and places where you need to scramble over rocks or small waterfalls to progress. This can also be slippy work. See the section below on what to wear for our tips on footwear.

Father and daughter walk carefully along a sloped surface of the wadi to get between pools of water

What to wear at Wadi Bani Khalid

If you didn’t already know this was a popular tourist destination, the signs in the car park and again when you reach the first pools are a dead giveaway.

They tell you what you are expected to wear and about acceptable behaviour at Wadi Bani Khalid so you respect local customs.

Two brown signs with guidance about what men and women should wear to visit and swim in Wadi Bani Khalid

Conservative outdoor clothing

Oman is a Muslim country where dressing conservatively is a legal requirement. In general you should wear clothes that cover upper arms and knees.

A short sleeve t-shirt and cropped workout leggings for women and a t-shirt and long shorts for men is totally acceptable when visiting Wadi Bani Khalid.

When it comes to the swimming we’d recommend rash vests with short sleeves* and swim shorts*. These can be worn underneath other clothing and also help to protect against the sun.

Sturdy shoes 

We always wear walking sandals that we can use in water when we visit wadis. This saves carrying extra water shoes that are essential for stoney and slippery sections.

The girls and I all have KEEN shoes, which have grippy soles for walking and have been in and out of the water more times than I can count.

The kids currently have KEEN Unisex Kid’s Verano Open Toe Sandals* and I have had a pair of KEEN trail shoes for about four years now. They have been discontinued but are still going strong.

Here’s another KEEN outdoor sandal* that I know would work well as the girls have had smaller versions in the past. The kids always grow out of KEEN shoes before they wear them out, so we often pass them on.

Buoyancy aids

Mr Tin Box and daughters standing knee deep in the clear waters of Wadi Bani Khalid with large boulders towering above them

Your health and safety is your own responsibility whichever wadi you visit. This is why we started bringing along buoyancy aids to every wadi where we intend to swim.

Accidents can happen quickly, particularly slip ups. So if you fall over in water it’s much better that you float.

We brought one of the kids’ buoyancy aids with us from the UK and bought another at Decathlon in the Mall of Oman in Muscat where they also sell adult buoyancy aids.

Other things to take to Wadi Bani Khalid

After visiting several wadis in Oman we’ve put together a list of suggested things to take along.

We’ve kicked ourselves a few times for forgetting obvious things and items that make the experience so much easier. But I think we’ve now got the definitive list.

If you don’t already have some of these essential items we’ve found the following shops good for outdoor gear:

  • The Sultan Centre, various locations in Muscat
  • Decathlon in the Mall of Oman in Muscat
  • Sun and Sand Sport in Avenues Mall, the Mall of Oman and City Centre Mall in Muscat. There’s also an outlet shop in Markaz Al Bahja.

I’ve also included links below where you can order these things online if you’re able to plan far enough ahead.

Here are some wadi staples to bring with you:

Dry bag

Mr Tin Box wades into the first turquoise pool in Wadi Shab.
Picture of our bag in use at Wadi Shab for illustrative purposes

We have a rucksack that’s also a dry bag. We picked this up at a Sultan Centre shop in Muscat and we take it with us everywhere now.

It’s easy to carry and big enough for a light-weight towel, some snacks and water, goggles for the kids, and a first aid kit. It also doubles as a useful flotation device.

You can buy it online*.

Towels

Bring a microfibre towel*. It’s a good idea to dry off a bit when you leave the pools so you are less likely to slip on the way back to the wadi entrance.

You need something small that won’t retain lots of water and become heavy.

Sun glasses

There’s lots of shade to be found in the wadi but not all the time so protect your eyes with good sunglasses.

Sun cream

For exactly the same reasons as you need sunglasses, wear factor 50 sun cream on your face and body. Even in the shade you’ll be picking up rays.

Goggles 

I’m not a fan of putting my face in the water intentionally but my kids love it. Goggles allow them a different perspective on wadis so we always bring theirs.

Change of clothes

In case you get your clothes wet or dirty leave a spare set in your vehicle.

Snacks and water

Where would us parents be without snacks for the kids?! Our go to snacks for hiking trips are apples and small packets of biscuits, which we can easily slip into our rucksack.

We often pack a picnic too as it means we can get food into the kids fast when we get back to the car. A cool box and ice blocks are handy for keeping food fresh in a hot vehicle.

Water

You’re going to need a lot of water, but won’t necessarily want to carry it all with you.

Make sure everyone has a small bottle of water for the hike and leave some chilling in your vehicle.

Tissues

I don’t go anywhere in Oman without a packet tissues. You never know if public lavatories will have any, especially in more rural areas where squat toilets and bum guns (hoses by the loo) are the norm.

First aid kit

Something else we rarely adventure without is our small first aid kit. This has plasters, including Compeeds, bug bite cream and Panadol (paracetamol). This is what we carry with us.

