So you want to go to Israel but you also want a good old beach vacation? Check out my list of 15 awesome things you can do along the Israeli coast, of course, many beaches included.
1. Experience Tel-Aviv
Tel-Aviv is Israel’s largest city and the center of her young art and culture. Young people come here to study and to party hard, also because the city is considered much less religious than the rest of the country. So join in, meet young Israelis and enjoy life.
2. Tel-Aviv Beaches
Tel-Aviv has more than a dozen beaches. All of them offer stunning sunsets with the sun setting in the Mediterranean Sea. There are restaurants and bars to socialize, and free outdoor gyms for the more fitness minded; there are dog beaches, religious beaches, and gay beaches. To find your favorite spot, check out Secret Tel-Aviv’s detailed list of Tel-Aviv beaches.
3. Tel-Aviv — Ha’Carmel Market
Hungry after a day at the beach? Head to Ha’Carmel Market. This traditional, every-day-but-Shabbat market at the Northern end of Allenby Street has everything: from fresh produce from all over the country to sweets to souvenirs. Stroll through the maze or stalls, have a falafel and a fresh juice, and be amazed by the locals’ bargaining skills.
4. Tel-Aviv — Rothschild Boulevard
Rothschild Boulevard/Allenby Street is where you can see and be seen while enjoying an iced coffee or a sushi from one of the open restaurants. For history buffs, check out the late 19-th century architecture and Independence Hall, where the new State of Israel was declared.
5. Tel-Aviv — Neve Tzedek
Framed by Jaffa Road, Allenby, and the Ha’Carmel Market is Tel-Aviv’s hippest quarter, Neve Tzedek. See street art, explore hip coffee shops, restaurants, and bars, and be enchanted by a mix of decay and renovation (some call it gentrification).
6. Jaffa (Yaffo)
Just South of Tel-Aviv, but really now part of Israel’s biggest city is one of the oldest city’s along the Israeli coast: Yaffo (aka Jaffa). Head past the clock tower to the gardens. Here, you’ll not only discover that the Egyptians had their hand in Israel a few thousand years ago, you’ll also get beautiful views of Tel-Aviv’s sparkling skyline and the beach. Don’t forget to cross the Wishing Bridge and rub your zodiac sign while staring at the sea, your greatest wish in mind. If you’re looking for more shopping, have a look at the flea market, a quirky mix of vintage furniture and modern art and design, held every day but Shabbat.
7. Take the train along the Israeli coast
Done exploring Tel-Aviv-Yaffo? Take the train along the Israeli Coast. The line runs North to Naharya, passing through numerous cities and coastal holiday resorts along the way. The trains are modern and come with free WiFi. So even if you were to just cruise for the day, it would be a worthwhile excursion. In fact, I have seen people come with picknick baskets and wine…
8. Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
All the way in the North, another 20 km after the end of the train line is the Lebanese border. While you can’t cross, you can visit the Rosh Hanikra grottoes, which are a combination of natural marvel and engineering feat by the British. Click here to check out my account of a visit to Rosh Hanikra (including practical info on how to get there and back).
9. Akko (Acre)
Akko (aka Akre or Acre or Acco or Akka — welcome to Israel where nothing is easy) sits at the northern end of the Bay of Haifa, on a clear day you can see one from the other. Continuously inhabited for more than 4,000 years, the city is also one of the oldest seaports in Israel, helped by natural harbors that ward off enemies and allow loading/unloading of cargo ships.
When in Akko, just get lost in the narrow alleys of the old town. Discover remnants of her illustrious past, and then climb the citadel, held by Crusaders, Mamluks, and Ottoman, almost conquered by Napoleon.
10. Explore the Baha’i Sites
Akko is also home to one of the youngest and biggest of the World’s religions: the Baha’i Faith. In the late19th century, Bahá’u’lláh, the faith’s founder, was imprisoned in Akko for the last 22 years of his life. But it was a gradually relaxed imprisonment allowing him to grow the Baha’i from its roots in Persia and the Ottoman empire into a global movement. Today, the Baha’i sites in Akko and Haifa are UNESCO Heritage sites.
