Our third and final Leonardo property that we stayed at while touring Israel was the Leonardo Plaza Beachfront Hotel in Eilat.
The location is extremely central and right on the sea-front with just a paved walkway/vendors separating the hotel from the sea.
Like the other two Leonardo properties we stayed in (Gai Beach Tiberias and Leonardo Plaza Jerusalem), this property is aging and in dire need of major amounts of monies to bring it up to it's advertised standard. With newer and much more luxurious properites like the Hilton Queen of Sheba just down the street, Leonardo will struggle if it does not infuse some money into refurbishing this and its other Israel properties that we stayed in.
The Eilat property, while boasting a fantastic location, suffers when it comes to the interior and rooms. Much of the hotel was having so sort of wiring done, and there were exposed ceiling tiles; ladders and the like throughout some of the hallways, especially in the West wing of the building. Hallway surfaces are scuffed and chipped; carpets are wearing. All in all, very tired looking.
Our room was on the 4th floor and faced the sea and large pool just below. It had a strange chest-high walled shallow balcony which resembled a bar. If you were to sit in the deck chair, you would have no view of the sea at all! Very strange. The room was adequately furnished, albeit dated. Face clothes were not to be had (only in Jerusalem did the housekeeping staff seem to even know what face clothes were!). There was an in-room safe. Wi-fi was at 25 NIS for 30 minutes. We found a free connection when in the lobby (not provided by Leonardo, by the way...).
Meals: These were very good. Each night there was a main course dish prepared as well as numerous other dishes. A great salad selection and fantastic desserts. There is a coffee bar that serves cappucinos, lattes, etc IF there is someone there to man the bar! Breakfast was also very generous with plenty of selections to choose from.
The pool area is very nice with two large pools connected by a small channel. When we were there (October) the west pool area was closed, but the main pool was sufficient in size to accommodate the guests using it.
Beach: There is no 'beach' to speak of. There is a very shallow area of course brown sand that is on the sea-side of the paved walkway. It's cluttered with chaise lounge chairs. There is a stone retaining wall that separates the 'beach' from the sea, and you have to enter the sea at the breaks in the wall. The sea bed is very rocky so it's difficult to get in and out without footwear. This is not what you would expect at a beach resort, so it was a major let-down. We also found that there was an extremely large number of Eastern European visitors to Eilat. This must be a popular destination as there is an airport right in the middle of town and I would imagine chartered flights can come directly to Eilat from Europe.
We also were not at all enamoured with the street vendors that are set up along the walkway. It has a carnival atmosphere. Really takes away from what could be a beautiful sea-side destination. There are more trendy and upscale shops in front of the Hilton, but just hawker-style shops by the Leonardo and going West toward the mall. We finally found it was best to walk in front of the hotel to get into town or to the mall as opposed to walking through this maze of noisy junk shops. A real turn-off.
If I had a choice, I would not have travelled to Eilat but would rather have gone to Tel Aviv. They have beaches too, and the city is far more lively and has much more to offer. Just a personal choice, but I did not feel like I was still in Israel when I got to Eilat. It felt like some other country. Weird after being in Jerusalem and Tiberias....
Read my reviews on St. Catherine's Monastery and Agadir Resort Burger restaurant.
Snorking and other water sports are very popular in Eilat. Not sure about the quality of diving at this point in the Red Sea; perhaps better in Egypt, but read my St. Catherine's review and the associated link to the UK Travel advisory. Egypt is NOT a safe place to travel to for Westerners.
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