Any time Israelis want a change of scenery or enjoy more sun and beaches than usual, and they don’t want to go abroad, they usually head down to the resort city of Eilat on the shores of the Red Sea.
In Eilat, you can enjoy many resort hotels, beautiful beaches with amazing coral reefs and wildlife, and many activities such as snorkeling, diving, or desert hiking. You can do tons of stuff here, which is why so many people keep coming back here.
We too couldn’t escape this mainstream trend, and at the beginning of April 2022 decided to vacation in Eilat as well.
You can get to Eilat from within Israel by airplane from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv that arrive at Eilat’s Ramon airport, located in Timna Valley, several times a day. The flight takes about an hour, and tickets usually cost about $100. (order ahead for a discount)
Alternatively, you can get to Eilat by car or bus and enjoy a beautiful desert road trip. The drive will take about four to five hours from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv or longer, depending on how many breaks you take or how many kids you have.
We chose to take the scenic route on our voyage down south, taking a family road trip through the Arava desert and its’ marvelous geological wonders. You can read more about our road trip in my previous post here.
Enjoying a Family vacation at the U-splash resort
Eilat is known for its various resorts and hotels, but many of them can cost you an arm, a leg, and maybe even your soul if you’re staying with kids ?. But we were lucky enough to bag an amazing deal, thanks to my frugal deal-hunting father-in-law, in an all-inclusive water park resort hotel next to Kibbutz Eilot. Arriving in Eilat on a Sunday afternoon, we stayed at the *U splash Resort hotel. If you prefer an all-inclusive style hotel, then this is a place to consider. Our kids were eager to go to the water park, which in Israel can be a traumatic experience for parents, especially during the hot season, holidays, or weekends. They are usually packed like crazy, with half-hour-long lines to each slide. Here it was the opposite, and we really could enjoy the park. However, it’s important to note that we visited the hotel during the off-season and in the middle of the week. Since non-hotel guests can also visit the park, we might have had a different experience than if we had stayed during the holidays or the weekend, for example.
The hotel gave me Spanish Mediterranean vibes, surrounded by Eilat’s red mountains and palm trees. The design was very cool, and I liked the fact it wasn’t one huge building but rather small two-story buildings with several rooms in each. The staff was super nice; it was clean, although there is room for improvement, and had tons of stuff for kids to do, including an arcade room, crafts at noon, and plays in the evening. They are mainstream sort of plays, with dancing balls of fur and clowns, which gives us the creeps, but apparently some people like it, so if that’s you, enjoy!
Best of all, it is an all-inclusive hotel, with munchies, ice cream, drinks, and alcohol to your heart’s content, everything you need to have a worry-free experience to just chill and have a great time. The food was nice, there was a good selection, and the kids enjoyed it, so it was a big bonus for us.
The alcohol selection was very limited, but there was enough booze to calm us down when the kids drove us crazy. The rooms were big enough, although I would have liked more closet space. The shower was clean and spacious but needed more hooks to hang clothes and towels and stronger lighting in the shower since it was too dark for me to put my make-up on properly.
Overall it’s a good place to go if you are with kids and looking for a hotel-style vacation. In my opinion, the price is a bit too high for what you get, but I suppose you mainly pay for the water park, which to us, frankly, was the main attraction. Plus, it’s the only hotel in Israel and Eilat with so many slides. If you book enough time in advance, you might be able to find good deals, even up to 40% off, in that case, I find it worth it. However, I could only find these deals on their Hebrew website here. Plus, they offer club programs, like Leonardo Advantage Club and פתאל וחברים (fatal and friends), with which you can get 10% off on your orders and other perks. I haven’t personally tried all of these, but those are the deals I found.
Above all, we had grandparents and the kids’ favorite uncle along, so it was a blast and we really enjoyed our stay without all the stress of constantly running after the kids and having to sell our souls to the dark forces of nature in order to figure out what the hell the kids will have to eat and do.
