World’s Coolest Pools –Travel+Leisure
Get wet at these wild and wonderful swim spots.
From Travel+Leisure Magazine, December 2009 By Jimmy Im
Sally Randall Brunger, creative director of men’s knitwear line The Brungers, traverses the globe for inspiration for her collections—and she knows a cool pool when she sees one. “I can’t imagine anything more fun after a day of meetings than to toss off my heels and dip into a pool where I can swim to the bar and order my favorite cocktail.”
For the notorious “it” girl from the glamorous ’80s club era, the pool at the Grace Hotel in Times Square fits the bill. The midtown hotel has one of the most talked about pools in New York City. With two swim-up bars, live DJs, and a projector screen, it’s at the heart of the action—complete with half-naked guests.
Pools are fast evolving from background scene-setters to the main attraction. The 21st-century pool has blossomed from mere swim spot to an imaginative work of art that flaunts a “wow” factor—be it a pool elevator, a whitewater slide, hidden grotto, or interactive aquarium. With all these bells and whistles, who cares about a diving board?
Of course, a buzz-worthy pool doesn’t just happen overnight. “The interesting aspects of cool pools are in the choice and use of materials,” says Cool Pools and Hot Tubs author Vinny Lee, “and its shape should complement the surroundings and landscape.”
“It’s all too easy to design a pool that looks good, but to make strong and powerful connections to a place, a climate, a landscape, an atmosphere or a feeling—now that’s cool because it’s unrepeatable,” says Marwan Al-Sayed, one of the designers of the pool at the stunning new Amangiri resort in the Utah desert, which is built around a natural stone outcropping.
Other pools are more of a novelty attraction. Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Resort features a 50-by-30-foot aquarium stocked with fish, sharks, and stingrays in the middle of its pool; there’s even a waterslide tube that runs through it. But not all cool pools are the headline amenities of hotels. At the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, for example, guests can swim with 18-foot-long crocodiles (in the safety of an acrylic cage, of course), and in Brussels at the world’s deepest recreational pool, it’s the caves (some as deep as 108 feet) that lure water-lovers.
The following 16 pools have personalities of their own, impressing thousands of visitors and serving as tourist attractions in themselves. With more tricks and rides, live creatures and local materials, and soul and character, their cool factors are sure to inspire more than just a dip—they may just inspire a whole vacation.
Why It’s Cool: This Guinness World Record holder contains 66 million gallons of saltwater and covers approximately 20 acres, making it the largest pool on the planet. At 115 feet at its deepest point, the pool feels like a
mini-ocean, complete with man-made beach.
Interesting Fact: Never mind swimming: kayaking is the most popular activity. Equipment rental fees apply.
Royal Caribbean “Oasis of the Seas” Pool
Eastern and Western Caribbean
Why It’s Cool: The largest cruise ship in the world (with a capacity of 5,400 guests and 2,200 staff) features the most tricked-out pool at sea. By day it serves as a swim and dive spot for scuba certification; at night, it’s the setting for aerial aquatic performances.
Interesting Fact: The pool’s retractable bottom, which includes three custom lifts, allows it to stretch as deep as 18 feet—an incredible feat of engineering at sea.
Intercontinental Hong Kong Pool
Why It’s Cool: Its underwater music is novel, but it’s the entire roof terrace complex that makes this pool unique. Not only does it have sexy sunbeds, beautiful teak decks, and a pool concierge, but there are three infinity spa pools (cool, medium, hot) with views of bustling Victoria Harbour.
Interesting Fact: Legendary tai chi master William Ng offers complimentary lessons poolside on the roof terrace for guests.
Why It’s Cool: Designed by Philippe Starck, the three pools at the swanky new Viceroy hotel are connected, making it the longest pool complex in the country. At 205 feet, the main pool is the longest in Florida, while the 80-person hot tub is the world’s largest. Quirky details include a reflection pool with submerged tables and chairs.
Interesting Fact: Designed to mirror the Miami River running through downtown Miami, the pool literally runs through the condo “metropolis” of Icon Brickell.
Four Seasons Hualalai “King’s Pond” Pool
Big Island, Hawaii
Why It’s Cool: The resort’s 1.8-million-gallon rock “aquarium” pool is inspired by Hawaii’s traditional anchialine ponds, landlocked bodies of water with subterranean connections to the ocean. Natural springs and ocean water feed into this man-made version, where guests swim alongside 60 species of tropical fish and two eagle rays.
