Pool Lounge at Bayit BaGalil, Galilee, Israel

Bayit BaGalil

Bayit BaGalil isn’t the kind of hotel you expect to find in a Galilee forest. Located at the end of a long drive up a steep hillside, it’s a tawny colored stone chateau that houses an urban-feeling boutique hotel. In the lobby black, white and beige furniture surrounds a 360-degree fireplace, while odd gold-quilted headboards make a dramatic, if confusing, design statement in the guestrooms. But if you’re in the north of the country and want to be tucked away at a restful property where the choices are simple—take a walk in the forest, sit by the lovely outdoor pool, have a session in the spa’s hammam—Bayit BaGalil is both a good choice and the only one of its kind.

Pool Lounge at Beresheet Hotel, Israel

Beresheet Hotel

Perched on a cliff at the edge of the Ramon Crater in the Negev Desert, the Beresheet Hotel wows with dramatic views, minimalist-chic exteriors and a luxury experience that is not a given at even the nicest hotels in Israel. While there are minimal service hiccups, the Beresheet is still a wonderful place to stay. The rocky landscape is studded with geometric, boxy structures that conceal simple but modern accommodations, many of which have plunge pools in front, adding a brilliant splash of color to an otherwise muted landscape.

While the secluded property might seem like a romantic destination, it is so family-friendly that couples might feel crowded. All meals are served buffet-style, and the grounds (which include a pool, movie theater, and grounds) are packed with children at almost all times. For those looking to get away, the spa is wonderful, and the hotel has a lengthy list of excursions for active types.

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View from Tarrace - Carmel Forest Spa Resort, Israel

Carmel Forest Spa Resort

From the back, where guests will spend the majority of their days here, sunning and relaxing by the pool, the four-story Carmel Forest Spa Resort resembles a long, low ship sailing across a mountainside. That’s fitting for this former convalescent home turned luxury hotel, because the property, about 30 minutes from Haifa, runs something like a cruise ship. With a roster of daily classes and lectures on offer, an array of exercise and spa treatments to choose from and, three times a day, plentiful chance to overindulge in huge buffet meals, the hotel can be a touch impersonal; more a conference center than a cozy country retreat.

But the Carmel Forest Spa’s location is one of the keys to its appeal. In a country where only 7% of the land is forested, it’s fairly miraculous to behold greenery as far as the eye can see, all the way to the Mediterranean beyond. Since 1901 the Jewish National Fund has rooted 250 million seedlings in Israel’s bare and rocky hills, in an effort to transform them into an appropriately verdant homeland. Even if they take in some of what was originally a natural forest, the views from the Carmel Forest Spa represent a vision fulfilled, which make a stay here while touring the north coast satisfying in way that is about more than just hospitality.

Bedroom at Dan Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel

Dan Tel Aviv

From the Israeli chain brand, Dan Hotels, The Dan Tel Aviv is one of the city’s first luxury properties, marked by a multi-colored façade and sizeable rooftop pool overlooking the sea. While guests must cross the street to access the beach, The Dan appeals to those who dislike the heavy flow of cruise ship traffic at the nearby Hilton Tel Aviv.

The Dan remains a relatively discreet choice for those who wish to be on the water. With a modest lobby and separate living and dining areas, the property feels smaller than it is and remains less congested than the other five-star choices along the coastline. The hotel is corporate in feel and design, but has a modern, minimalist style. An emphasis is placed on the sweeping views of the sea visible through floor-to-ceiling windows in guest rooms and public spaces.

The rooms and suites are outfitted in neutral colors and have marble bathrooms, along with WiFi and iPod connectivity. Accommodations at The Dan are spacious, clean and comfortable. It is worthwhile to opt for the Executive Sea View rooms or suites, all marked by enormous glass windows with uninterrupted water views (the suites feature balconies or terraces too). These rooms typically feature a separate shower and bathtub and include lounge access.

The hotel offers a fitness center, spa and kid’s club as well as a rooftop indoor and outdoor pool with lounge chairs facing the beach and sea below. The gourmet kosher restaurant Hayarton 99 serves excellent meals and the hotel’s breakfast buffet offers a lovely variety of yogurts, pastries, spreads and an array of proteins, which rival some of Israel’s best breakfasts.

Perhaps what is best about The Dan is their distinct sense of service. The staff at the hotel is extremely friendly, welcoming and eager to assist. While the facilities may not be perfect, the team at The Dan puts every effort into ensuring that guests’ experiences are as luxurious, carefree and seamless as possible.