A desert wonder – Timna Park
On the first morning in Eilat, we decided to wake up as early as possible and get ready to go to visit a beautiful site, about 25 km north of Eilat, The Timna park. The site is famous for its’ unique geological mountain formations. It is the oldest copper mine in the world, being used since the 6th millennium B.C.E. It’s also one of the sites with an ancient Egyptian presence and even a shrine to the Egyptian goddess Hathor, which I had to visit. I’m going to write a separate post about this amazing place, so make sure to subscribe to my newsletter to be notified when it’s out. For now, here is a little sneak peek at this natural wonder.
The first heatwave of the season hit just as we left home, with temperatures climbing from one-digit numbers to 30 plus degrees within a week, with temperatures in Eilat reaching 40℃, leaving us with only one relatively cooler day to go hiking at the site, with temperatures around 33℃. Leaving the older kids with the grandparents by the pools we headed out with our toddler to the park for a morning tour.
The rest of the day we spent resting, eating, chilling by the pool, and enjoying some Tax-Free shopping which Eilat is famous for, it is the only place in Israel where you don’t need to pay taxes.
The third day in Eilat and the last day in the U Splash Resort were dedicated to chilling and spending some time on the water slides.
Initially, the family vacation should’ve been three days, but we decided to prolong the stay and chose a more frugal option by booking a vacation rental in Eilat, spending all the time we could at the pools before checking out.
While check-out was around 11 AM we could still stay at the pools until later, and that is just what we did, leaving the hotel after lunch and heading to our rental.
A cozy rental under the shade of red mountains
Checking Booking.com, my to-go site for finding accommodations around the world, I found a place called *Casa Rosa. It’s a cozy apartment just across the street from the beautiful Eilat mountains in the north-western part of the city, filled with beautiful hiking trails suitable for novice and expert hikers.
The place had a yard with a small pool and an outdoor kitchen equipped with a BBQ grill and a smoker. In my opinion, the place is great for families with kids. We had a bedroom where we slept and next to it, in a separate adjoined unit which you can access from the yard, was where the kid’s slept, fully equipped with a separate shower and toilet. The kids unit had bunk beds where you could easily fit four small kids in my opinion since the beds are one and a half sized beds. There were also toys available for the kids to play with. There was no special design to it, it was a simple rental. But it was clean, spacious, and affordable which is what we needed. The host, Daniel, was super nice, always ready to assist with anything we needed.
I’m very sensitive to fabric softener smells. Since the bedding was washed with a softener I had a little bit of a hard time with it when I arrived. I asked the host if there was something that could be done and he went out and got us a new set which was more than needed. This taught me that if you are sensitive to something, always let the host know in advance to prepare for it.
The biggest plus of the place was the yard with a big dining table with an outdoor air cooler, the Grill, a smoker, a kitchen, and a separate unit for the kids! All for a very good price.
Since I’m not a big fan of hotels, plus most of the time I prefer to spend my cash on traveling more and paying less for accommodations, I certainly found this to be a great place, and next time I visit Eilat I’ll consider staying here again.
If you like staying in a rental rather than in a big hotel, like I do, and enjoy backyard barbequing, then I absolutely recommend checking this place out.
The Eilat Promenade
After checking in, we refreshed ourselves and headed to downtown Eilat for an evening walk and dinner. If there is one place in the city where you’ll always end up, even if you don’t really plan to, it is the downtown promenade. For some reason whenever you have no idea where to go you end up here, and if you are an Israeli, you will usually meet someone you know here.
It’s basically the tourist trap of Eilat. Not surprisingly, it’s also the place where most of the main hotels are located and here you’ll find many bars and restaurants among shops and a bazaar selling odd Tchotchkes. The promenade runs along the coast, where you can enjoy the beaches. Frankly, the promenade is my least favorite place in Eilat.
I haven’t been to Eilat beaches for many years, so not sure if it’s still relevant, but back in the day we really enjoyed Sun Bay, especially for camping, which is all the way at the end of the promenade, beyond the hotels. However, I’m not sure if you still can camp and swim there. You can also find nice beaches in the south, toward the Coral Reef. Through the post, I’ve added some pictures of the sea I took over the years during my visits to Eilat, so you can see how beautiful the place is.