Interesting Fact: The pool is sculpted out of 200-year-old lava rock.
Why It’s Cool: At 108 feet deep, the world’s deepest recreational pool is one of the most popular diving facilities in the world, thanks to its playful and unconventional design. The pool features a cylindrical deep-dive pit, flat platforms at various depth levels (16 feet and 33 feet, respectively), and large windows for spectators.
Interesting Fact: The pool even has underwater caves for the divers.
Why It’s Cool: This $30 million pool is the only one of its kind in the U.S.: you can swim with more than 300 different types of fish, including stingrays. Okay, not exactly swim with them. The pool surrounds a 50-by-30-foot, 200,000-gallon acrylic tank teeming with marine life, and a three-story enclosed waterslide tube shoots you through the tank in eight seconds flat.
Interesting Fact: The tank features 16 types of sharks, including blacktip, nurse, sand tiger, and zebra sharks.
Grace Hotel Pool
New York City
Why It’s Cool: Home to some of the hottest parties and events in NYC’s Times Square, this indoor pool is conveniently connected to a 40-foot bar (the only swim-up bar in the city) and comes equipped with mood lighting, stadium seating, and a projector to show movies. There’s a large coed steam and sauna near the DJ booth.
Interesting Fact: Celebrity pool sightings include Nelly Furtado, Michael Stipe, and Tyson Beckford.
Why It’s Cool: Crocodile lovers can get personal with the massive reptiles at this educational pool in Australia. An acrylic two-person cage (a.k.a. “the cage of death”) is lowered from an overhead monorail into a saltwater pool, where swimmers come face-to-face with 18-foot-long crocs—some of the largest down under. A glass wall bisects a croc-free section of the pool for those who want to engage from a distance.
Interesting Fact: Faint of heart? The complex also has a viewing pool (adjacent to the main pool) with 100 baby crocodiles.
Hotel Valley Ho Pool
Why It’s Cool: With its olive-and-martini-glass design and retro chaises, this quirky time warp of a pool is a nod to the swanky ’50s era, when Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman, Rock Hudson, and other celebrities frequented the hotel.
Interesting Fact: Stars continue to visit the property; Katy Perry and John Legend have performed poolside.
Grand Wailea Canyon Activity Pool
Why It’s Cool: This 25,700-square-foot wet playground is a destination in itself (guests receive a map upon entry). Nine free-form pools at six levels (from 40 feet to sea level) are connected by a “river” that carries swimmers along at varying speeds, from lazy river currents to whitewater rapids. Highlights include seven slides, grottoes, scuba certification pool, and a “Tarzan pool” with rope swing.
Interesting Fact: Going up? The pool is home to the world’s only water elevator—swimmers are lifted to the surface in a sealed chamber.
Amangiri Utah Pool
Lake Powell, UT
Why It’s Cool: Deep in the desert canyons of Utah, this new luxe resort (opened October 15, 2009) embraces the surrounding environment with a pool that’s ingeniously built around a large, natural rock formation. Swimmers can float around the main Pavilion while gazing at undulating layers of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
Interesting Fact: The pool is detailed with a “negative edge,” so that when you’re swimming all you see is water, rock, reflections, and blue sky.
W Fort Lauderdale
Why It’s Cool: Conceived by W’s über-hip design team, the pool features a stunning glass-encased centerpiece staircase. It stretches 28 feet into the middle, so swimmers can easily gawk at guests—and vice versa.
Interesting Fact: Visitors in the hotel’s Living Room lounge can ogle bathing beauties through slits in the ceiling.
Coral Gables Venetian Pool
Coral Gables, FL
Why It’s Cool: History is preserved at this 820,000-gallon man-made lagoon, carved from a coral rock quarry in 1924. The founding father of Coral Gables—George Merrick—designed the pool, which is surrounded by Venetian-style architecture and tropical foliage. Fed daily with springwater, it features two waterfalls, coral caves, even grottoes.
Interesting Fact: It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Currently closed for renovations, the pool will reopen in the summer of 2010.
Hayman Island Resort Pool Bar
Hayman Island, Australia
Why It’s Cool: Located just off the Great Barrier Reef and roughly the size of seven Olympic-size pools, the pool at this luxury island resort is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. A saltwater main pool surrounds the central, heated freshwater pool (yes, a pool within a pool) and the Hayman Pool Bar.
Interesting Fact: The pool is so immense that the resort constructed four interconnecting boardwalk bridges (the longest being 165 feet) over the pool water’s surface.