Hayarkon 48: the beach hostel to chill at in Tel Aviv

Normally, beach lodging is made up of pricey, resort hotels. However, in Tel Aviv, if you’re looking for a place to rest your pretty little head and meet other backpacking travelers, you can find one a quick walk from the beach.

Tel Aviv's beach

A quick walk from the hostel and guests are treated to this!

Hello, Hayarkon 48.

 Exterior of Hayarkon 48 in Tel Aviv

This hostel, with a rather nondescript exterior, is anything but once you are buzzed in. After three nights in Tel Aviv already, I just want a place to chill out and get some beach time in. The days in Tel Aviv in August are blazing hot and a relaxed vibe, air-conditioning and wifi are all I want when I arrive.

When I enter through the doors, the staff immediately greets me and is super friendly.

“We have a Shabbat dinner tonight, just sign up and you can join our hostel and another for a big dinner,” the staff at the front desk informs me. I swing my head to the right, and there is a huge board showing all of the different activities going on each night for guests, including this dinner and a pub crawl the following night.

While I’m not in the mood to be social, if I was, this would be the perfect place to greet other travelers, swap stories and make friends for a night, a day or a lifetime.

I sidle up to the bar/front desk and give them my information. My room isn’t ready yet, so they take my belongings and tuck them safely into a locked storage area.

After an afternoon shopping, I return and am given instructions to my room. A cool three floors up. With no elevator.

If I had a backpack, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But, this Tel Aviv visit isn’t a part of a backpacking adventure, it is a stop-over en route to America, where I need a proper suitcase. So, hot already, I lug my suitcase and backpack up 60-plus stairs to my room. It isn’t anything I haven’t done before, after all, there are plenty of hostels in Europe where elevators don’t exist. But, at the end of a hot day, I want to magically be whisked to my room with my heavy suitcase, not drag it up flights of stairs. Again, a backpack would have been a lot easier in this situation.

Private digs

I’ve got a private room for three nights — my first truly private room ever — and when I open the door I love it. In the late afternoon, the sun casts a golden glow through the multi-colored curtains opening up to a private balcony. A. Private. Balcony. Granted, when I step outside, I don’t see the Mediterranean, but I still love the fact that I can step outside without having to haul it down to the main floor.

The private room at Hayarkon 48 in Tel Aviv

The room is huge. Bigger than what I expect in any hostel for a private room. And, there is a flat screen TV that rivals my TV in Thailand, hanging from the wall. I hop on the bed, and it is hard. Thailand hard. But, I don’t expect beds in hostels to be plush and perfect. Hostels are a budget option, and I cannot recall a bed in a hostel that hasn’t had coils, or a hardness to it. But, it isn’t bad. I pop on the air-conditioning and check out the bathroom.

It’s clean, with a shower curtain separating the little shower from the toilet and sink. The hostel provides soap and towels, which for me is a definite bonus since I’m traveling sans these things.

The view from the roof of Hayarkon 48

I head upstairs to the top floor, which is a gorgeous rooftop terrace with a spectacular view of the sea. I can imagine plunking down here and enjoying the breeze and sunset. Apparently, they used to have a bar upstairs, but it stopped because it was difficult to lug the stock up all of the flights of stairs (yeah, I can imagine). But, it is still a fabulous place to chill out and relax above Tel Aviv.

What’s included

With my stay at Hayarkon, I get complimentary breakfast each day. While the sign at reception tells guests it is toast, it is a far nicer breakfast than just that. The full kitchen offers up eggs you can cook, veggies and yes, toast. With Nutella. Of course, I’m happy. Israel is expensive, and not having to shell out the sheckels for breakfast is nice.

Wifi is also included in my stay. However, at three floors up with the router on the first, the wifi is anything but good. It doesn’t even get acknowledged on my iPhone, and the signal goes in and out on my laptop. While I can get the general stuff done while in my room, if you’re staying on the third floor, don’t expect the wifi to be up to par … unless a stronger signal or more routers get put in. Sometimes, late at night, I can go out on my balcony and pick up a signal for my phone, but it was only on occasion. If I want to send someone an iMessage, I have to go downstairs to the first floor to be able to do so.

The hostel is very secure. You cannot even get in the front door without getting buzzed, and no guests are allowed anywhere beyond the main area. There are also lockers which can be used, and locks to rent.

I love some of the little things that are included — like access to sun block as you walk out the door to the beach and free ear plugs in case you have noisy bunkmates. It’s stuff like that which can make a superfly hostel.

The bottom line

As far as hostels go, Hayarkon 48 is really good. I’ve stayed in nearly 100 hostels during my travels, and this one ranks as one of the better, if not one of the best. The staff is friendly, the rooms are clean and I always feel secure. The atmosphere can definitely be social without being too much of a party hostel, and I love that they organize outings with guests to encourage meeting new people. They can even arrange a taxi to the airport for you for less than you would get on the street. The only downside for me is the wifi. I love places with good wifi. It is important to have good wifi. Hell, I’d even pay to have some wifi that worked all of the time in my room. The location is stellar. There is a bus line that takes you down the main drag of the district tourists want to see, and staff is wonderful.

Editor’s Note: My time stay was organized by Hostelworld and courtesy of Hayarkon 48, however all opinions are my own. If you have questions regarding this, please read my disclosure policy

 

Hotel Reviews Travel

A BRIEF intermission: The best of … Madrid

I LOVE Madrid. Any traveler who meets me and asks me “D, what is your most favorite place you have visited since you started traveling?” my response is always this:

“I adored Spain. I could live there. And Madrid, mmmm.”

