I have swum in crystal-clear English rivers at the height of summer, raced across New York to take a dip in lidos in all five of its boroughs in a single day, and dived into plunge pools beneath turbulent waterfalls deep in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. In short, I am obsessed with swimming.
But when it comes to pure relaxation, nothing beats slipping into a hotel pool, followed by stretching out on a nearby sunlounger to take in the view. Whether I’m at the end of a day’s safari in the heart of Kenya or just off a plane in Hong Kong and in need of a muscle-soothing soak, the pool is the first thing I search out.
The joy of hotel pools is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Vast, Olympic-style ones that demand you practise your best front crawl; small, infinity pools that offer the perfect frog’s-eye view across oceans or mountains; and idiosyncratic creations that look nothing like your average rectangular baths. And the best ones always have a view to match. Read on for my pick of the world’s greatest hotel pools with a view.
Saruni Samburu, Kenya
On the wild side: The lower pool at Saruni Samburu in Kenya sits above a watering hole where lions cool off in the heat
Perched on a rocky outcrop north of the tribal lands of Samburu National Reserve, ultra-luxurious Saruni Samburu is home to two infinity pools. Both offer uninterrupted views across the private Kalama Community Wildlife Conservancy. The lower pool sits high above a watering hole, where lions and elephants can be spotted cooling off in the searing afternoon heat. The upper pool, which resembles a small crater lake, is seemingly less popular with guests, as it’s uphill from the villas, but the cool water, coupled with the mountains towering on the horizon, makes it the perfect spot for a lush, post-safari dip.
Dive in for: A cooling dip with some of the finest wildlife-watching in Africa.
Splash out: From £375 per person per night. Visit saruni.com.
Romeo Hotel, Naples, Italy
After a day spent sampling Naples’s myriad culinary delights, the Romeo Hotel’s ninth-floor heated plunge pool is the ultimate spot to unwind for the afternoon, before the heat of the day fades and the sun slips into the Mediterranean. The views across to Capri and Ischia are best enjoyed while lounging in the water. A post-dip, pre-dinner aperitivo from the adjacent Beluga Lounge Bar and Terrace, taken on one of the poolside loungers, is guaranteed to prolong the pleasing sense of relaxation that only a swim can offer.
Dive in for: A truly languid, Italian take on the afternoon dip.
Splash out: From £285 per night, based on two adults sharing. Visit romeohotel.it.
Villa Figari, The Peligoni Club, Zakynthos, Greece
The infinity pool at Villa Figari in The Peligoni Club in Zakynthos appears to drop straight into the Ionian Sea
This infinity pool appears to drop straight into the azure Ionian Sea, giving the impression that it’s part of that dazzling body of water rather than a private location reserved for the villa’s 20 residents. Flop out on the Indian daybed after a few laps, or catch some sun on the loungers that dot the pool’s edge. The club offers yacht rental and road-bike hire for those who fancy an adventure before enjoying a few laps.
Dive in for: An opulent swim in a classic location.
Splash out: From £13,500 for 20 people staying for a week. Visit peligoni.com.
The William Vale, New York
The longest hotel pool in Brooklyn, at 60ft, The William Vale’s crystal-clear water is a haven for fitness fanatics as the sun comes up over New York’s five boroughs.
Just a few blocks from the East River in the vibrant Williamsburg neighbourhood, it has unrivalled views of the Manhattan skyline. As the day wears on, a hip crowd takes its seat at the poolside cabanas for cocktails, with the water taken over by those keener on chilling out than working out.
With the sun glinting off the Empire State Building as the day ends, this is the ultimate urban pool with a view.
Dive in for: Prime NYC views from one of the city’s coolest hotels.
Splash out: From £276 per night based on two adults sharing. Non-resident pool passes available for £80 per day. Visit thewilliamvale.com.
San Luis, South Tyrol, Italy
San Luis, pictured, is a year-round swimmers’ paradise. In winter guests can slip into the heated outdoor pool at dawn as clouds of steam wisp up from the surface
Close to the Austrian border, San Luis is a year-round swimmers’ paradise. In summer, its private lake is the perfect spot for a refreshing dip after an indulgent spa treatment.
However, it comes into its own in winter when guests can slip into the heated outdoor pool at dawn as clouds of steam wisp up from the surface and the rising sun gives the snow-covered Alps a luminous glow. The indoor pool, with its glass walls and crackling fire, offers views across the frozen lake. Top it all off with a soothing sauna back in your lakeside chalet before breakfast.
Dive in for: The ultimate take on Alpine relaxation
Splash out: From £258 per person, based on two sharing a chalet on a half-board basis, minimum three-night stay. Visit sanluis-hotel.com.
