Tour Israel: Dor Habonim Beach beckons in the heat

The Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve is one of the most precious gems Israel has to offer.

Dor Habonim Beach (photo credit: RON PERETZ)
Dor Habonim Beach
(photo credit: RON PERETZ)
Throughout August you’ll hear people in Israel constantly complain about the never-ending heat. By the end of summer, we all become a little impatient with the weather, and long to spend all our free time lying on the couch with the air conditioner on its highest setting. But what we really should do is don a bathing suit, grab a towel and set out for the nearest beach.
Thankfully, our small country is blessed with a large number of gorgeous beaches, including crowded ones near cities, as well as many more beaches in remote locations that offer a quieter atmosphere. Most of us have our favorite beach, and my most beloved relaxation destination is Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve, which is home to a number of cool lagoons, spectacular archaeological discoveries and a popular short hiking trail.
The Dor Habonim Beach Nature Reserve is one of the most precious gems Israel has to offer. Luckily, it has remained a calm, quiet beach despite its popularity. This natural strip of beach is full of soft sand and quaint water inlets nestled in secluded areas, rocky bays surrounded by rocky cliffs, and some of the most important relics from ancient ports found along the Mediterranean.
It’s pretty easy to reach the beach from both northern and southern Israel, since the beach is situated next to Moshav Habonim, which is not far from the coastal highway’s Fureidis intersection. The nature reserve is actually made up by two separate sites: Habonim in the northern section and Dor in the southern. The latter includes two walking trails, one that is linear and another circular one that circumvents the entire nature reserve, including the Blue Cave.
If you’d like to hike the circular trail, which takes about two hours to complete, park in the reserve’s southern lot and then look for the red trail markers. The path follows the coast toward the South and passes by a number of attractions, such as the Blue Cave, the Bay of Seashells, the sunken ship and Cleopatra’s Cave. The first stop is the Bay of Seashells, which as you’ve probably guessed, is full of shells of different colors and shapes, and is an absolute paradise for shell collectors and enthusiasts of all ages. But don’t forget that Dor Habonim is a nature reserve, and so it is forbidden to take any of the shells home, no matter how tempted you may be.
The next stop on the circular trail is Flower Hill, followed by the Blue Cave, which is actually a crack in the sandstone in the side of the hill through which you can catch a glimpse of the blue seawater flowing inside. After you’ve finished inspecting this interesting phenomenon and taking pictures, continue on toward the sunken ship, which sank many years ago while it was transporting cement just off the coast of Dor Habonim Beach.
In addition, visitors can also see remnants of fish ponds, stone arches and ancient wells created by local residents. At this point, the trail takes a 180° turn and leads back toward the starting point (follow the green trail markers for the rest of the hike). On the way back, you’ll pass by a natural gully that was formed in the side of the mountain by years and years of rainwater runoff. As a result of all this water, the hill is totally covered with flowers every spring.
ALTERNATIVELY, IF you’d like to take the linear trail, you should park your car at Habonim Beach. The trail ends next to the Mizgaga Museum. One option is to walk the entire length of the trail and then retrace your steps to get back to your car. If you’re coming with two cars, however, you can leave one at the end of the trail.
The linear trail begins in the southern parking area on the left side of the Habonim Nature Reserve. It passes by all of the same interesting spots you get to see on the circular trail, and you will notice a red trail marker on the concrete wall alongside a sign describing the linear trail.
Begin walking along the trail and pretty soon you’ll see a turnoff on the left that leads to a gorgeous lookout point where you can view the bay. From there, continue on about 200 meters until you reach the Bay of Seashells, and then another 100 meters to the Blue Cave. Soon after, you’ll come upon a second lookout point that overlooks a small bay where you can see the remains of the sunken ship, and then a little farther on you’ll come upon a picnic table overlooking the coves.
Continue in a southerly direction until you reach Tel Dor, the archaeological site of the ancient port city that was originally built way back in the Canaanite Period, and was conquered and reconquered many times throughout the years, including by Alexander Jannaeus (aka Yanai) during the Hellenistic period. The prosperous city began to lose its splendor after Herod built Caesarea, and was later completely destroyed before being rebuilt once again.
In later years, Dor Habonim was rebuilt as a fortress by the Crusaders. It’s tremendously interesting to try to imagine how it looked and functioned during each of the different periods throughout history. When you’re done visiting the ruins, you can scramble down to the water and dip your feet in the cool, refreshing water. Then, when you’re ready, you can make your way up to the parking area, if you’ve left a second car there, or return by foot to Habonim.
If you still have a little energy left, I recommend visiting the Mizgaga Museum, which is located just a few paces from the beach next to the Kibbutz Nahsholim Hotel. The Mizgaga museum was built inside an old bottle factory and features marine archaeology. Inside the museum, you will see unique archaeological remains that were uncovered in the immediate vicinity, including anchors, pieces of ships and ceramic jugs. During busy times, such as Saturdays in the summertime, I recommend booking a visit ahead of time.
Directions: Turn left from the highway at Fureidis intersection onto Road 4. Make another left following signs for Dor Habonim Beach.

Translated by Hannah Hochner.