The best hotel swimming pools in the world for swimming must be big pools where you can get in some laps. Whether they’re enchanting courtyard pools lined by palm trees or sleek infinity pools with sweeping sea views, the bigger the better for some serious swimming.
Summer is well and truly underway in the northern hemisphere, where many of those who are able to travel are traipsing around Europe and sunning themselves on the Mediterranean – or planning to do so soon (Europe’s peak period hasn’t even started yet) – while those in the chilly southern hemisphere are dreaming of warmer climates.
A swimming pool has always been a priority for me when we travel. In the days when we took well-earned holidays, they’d generally include some time for rest and relaxation, reading good books by a pool while working on the tan. After we became writers – and food and travel writers at that – a pool became a must when we travelled for much-needed exercise to work off all the food we consume.
Yet most hotel swimming pools aren’t in fact built for swimming laps. Increasingly, they’re little more than plunge pools installed for you to have a dip to cool down rather than actually swim laps. For me, the best hotel swimming pools in the world are big – they should be a minimum of 20 metres long, although 30-40 metres in length is best to get into a rhythm for a good swim. Any less and after a few strokes you’re hitting your head at the end.
These are my personal picks of the 10 best hotel swimming pools in the world for serious swimmers who want to do more than cool off in their hotel pool.
Best Hotel Swimming Pools in the World for Some Serious Swimming
Amantaka, Luang Prabang, Laos
The luxurious Amantaka at Luang Prabang in Laos, pictured above, easily has one of best hotel swimming pools in the world. Not only is it one of the most enchanting of hotel swimming pools, especially when it’s illuminated at night, it also happens to be an enormous pool that is ideal for doing laps after a sweaty day exploring the temples and markets in this sultry UNESCO-listed town on the banks of the Mekong River. Set on a sprawling garden estate, with spacious accommodation in French colonial buildings, and attentive hotel staff, a stay here is a very special experience.
Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia
In Cambodia‘s main tourist destination, Siem Reap, the handsome Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor is not only a historic gem it also has one of best hotel swimming pools in the world. History lovers will want to check into one of the antique-filled rooms with creaky polished floorboards in the oldest part of the hotel. But if you’re a swimmer you have to book a beautiful garden suite – which they call ‘cabanas’, even though they’re not – with spacious patios from where you can stroll across the shaded lawns to the colossal pool, inspired by Angkor‘s ancient royal barays, man-made pools built for the kings.
Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand
The Banyan Tree Phuket on the island of Phuket in Southern Thailand boasts one of the best hotel swimming pools in the world at a whopping 40 metres in length. Fortunately – when we stayed, anyway – most guests prefer the fun free form pool with a rapid water canal. The resort offers a quintessentially Thai experience with an award-winning spa with royal salas (pavilions) set among verdant tropical gardens, and luxurious villas with private swimming pools of all sizes. The most decadent is the Double Pool Villa with a wading pool and a lap pool. The property is part of Laguna Phuket, which is home to palm-fringed lagoons, hundreds of acres of parkland and a handful of other hotels. Nearby is a three-kilometre long pristine sandy beach on the shores of Bang Tao Bay.
Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, Margaret River, Western Australia
For such a huge country, oddly enough Australia’s hotels do not on the whole have huge swimming pools – perhaps because the country is home to an abundance of stunning beaches. The Pullman Bunker Bay Resort, a stylish low-rise resort, a few hours drive south of Perth at the northern end of the Margaret River region, is blessed with both – a long white sand beach and a 25-metre pool (heated in winter) with beautiful views of pretty Bunker Bay. This is easily one of best hotel swimming pools in the world. Plus there’s an excellent spa, tennis courts and gym.
The Chedi Muscat, Muscat, Oman
The Chedi Muscat not only has one, it has three of the best hotel swimming pools in the world. The chic Omani-inspired, low-rise boutique hotel boasts beautiful pond-filled gardens, a white sand beach, and three impressive temperature-controlled swimming pools. The best of which are the adults-only Chedi Pool, a colossal 42 metres long and 12 metres wide pool beside the beach with Indian Ocean views, and the family-focused Serai Pool, 35 metres by 16 metres, is surrounded by landscaped gardens. Despite the Serai being for family use, it never seemed to get too crowded, and I preferred this one for doing laps. There is also the Long Pool, which runs the length of the spa. All pools have easy access to excellent poolside cafés, plenty of sun beds and attentive staff.
