Make a splash
Where to swim in style
HOTEL FASANO, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL When you have a Philippe Starck-designed, 1 1960s-vibe hotel, a location on Ipamema Beach and a rooftop pool frequented by Brazilian models and fashion designers, you know you’re in swimming heaven. Flop your way roof-wards in complimentary Havaianas and gaze towards Christ the Redeemer and down on Ipamema’s jiggling volleyball players and glamorous poseurs on rollerblades. Designer sunnies and skimpy swimwear are de rigeur in this cosmopolitan blue oasis. The superlative white-marble infinity pool comes into its own at night, when bossa-nova rhythms play, coastal lights twinkle, and guests emerge for a dip. Bartenders conjure up cocktails, including a notable watermelon martini whose colours imitate the sumptuous sunsets. More: fasano.com.br.
W HOTEL, HONG KONG, CHINA The W Hotel calls its recreation area Get Wet: a good start on the sexiness scale. In this 76th-floor pool, you swim through the sky, while 211m below lies Hong Kong harbour. Those with a head for heights can bob in the infinity-edge jacuzzi, eyeballing clouds as traffic hums far below. Complimentary wi-fi access makes laptops the poolside accessory of choice. The mosaic wall backing the terrace, a collision of butterflies and seashells, is like something dreamed up by Salvador Dali, and seems to change colour as the day progresses. Sunset is the perfect time, when it glows with a pink tinge as the cocktail shakers start to rattle. More: w-hongkong.com.
1 HOTEL SOUTH BEACH, MIAMI BEACH, US Almost-famous people, models wearing too little and bling-covered babes gravitate to this naughty hotel on the sands. Yes, it’s adults only. And yes, your cabana by the oceanfront pool comes with TV and PlayStation. The sands are hot, the clientele cool. Ice cubes in mojitos tinkle. If your idea of pool perfection involves a party, then party on. The best pool (there are three) is the rooftop infinity pool, which merges with sea and sky to provide sun-soaked views of blissful blueness. Wallow in the Jacuzzi, or kick back on white daybeds. Palm trees — not sure how they got there — rustle in the breeze against a billowing backdrop of sunset-tinged clouds. More: 1hotels.com/south-beach.
MURANOM RESORT, MARRAKESH, MOROCCO Blue not cool enough? Head down a stonef flagged avenue from this Moorish-style hotel, where a channel of water gurgles Arabian style, to arrive at a blood-red pool, set among tangerine and palm trees, and edged with stylish red-and-white sofas. Magic at night, when the pool glows ruby red, and breezes stir the silken lounge tents. If you want to rock the kasbah, be poolside for Sunday brunch, when a DJ spins music from an island in the middle of the water, and a hip crowd gossips and tipples. A mix of vodka, strawberry liqueur, banana and coconut milk is the cocktail of choice, but it might be so yesterday by the time you arrive. More: muranomarrakech.com.
LA SIRENUSE, POSITANO, ITALY If it were anywhere else, there’d be nothing remarkable about this narrow rectangle of a pool. Place it on a terrace that clings to the cliff in Positano on the Amalfi Coast, however, and you have a seagull’s perch from which to gaze over vertiginous rooftops and church domes, cupped between mighty cliffs and gazing out onto a Mediterranean that laps the coast in peacock shades. Slumber beneath a parasol beneath swathes of garish bougainvillea, and suck in the scent of potted lemon trees. As the sun sets like a Vesuvius eruption over offshore islands, order up a bucket of champagne and gaze until the sea turns silver and lamps are lit, sending golden shimmers across the swimming pool. More: sirenuse.it.
GRAND HYATT, BEIJING, CHINA The setting and scenery so intrinsic to great pools is lacking in city hotels, but this huge subterranean swimming pool solves the problem by creating its own landscape, complete with pseudo-Egyptian columns, fake palm trees, waterfalls and rock caves that make you feel as if you’ve swum into an Indiana Jones movie set. None of it makes sense and all of it is OTT, but you can’t help but be seduced. Kick back on a teak lounge and get a foot massage, listen to “birds” chirp from the plastic jungle, then float on your back and admire the ceiling, which changes throughout the day and occasionally twinkles with stars. Pure aquatic escapism. More: beijing.grand.hyatt.com.
CROWNE PLAZA ST PETER’S, ROME, ITALY If you like your beauty understated, this pool proves that not all glamorous swimming holes belong to five-star boutique hotels. It’s even more surprising in Rome, where most hotel swimming pools are puddle-sized. A big slab of blue, a row of white parasols, a generous swathe of lawn on which white loungers are lined up: it’s enough to have the minimalist moaning in pleasure. In the evenings, cicadas chirp and pink-andblue lightening turns the poolside gardens into a shimmering summer oasis in the heart of the city. Cypress trees whisper and lavender bushes cast a heady perfume. In winter, when the pool is closed, there’s another indoors, as well as a Turkish bath. More: crowneplaza.com.
THET STANDARD DOWNTOWN, LOS ANGELES, US Nothing standard about this wacky rooftop pool with its views over downtown L.A. The grass is red AstroTurf, the furniture red plastic, the poolside waterbeds gently vibrate. Potted hedges are trimmed into animal shapes. Yeah baby, it’s back to 1960s Austin Powers territory, when faux was fun and plastic was the latest, greatest thing. A great hotel pool is where guests want to be, and this one is a social magnet. Kick back on your lilo and watch Hollywood classics screen on the wall of the adjacent building. Hit the dance floor when the DJ starts spinning the vinyl. If skinny-dipping is your thing, wait until after midnight, when the martinis have kicked in. More: standardhotels.com/losangeles.
FOUR SEASONS AT THE BOSPHORUS, ISTANBUL, TURKEY Infinity pools, cantilevered pools, pools on rooftops: as hotels strive to outdo each other, sometimes the traditional rectangle does it best. Hobble across the hot white flagstones, down the shallow steps and into the cool waters at this Ottoman-era palace for one of the world’s best views afloat. Ferries and cargo ships ply the Bosphorus; beyond them the minarets of the old city soar. Poolside tents draped in red and white curtains make you feel like a pasha as you lounge. Close by is a gluttony-inducing mezze bar. In winter, retreat to a mosaic-lined indoor pool where music plays underwater, as if mermaids are singing. More: fourseasons.com/bosphorus.
FOUR SEASONS SAFARI LODGE, SERENGETI, TANZANIA If you care to cool off in a pool while eyeballing elephants — and why wouldn’t you — then plunge into the hillside infinity waters at this bush resort. A genuine waterhole directly below gets regular visits by elephants, zebras and other wildlife, allowing you a safari without the dust and bumpy roads. Everyone has their own plunge pool at the luxe resort, but the main infinity swimming pool is the spot to be from late afternoon, when wine corks pop, iced towels are pressed against hot necks and the gardens start to hum with grasshoppers. The elephants are so close you can hear their ears flapping, and savanna recedes to a smudge of blue mountains. More: fourseasons.com/serengeti.
La Sirenuse, Positano, Italy, top; W Hotel, Hong Kong, above left; Four Seasons at the Bosphorus, Istanbul, Turkey, above right; Four Seasons Safari Lodge, Serengeti, Tanzania, below