On a recent trip to Israel, the seaside city of Tel Aviv exceeded all my expectations.
I had been told for years that it was an incredible destination filled with trendy nightlife, sunny beaches, cool hotels and vibrant street life. So when I found a good award redemption using Delta SkyMiles to fly Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, I jumped at the chance to explore this gorgeous Mediterranean city. It didn’t hurt that I have a second cousin living in Tel Aviv who I got to meet for the first time, too.
While in Tel Aviv, I decided to stay at a few of the city’s top hotels to see which ones we could recommend to readers, and what type of traveler each might suit best. Here are how my top four Tel Aviv hotel picks compare.
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David Intercontinental Tel Aviv
David Intercontinental Tel Aviv. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Best for: Family travelers, IHG One Rewards members.
The price point: Award nights range from 68,000-71,500 IHG One Reward points per night if booked well in advance. Cash rates start around $375 per night over the next few months. TPG paid $497.52 for one night in July, earning me 7,819 IHG One Rewards points, which TPG values at $39. I have Platinum elite status with IHG, so I got 2,932 bonus points on top of the 4,887 I earned as base points for the stay.
The vibe: The David Intercontinental Tel Aviv is in a central spot between the main beaches of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. It’s a massive, 25-story hotel with 555 rooms. The central location means much of Tel Aviv is within reach. Keep in mind that you must cross a busy street to get to the beach.
The property was renovated in 2017, but the rooms already feel slightly tired.
Families will enjoy the many amenities, though, including a large swimming pool with palm trees and views of the Mediterranean. There is an enclosed kids’ pool, a large sun deck with umbrellas and a food stand where you can get cocktails and light bites. The pool area was crowded with families during my stay, all of whom seemed to be enjoying multi-generational fun.
The rooms: I was assigned what the hotel refers to as an Upgraded Classic Room with a king bed and a separate seating area on the 20th floor. I had booked a standard King Bed Classic room, so it definitely was an upgrade and it felt spacious, with a separate seating area and a pullout couch (though the bed in that wasn’t comfortable). The views of the Mediterranean and the highrises of Tel Aviv were fantastic, but while there were some upscale amenities like illy coffee machines, most of the furnishings felt dated and drab. There was no balcony for me, either (though they are available in some rooms).
The water pressure in the shower was incredible — the best I’ve experienced in any hotel. Bathroom amenities were by the brand Minus 417, which I had never heard of but is known for its Dead Sea-based beauty products and cosmetics. Wi-Fi was super fast, and I could stream entertainment content with no problem.
Standout features: This IHG property really impressed me when it came to service. When I got off my flight from London at the (ridiculously) early hour of around 5 a.m., I didn’t think I’d be able to check in at the hotel until the afternoon, but the friendly agents at the front desk managed to find me a room. For the record, that was about nine hours before the standard check-in time of 3 p.m. It allowed me to catch up on some sleep after about 24 hours of travel.
One of the best features of the hotel is the giant, open-air central atrium with several enticing dining options, including the Atrium Lobby Bar where you can get everything from pizzas to green salads.
There are also several entertainment venues, including a kids’ lounge and a game room (seasonal), plus a small gym and seven treatment rooms in “THE Spa” which includes a sauna and a couples’ room for double massages. The spa offers massages, facials, manicures and other beauty services.
Dining and drinking: The breakfast spread (included with my rate) at Jaffa Court was impressive with great service (notice a theme?). There was every kind of buffet-style food you could want, including an omelet station where they would cook you eggs to order. The variety was endless, with several white cheeses on offer, hummus, muffins, a dizzying variety of fruits and veggies and even lox.
I took breakfast on the terrace in the warm early morning sunshine rather than sitting indoors. Free copies of the Jerusalem Post were a nice touch. There are executive club lounges on the third and the 24th floors with a small selection of food in the evening and drinks available during opening hours.
There is another restaurant in the lobby called Nōmi, but it was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and there are no immediate plans for it to reopen.
I did order room service on my first night in Tel Aviv. The turkey club sandwich and sorbet for dessert were forgettable, and I wouldn’t order either again. That little bit of food and a bottle of San Pellegrino water cost nearly $50.
Overall: While the rooms were basic, and it wasn’t near the hottest spots in Tel Aviv, the Intercontinental David was in a good-enough location near the beach with excellent service and many good amenities. I’d stay again in a heartbeat, especially if I could get a good rate.
