tell me about most amazing place you've ever swam!
January 21, 2018 1:02 PM   Subscribe

I want to know about the most amazing places to swim and/or soak. Specifically, that I could someday go visit. (So if it was the lake on your grandpop's land 30 years ago that's gone now, that's not so helpful.) But otherwise, let er rip. Swimming holes? Crazy pools? Underground rivers? Hot springs? I want to hear about it.

I'll go first. Off the top of my head, amazing places I've swam/soaked:

- the Roman hot pool at Hieropolis in Turkey. Went there on a drizzly late afternoon, spent an hour paddling around in steamy, clear blue hot water between fallen Roman marble columns, nearly alone. (The next day at noon it was blindingly bright and soupy with people, so timing was key.)

- the beach at Ko Samui, late at night. There was phosphorescence in the water and it was bathtub warm. Magical.

- a cenote snorkel tour in the Yucatan somewhere. Crystal clear water, floating over watery caverns, stalagtites, etc.

- the hot tub at the hostel at Pigeon Point in N Cal, set on the cliff. Soaking in hot water watching the Pacific sunset with pelicans flying by.

posted by fingersandtoes to Travel & Transportation (72 answers total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: the Mediterranean sea at Tropea in Calabria (Riaci Beach)

a hotspring just north of Stintson Beach right at the tide line

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres (great place to watch the sunset)
posted by supermedusa at 1:07 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Kuang Si waterfalls, near Luang Prabang Laos. Enjoy the rope swing!
posted by NotAlwaysSo at 1:08 PM on January 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

The most southern end of the big island of Hawaii, complete with jumping off a cliff into a small hole that had a pool, where you could get easily pulled back out to open sea (nicely!) by the tide. So magical.
posted by knownassociate at 1:14 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Luso, in Portugal. You swim in perfectly pure spring water and it's really strange because it doesn't hold you up at all, it's just soft and clean. For contrast you can go to the huge Atlantic waves at Cascais.
posted by mumimor at 1:15 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Blue Lagoon in Iceland in the off season when it isn’t too busy.
Almost anywhere at night!
posted by littlewater at 1:20 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Top in my travels thus far: BVIs, by the Baths.

Amazing marine life, calm waters, warm currents, and no one there if you go early enough in the day.

Second place: Vilanculos in Mozambique.

Indian Ocean, flat sand as far as the eye can see, and such marine life that is both awe-inspiring to see and delicious to eat -- your boat captain will casually haul a fish out and cook it for you, fresh for lunch.
posted by vacuumsealed at 1:21 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The cave baths in Miskolctapolca, Hungary. It's awesome hot spring baths in a cave, where the hot water pours out of lime-encrusted gargoyles in the cave walls. Amazing!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:23 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The Eibsee in Bavaria: phenomenal on a hot day.
The Indian Ocean off the Kalpitiya peninsula in western Sri Lanka. Storybook stuff.
Our current jam is the basin at Ala Moana, here in Honolulu
A rooftop hotel in Doha - the pool was lighted from underneath the water, which was the only light we had.
A little protected bay somewhere south & east along the coast from Muscat, Oman: snorkeling was magnificent.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 1:33 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: A cenote in the wilds of Yucatan though I don't remember which. (If you do this don't wear sunscreen as it contaminates the water.)

The "Narrows" at Tassajara creek in Ventana wilderness; not a big swim but a very beautiful place with a little waterfall/slide over water-polished semi-marble limestone.

The Mediterranean off the coast of Libya, swimming above Roman ruins (maybe a bit like your swim at Hieropolis .. but also this: being at that time very very nearsighted I dove & picked up what resembled an amphora; then found at the surface I held an unexploded shell from WWII .. put down very gently)
posted by anadem at 1:39 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: No one had said the Dead Sea yet? (The hotels on the Jordanian side are much nicer than the Israeli side.)
posted by whitewall at 1:40 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sculptured Rocks in central New Hampshire.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:44 PM on January 21, 2018

Response by poster: super extra credit for links!... do let me know if you'd rather I DON'T ask you more about it! Otherwise I might.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Also the spa at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.
posted by Daily Alice at 1:45 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Off a private beach in Woods Hole, MA around midnight in August. The water was freeeeeezing but we were surrounded by bioluminescent jellyfish and plankton. Every movement through the water would set off a flurry of light. It was magical!

Off the Kohala coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

Yet another cenote in the Yucatan.

Having jumped off a catamaran in the Indian Ocean off the Coromandel Coast of India.
posted by peacheater at 1:46 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Cenotes near Tulum, Mexico especially the ones that connect to the ocean underground
Underground river system near Tulum, Mexico
posted by carmicha at 2:03 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Wakulla Springs, Florida, where a giant underground river wells up with crystal clear water.
posted by beagle at 2:07 PM on January 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The hot (and cold) springs outside Mammoth Lakes, California. Picture yourself enjoying the most shockingly beautiful panorama of the Eastern Sierra while you relax your muscles in a variety of pools of different sizes, temperatures, and crowded-ness.