Aerial View - David Citadel Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

David Citadel Hotel

Like the King David, the large David Citadel caters to political leaders and CEOs, but offers accommodations that are contemporary in style. The 385 rooms lack charm, but are fresh after a full renovation in 2017, and the views overlooking the Old City and the Tower of David are extraordinary. The U-shaped structure—centered around a heated outdoor pool—does have redeeming features: the spa is world-class, kids adore the well-appointed Play Center, the hotel restaurant, Scala, is spectacular, and the fitness facilities are far larger than the King David’s.

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View of the hotel that is beachfront

David Kempinski Tel Aviv

Located at the center of the Tel Aviv Promenade, the Kempinski Tel Aviv offers five-star services and top-notch amenities.

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Bedroom at Hotel Montefiore, Tel Aviv, Israel

Hotel Montefiore

Located just around the corner from the historic Rothschild Boulevard, the Montefiore Hotel is unique in that it offers a personal, intimate hotel experience above a trendy restaurant. Set away from the beach and housed in a 1920’s mansion, the modern property feels secluded and quiet, despite the lively bar scene during the evening. The rooms are airy and light—enhanced by balconies in eight of the accommodations—and are clearly design-oriented. All of the rooms have shelves artfully filled with books and contemporary photography adorns the bedrooms and hallways. The emphasis is definitely more on the cool look than serious luxury; most rooms have only showers not tubs. Check-in can be oddly confusing, as guests enter into the bar and restaurant that serves double duty as the lobby. This is in keeping with a stylish yet minimalist theme; while the hotel features a gym and spa, they are not what one might expect from a true five-star property. The crowd is cool, young and creative for the most part so they are more concerned with the hip feeling than serious service.

Suite at Mamilla Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

Mamilla Hotel

From the lobby of the Mamilla, it is only a seven-minute, almost-straight walk to the nearest gate that leads into the Old City. True, you go through the Mamilla Mall (unrelated to the hotel), lined mostly with indistinguishable boutiques, but the ease of access is terrific, and many visitors to Jerusalem agree that the hotel’s location is unbeatable.

Public spaces are equally impressive—the lobby’s thick, high, blond stone walls are a gorgeous homage to the Old City’s. Minimally furnished—with a Mies chaise and a Saarinen table set like sculptures next to an all-glass coffee table bearing precious few books—the lobby, like the rest of the property, is promisingly contemporary. Once you’re in the rooms upstairs, though, the drawbacks of style over substance can become apparent. There are few hooks on which to hang towels or clothes in the bathrooms, and the lights in some of the adjacent dressing rooms are dim. To watch the TV in the living room, it is necessary to slide back a wall-size door that covers it; this then closes off the bedroom and bathroom, which means having to open the wall repeatedly to get anything next door.

The canvas-covered rooftop restaurant boasts unobstructed—and unrivaled—views of the Old City. If the modern décor isn’t for you, grab a drink or dinner on the roof, where the view is spectacular, and more memorable than the rooms below. Another highlight of the hotel is its modern gym facility, which boasts a separate spinning room. The hotel also offers complimentary wine tastings every Friday.

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Facade - Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel, Israel

Mizpe Hayamim Spa Hotel

Upon first inspection, Mizpe Hayamim doesn’t look like much. The garden is overgrown, the building looks unkempt and the facade, obscured by wild trees and shrubs, looks like it might be the back. Once inside, you confront a lobby with, at best, a mishmash collection of well-used furnishings, and the clientele aren’t particularly chic. And yet, stay a few days and you’ll probably succumb to the sense of happiness and goodwill that pervades the place.

First envisioned in the 1930s and finally opened in the 1960s by Eric Yaros, a German-born doctor who was years ahead of the all-natural movement, Mizpe Hayamim still bears its founder’s imprint. Guests can lounge on the terrace or in the hot tub while drinking in a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee and the hills around it. A walk around the property reveals all kinds of fruit trees and flowers growing from rock-strewn land, and a old-timey barn, home to the source of the goats-milk products the hotel serves in the restaurants or sells in the shop.

This being a spa hotel, with a large indoor pool and numerous treatment rooms and exercise classes, expect to find calorie counts listed next to each offering at breakfast. Short of a science lab, it’s hard to imagine yogurt and cheese being subjected to this much scrutiny and nuance. But pile up your plate anyway—it’s all organic, I told myself. Plus, I knew I could work it off later by signing up for one of the wellness-focused exercise classes that run each day.