Sheraton Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv, including the Sheraton tower in the distance. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Best for: Marriott Bonvoy loyalists, beach lovers.
The price point: Cash rates start at $370 per night, though they’re more often above the $500 mark, even for entry-level room with views of the sea. Award nights start at 59,000 Marriott Bonvoy points apiece. I paid $449.82 per night. That seems like a bargain since I’ve seen peak summer dates go for more than $700 or 117,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night.
I earned 12,120 Marriott Bonvoy points for my two-night stay plus 500 bonus points for having Marriott Gold status. Those points are worth about $106, according to the latest Marriott Bonvoy valuation from TPG.
The vibe: The 20-story Sheraton Tel Aviv just underwent a major refresh, including the rooms and public spaces. In fact, it was one of the first Sheratons to get a facelift as part of a reinvigoration of the brand around the world. The fabulous pool was a highlight and attracted a good-looking crowd. There were a lot of American flight crews at the hotel as well, so it’s a popular spot for housing airline employees during stopovers. Thanks to that hustle and bustle, the lobby was a fun place to hang out at night just for people-watching.
The rooms: The Sheraton Tel Aviv underwent a major remodel in 2021. The rooms are on the small side, but the brand-new furniture and fixtures make up for the low ceilings and lack of space overall. I had a Deluxe Seaview room, which had a narrow balcony. It was petite but chic, with a little seating area and a table that doubled for dining and working, plus a small closet. The palette of olive greens, sandy taupes and seaspray blues plus room furnishings that felt modern and sharp thanks to black metal finishings all combined to an eye-catching effect. Though the room only had a queen-size bed, that was fine by me since I was traveling solo.
One thing not updated? There were only Israeli-shaped electrical outlets throughout the room, although at least each outlet also had a USB port.
The views were phenomenal. I could see the dilapidated Renaissance hotel out in the distance and more of Tel Aviv’s skyline from my room.
Bath amenities were by Sea of Spa, which the hotel says is exclusive for the property, and which incorporate ingredients found in the Dead Sea. I liked the bright, white-marble bathroom, though there was only one sink and space was pretty tight. The marble walk-in shower with two types of spigots, a wall-mounted wand and a rain shower head, had great water pressure. There was no bathtub in my room, sadly.
Related: Points and miles guide to Tel Aviv
Internet speed was the weakest of all the four hotels I stayed at, with download speeds of 27.32 Mbps and upload speeds of 19.81 Mbps.
Standout features: My favorite thing about the hotel (well, aside from the views) was the access to the beach. To get there, you must go down to the bottom floor of the hotel, where there is a towel station. You do have to cross a busy street, but then you are right at Greco Beach, with a nice swimming and body surfing cove and a Greek restaurant that has a good reputation with locals.
There is also a large swimming pool built on a platform above a parking garage that was a popular gathering spot for 20-somethings enjoying cocktails, sunbathing and swimming.
Dining and drinking: I enjoyed the breakfast spread in the massive Surfside Seaview Restaurant. It costs $30 for the all-you-can-eat buffet. Note the hotel is kosher-certified. That means the restaurants have to follow strict rules on food prep and what can be served. Those rules include not serving meat with dairy products, not serving pork and only serving certain kinds of fish (no shellfish, for example).
I had a made-to-order egg white omelet, nuts and salad, along with some fairly bland scrambled eggs. The food was fine, though nothing special. The cappuccinos were delicious, though.
The standout dining in the hotel is the Manara Restaurant in the lobby, which features haute cuisine Israeli-style, with plenty of Mediterranean inspirations. Seafood is the specialty here, and you won’t find other types of meat, but there is plenty else to enjoy. I tried a little bit of a lot of items, including tabun bread, eggplant ravioli, cheese pockets, baby pumpkin tortellini and egg salad. My mouth still waters remembering the egg salad. It’s pricey, with that eggplant dish costing $18 and the tortellini $27, but well worth the splurge.
Finally, for casual meals, there’s the Deck 115 Pool Restaurant & Bar, serving sandwiches, salads and even ice cream.
Overall: The recent gut renovation of this iconic Tel Aviv hotel means you get more bang for your buck (or points) right now than you have in years. The beach access, large pool, central location and views from this promenade hotel mean I can wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you can grab a deal.
The Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv
The Drisco Tel Aviv. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Best for: Solo travelers, history buffs and boutique hotel connoisseurs.
