Taly's Travel: An all-around family vacation in the western Galilee

The western Galilee offers so many attractions and activities that it is worthwhile coming here every year and for a good few days.

NAHARIYA BEACH is only steps away from the Sealife Spa Hotel (photo credit: MAX MORRON KOVALSKY)
NAHARIYA BEACH is only steps away from the Sealife Spa Hotel
(photo credit: MAX MORRON KOVALSKY)
 Part 1 – Nahariya and the area
The western Galilee offers so many attractions and activities that it is worthwhile coming here every year and for a good few days. There is always something new and exciting to do that we haven’t done before! This time we stayed at SeaLife Spa hotel, which turned out to be an excellent choice to explore the area in terms of location and facilities. We spent an action packed day of horse riding in the mountains, taking a tornado boat to enjoy the natural marine park in Achziv and eating at the nearby Banahala restaurant in Nahariya. We spent the second day in Acre, which will be featured next week.
Before going to the area, the best place to start planning a trip is to go to the website of the Western Galilee Tourism Association at www.bgalil.com. The association incorporates most of the travel sites and tourism businesses in the area (including small businesses) and the website has an excellent search engine for finding hotels, rural lodging opportunities, attractions, travel guides and excursions, restaurants and information about events and festivals.
Sealife Spa Hotel
SeaLife is a boutique spa hotel situated on the northern beach of Nahariya, bordering the natural reserve of Achziv. The beautiful, all suites-hotel was recently refurbished and has everything one can wish for – large outdoor pool facing the beach, indoor pool, Jacuzzi, wet and dry sauna and even a salt room!
As we got to the hotel, we were stunned with the beautiful decoration job they did here! The architecture is modern; using natural materials such as concrete, wood, steel and leather, minimal yet full of knickknacks and with large windows letting in the natural light. In the lobby, there were large armchairs with cushions inviting the guests to stretch and relax.
SeaLife is a small and intimate hotel with only 62 suites. Each suite is spacious and modern, with the same line of decor of the lobby, and includes all the needed amenities: large flat screen TVs, safe deposit box, espresso machine and a beautiful deck balcony facing the Mediterranean.
The hotel serves a full breakfast daily. We stayed at the weekend and enjoyed dinner as well (including Shabbat dinner). The food is good, including boutique cheeses at breakfast and an endless buffet! The hotel is child-friendly, and so are the food choices in the meals.
It was so pampering to come back to the hotel after a hot day trip and dip in the cool pool, enjoy the spa and listen to the waves from our balcony while watching a beautiful sunset!
SeaLife Spa Hotel, sealife.co.il/en, [email protected], 04-6390900
Zaad b 2 (Step in two) Horse Farm at Ahihud
One of the nicer ways of connecting to nature is by horse riding. “Tsaad b’shnaim (Zaad b 2)” meaning step in two horse ranch at Ahihud is a horse riding center that offers riding trips and other activities with horses such as a horse whispering workshop, in which the participants learn to make communicate with horses and understand them. The riding center is a family business; Elkana and Yael, a married couple with two daughters, established it and have been running it for 17 years. Elkana tells us that this center serves the Israeli population including Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians. It is a melting point uniting the different people in Israel. They also work with Taglit (Birthright), exposing Israel to young Jews from all over the world.
Tourists can join a riding trail of 45 minutes in small groups of up to eight people. This can be suitable for families and people without riding experience (like us). Getting to know the horses and bonding with them, riding in the fields and gaining a little experience of controlling the horse using the reins and body gestures is both educating and emotionally gratifying. Booking is required, and make sure you wear shoes and long pants for the ride. Activities are offered in Hebrew, English, French and Arabic.
Zaad b 2 (Step in two) Horse Farm, Ahihud, www.zaadb2.co.il, [email protected], 054-473-8322
Tornado Boat Trip with Trek Yam, Achziv
A very exciting way of exploring the western Galilee is from the sea. Trek Yam offers different tornado boat rides. A tornado boat is a small and very fast marine vehicle. Riding it can get bumpy, depending on the sea conditions, making the ride adrenaline-packed! The different boat rides range from 20 minutes and up to an hour depending on the tour.
Achziv Beach is the largest marine nature reserve in Israel, stretching from Nahariya to the northern border of Israel. It has several small uninhibited Islands, beautiful beaches, lagoons and sea pools. The shorter rides go from Achziv beach to Rosh Hanikra and back, stopping near the islands and near Rosh Hanikra (as much as one can get close – it is the border with Lebanon) where we were able to see the grottos and the cable car very clearly. I very much liked watching the view of the coastline from the sea. The longer rides also stops near one of the islands for snorkeling.
As I mentioned, the boat ride can be quite thrilling when there are high winds and waves, which often happens in the afternoon. Therefore, it is best to take it in the morning and to call and ask them about the sea conditions. The boat ride is suitable also for children ages three and above accompanied by an adult, but not recommended for people with back problems and pregnant women.
Trek Yam offers different discounts to Israeli customers clubs (such as Hever, Hot, etc.) and you can also find discount coupons online.
Trek Yam, Achziv beach, trek-yam.co.il, 04-9823671
Banahala Bistro & Garden
One of the leading restaurants in the western Galilee and for sure in Nahariya is Banahala. The restaurant’s quality lives up to the standards of Tel Aviv’s restaurants. Banahala is situated in a small house with a large garden in north Nahariya close to Achziv and Route 4.
The house has a nostalgic and romantic setting while the garden is a heaven for families. It features a playground with a bouncy castle, and the children can play while the parents eat quietly – a real advantage! The prices are acceptable and there are business lunches during weekdays and children meals.
The menu here is quite eclectic – they serve different types of breakfasts in the morning, steaks, fish, pasta and vegetarian dishes for lunch and dinner. There is one line connecting all of them (at least the ones that I tasted) – everything is delicious!
We started with a variety of starters including beef carpaccio, seared eggplant, truffle polenta and market salad, all were flavorsome and made of fresh ingredients. We practically licked the plates! The truffle polenta is a must order in my opinion – don’t miss it! For main course, we had beef filet, entrecote, pasta and a vegan dish. We enjoyed all of them – but I was mostly impressed with the pasta made freshly with mild seasoning yet full of tastes! Finally, they make scrumptious dessert and delicious homemade ice cream! The restaurant’s reputation runs far and there’s good reason for it!
Banahala Bistro & Garden, Nahariya, not kosher, banahala.co.il, 053-9443538
Next week, Part 2 explores Acre and the area.
The author was a guest of the Western Galilee Tourism Association and the sites mentioned in the article.