Well, something like that.

I have gotten messages from people throughout my adventure asking my advice on where to go, what to do, etc. so have decided to share my insight with you!

Stay tuned … most cities will have a “Best of …” for your reading (and trip planning) pleasure.

Now, on to the good stuff … Madrid.

Where to … stay

I stayed at two hostels in Madrid, both were nice. But, in Madrid, there are heaps of really great hostels to stay at (just check out Hostel World), it’s just a matter of whether you want a social atmosphere or a place to rest your head. Regardless, location in Madrid is key. There is something to be said when you can open your balcony doors onto Atocha and hear the hustle and bustle.

If that’s your thing, look for a hostel located nearby these major Metro stops:

Gran Via

Sol

Atocha

Chueca (gay district)

La Latina

Lavapies (GREAT if you want some delish Indian food)

Where to … hang out on sunny, beautiful days:

Any day of the week is perfect to hang out at Retiro Park. Originally created as a royal park, the “Lungs of Madrid,” located in the heart of the city features everything from palaces to sport fields to boat-filled lakes to rolling hills perfect for an afternoon makeout or picnic. You can get there from the Retiro Metro stop.

On Sundays, the action is at La Latina. Streets lined with table and chairs fill up early, so stake your people-watching location before siesta. If La Latina is packed, head to Plaza Mayor or Puerta de Sol (both at/near Sol Metro stop).

If you want to play tourist, head to the Palacio Royal de Madrid, the Royal Palace (Opera Metro stop). Yes, if you want to see the interior, you will be inside, but simply strolling the grounds is breathtaking.

Where to … get filled up on tapas

Hands down, my favorite tapas experience was at El Tigre, located in the Chueca neighborhood (Chueca or Gran Via Metro stops).

At El Tigre, you order a glass of vino tinto (red wine) for two euros and then the Tapas God behind the counter hands you a plate piled high with tapas of every kind — tortilla, patatas bravas, jamon, queso … you name it — to accompany your drink. The best part is every time you order your cheap drink, you get another plate of deliciousness to soak up all that alcohol.

For a more varied experience, there is Mercado Plaza San Miguel near the Sol Metro. This gorgeous old building is PACKED with little stands featuring some of the freshest and tastiest food, including oysters, fruits and veggies, and tapas. Lots and lots of tapas.

Again, if you want to snag a seat, get there early. Otherwise, start practicing balancing a plate of tapas and a glass of vino tinto and eating/drinking at the same time.

Where to … get culture

I always like to mention the free stuff first, so the best free place to get culture is the Caixa Forum, a multi-floored art museum with rotating exhibits. This post-modern gallery even has a vertical garden just outside that changes with the seasons. It’s all sorts of pretty.

Then, every night (except Monday when the museum is closed) The Prado opens its doors to the public to take in all of the famous artists housed there for … free. Tuesday – Saturday from 6 – 8 p.m., visitors can enjoy everything the museum has to offer at no cost. On Sundays, entrance is free. Period.

My favorite museum is the elegantly beautiful Reina Sofia. No, it’s not free. But, for a 6 euro price tag, you have access to floors and floors of jaw-dropping 20th century art. Picasso and Dali mingle among notable Spanish contemporary artists.

All of these are a quick walk from the Atocha Metro stop.

Where to … eat the best chocolate you will ever have (outside of Belgium)

The best and most unique chocolates in Madrid can be found at Cacao Sampaka, a modern chocolate/coffee shop that offers up some of the most mmmmgood chocolates taste buds will ever enjoy. Seriously. They’ve got it all — balsamic chocolate, lavender chocolate, rosemary chocolate, liquor-filled chocolate, thick as molasses hot chocolates. It is a must. And, a half-second walk from the Alonso Martinez Metro stop.

Where to … shop ’til you drop

Gran Via has it all … bars, clubs, restaurants, prostitutes and TONS of stores no matter your budget. For those watching the cents, there’s Lefties and H & M, and tons of shoe stores featuring pretty cool shoes and cheapie price tags (I got a pair of knockoff high-top Chucks for 10 euros).

If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket, there are also higher-end stores like Miss Sixty, Calvin Klein and some fabulous (non-American) shops, too.

Where to … meet locals and other people who speak English

Madrid is packed with English speakers and nearly every night of the week there is a mixer/language exchange where you can meet locals who want to speak English with you.

On Tuesday nights, there is Hello Lola at Ole Lola;  Wednesday and Thursday nights it’s J & J Books and Coffee; Friday check out El Seiscientos.

Where to … go on a day trip

There are a few places under two hours away from Madrid to check out that are worth the bus (or train) fare — the two most popular ones (and the ones I visited) were Toledo and Segovia.

Toledo, the former capital of Spain, is south of the city and treats visitors to a medieval city perched on a hilltop with stunning views and packed with history.

Then, there is Segovia, a slightly longer ride (unless you take the high-speed train), but worth every minute to get there. Segovia not only has a castle that draws comparisons to Cinderella’s digs, but also an ancient Roman aqueduct that cuts through its center. If you like pork, be sure to try the roast suckling pig, which is so tender and fresh it is sliced with dishes instead of knives. Truth.

To book travel:

Alsa — the major bus line in Spain and the cheapest option for short-distance travel

Renfe — the train

AVE — high-speed train

Want to add your favorite places? Leave a comment below.

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