The price point: I booked a single night at The Drisco very last minute via the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal for $465.45. I could have redeemed 37,236 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for the stay because I have the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. In this case, paying cash was a better choice since those Chase points are worth more than $744, according to TPG valuations.
While the hotel is part of Leading Hotels of the World, which has its own loyalty program called Leaders Club, I wasn’t a member during my stay, so I inadvertently forfeited points. (I would have earned 465 of them for my stay; I’ve since signed up and scored 500 points for joining, which the hotel group says is worth $40.) Rates start at around $460 per night.
I did earn 1,177 Chase Ultimate Rewards points for booking through the Chase portal using my Chase Sapphire Preferred, which are worth about $24, according to TPG valuations. However, I should have earned 5 points per dollar on travel booked via the travel portal with my card, so I’ll have to investigate further to figure out why I didn’t in this case.
The vibe: The hotel originally opened in 1866, but shut down in 1940 and only reopened in 2018 after a painstaking restoration. It provides a charming respite in the busy streets near Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood, near what was once the city’s American Colony. It’s just a 10-minute walk to the nearest beach and few blocks from the up-and-coming neighborhood of Florentin. Florentin is a fascinating part of the city undergoing a construction boom and filled with quirky boutiques and restaurants. Young people have flocked to the area for cheap(ish) rents and there is fascinating graffiti everywhere you look.
The excellent service started at check-in. I was greeted warmly at reception and escorted to the restaurant, where I was offered a drink while the paperwork was taken care of. The other guests seemed young and hip, especially at night when the restaurant and bar were packed with well-dressed young Israelis.
The rooms: I was given a Deluxe Standard Room at The Drisco. One of just 42 rooms and suites, the hotel calls it an “indulgent room,” and it was indeed luxurious. This room was, by far, the most stylish of all the hotel rooms I stayed in while in Tel Aviv, with beautiful furnishings with a mostly off-white color scheme and pops of color like gold and teal. It was small, but everything was in pristine condition. I also enjoyed the Nespresso machine and a large smart TV, not to mention the king-size bed.
The bathroom held a large walk-in shower with a rain shower head. Again, the water pressure was great, and I loved the Carrara marble tile and countertops. There was only one sink, but it felt large enough that I never felt cramped in there. The towels smelled of baby powder, and the bathrobe was cozy and plush. Internet speed was not too shabby, with download speeds of 39.42 Mbps and upload speeds of 51.14 Mbps.
Standout features: The best things about this hotel were the chic interiors and the charming neighborhood it’s in. The architects and designers did a good job with the renovation, with stylish touches like vintage-looking ceramic tiles and light fixtures along with an Ottoman oriental design aesthetic. What a little jewel of a hotel.
While there is no pool, there are a few social areas that are fun to explore, including a balcony where hotel staff set up happy hour around sunset and served crudites plus cheese, crackers and wine and beer.
The neighborhood itself is also worth a visit. Originally founded in the 1800s by Americans as a religious settlement and called the American Colony, that phase didn’t last long due to frequent interference from Ottoman city leaders and other issues. Later, the area was home to German Protestants, but two World Wars led to the mostly German residents leaving the area and it went into decline. However, it’s now a lively middle-class neighborhood where folks have been hard at work restoring the historic homes and buildings.
Dining and drinking: I ate at the hotel’s George & John restaurant. It is run by executive chef Tomer Tal and is considered one of the best in Tel Aviv. I had the George & John salad with mixed greens, nectarines and seeds. It came lightly dressed in a black pepper vinaigrette. As a main course, I had the beef fillet chateaux that came with soft mashed potatoes and what the restaurant called broccoli steak. The meat was pricey at $93, but utterly delicious.
Breakfast at George & John was included in the room rate, and it was quite a spread. I had an egg-white omelet cooked to order, and the “treats tower,” which included fresh vegetables, an assortment of salads and spreads, fried eggplant, hummus, tahini, lemon, spicy sauce and olive oil.
Overall: This was my favorite hotel during my stay in Tel Aviv. While there is no pool and it’s a hike to the beach, the fresh rooms, luxurious bedding, outstanding service and delicious food more than made up for the downsides. I highly recommend The Drisco.
The Setai Tel Aviv
The Setai Tel Aviv. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Best for: Party people, young travelers.
The price point: I booked The Setai Tel Aviv four months before my trip with a room rate of $476.55 for one night. I would have earned approximately 477 points for my stay if I’d been a member of the Leaders Club, since this is a Leading Hotels of the World property, too. I did earn about 1,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points — worth about $20 (according to TPG valuations) — for the stay since I used my Chase Sapphire Preferred Card for the bill (booked via our corporate travel website). Rates over the next few months start at $390 per night.
