One of the most beautiful things in the world to witness is a sunset over water. During our stay at the Leonardo Plaza hotel in Haifa, we watched the sunset over the Mediterranean sea from our 9th floor, floor-to-ceiling window. Every night. Just looking back at the pictures makes me homesick for this beautiful place! The Leonardo in Haifa was a wonderful home base for us as we explored Israel.
At the Leonardo Haifa, there were many room options. We chose an apartment-style room with two bedrooms and a kitchenette. Although our room had some cosmetic flaws, and some basic cooking tools were missing, we were so happy to have extra space. Landon loved having his own room. He put most of his toys in there and would create pretend worlds, and then bar Owen from entering the room to destroy them. Our “hotel” room was actually in an adjacent apartment building. The building was connected to the main hotel by an underground parking lot, but we most often went outside to walk in between our apartment building and the hotel for breakfast, or to go to the pool.
What makes this hotel so wonderful is its prime location. Just steps from Hof Ha Carmel beach, the hotel provides unobstructed views of coast and the sea. Facing the water, along the beachfront path are many restaurants and snack options. A surf club is nearby and there were always people out on the water on paddle boards and surf boards. When the beach is right outside the door, it is not hard to make time to go every good weather day. It was often quite windy, and so we would monitor the wind situation through our window to avoid days with blowing sand. Landon built countless sand castles and splashed in the shallow water with newfound friends- some even spoke English! We met people from the U.S., Canada, Russia, and of course, many local Israelis on the beach. This beach is the northernmost beach area in Haifa. Along the beach front path, there are miles of sandy beaches south of the Leonardo. Many afternoons were spent at the beach investigating washed up jellyfish and digging-lots of digging. There was a sandbar a few feet from the water line, so we could walk way out into the water without getting our knees wet! The surf fluctuated so much. Some days, the water would be completely calm with no waves. Other days, with wind or a storm coming in, the waves could be much larger. I bodysurfed a few times- the waves were breaking really shallow, so it was not ideal, but the water is much warmer than the Pacific, that’s for sure! Mediterranean waves are also much softer and nicer than Pacific Ocean waves.
The Leonardo had many other redeeming qualities besides the beach. The indoor pool was clean and well-maintained. It had a shallow end with stairs to enter, and a deeper end. I think it was close to 25m long for lap swimming. Right next to the pool were ping pong and foosball tables for even more family fun. A kid’s club room would have been even better had they let us leave the kids there for babysitting, but the boys liked to go to play with different toys, color, play with kids and wallow around in the ball pit. There was a whole room full of video game consoles, but I think that would appeal more to the older kid crowd. The kid’s club is only open on weekends and holidays. There is an attendant, but they request that you stay and look after the kids as well.
Our best helper in Haifa was Miriam, the guest services manager. She was an awesome grandmotherly type. She stood less than five feet tall with heels on, and was one of the few individuals there who spoke good English. She wore similar outfits every day, an all black blouse and skirt with some feminine details. The way she dressed kind of reminded me of a witch’s costume, and her voice was accented and kind of rough, but we loved her! When we arrived exhausted and hungry from flying, and an apartment room wasn’t ready, she ordered some pizzas and gave us sodas and snacks for the boys to eat while we waited. She gave me lots of ideas of things to do with the boys, and would call Landon and Owen “my dears” and give them a kiss on the cheek every time they saw her. She even mailed all of my post cards! Sometimes she would come to breakfast and bring some pastries or yogurt over for the boys to eat. What I loved it that she was this attentive to everyone at the hotel, and I think her whole job was to take care of the guests and make them feel welcome.
I have to talk about the Leonardo breakfast. There were not many typical Western breakfast foods, but breakfast was SO GOOD. The only meat at breakfast was fish, but we did not miss it. We had scrambled eggs, roasted veggies, many different pastries, cakes, and breads, and lots of fresh fruit, veggies, and cheeses. There was a Greek style salad with shredded lettuce, cucumber, tomato, special Greek seasoning, lemon juice, and a soft, super salty cheese kind of like feta. It was so good! Some mornings, we would have big soft pretzels with a soft cheese dip with hyssop and olive oil mixed in. There was a yogurt bar with all sorts of granolas, nuts, seeds and dried fruit, and honey. The yogurt was incredibly tart and liquidy, but with some granola and honey, it was delicious. In conclusion, we learned that fresh, simple food is delicious, and salads for breakfast can actually work.
The Leonardo in Haifa was awesome. We loved our stay there so much I want to live there forever! I will never forget the amazing views, delicious food, friendly staff and walking to the beach every day. It was definitely our favorite place/assignment so far! If you’re in the Haifa area- check out the Leonardo!