Summer fun at the Sea of Galilee

At Israel's northern oasis, there's something for everyone in the family.

The Sea of Galilee is seen near Tiberias, Israel (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The Sea of Galilee is seen near Tiberias, Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
The Sea of Galilee is one of the top destinations in Israel. During the summer, this lake attracts young people and families who come to enjoy the beaches and water activities. Here are a few of its attractions.
Nof Ginossar Hotel
Nof Ginossar has been a popular vacation resort in Israel for many years, since Kibbutz Ginossar established it. This hotel is the first kibbutz hotel in Israel, built in 1964. With a private beach, swimming pool, dining services and 650 dunams of groomed lawns and flora alongside the Tsalmon Creek, it is a vacation paradise.
Add to this the proximity to Tiberias and many of the attractions around the Sea of Galilee – and you have the perfect holiday destination.
We came to Ginossar with two teens. We spent two nights there and quickly formed a fun routine – breakfast, water attraction, lunch, museum, swimming pool, dinner and card games. This was a superb family retreat; our teens, who are often difficult to entertain, enjoyed it and did not complain even once – a major success! Nof Ginossar has two areas: a hotel and village. The hotel is closer to the lobby, is well furbished, and suits couples and small families. The village is a separate area, across the parking lot, and serves mostly families looking for simpler country lodging, yet enjoying all the services of the hotel. All the rooms of the hotel were refurbished and are of high standard, with quality facilities and flat-screen TVs. The newest rooms are the Delux rooms, suitable for a couple+1 with some connecting rooms – very fancy.
We got a Grand Delux room. These rooms are spacious and have a small balcony, comfortable renewed bathroom, bathrobes in the closet for in-room use, and terry bath towels. The room had a small safe and coffee and tea-making facilities.
Settled, we went down to the pool. The pool is open throughout the summer and is partially shaded. It is adjacent to the beach and surrounded with eucalyptus and banana trees.
We ate breakfast and dinner at the hotel’s dining room. The food was good and very diverse, served in buffet style. Breakfast featured eggs and pastries, cheeses and vegetables, and local dishes such as shakshouka.
For dinner, there were many salads, and always a variety of fish, chicken and beef.
There was also children-friendly food and an interactive stand with hamburgers.
In the evenings, after dinner, there were singers at the bar, where light dairy meals and varied beverages were served. The lobby also features a large souvenir shop that reminded me of a museum shop – many nice articles and Judaica items.
The hotel also offers activities for families and children, such as a yellow bus tour of the kibbutz, boat rides and children’s entertainment programs. There is a playground and table games such as table tennis, and basketball and tennis courts; and a new gym will be opened any day.
Besides being a nice place to stay at, Ginosar provides all the services and amenities needed to make a vacation successful! Prices vary, starting from NIS 600 for a double room off season, including breakfast.
Nof Ginossar Hotel Website:
Phone: 972-4-6700-300
Yigal Alon and Jesus’ Boat Museum
Just off Nof Ginossar’s parking lot is the Yigal Allon Museum. When the water of the Sea of Galilee withdrew because of the drought of 1986, something caught the eyes of two fishermen from Ginossar: the remains of an ancient boat submerged in the mud. The boat, dating back to the days of Jesus, was excavated in a complex operation and preserved. Rotem Yaakov, from the boat’s excavation team, tells us that this was a community operation that took 12 days in which all the kibbutz members, including children, helped dig the boat out from the mud with their bare hands, pulling it out of the water while making sure it did not collapse due to the weakness of the old timber.
While there is no evidence that this was a boat that Jesus sailed in, this is the type of boat used for fishing and transportation two millennia ago. It is about eight meters long and is made of 12 different types of timber, with the original timber being the Lebanon cedar, a very expensive type of wood.
The boat museum documents the excavation and restoration, and presents additional archeological remains found in it, including original metal screws.
The Yigal Allon museum, in which the boat museum is housed, is a museum for the memory of IDF commander and politician Yigal Allon, a member of Kibbutz Ginossar. Very small, it is visited mostly by groups of students as well as a meeting place for Jews and Palestinians. It is best to visit there with a guide, but if you come for a self-guided tour, I think the second floor is the most exciting, with a temporary exhibition of the Israeli radio “Kol Israel” and an exhibition of the artwork created together in Jewish and Palestinian meetings.
If you are already in the building, don’t miss the panoramic view of the area from the upper-level balcony. There is also a large souvenir shop, an air-conditioned cafeteria and clean toilets. Boat rides on the Sea of Galilee take off from nearby docks, so the place may be very busy at times.
Yigal Allon Center and the ancient boat, Ginossar Hours: Saturday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Phone: +972-4-672-7700
Admission: NIS 20 (including the museum and the boat).
Aqua Kef (Aqua Fun)
Perhaps the newest, and for sure the hottest attraction today in the Sea of Galilee, is Aqua Kef, an inflatable floating water park.
If you like activities and find Wipeout exciting, then this is the playground for you: obstacles, trampolines, jumping platforms, climbing areas, flips, slides and swings – all made to be conquered. It will take you on a fun adventure.
The water park is divided into four areas: The Family Park (ages 6 and up), The Extreme Park, The Kids’ Park (easy obstacles, ages 3-6), and The Olympic Park (for groups – volleyball, basketball, water polo, etc.).
Visitors enter the park in sessions. Each session is 45 minutes and it takes two sessions to explore all the areas. But note that it is an effort, so unless you are very fit, I suggest starting with one session, and at least getting some rest before the next one.
Phone: 1-700-555-079
Price: NIS 35 to95
Hours: Sunday to Friday 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (extended hours on some the days and separate bathing for the religious community afterwards – contact Aqua Kef for info).
Children up to the age of 10 need in-water (paying) adult supervision. Life vests mandatory for everyone, and there is a lifeguard on duty.
Gai Beach Water Park
One of the well-established water attractions in Tiberias is Gai Beach Water Park.
With seven types of water slides, a wave pool and a 750-square meter kiddies’ world, it is the ultimate place for families. The affiliated beach nearby offers water sports.
Well-organized showers on premises.
Gai Beach Water Park Address: 1 Eliezer Kaplan Blvd, Tiberias
Open: 7 days a week during the summer 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: NIS 70 to 99 Phone: +972-4-670-0713
Nahala Bateva (“Estate in Nature”) Druse Experience
The Galilee is one of the authentic locations to experience some Druse culture and cuisine. Nahala Bateva is a restaurant and campsite featuring Druse hospitality with ethnic food such as Makloubeh (upsidedown chicken, vegetable, and rice dish), Mensaf (lamb stew on rice), stuffed vine leafs, local salads and other dishes.
Seating is outdoors, under the trees where the children can roam around and enjoy a playground and animal corner. We met Kassem and Farha, the owners. Kassem served in the Israeli army and when he retired, he built this farm with his own hands, until he fell ill and is now in a wheelchair. The farm was deserted for a few years, and he reopened it a few years ago. Farha, his wife, is in charge of the cooking here; everything she makes is fresh and tasty. Don’t expect fast food here, just come to enjoy the fresh air and breeze. You are highly likely to meet Kassem and Farha in person and find them to be good interlocutors.
Nahala Bateva is open all week all day; prices are 45-90 for main courses.
Address: Tsalmon
Phone: Kassem +972-50-309-5250
The writer was a guest of Ginosar, Aqua Kef and Nahala Bateva with the assistance of Emek Hayarden Regional Council.