Travel

Float Up to the Bartender at These Best 16 Pool Bars in the World

Swim and drink like a fish.

Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives

The allure of some hotel bars is impalpable – from ambiance to aesthetic, service to specialty cocktails, they do everything so right and keep you coming back for more. Then there are these swim-up pool bars that are so utterly unique that they entice guests to never leave the property, embracing imbibers in secret coves masked by waterfalls or boasting the best views on the resort, all with a strong, usually tropical, beverage in hand.

From Maui to the Maldives, Nusa Dua to Nicaragua, here are some of the best swim-up pool bars out there.

Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Grand Wailea, Maui

There are nine individual pools on six different levels at Grand Wailea‘s Activity Pool, including a swim-up bar tucked into a concealed cave. The intimate bar is outfitted with tiled stools that keep you grounded while ordering up a Mai Tai or frozen cocktail, two specialities served up in this best kept secret at the resort.

Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort
Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa

A labyrinth of poolscape exists at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, providing guests access to the refreshing waters right from their suites and villas. Don’t miss the centrepiece swim-up Mai Bar at the main pool, though, where guests congregate over coconut cocktails served in whole coconuts.

Photo courtesy of Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa
Photo courtesy of Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa
Photo courtesy of Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa

Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa, Costa Rica

The only thing better than a swim-up pool bar? A swim-up pool bar that is naturally heated with the same thermal spring water as the hotel’s onsite hot springs. And that’s exactly what you’ll encounter at Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa in Costa Rica at their main pool. Hotel guests aren’t the only ones privy to this pool, with day passes available between 10am to 10pm.

Blue Lagoon Iceland
Blue Lagoon Iceland
Blue Lagoon Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland

As a welcome surprise to this Icelandic institution renowned for its healing benefits, the Blue Lagoon is indeed equipped with a swim-up pool bar. You’ll find most guests with caked on silica masks (applied at the complementing swim-up mask bar), gripping a glass of bubbles that seem to go hand in hand with the soaking experience, portraying what #balance is all about.

Photo courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition
Photo courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition
Photo courtesy of Virgin Limited Edition

Moskito Island, British Virgin Islands

There are not one, but three, swim-up bars at Moskito Island, Richard Branson’s newest private island in the British Virgin Islands, and they all serve up signature Pina Coladas created with fresh island coconuts. The Oasis Estate’s swim-up bar offers views of Branson’s original famed hideaway, Necker Island; The Point Estate’s infinity pool and attached swim-up bar overlooks Virgin Gorda; and at the recreation area called The Beach House, the third swim-up bar borders the pool and hot tub, depicting ultimate luxury.

Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace
Caesars Palace

Fortuna Pool at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

There are no shortage of pool options in Las Vegas, however, for the ultimate Sin City experience, look no further than the Fortuna Pool at Caesars Palace within the Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at this popular Las Vegas outpost. Fortuna Bar provides guests with access to not only a swim-up bar, but swim-up gaming tables where you can try your hand at Black Jack.

Nanuku Resort, Fiji
Nanuku Resort, Fiji
Nanuku Resort, Fiji

Nanuku Resort, Fiji

You may book your own pool-front suite at this adults only retreat in Fiji’s Pacific Harbour, however, for when you want to enjoy company and the resort’s sweeping view, take a dip in Nanuku Resort‘s main pool and swim up to the Wai Pool bar for a handcrafted tropical cocktail. The pool bar also serves light island fare like soft shell crab tacos and salads throughout the day.

Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort

Rosewood Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Los Cabos

While most travellers may associate swim-up bars with the overbooked Mexican resorts of spring break, the luxurious Rosewood Las Ventanas al Paraiso will break that stereotype with its sophisticated pool deck and 5,000-square-foot, infinity-edge swimming pool. The swim-up bar is tucked into this sprawling posh playground and with pool butlers on hand ready to give you Evian mists throughout the day; it’s certainly a spot you won’t want to stray far from in the Los Cabos heat.

Belle Mont Farm
Belle Mont Farm
Belle Mont Farm

Belle Mont Farm at Kittitian Hill, St. Kitts

Located at the grand entrance to this boutique hotel, Belle Mont Farm at Kittitian Hill beckons guests to dive right in. Surrounded by St. Kitts’ mountainous rainforest terrain, and overlooking the Caribbean Sea, there’s no mistaking a sense of place at this swim-up bar–so make that cocktail order one of the most tropical you can think of. Painkiller, anyone?

Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives
Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa Maldives

Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa, Maldives

This adults only resort in North Male offers a stunning swim-up bar at Waves Pool–steps from the white sands and azure waters that the region is famed for. Order up a tiki cocktail in between dips in the ocean, or spend an entire day lounging at this pool for a change in activity at this sea-centric locale.

Photo courtesy of Conrad Punta de Mita
Photo courtesy of Conrad Punta de Mita
Photo courtesy of Conrad Punta de Mita

Conrad Punta de Mita, México

Given this new build’s proximity to Mexico’s Tequila region, Conrad Punta de Mita‘s swim-up bar emphasizes agave-based cocktails so you don’t need to leave the adults-only pool to get a taste of the Riviera Nayarit most beloved spirit. There are also private cabanas surrounding the pool should you feel like taking your cocktail with you while catching some rays.

Calala Island, Nicaragua

Located off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, Calala Island depicts barefoot luxury at its finest. You’ll only have to share the swim-up bar, hosted under a classically-thatched ‘palapa’ roof, with a handful of guests, as a total of four beachfront suites occupy this private island resort.

The Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas, Bali
The Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas, Bali
The Mulia, Mulia Resort & Villas, Bali

Ocean Pool at The Mulia, Nusa Dua, Bali

Bali’s southern region of Nusa Dua may be renowned for its beaches, but at The Mulia, you’ll get the best of both worlds. There are four pools at Mulia Resort, including the Ocean Pool accessorized by yes, a swim-up bar, but also Balinese statues that frame that picture-perfect view of the Indian Ocean and famed Geger Beach.

The Springs Resort and Spa - Arenal, Costa Rica
The Springs Resort and Spa – Arenal, Costa Rica
The Springs Resort and Spa – Arenal, Costa Rica

The Springs Resort & Spa, Arenal, Costa Rica

The swim-up bar at The Springs Resort & Spa may be one of the most recognizable from Instagram as its sweeping views of Arenal volcano provide an otherworldly backdrop to its floating wicker chairs and wrap-around bar. It’s certainly the spot to see and be seen, just remember to put the camera down at some point to admire the view through your own eyes.

VALA Hua Hin
VALA Hua Hin
VALA Hua Hin

VALA Hua Hin, Thailand

Though VALA Hua Hin is a family resort, the main pool is an adults-oriented haven with its swim-up bar and infinity edges that splash over to powdery sands lining the Gulf of Thailand. The resort’s farm-to-fork initiatives ensure the freshest ingredients used on their menus, which includes their thoughtful cocktails, using fresh herbs and fruits from their onsite garden.

Amfora, hvar grand beach resort
Amfora, hvar grand beach resort
Amfora, hvar grand beach resort

Amfora, Hvar, Croatia

Tucked into a private inlet along Hvar, the multi-level pool at Amfora Hvar Grand Beach envelops guests in a lush forest of foliage, with glistening views of the Adriatic peaking through. Swim-up to the pool bar, and stay awhile; submerged bar stools keep your lower body cool and the traditional terracotta roofing, found across Croatia’s coast, keeps your face shaded enough for an all-day splurge at this secluded part of the pool.

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Jillian Dara is a contributor to Thrillist.

Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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