Regardless of location—a city center, a dunes-blanketed desert, or a private tropical isle—the heart of a hotel is often its swimming pool. It serves as a social ground zero, where guests can see and be seen, mingle, and relax and recharge: essential pursuits, especially in these post-holiday wintry months
MORE FROM ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST
- » Gorgeous Celebrity Backyard Pools: Demi Moore, Diane Keaton, John Travolta and More
- » Stunning Bars Around the World
- » Most Beautiful Hotels to Stay At
A well-designed pool is almost as important as the hotel itself, which is why AD has scoured the globe for the most awe-inspiring watering holes. From a desert oasis to a Mediterranean icon to a technological wonder overlooking the Hong Kong skyline, these 10 hotel pools are sure to dazzle and inspire. Dive in!
Built in the traditional Cycladic style, with white-clay walls and a maze of staircases, wood bridges, and terraces, this picturesque Greek resort sits atop a cliff overlooking an extinct volcanic caldera. Despite its intimate size, the 27-room boutique property actually boasts two pools—a small cold-water option inside a cave, as well an extraordinary cobalt blue infinity pool featuring sweeping views of the azure waters of the Aegean Sea.
Ubud Hanging Gardens
Perched on a steep embankment next to terraced rice fields that overlook the lush Ayung river gorge, this Orient Express hotel consists of 38 Balinese-style villas that appear to float down the hillside. Just as dramatic is its split-level infinity pool, designed by the French architect Gordon Shaw. Lined with Batu Chandi volcanic stone and consisting of geometric walls of solidified volcanic ash, the striking bi-level pool is suspended over a dense rainforest, with an undulating shape that echoes the surrounding terrain.
Qasr Al Sarab Resort by Anantara
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Water is a recurring theme throughout this sprawling 206-room desert resort, from the terra-cotta jars outside the entrance (traditionally provided by locals for travelers to quench their thirst) to the tranquil stream running through the arid grounds. Not surprisingly, then, the swirling free-form pool is one of the hotel’s defining features—set among towering palm trees and otherworldly sand dunes, it is a true oasis.
Hong Kong, China
Definitely not for those who suffer from vertigo, this rooftop infinity pool is perched on the top floor of the 118-story International Commerce Center. Part of the two-year-old hotel’s spa complex, the indoor pool is noted for its sweeping views of Victoria Harbor and the Hong Kong skyline. Adding to the drama are 144 LED screens installed into the ceiling, reflecting colorful images onto the water below. The award-winning spa also houses cold and hot plunge pools, and—for those who truly aren’t afraid of heights—an outdoor Jacuzzi.
The Resort at Pelican Hill
Newport Beach, Calif.
Since opening in late 2008, Pelican Hill has quickly established itself as one of the premier vacation destinations in the U.S., highly regarded for its country club–caliber golf courses and pristine oceanfront setting. Inspired by the work of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, the elegant main hotel consists of classically designed porticoes, barrel-vaulted ceilings, fountain-filled courtyards, and graceful arches.
At 136 feet in diameter, the Coliseum Pool—named after the curved shape of the historic Roman structure—is one of the largest circular pools in the world and serves as the centerpiece of the resort. Most dazzling of all is its sparkling blue bottom, the result of 1.1 million hand-laid glass mosaic tiles.
Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Cap d’Antibes, France
For more than 140 years, this illustrious hotel—built in 1870 by Hippolyte de Villemessant, founder of the newspaper Le Figaro—has been a legendary playground for international royalty, politicians, artists, movie stars, and the literary elite. It wasn’t until 1914, however, that the property added a saltwater pool, carved out of basalt rock and overlooking the Lérins Islands and the Mediterranean Sea. Surrounded by a massive sundeck and Art Deco–style railings that resemble those on cruise ships, the pool’s saltwater is heated to a balmy 82.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
Set within a dense cedar forest in the middle of the majestic Himalayas, the elegant 85-room Oberoi Resort soars 8,250 feet above sea level, with awe-inspiring views to match. One of the most exquisite spots on the 22-acre property is the ornate indoor swimming pool, with intricate blue mosaic tilework and crystal chandeliers hanging overhead. A glass conservatory and elegant, arched picture windows look out over the snowcapped mountaintops.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
Beverly Hills, Calif.
A Hollywood star in its own right, the idyllic pool at the Pink Palace, as this beloved 100-year-old hotel is known, will forever be a place of myth and lore. Once frequented by stars like Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, and Dean Martin, it has set the scene for endless drama, both on and off the screen. The trademark green-and-white striped chaises and discreet cabanas still carry the same glamorous allure, and with the hotel in the midst of a thoughtful renovation by renowned hotel architect Adam Tihany, it’s sure to continue to attract City of Angels power players for many years to come.
Hotel Arts Barcelona
Built for the Summer Olympics in 1992, this 44-story glass-and-steel structure is the work of Colombian architect Bruce Graham of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Set on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, the pool is surrounded by gardens and offers guests the chance to sunbathe next to one of Barcelona’s most famous pieces of contemporary public art—a monumental golden fish sculpture by Frank Gehry, which was also created for the ’92 Games.
One&Only Reethi Rah
North Male Atoll, Maldives
Set on a private island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, this tropical paradise, which opened in 2005, consists of 130 intimate villas scattered across white-sand beaches and lushly landscaped grounds. The property showcases more than 50 different pools, including a gorgeous, adults-only lap pool that extends over 100 feet into the crystal-clear waters of a lagoon. Its carved-stone bed is the perfect place to relax and bask in the sun.
Click here to see more of the world's most beautiful hotel pools.