Beaches and water sport are the dominating swimming activities in Eilat and in this article you will see what you can do here and what beaches we are talking about. In Eilat, there are two types of beach/water-tourists; those who love to swim in the Red Sea and those who prefer the water pools of their hotel.
Coral Beach Nature Reserve (057 855 2381; adult/student/child 35/30/21NIS; 9am-5pm Apr-Sep, 9am-4pm Oct-Mar)
The beach at this marine reserve overseen by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority is definitely the best on this part of the coast, and the protected waters are a utopia for snorkelers. A wooden bridge leads from the shore to the beginning of the reef, which is over 1km in length and is home to a diverse array of coral and tropical fish. Underwater trails are marked by buoys, and snorkeling equipment can be hired for 19NIS.
Dolphin Reef (08-630 0111; http://www.dolphinreef.co.il; South Beach; adult/concession 67/46NIS; 9am-5pm Sun-Thu, 9am-4.30pm Fri, relaxation pools 9am-11.30pm Mon-Sat)
Head to this private beach to see – and sometimes interact with – its resident pod of bottle-nose dolphins. They can be observed from floating piers or during guided snorkeling (290NIS) or diving (339NIS) experiences. The admission charge includes beach use, but for a surcharge (98NIS for a two-hour slot including refreshments) you can also chill out in three heated relaxation pools (rainwater, seawater and Dead Sea water) surrounded by lush greenery. Advance booking is advised for swimming or snorkeling with the dolphins or using the relaxation pools. Note that diving is restricted to those over eight years, snorkeling for those over 10 and the pools for those over 18.
The main stretch of beach in town, North Beach stretches from the Meridien Hotel past the lagoons and all the way to the Jordanian border. Its backdrop of high-rise hotels and a promenade of bars, cafes and restaurants means that it is perennially crowded and full of action.
HaDekel (Palm) Beach
Just south of town, HaDekel is less crowded than North Beach but is wedged between the ugly port and naval base. It’s a popular snorkeling spot.
Just north of Coral Beach, this stretch of sand has free umbrellas, clean water for snorkeling and a bar hosting loud parties during summer.
The Red Sea offers some great diving opportunities and Eilat has no shortage of dive clubs. However, due to the sheer volume of divers, the reef has seen some inevitable damage over the years. Over the past decade, steps have been taken to rehabilitate the coral and thousands of young coral colonies have been grown in aquariums and attached to the existing reef. It is true that all you need to do is pop your head underwater in Eilat to see all sorts of colorful fish and coral (there are thought to be 1200 species of fish and 250 of coral).
This accessibility makes it a great place for kids as well as for beginners looking to do a PADI course. The best dive sites are at Coral Beach Nature Reserve, Lighthouse Reef, Neptune’s Tables (aka Veronica’s Reef) and the Caves.
Prices vary, but average around 250NIS for a guided snorkel or introductory dive and 450NIS for a dive lesson (all including equipment hire). To hire equipment and dive or snorkel independently you will be looking at around 60NIS for snorkel, mask and fins, and 170NIS for a wetsuit, tank and breathing equipment. Most dive centres open daily from 8.30am to 5pm.
Manta Isrotel Diving Center (08-633 3666; http://www.divemanta.com; Coral Beach)
Manta has been in business for over 30 years and offers introductory dives, diving courses and guided snorkeling and diving. The fact that it operates out of Isrotel’s Yam Suf Hotel means that it can also offer services such as babysitting.
Aqua Sport International (08-633 4404; http://www.aqua-sport.com; Coral Beach)
One of the oldest dive outfits operating in the Red Sea, this British-owned company offers open water diving courses (including introductory courses), three-day dive cruises, a full-day snorkeling cruise and a two-hour sunset cruise. Based at Coral Beach, it also operates out of the Hilton and Mövenpick
Reef Diving Group (Marina Divers 08-637 6787, Dolphin Reef 08-630 0111; http://www.reefdivinggroup.co.il)
A well-regarded outfit with two branches in Eilat and another in Tel Aviv, Reef Diving Group incorporates the Dolphin Reef Dive Center and Marina Divers at Coral Beach.
Deep Siam (08-632 3636; http://www.deepdivers.co.il; Coral Beach)
This outfit offers guided snorkeling, introductory dives and scuba courses.
Snuba (08-637 2722; http://www.snuba.co.il; South Beach)
Popular with Russian tourists, Snuba offers introductory dives to the Caves Reef, as well as a one hour ‘Snuba Adventure’ for novices aged over eight (200NIS).