Best to do it on a week day, get there in a four wheel drive vehicle with good clearance. Bring a big jug or growler of your favorite beverage. Good in all seasons.
posted by Temeraria at 2:12 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hamilton Pool, a collapsed grotto in central Texas. Appeared in Terrence Malick's Tree of Life (2011).

Virtually any lake in the High Sierra backcountry.
posted by desert outpost at 2:18 PM on January 21, 2018 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I camped near Sequoia National Park once (we were actually in the Mountain Home Demonstration State Forest) and we went on a hike that started by the Hidden Falls Campground on Moses Mountain. It claimed to be a "moderate day hike." It was around five miles, mostly up very steep hills that I would in no way call moderate. Near the end of the trail (it was a loop), there was a spur off to a waterfall. We "showered" in the icy mountain water and waded/splashed around in the pools it created. It was a perfect sunny day with gorgeous blue skies, and the challenge getting there made it so much better. At one point, I was drying off in the warm sun and a butterfly flew by and it just might have been the most perfect moment ever.
posted by Weeping_angel at 2:19 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

I know you did a cenote tour but there are so many fantastic cenotes. Small, big, dark, caves, etc. You could do a week in Tulum and hit a different cenote each time.
Some days you could choose to do a few a day. We did!

There are many lagoons in Iceland. We did a couple and they were really wonderful.

I also really enjoyed a wonderful wood heated hot tub in the woods!
posted by beccaj at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: St. Herman's Blue Hole, Belmopan, Belize

Ojo de Agua, Omatepe, Nicaragua

Nahmint Lake, British Columbia, Canada
posted by wats at 2:32 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

The waterfall at Dindefelo in Kedougou, Senegal. I'm not sure how it is now but when I went there 18 years ago, we had to get there by a trail road and then park the motorbikes and walk through the woods for the last one or two kilometers. The deeper we got into the woods, the more humid the air got, and it was also cooler. Near the falls it was downright pleasant! The falls consist of not much water but it falls from very high; there is a rock pool that you can swim in. There'll generally be other folks swimming, and children playing. You basically feel like you're in the middle of the jungle and that's because you are.

A thermal bath in Morocco, in the desert, in a small and remote town on a piste. As soon as tourists arrive, the bath is declared to be coed that evening, so they can charge you for using it. That's fair. The bath is simple, small, slightly run down but still very relaxing if you can get over the strong smell of sulphur. There's a 'camping site' which means a walled yard with gravel. Okay, maybe this is not what you're after because I now realise that I honestly can't remember where it is. Sorry.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:48 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: The Basin, Rottnest Island. 40 mins ferry from Fremantle, Western Australia. The cleanest water ever!
posted by sconbie at 2:57 PM on January 21, 2018

The sulphur hot spring near the ocean, on the edge of an old cedar forest in Tofino; this marsh between the St Lawerence and the Atlantic near Gaspe, Banff and Radium Hot Springs, the tiny womblike tiled pool in the old YMCA in Vancouver, this swimming hole on the edge of a coulee near Lethbridge, River swimming in the Milk River, and the NSR in Alberta.
posted by PinkMoose at 3:03 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: A little less exotic, but - the two hike-in hot springs outside Taos, on the banks of the Rio Grande. Primitive and very beautiful.
posted by peachfuzz at 3:14 PM on January 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Best answer: - Two volcanic crater lakes during a hiking trip in the Eifel region in Germany: the Gemündener Maar on a misty morning and the Schalkenmehrener Maar in the afternoon heat.
- Lake Vesijärvi near Lahti, Finland on a seemingly endless summer day.
- The Wadden Sea after a sauna in a bungalow on the Dutch island Texel.
posted by Desertshore at 3:18 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Dead Sea (Jordan side). Blue Lagoon also amazing. And the oforu bath at The kura Door, a Japanese spa in Salt Lake City.
posted by namemeansgazelle at 3:18 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: The Kapoho tide pools on the Hilo side of the big island of Hawaii. Warm, calm water, and the most amazing snorkeling sights I've ever seen. Tons of coral, fish, eels, turtles, giant clams...spending a day there was one of the best days of my life. I wish I lived in one of the houses right there.
posted by Fuego at 3:31 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Snorkeling Frederiksted Pier, St Croix. When I discovered that tropical fish aquarium tanks are cool and all, but that exists, in the same density, in the ocean. (The diving is good there, too)

