Israel's Best Beaches
Whether you'd like to take a dip, jog along the boardwalk at dawn or sunset, have a glass of wine or beer at a beachfront café, or just commune with nature, this little country's beaches have something to offer at the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, and inland at the Dead Sea and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The Med: City Beaches
All the major cities along the coastline like Nahariya, Haifa, Netanya, Herzliya, and Tel Aviv have their own licensed beaches with lifeguards, and varying amenities like showers, changing rooms, beachside cafés, restaurants, and sometimes even a boardwalk.
Tel Aviv's beaches are particularly colorful, with a popular boardwalk for children of all ages, and a diverse local and international crowd of singles and families. Along the way you'll find Chinky Beach (with a retro-hippie crowd), a gay beach (to the right of the Tel Aviv Hilton), and slightly farther north, a segregated beach for those of the religious persuasion with separate days for men and women. In summer, there are free movies, concerts, and meditation and yoga classes right on the beach.
The Red and the Dead
There are beaches and water sports galore in the Red Sea, which laps at the southernmost city of Eilat. The North Beach, near the promenade and the major hotels, is delightfully sandy, and a great place to swim or sunbathe, but don't miss Coral Beach Reserve, with a reef so close that in a minute you can snorkel among the great variety of stony coral and subtropical fish. The Dead Sea—-actually a hypersalty lake—-draws people from all over the world to luxuriate in its waters, hot springs, and black medicinal mud. The southern shores—the lowest point on the surface of the planet—are filled with hotels that offer spas and beach access. To the north, there are several laid-back beaches—Kalya, Neve Midbar, and Mineral—where you can float.
The Sea of Galilee
Placid and shimmering in the sunlight, the Sea of Galilee, or Kinneret in Hebrew, is Israel's only natural freshwater lake, and the backdrop for some of the most important sites in the New Testament. Scenery includes the Galilee's lovely mountains and the cliffs of the Golan Heights. Beaches range from rough sand to rocky, many are camper-friendly, and there are large waterparks at Gai Beach and Luna Gal.
Sun in this region is stronger than in Europe and most of North America. Don't overdo exposure. Don't leave valuables unattended on blankets, in lockers, or in your car. Observe the flags at the lifeguard stations: white means bathing is safe, red means swim with caution, and black means bathing forbidden. Take them seriously. Don't swim at beaches without lifeguards. In the Mediterranean there are seasons with dangerous undertows, and at times during July and August there is a short jellyfish invasion. Stay out of the water at those times. The Israeli national beach game is called matkot, which uses wood paddles and a small rubber ball. Fervent players often usurp prime territory just at the shoreline and are oblivious to passersby, so duck to avoid getting hit with the ball!
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