The waters around Eilat are relatively wave-free and safe. The small sharks are not particularly hungry for you, however, stepping on spiny sea urchins can be a major danger.
North Beach is a stony and sandy beach that starts in front of the Leonardo Eilat Hotel and extends as far eastward as the Dan Eilat Hotel and Herods Palace Hotel complex. Because it’s relatively free of coral and sea urchins, this is a good beach for swimming. The nicer part of the beach is at the end near the Dan and Herods Palace hotels. Water skis and boats can be rented, but make sure you know where you’re going, because you don’t have to ski very far to get into Jordanian or Egyptian territory and hot water.
Coral Beach, which is a short drive or a no. 15 bus ride around the curve of the bay, is the best beach for snorkeling and diving. It’s blessed with coral reefs just offshore and lots of fish. Snorkeling equipment can be rented. Much of Coral Beach is now a nature preserve, perfect for both first-time and intermediate snorkeling and scuba diving. The best snorkeling is inside the actual Coral Beach Nature Reserve.
Dolphin Reef is certainly the prettiest beach in Eilat, dotted with palm trees and thatched-roof palapa structures for shade. With its sandy floor, it’s the best beach in Eilat for swimming. The dolphins are an added attraction. The reef’s institute believes in informal, personal relationships between humans and dolphins. The dolphins are free to come and go to the open sea as they like, but for years have chosen to attach themselves to Dolphin Reef. As you swim and sun, you can watch them frolicking and being fed just beyond the roped-off human swimming zone; you can also walk out to a wooden observation pier in the dolphins’ free-swimming area for a closer look. For about NIS 290 per person (NIS260 for kids ages 10-15) you can join a guided group of snorkelers for a 25-minute swim among the dolphins. (Advance reservations are necessary.) Snorkeling equipment is included in the fee. For qualified divers, guided dives can also be arranged. Sometimes, these swims can bring close encounters, while at other times, the free-swimming dolphins keep their distance. You must be a good swimmer, and there are no guarantees, refunds, or rain checks. Or, you can sit right on a raft while dolphins come up to the trainers for snacks and play sessions. Dolphin Reef also hosts a program of scientific studies and therapy sessions for people with medical or emotional problems.
Also offered are sessions in the Dolphin Reef’s three secluded Relaxation Pools—one is fresh water, one Red Sea water, and one heavy mineral water not unlike The Dead Sea. Sessions for up to 20 people last 2 hours and include New Age music, refreshments, and a botanical habitat for resting. The price is NIS 165 per person weekdays, 195 per person weekends, and reservations are necessary. General admission to Dolphin Reef is waived for those entering with reservations for snorkeling and diving with dolphins and for the Relaxation Pools.
There is a reasonably priced cafeteria serving hot and cold drinks, snacks, and full meals on the premises, as well as a pub and a program of films on dolphins. Many evenings, when admission to the beach is free, there is live or disco music and dancing at the beach’s pub. This is one of the best places in Eilat to spend a day or an evening.
Dolphin Reef is midway between North Beach and Coral Beach (tel. 08/630-0111 for activity reservations; www.dolphinreef.co.il). It’s open Sunday to Thursday from 9am to 5pm; Fridays, Saturdays, and holidays 9am to 4:30pm. Admission is NIS 70 for adults over 15 and NIS 44 for children 5 to 15. There’s no admission fee after 7pm, when the pub/restaurant and beach stay open, but the dolphin sessions finish for the day. Take bus no. 15.
Bird-Watching-Eilat is one of the best places on earth for bird-watching, due to its prime location on the Jordan Valley–Red Sea–Great African Rift Valley migration path between Europe and Africa. Migration times are twice a year: From September through November, the birds head south to Africa, and from March through May, they head back north to Europe.
Eilat’s International Birding and Research Centre (tel. 08/633-5339 or 050/211-2498 to reserve tours; http://ibrceilat.blogspot.com) is a clearinghouse for information and activities. It conducts a guided 2-hour bird-watching tours for NIS 750 per group of 50. Full-day tours can also be arranged between February 15 and May 15, when a general spring census of birds is conducted and is open to the public.
Each year in March, the Center hosts an International Birdwatchers’ Festival that has been growing in reputation. Check the website for information about the many special programs and discounts on accommodations and car rentals at the time of the festival.
Boating-You can hire boats 24 hours a day at the North Beach marina and lagoon—boats for water-skiing and water parachuting, sailboats, fishing boats, paddleboats, motor sea-cycles, sailboards, and kayaks are all available.
Glass-Bottom Boats-Boats leave from the jetty just north of Coral Beach or from North Beach. Israel Yam (tel. 08/633-2325) operates daily 1 1/2-hour glass-bottom boat trips, leaving North Beach several times during the day for NIS 70 for adults and NIS 50 for children. Look for a 15 percent discount coupon, often available in the free Hebrew- and English-language tourist brochures.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving-Note: If you want to scuba dive, you must bring your certification from abroad or obtain a license in Israel.
The best-equipped firms for snorkeling and scuba diving are Aqua-Sport and Red Sea Sports Club. Aqua-Sport (tel. 08/633-4404; www.aqua-sport.com) is located across the highway from the Isrotel Yam Suf Hotel on Coral Beach. Aqua-Sport also has a program of weeklong adult diving lessons and summer camps for kids ages 10 to 15 during July and August. Aqua-Sport is open every day from 8:30am to 12:30am.
Red Sea Sport Club’s Manta Dive Center, located at the Isrotel Yam Suf Hotel (tel. 08/633-3666; www.redseasports.co.il), is another recommended diving center at Coral Beach. It offers facilities similar to those at Aqua-Sport, plus sailing, windsurfing, boating, desert safaris, water-skiing, and bike rental. There is even a special sauna facility for divers. It’s open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm in winter and until 6pm in summer.
Snuba diving, tethered to an oxygen tank on a raft over the coral reef, is an easy, enjoyable way to dive without any extensive training. The Snuba Diving Center (tel. 08/637-2722; www.snuba.co.il) will arrange a variety of excursions for you. Prices start at NIS 200 for 1 1/2 hours and include training. Look for a discount coupon on the Snuba website.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.