Bedroom terrace with private pool overlooking the ocean. Two lounge chairs are shaded by a wood awning
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Six Senses Shaharut

Built into a cliff in the Negev Desert, Six Senses Shaharut is set on 46 acres and comprised of 60 stone-adorned suites and pool villas.

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Aerial View : Tel Aviv Hilton, Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv Hilton

The Tel Aviv Hilton is a sprawling luxury property at the water’s edge.
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The Jaffa, Tel Aviv

The Jaffa has been designed by prominent architect John Pawson, in tandem with Ramy Gill, and the two transformed the original structure into a flawless blend of modernity and history, holding true to the original building’s heritage and significance. Throughout the hotel you’ll find original arched porticos, stained-glass windows, and sturdy stone walls.

Each of the 120 rooms is equipped with state-of-the-art technology (such as TV screens hidden behind mirrors, and iPad controllers). The common spaces are decorated in a juxtaposition of original works by Damien Hirst, and ancient ruins, which were excavated during the hotel's resurrection. The hotel itself is split into two wings; the Historic Wing and the Contemporary Wing. While the interiors are more or less the same (modern, sleek furniture and clean lines), the Historic Wing offers a distinct wow factor.

The hotel staff is attentive without being overbearing, and the amenities, including a pool, a spa and two on-property restaurants, make for an incredibly tranquil and convenient stay. The surrounding area of Jaffa is filled with lively restaurants, cocktail bars, boutique stores and flea markets; all of which are just a short walk from the hotel.

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Lobby at The King David Hotel, Jerusalem, Israel

The King David Hotel

Owned by the Israeli Dan Hotels group, the property offers a true luxury experience in a country that lacks many high-end hotels. Its history, views, lobby, pool, guests—all combine to make for a hotel that has a palpable sense of place, even if some of the rooms, though plush, are slightly generic.

In just ten minutes you might see a government official’s security team milling about the lobby; a movie producer introducing her creative team to potential backers; and tight-faced ladies in satin evening coats who would look perfectly at home in Palm Beach. (Probably they’re even from Palm Beach.) You’ll be at the undisputed VIP center of Jerusalem. Only if you are looking for a cool, contemporary aesthetic should you stay elsewhere; the hotel is not a time capsule but it’s hardly minimal or sleek. Otherwise make sure you have a room on the back, with views of the Old City’s walls, and settle in to a hotel that continues to play its own role in the city’s history.

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rooftop pool view in tel aviv
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The Norman Tel Aviv

Our review of The Norman Tel Aviv, which has a fresh look complemented by a prime location in the heart of the Bauhaus-filled White City.
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The Setai Sea of Galilee

In keeping with the brand name, The Setai Sea of Galilee offers a tranquil and luxurious resort experience in the foothills of the Galilee region. Each of the 110 villas has a private pool or jacuzzi and along with it, beautiful views of the surrounding Sea, Tiberias and the Golan Heights. The interiors are sleek, done in a neutral palette of creams and beiges, which complement the sub-tropical climate and the surroundings. All of the villas are incredibly spacious, and there are some connecting options available for families. The resort is currently expanding to add even more rooms and villas, but the expected completion date has yet to be determined. That said, there have been no complaints of construction or noise from current guests. 

The Setai offers nearly all of the amenities one could imagine, including a fully-equipped gym and a plush spa, but the real jewel is the outdoor infinity pool, enclosed by native palm trees with unobstructed views of the Sea. While the resort’s foundation is solid, it’s been observed that the service is not quite up to par with the standards of other Setai properties. Overall, though, the resort remains the strongest contender in the region to date.

Interior View - Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem , Jerusalem, Israel

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem

The Waldorf Astoria opened in 2014 after a full renovation, during which it was rebuilt from local Jerusalem stone. With large public places and ample light streaming in from all angles, the hotel has a welcoming, airy feeling. The Waldorf is within walking distance to the Old City and the famed Jaffa Gate, as well as the open-air Mamilla Mall. This convenient location makes it easy for travelers to tour the historical city on foot from their doorstep.

Of the 226 guest rooms there are 29 suites, with many connecting options for families. The large marble bathrooms include televisions concealed in the mirrors, making it easy to catch up on current news from the enormous freestanding tub. Some of the rooms have small balconies, though the lack of views may be disappointing to travelers who expect to see the Old City from the hotel (like you can at the King DavidDavid Citadel and Mamilla).

The on-property dining options include the Mediterranean-inspired Palace restaurant and King’s Court, serving a curated roster of wines and cocktails and kosher Italian cuisine. There is currently a fitness center, and a brand new spa and lap pool are slated to open in 2018, rounding out the luxurious amenities.

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