Hotel Eden Roc, Switzerland
The pool at Hotel Eden Roc in Switzerland overlooks Lake Maggiore. It’s also the ideal retreat after a day spent climbing in the surrounding hills
Overlooking the sparkling waters of Lake Maggiore, Hotel Eden Roc’s pool is long enough for those who want to stretch out and enjoy a quiet, early-morning front crawl in the fresh Swiss air, before other guests emerge. Equally alluring is the chance to take in the mountainous views from water level. It’s also the ideal retreat after a day spent climbing in the surrounding hills or kayaking on the lake, soothing aching muscles with some light breaststroke before drying off on a lounger and ordering a sundowner.
Dive in for: A wholesome swim with a perfect mountain backdrop.
Splash out: From £250 per night, based on two adults sharing. Visit edenroc.ch.
Rawnsley Park Station, Flinders Ranges, Australia
Deep within the Flinders Ranges of South Australia, Rawnsley Park Station’s eco lodges are the ideal base for day-long treks through ancient creek-beds and gorges or for zipping through the dusty Outback on a mountain bike. But what truly sets them apart is the private pool, which overlooks Wilpena Pound, a vast natural amphitheatre. The area is rich in wildlife, so keep an eye out for kangaroos while relaxing in the water after a strenuous day in the bush.
Dive in for: A paddle in the bush among some of Australia’s most underrated scenery.
Splash out: From £245 per night based on two sharing. Visit rawnsleypark.com.au.
Amangiri, Utah, USA
The main pool at the exclusive Amangiri resort in Utah, which Joe describes as being unlike any other in the world
Curving around a lofty rock escarpment, the main pool at the exclusive Amangiri resort in Utah is unlike any other in the world. Slipping into the water gives the sense of being deep in the wild, despite the fact waiter service and a lounger are never more than a few backstrokes away. With ready access to Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley and Zion National Park, the water is made all the more inviting for those keen to wash away the dust of the desert at the end of an adventurous day.
Dive in for: A watery view of America’s Wild West.
Splash out: From £1,450 per suite per night. Visit aman.com.
Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong
It may be indoors but the pool at the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong takes swimming with a view to new heights. The 118th floor, to be precise. An infinity pool with floor- to-ceiling windows, it has some of the best views in the city, looking out from its Kowloon waterside location across to the vertiginous towers of Hong Kong Island and the lush peaks beyond. Serious swimmers rub shoulders with casual dippers staring with wonder at the busy bay below.
Dive in for: A sky-high view of one of Asia’s most buzzing metropolises.
Splash out: From £550 per room per night. Visit ritzcarlton.com.
Belmond Miraflores Park, Lima, Peru
High above the swanky district of Miraflores, the 11th-floor infinity pool of luxury brand Belmond’s Peruvian outpost is a swimmers’ paradise. At 55ft, it’s more than long enough for a brisk constitutional but is best enjoyed when swimming head out of the water, all the better to enjoy the uninterrupted views of the churning white waves of the Pacific crashing on to the cliffs below. Once you’re dried off, staff are on hand to serve expertly mixed pisco sours, or even better, chilcanos – a refreshing mix of pisco, lime and ginger ale.
Dive in for: Pacific sunsets and a laid-back, Latin vibe.
Splash out: From £256 per room per night. Visit belmond.com.
The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India
Guests in premier pool rooms at the Oberoi Udaivilas in India can step straight into this pool from their private terrace
It’s appropriate that the most beautiful hotel in Udaipur, known as the city of lakes, has pools to match. The pick is the semi-private affair available to those who book in to the hotel’s premier pool rooms, with steps down into the water straight from your private terrace. Wrapped around the hotel, it offers uninterrupted views across the lake to the city itself. The main pool isn’t bad either, surrounded by the hotel’s palatial architecture and within lush gardens that make it impossible not to feel relaxed after a long soak.
Dive in for: The most luxurious dip on the subcontinent.
Splash out: Premier Pool Room from £259 per night. Visit oberoihotels.com.
And the Best of British…Silverlake, Dorset, UK
Set on a former RAF base in the beautiful heathlands of West Dorset, Silverlake is home to the UK’s most stunning outdoor pool. This heated oasis is an excellent alternative for those not keen on wild swimming in the estate’s lakes.
The Dorset countryside seen from the water’s edge is particularly arresting in late summer, as the heather blooms a deep purple. The sound of native birds, including Dartford warblers and nightjars, make a dip here feel pleasingly wild. Keep an eye out for sika deer, seen across the estate all year round.
Dive in for: A uniquely English take on the hotel pool.
Splash out: From £375 for three nights for a two-bedroom cottage. Visit habitatescapes.com/silverlake-dorset.
- Joe Minihane is the author of Floating: A Life Regained.