Daniel, the host recommended us HaDekel beach, but we didn’t get to check it out. I really hope to return to Eilat in the autumn, maybe for a camping trip. If I will, I’ll make sure to update you regarding camping and beaches in Eilat.
Local Brewery: “Ha’Mivshala”
We concluded our last evening in Eilat with a nice dinner at a local brewery called “Ha’Mivshala” located in the Industrial neighborhood of Eilat, where we enjoyed some local craft beers, and a good meal in good company and vibe.
If you are a fan of craft beers, then this place is perfect for you.
As homebrewers ourselves, who love to drink and make craft beers, we always make sure to check if there is a local brewery wherever we go. We were lucky to find that there is actually one such place in Eilat. And they are from our side, “Slava Ukraini”! 🙂
We actually came by the place on our first day, to get some beers before our visit to Hathors shrine in Timna, and decided we definitely need to come back here to check out the beers they offer and have a nice dinner at the place.
I really liked the design of the place, it’s all wooden, with Jimi Hendrix posters and the brewery just behind you, where you can see the whole brewing process up close. It had a nice cool, rock-n-roll vibe. First things first, we ordered a round of beer tastings. We found the Rye and IPA to be the best and even ordered a six-pack to take back home with us.
Foodwise, we weren’t really hungry so we ordered some Pasta Bolonesge for the Kids and a bowl of Seafood for us to go along with the Beer and some mini hamburgers. Everything was delicious, the hamburgers are made from Asado cut, which made them juicy and delicious. We sat outside and enjoyed our meal. We had a little talk with the owner, who explained to us about the beer, the brewery, and himself.
If you are also looking for a place to sit downtown for a pint closer to the boardwalk, then I suggest checking out Gabys’ Pub, which is considered by many a great place. It’s been there for ages, and if you are looking for a less mainstream place, this is it. When Sarel lived in Eilat he would sit here for beer a lot, in his opinion, it is one of the best pubs in the area if you like that old school vibe.
Toward the end of the promenade, just beyond the bridge, there is The Monkeys Pub, which hosts local concerts, back in the day friends used to hang out there, but frankly, I have no clue what’s going on there nowadays.
A 7500 year old Cult and burial site
The place we stayed at, Casa Rosa, is situated next to the Nahal Shahamon, a dry river bed that flows from the Eilat mountains, through Eilat into the Red Sea. It’s also a nice trail suitable for novice hikers to travel along. Thanks to one of our favorite travel apps, Amud Anan trail app, which I highly recommend using when traveling Israel, we found that just across the street from the rental an ancient burial site had been discovered by archaeologists.
As you probably know, I can’t leave an old cemetery unvisited and we decided, despite the hot weather to have a short walk and check it out. As a former archaeologist, besides digging in the dirt, I also like digging in literature and sifting through some articles. And this is how I found the story hidden behind this glorious site. The excavator of the site suggests that the oldest “Asherah”, a fertility goddess, was found here, represented by a juniper tree trunk. Or at least it’s the oldest representation of a tree trunk found within a cult site with a strong feminine emphasis in the Near East. A concept that will later evolve into the prominent “Asherah” cult in the Levant and the Near East. You can read all about it, in a full article I wrote in the archaeology section of Haaretz newspaper.
Unfortunately, this site like many other archaeological sites is totally neglected and not well maintained. The sacred tree trunk that might have represented a fertility goddess, is currently located hidden in storage in the Israel antiquities authority cellars, whereas in my opinion, it should have a place of honor in a museum. If you visit the site, please respect it and don’t move the stones, nor leave any trash behind, and tell its’ story so more people who are interested in history, archaeology, and ancient cults will learn about it, so its’ glory and importance won’t be forgotten.
Here, we concluded our stay in Eilat, and headed back home to Jerusalem, all happy and eager for more, via the scenic route no.12, marveling at the beautiful Eilat mountains. You can read more about our adventures on the road here.
Hopefully as autumn comes, we’ll be back for more, this time exploring the beaches and Eilat surroundings.