The vibe: This is a luxury hotel housed in an imposing stone building that dates from the Ottoman Empire. The large central building housing the lobby and some of the rooms was actually built over the remains of a fortress from the Crusades period of the 12th century. It once served as a jailhouse, too (during Turkish Ottoman rule). Some of the oldest parts of the building have been carefully restored, with several modern buildings added to the original shell.
The Setai attracted the trendiest crowd of all of the Tel Aviv hotels where I stayed, though several families were around, too. I saw a lot of 20-somethings wearing designer swimsuits and giant sunglasses taking selfies and sipping cocktails poolside. It was quite busy and not what I’d consider relaxing, but the cool folks I saw appeared to be having a blast.
My arrival at the 120-room hotel was a bit chaotic, as it is located in the middle of a very busy part of Jaffa and surrounded by cobblestone one-way streets, which I had to navigate in a rental car. The hotel is in a great location for exploring Jaffa by foot, but it’s a journey to get to the most popular parts of the Tel Aviv promenade (about a 20-minute walk to the popular beaches).
The Setai Tel Aviv in Jaffa. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
I was greeted cheerfully by the front desk manager who helped me arrange a parking spot after a man at the front entrance gave me the brushoff.
The rooms: My large room (number 421) had a king-size bed from the company Ara Design, a rainfall shower and a view of a mosque behind the hotel. Unfortunately, the room was also on the way to the swimming pool, so it got a bit noisy during the day thanks to all the foot traffic from other guests and the fact that the walls were thin. The bed was comfortable, though the room looked shopworn, with some marks on the walls and cabinets.
The free minibar with Coke, Coke Zero, water, Sprite and Israeli grape juice was a nice touch. Each room has a Nespresso coffee maker, too.
Along with laundry supplies and a hair dryer in the closet, there was a bag you could use as a tote to take to the nearby beaches. You’re really on the border of Jaffa and Tel Aviv at this hotel, so plan on a long walk, or a taxi or scooter ride, if you want to get to Tel Aviv’s best beaches.
There is a gym, sauna and hammam in the spa, which you can access even if you don’t book a spa appointment. I didn’t have time to enjoy it, but did check it out. The internet was awesome at the Setai, with download speeds of 70.17 Mbps and upload speeds of 89.27.
Standout features: The small pool overlooking the coastline of Jaffa and Tel Aviv in the distance was quite a scene, with a bevy of young hipsters posing and drinking by this relatively compact body of water. It was too crowded for my taste, but young travelers will love the see-and-be-seen atmosphere. The history of the building was most interesting to me, and I appreciated the upscale Acqua di Parma amenities in the room. The Nespresso machine was also a big hit for this caffeine-addicted writer (as you might expect).
Dining and drinking: There are several dining options at the Setai, including the Kishle Bar and Restaurant and the Sushi Bar. I didn’t get to try the restaurants while there since it was Shabbat and they had very limited menus or were closed altogether. I did have drinks at the Kishle Bar, which is one of the oldest parts of the building and a really cool space thanks to its modern decor, cozy sitting areas, prompt service and uncrowded ambiance. The bar area features blue marble accents and was designed by Baranowitz & Kronenberg architects.
Overall: While I enjoyed my brief stay at The Setai, service was the least friendly of any of the hotels where I stayed. I loved the historic building, and the rooms are stylish, but the hotel is getting a bit rough around the edges, and I probably wouldn’t go back unless I got a great deal or it had been recently renovated.
Tel Aviv. CLINT HENDERSON/THE POINTS GUY
Tel Aviv is an incredible city with a wonderful hotel scene. From upmarket chain mainstays to boutique hotels in former prisons, there is something for everyone.
If you are considering The Drisco, The Setai, the David Intercontinental or the Sheraton, any of the four would be a good bet. My top picks, though are The Drisco and the Sheraton. There are plenty more options to choose from, too, including a massive Hilton, a Renaissance, The Dan and, of course, The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel.
The brand-new David Kempinski Tel Aviv is stunning, too. Look out for a full review soon from my colleague, Zach Griff.
Even with all I got to do, I feel like I just scratched the surface of hotels in Tel Aviv. No matter what type of traveler you are, there is something fun in this dynamic city by the sea for you, too.