There is the Baha’i Center in the old town, where Bahá’u’lláh was first kept and his grave and the gardens in the North of Akko where he later lived.
My favorite part of the heritage site is the magnificent Baha’i Gardens in Haifa, dominating the slopes of Carmel mountain from a distance. Check the opening hours of the gardens before online and revel in a religious monument that displays no religious icons and is strictly designed based on beauty. Baha’i Gardens website.
11. Haifa — German Colony
Beyond the Baha’i Gardens, Haifa is worth a multi-day visit. The German Colony now lies at the foot of the Baha’i Gardens and is a UNESCO Heritage Site in its own right. Once located outside the city of Haifa, the colony was once an example of German industriousness. Established in 1868, Germans came to create orchards and fields in the barren landscape. They built a settlement that is currently restored house by house including pious engravings over every door. Today, the houses are used by restaurants, bars, and boutique hotels.
12. Haifa — Carmel Mountain
Ever wonder where the Carmelite Order got its name from? Look no further than Haifa on the Israeli coast. On the northeastern end of the mountain range that runs between Haifa on the coast and Jenin in the Westbank, the Stella Maris monastery is the center of the global Carmelites, an order established by the Christian Crusaders seeking to manifest their claim of the Holy Land in the 12th century. You can climb for about half an hour through the forest from Prophet Elijah’s cave or you can take the Cable Car, a trio of orange balls rising from Bat Galim Beach.
Stella Maris church is a lovely little thing. But it’s really the view of Haifa and the bay (including Akko on a clear day) that makes the visit worthwhile.
About three kilometer South-East of the monastery, the Louis Promenade begs for a sunrise visit that leaves you just at the top end of the Baha’i Gardens. or, towards the mountain plateau at the Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art.
13. Haifa — Hip and cultural Haifa in Masada Street and Wadi Nisnas
Some say that Tel-Aviv is losing her hipness because everybody is going to Tel-Aviv these days. To find the new cool, look no further than Haifa’s Masada Street. Here, you’ll find everything from street art to cool cafés with quirky drinks and vegan snacks to bars playing indy music at night.
For a more traditional hip Haifa head to Wadi Nisnas. The city’s Muslim quarter offers a produce market in the street next to modern art in its open-air museum.
Talpiyot Market is not officially part of Wadi Nisnas but it might as well. Again, you can buy anything to eat your heart desires but with a growing number of hip restaurants. Check out the breakfast at Talpiyot Café in Sirkin Street 28 — Israeli breakfast with a modern touch. Yum!
14. Haifa –Bat Galim Beach
If you’re staying in Haifa for a few days, you might as well stay near the beach. Bat Galim is a home to surfers of every kind. Depending on the wind you’ll see windsurfers or bodyboarders or kite surfers or good old’ boarders take the narrow beach.
About two-thirds of the way between Tel-Aviv and Haifa is this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which just so happens to hold my favorite beach and favorite ancient site along the Israeli Coast. Caesarea was developed by King Herod 2,000 years ago from a fishing village into a royal city, complete with a port, a palace on the water, and a hippodrome, not to mention thick walls, temples, and splendid baths. But best of all: The aqueduct needed to bring fresh water from the North to the city ran along the beach. Where you can still admire this engineering feat. History and lounging by the sea? Count me in! Click here to check out my account of a visit to Caesarea (including practical info on how to get there and back).
Extra: Gaza Strip
For the past 10 years, Gaza has been a self-ruled Palestinian Territory and Israeli forces did withdraw from the land. Like Jaffa and Akko, Gaza city looks back at an ancient history as a port town. If fact, it was so important it was even mentioned in the Map of Madaba, a mosaic dating back to the 6th century and one of the oldest maps of the Levant that is still in existence.
I would have loved to visit Gaza and see the legendary surf at her beaches. However, the Gaza Strip is currently considered a war territory and visiting is only possible with an Israeli Defense Force permit.