Glistening sandy beaches, a lively nightlife and a robust culinary scene has catapulted Tel Aviv to one of the most popular tourists destinations in the world. But popularity, of course, has its downside. The White City can be crowded and loud, so if you’re looking for a luxurious hotel room in a more serene setting, a quick drive outside the city provides many attractive options.
The Setai Hotel in Jaffa is a 20-minute drive from the center of Tel Aviv. In many ways, the structure, with its graceful arches, is a museum come to life. Owned by Joe, Ralph and Avi Nakash, the successful entrepreneurs behind Jordache Enterprises, the building was once an Ottoman Empire prison that was converted to a police station in the early days of the Jewish state. Today, it’s one of Israel’s most upscale hotels.
“So many people want to come in and just visit. They remember it being a prison,” hotel manager Roger Attias said. “Former prisoners have come to me and cry on my shoulder saying, ‘You don’t know what it is for me to see this building again, but like this.’”
The design throughout the 120-room hotel, which features classic Ottoman architecture, is reserved and almost spartan, a work of art in itself.
While staying in a retrofitted prison may not seem all that luxurious, in the Setai, renovations were done with care, as architects and designers maintained a balance between honoring the integrity of the building’s history and ensuring the utmost comfort for its guests.
“Some rooms still retain the bars from the prison,” Attias said. “We did our best to preserve the building while also crafting it into a welcoming, world-class hotel. I may be a manager of a hotel, but when people talk to me, they say that I don’t manage a hotel, I manage a museum.”
The hotel features a range of amenities, including a hotel bar, upscale restaurant, business lounge with snacks and drinks (open to all guests), spa and infinity pool.
A bit further up the coast leads a visitor to the modernist Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya. The hotel is nestled in the city’s lively yet tranquil marina, which is home to a variety of shops and upscale restaurants.
Opened in 2013, the 195-room property features spacious rooms, and nearly everyone has a picturesque view of the Mediterranean Sea and/or Herzliya’s beach. There’s also a top-notch kosher chef restaurant, Herbert Samuel, led by chef Mor Cohen, which relies on the best local ingredients to create a seasonal menu. Additionally, the hotel’s full-service spa with six treatment rooms, a Turkish bath, wet and dry sauna and open-air fitness center promises a sense of calm.
The Ritz-Carlton, Herzliya has won several international awards, including the 2017 World Luxury Hotel Award in three categories: Best Luxury Business, Best Luxury Family and Best Luxury Scenic View awards.
Of the hotel’s amenities and service, CEO Guy Kleiman said, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” echoing the motto of the hotel chain, which is owned by Marriott Hotel International Inc.
For those wishing to venture further north, one of the mainstays of Caesarea, the Dan Caesarea, is nearing completion of its massive makeover. The property went through eight months of renovation to get its new, 21st-century look. The work, which cost $20 million, was a top-to-bottom restoration of the 15-acre property; there is now an exclusive cocktail bar in the lobby and a Greek Taverna that will pack picnics to be enjoyed on the property’s expansive grounds.
Property CEO Ronen Nissenbaum said of the re-launch, “The unique concept will offer guests stylish rooms, fascinating art, a culinary experience with contemporary bars, all set in beautifully landscaped gardens that create a magical atmosphere.”
Designers created guestrooms that are bright and airy, with furnishings from natural walnut veneer gathered from around the world. That aesthetic coincides well with the breeze along the Cesarean coast.
One of its most impressive new features will surely interest those traveling with children. Its Danyland complex will provide a mix of retro and innovative games, in addition to an aquarium, a sandbox with 3D projection and many other activities to stimulate the minds of the hotel’s young guests.