We have another first aid kit* including bandages in our car.

Best time to visit Wadi Bani Khalid

We visited on a Wednesday in February. It was our children’s February half term holiday and peak holiday season here, but most of the other visitors were adult tourists.

We’ve been told that on a weekend the wadi is a popular place for locals to visit and picnic too. So the optimum days to go are from Sunday to Thursday when there will be fewer locals and expats.

We arrived at 9.40am and there were just a few vehicles in the car park. But by midday when we left the restaurant and car park were full. A lot of organised tours arrive from 10am.

Photo taken through the front windscreen of our car as we drive thought the parking area at Wadi Bani Khalid. Bot sides of the car park are lined with vehicles
Cars that arrived after us.

If you want to experience Wadi Bani Khalid at its quietest arrive at the very beginning or end of the day. But don’t attempt the walk or swim in the dark.

How long do you need?

We spent two hours at Wadi Bani Khalid and this was plenty of time to swim the length of the wadi and explore the cave.

Allow longer if you want to do the same and then eat at the restaurant.

Eating at Wadi Bani Khalid

A view of the restaurant at Wadi Bani Khalid over the waters of the first pool.
The restaurant at Wadi Bani Khalid.

When we arrived back at the main facilities things were getting busy so we decided to grab lunch somewhere else.

The Assayil Mazeera restaurant back down in the town served a variety of cuisines and was great value.

Other faculties at this wadi

There’s porta-loos in the car park – these cost 400 baisa when we visited. There was also a mobile cafe in the car park selling snacks and drinks.

How to get to Wadi Bani Khalid

This is a really well sign-posted tourist attraction that you can easily find using Google Maps or the Waze navigation app. Search for ‘Wadi Bani Khalid parking area’ on either.

If you are travelling from Muscat it will take three hours to reach the wadi using Highway 15 and the Highway 23.

You might also visit here as a follow on from Wahiba Sands, Sur or the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve.

I have seen it suggested that you can visit Wadi Bani Khalid in the same day as Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi. This might be possible if you were staying in Sur but it would be very rushed. You’d certainly not be able to hike and swim at them all, which is how you really experience these beautiful places.

And if you are based in Muscat, bagging these three well-known Oman wadis in one day would involve at least eight hours of driving without stepping outside your vehicle. So I’d not recommend it.

Read more tips about driving in Oman.

Finding the Wadi Bani Khalid parking area

If you are following your nav app you’ll be directed through the town below the wadi and along a cement road that climbs up towards the car park.

A photo taken out of the front windscreen of our car as we drive up a concrete mountain road towards Wadi Bani Khalid
The road to the wadi parking area is accessible with two wheel drive vehicles.

Here’s where to find the Wadi Bani Khalid parking area:

Parking is free. The long car park has on and off road parking.

How much is Wadi Bani Khalid?

It’s free to visit Wadi Bani Khalid.

However when we visited the toilets in car park cost 400 baisa and the changing tents in the wadi cost 100 baisa when we visited. Both are payable in cash.

Where to stay near Wadi Bani Khalid

We visited Wadi Bani Khalid from a desert camp in Wahiba Sands about an hour west.

Where to stay in Wahiba Sands

We booked Desert Retreat Camp* as we had our dog with us and it was the furthest dog-friendly camp into Wahiba Sands. We wanted starry skies and huge dunes, and it delivered on both.

Oval of traditional bedouin black and white striped tents in the Wahiba Sands desert, Oman. Picture is taken from above on a dune at sunset
This camp backs on to a large dune, which we climbed both evenings.

Desert Retreat Camp is one of the larger camps with an oval of 14 traditional goat hair tents, each with a private open roof bathroom.

Traditional bedouin black and white striped tent in the orange sands of Wahiba Sands desert

Dinner and breakfast is included in your stay. You can also book activities like dune bashing and camel riding with the owner for an extra fee.

You can read more about this and other places we have stayed in my post about our Oman road trip.

More places to stay

There are of course lots of other Wahiba Sands desert camps and accommodation* ranging from hotels to modern glamping resorts. It won’t be hard to find one that works for you.

You could also book a private family-friendly villa* with swimming pool and splash park in Jadīd. This is an hour and 10 minutes south of the wadi and just off Highway 23 to Sur.

And the historic maritime town of Sur* also has plenty of places to stay. This would be a good place to stay overnight if you were on a road trip from Muscat and wanted to see Wadi Shab and/or Wadi Tiwi before Wadi Bani Khalid.

More reading about Oman

We moved to Oman in 2022 and are loving getting to know our new, home.

Here’s some more posts I’ve written about Oman and expat life:

Read more about visiting Oman with kids in my comprehensive travel guide for families.

Check out the #TinBoxOman hashtag on Instagram to see more of our adventures.

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links marked with *. If you click on one of these and make a purchase I may earn some commission. This does not affect the price you pay.

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