The Palace Downtown Dubai, Dubai, UAE
Dramatically lined with date palms and strikingly illuminated at night, the long, rectangular, blue-tiled pool at The Palace Downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is easily one of best hotel swimming pools in the world and is a real highlight of a stay here. At 30 metres by 6 metres this is a great size pool for doing laps, however, it’s still very much a holiday pool, with plenty of sun beds shaded by umbrellas, a snack bar, and a lifeguard on duty. The Palace Downtown is a sumptuous hotel in that contemporary Arabian style of architecture that has become synonymous with Dubai. An added bonus are the spectacular views of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Royal Mansour, Marrakech, Morocco
Commissioned by the King of Morocco, the magnificent Royal Mansour with its majestic entrance, Moorish arches, tinkling ponds, and Oriental lanterns is one of Marrakech’s most luxurious lodgings, boasting 53 opulent riads with lush courtyards distinguished by exquisite Moroccan craftsmanship – intricately carved cedar wood ceilings, traditional ceramic floor tiles, and finely-sculpted plaster work. The Royal Mansour is also home to two of the best hotel swimming pools in the world, one a 22-metre indoor heated pool in a glass atrium, and in new sprawling gardens of date palms and citrus trees, another monumental 600-square-metre outdoor pool, also heated in the cooler months, lined with sun-beds, cabanas that are more like homes, and a bar and restaurant by chef Yannick Alleno, Le Jardin.
Terre Blanche Hotel Spa & Golf Resort, Provence, France
Splendidly located in the hills of Provence, in the South of France, set amid lavender fields and medieval villages, not far from the French Riviera and Côte D’Azur beaches, the elegant Terre Blanche hotel has four stunning swimming pools. My picks are the vaulted indoor pool that is part of the property’s spa, and the outdoor pool overlooking the gorgeous countryside, which at a length of 40 metres and depth of 1.4 metres is perfect for some serious swimming. There’s also a whirlpool, a children’s play pool, and poolside cabanas that can be reserved. The thoughtful pool staff will see that you had plenty of iced water, refreshing beverages, sunscreen, fresh towels, and a cooling facial spray. If you enjoy your stay so much you decide to settle in, there’s a private estate with villas for sale as part of the complex.
Belmond Copacabana Palace, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Belmond Copacabana Palace, a grand oceanfront heritage hotel overlooking lively Copacabana Beach, is Rio de Janeiro’s if not Brazil‘s finest accommodations. The palatial hotel also boasts one of the best hotel swimming pools in the world. It’s so stunning that once you settle in on a sun bed by the enormous, turquoise rectangular pool it might just be difficult to bring yourself to leave, even to head across the road to stroll Brazil’s most beautiful and most vibrant beaches. Do your laps in the morning because in the late afternoon you’re going to want to join Rio’s cariocas (as the locals call themselves) for a walk, jog, surf, dance, aerobics class, game of volleyball, or any one of the number of activities they enjoy on their beaches.
Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, Florida, USA
In sunny Florida in the USA, the majestic old Biltmore Hotel, dating to the 1920s, has long been popular with Hollywood movie stars, celebrities and world leaders. It also boasts one of the best hotel swimming pools in the world, which more than makes up for it not being located on one of Miami’s hipper beaches, and instead being set in affluent Coral Gables. Surrounded by 150 acres of lush gardens bursting with palms, bougainvillea and hibiscus, the monumental swimming pool, at 68 metres long by 45 metres wide, is reason enough to come here. Go all out and reserve a private poolside cabana replete with teakwood sun beds, banana leaf ceiling fans, and outdoor rain showers.
Tips for Choosing a Hotel for Serious Swimmers
- If doing daily laps are important to you, too, always check the hotel website or booking site for swimming pool dimensions – don’t always believe what you read or see on the site. It’s easy to make a pool look larger than it is in photos. Unfortunately, marketing people have a tendency to call any old big pool ‘Olympic-size’ even when they’re not. An Olympic-size pool is 50 metres long.
- If the hotel you have your eyes on only has a skinny lap pool, consider the number of rooms in the property – if it’s a 100+ room hotel, you’re going to have to rise before dawn to bag a sun-bed and do your laps before guests get up. If you are travelling with children, look for hotels with separate adult and kid’s pools, as well as lifeguards.
- If you’re really serious about your swimming, look for pools with lanes and don’t be tempted by vast pools dotted with islands and swim-up bars. These are pools for fun, which can make for frustrating experiences when you’re trying to do laps amongst canoodling couples and holiday-makers sipping cocktails with umbrellas.
Do you like to do some serious swimming when you travel or are you happy to work on your tan with a good book? What are the best hotel swimming pools in the world for swimming for you?