I see the sea, and the sea suites me

The Tel Aviv Sea Executive Suites demonstrates why boutique hotels are the way forward.

Just a stone's throw away from the beautiful shores of the Mediterranean Sea lies Tel Aviv's best kept secret: The Sea Executive Suites. This 47-room property, recommended to me by a friend, is Israel's answer to the chic boutique hotel trend taking the industry by storm. The building's exterior is not particularly impressive. The unassuming white low-rise establishment is further subsumed by the bustling neighboring Tel Aviv boardwalk surrounding it. But past the heavy glass doors of 76 Herbert Samuel lies an entirely different reality. Upon entering the lobby area of the hotel, one becomes aware of the calmness and serenity that sweeps the entire establishment. This lobby is a breath of fresh air and a salve to anyone suffering from check-in anxiety. Its mostly white and neutral toned hues are offset by the spectrum of blues that peak through the windows. On the side of the steps that divide the lounge area and the check-in counter are two vases filled with fresh water and vibrantly-colored fish. The back wall consists of floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a breathtaking sea view. The numerous plush sofas are arranged so guests may unwind with this view while still remaining within footsteps of the impressive art library and/or the espresso machine and scrumptious complimentary cookies. The lobby of the hotel offers a sneak peek as to what can be expected in the suites. These are distinctively modern and stylish yet maintain an air of elegance. The suites come in five sizes, ranging from studio (one bedroom) to deluxe (up to three bedrooms) and measuring anywhere between 30 and 140 square meters. Each suite combines both the necessities of the office and the comforts of home. The amenities found in each guestroom include 100% Egyptian cotton linens and down-filled duvets and pillows (deceptively uncomfortable). The bathrooms are fully equipped with sauna massage showers; and bathtubs can be found in the superior suites. They also offer complimentary Ahava Dead Sea products. A mini-office is set up in the corner of each guestroom complete with a flat-screen personal computer, and complimentary high-speed Internet access, a printer, fax machine and a personal phone line; a fully loaded state-of-the-art home theater system comprising a 29-inch television, a multi-channel satellite system featuring programming in enough languages to serve all the hotel guests, and a DVD player with a choice collection of movies available upon request. Each room also has a kitchenette equipped with an undersized refrigerator and microwave. Though the studio suites do not offer an appropriate dining area, all other suites contain a hard-wood table seating at least four people, a highly recommended experience for those who choose to take advantage of the sea view while savoring a meal. (All suites offer a partial view of the sea, save for the deluxe suites which completely face the sea.) The suites and the hotel itself remain impeccably clean since housekeeping services are made available daily. Though it appears as though no detail was overlooked while creating each suite, should anything be amiss, the superior service staff, both personable and professional, is available around the clock to meet each and every guest's individual needs. Past experience has proven that the staff can pull off the impossible, so do not shy away from asking for reservations to an impossibly trendy club or restaurant, and be sure to specify which newspaper you expect delivered to your room every morning. Shabbat-observant guests may be less enthusiastic about the hotel's service. There are no Shabbat elevators; however, the hotel staff is quite accommodating in terms of later check-out and will gladly provide guests with a key as opposed to the electronic card. Very few things fall short of perfection at the Sea Executive Suites. Among them are the gym, the breakfast and the lack of facilities. Given the technologically advanced nature of the hotel, the gym seemed rather disappointing. Equipped with just the basics, running on the beach seemed like a more viable idea. As for the breakfast, it was served in a room that could have belonged to another, less up-to-the-minute hotel. And though the food that was served was delicious, there was a poor selection and a lack of originality. (The variety of cheese/fruit/ breads and spreads combo is nothing new, and is a rather shocking discovery given the generally high standard of the typical Israeli breakfast.) Additionally, the hotel does not have a pool (but makes up for this by being beachfront), and ironically enough - given the in-room computer and Internet access - it does not offer other meeting facilities. Aside from these overlookable complaints, the Sea Executive Suites offers an unmatchable travel experience. The prices of the suites per night (including breakfast) range from $145 for a studio suite to $420 for a deluxe double suite with a Jacuzzi on the balcony. Based on seasonal specials, duration of stay and preferred guest discounts, those prices can drop quite significantly. Luxuries like those available at the Sea Executive Suites are certainly hard to find, presenting a challenge to the infamous movie line "There's no place like home." n The writer was not a guest of Sea Executive Suites. 76 Herbert Samuel St., (03) 795-3434, sea@sea-hotel.co.il.