Parksville Lake, Benton Tennessee. A bunch of us were worn out from a day of guiding on the Ocoee, and were out on a pontoon boat in the middle of the night, and the water temperature and the air temperature were just right and we were diving off the boat and it was awesome.
posted by straw at 3:33 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 7132 Therme in Vals, Switzerland. It's a thermal bath spa type place, but it is an architectural beauty and there are hot pools that have amazing alpine views, as well as pools with flower petals and menthol saunas.
posted by fancyoats at 3:54 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I know you did cenotes in the Yucatan, but my favorite was the beach actually at/below the Tulum archaeological site.
posted by gudrun at 3:54 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Was sure someone would already have mentioned Havasu Falls, on the Havasupai reservation, in the Grand Canyon (adjacent to the National Park). Note that you have to hike in 8 miles.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 4:00 PM on January 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Glistening Waters/Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica. Brackish water where bioluminescent microorganisms thrive; any agitation in the water (boat, swimming, etc) causes blueish light to appear in the water. There are night tours where you can swim in the water, or just observe. You can also see birds in the trees that were diving in the water earlier, softly glowing. If I recall correctly, the lagoon floor feels bizarre too - like Jell-O. It was a super surreal experience.
posted by rachaelfaith at 4:33 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Floating underground in complete darkness at the Cocklebiddy Cave, Western Australia is a memory that stays with me. It's popular with cave divers for good and sufficient reason, but my only equipment on the day was a pair of shorts and a feeble and failing pen torch and for me that was plenty.
posted by flabdablet at 4:52 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Snorkelling in the Galapagos surrounded by sea lions, penguins, iguanas, turtles and sharks was pretty special.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 5:04 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: The spring-fed pool at Balmorhea State Park is my favorite. It's literally a desert oasis, and because the park was built as part of the CCC, it feels like it's lost in time.
posted by slagheap at 5:07 PM on January 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, the cenote experience is over the top. The one I went to in Yucatan (ages ago, pre-digital camera, even) had a small hole at the top letting light in but was mostly dark. So awesome.

There is a spot near the lower falls at Stone Mountain (NC) State Park where the icy cold mountain water has carved out natural bathtubs into the smooth stone. I'll tell you, there wasn't much better than the summer day hike that culminated there.There are also some really neato sliding falls that are smaller and just off the main road.
posted by Stewriffic at 5:24 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Some friends and I did this tour in Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park in Vietnam, where we hiked around some extremely beautiful karst landscape and then walked around in some caves and then swam through an underground river. We then had lunch and a swim by/in a pretty sweet pond under a waterfall. It was pretty fantastic.
posted by aubilenon at 5:38 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: The pool at the Grand Hyatt in Kauai

I lived in Bermuda for 10 years and Horseshoe Bay is amazing on a nice day as is Coopers Island.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:24 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Natural Bridges in Vallecito, CA is a swimming hole inside a cave (open on both ends). The water's pretty chilly through July, but perfect in August.
posted by extramundane at 6:28 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Slate spring at Esalen in Big Sur go on a full moon . Next the Saline valley warm springs Death Valley NP most remote, you will need a sturdy vehicle and extra water unless you have a friend with a plane . Then the natural pool at Tecopa Ca.
posted by hortense at 7:22 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Welcome Flat hot pools in NZ
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 8:12 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Santa Clara Island, a rocky point in the La Concha Bay at San Sebastian, Spain. The town's beaches are fine, but Santa Clara is more fun. One one side, the calm blue-green of the bay; the other, a wide sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean. (And, of course, because the Basques know how to live properly, there's a patio and a bar.) In June, the water is the perfect temperature for simming and the crowds haven't arrived yet.
posted by slab_lizard at 9:18 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Barton Springs, Austin TX
posted by valannc at 10:51 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: Wadi Shab in Oman.

The Light Bath in James Turrell's House of Light in Niigata, Japan.
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:51 PM on January 21, 2018

Best answer: The public swimming pool at Krossneslaug, Iceland. It's open for the very few locals and the limited number of people who travel by car so far from civilisation. It's fed by a hot spring, and you can swim there and watch the frigid North Sea.
posted by Harald74 at 12:48 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Elafonisi. Get the KTEL bus from Chania.
posted by mdonley at 5:00 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Also check out:

- Selong Belanak on Lombok; I saw perhaps 50 tourists there over a midsummer weekend. Stay here. If you go after being in Bali you won't want to go back to Bali at all - no beach I went to on Bali was nearly this nice.

- swimming under landing planes at the end of the runway on Mai Khao Beach on Phuket. The rest of Phuket is sadly overdeveloped but weirdly this bit by the airport is the microscopic Sirinath National Park, so it's rather quiet. (Except for the planes. Which you are swimming under. For example.)
posted by mdonley at 6:04 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: At Cranberry Flats on the South Saskatchewan river in July. The days are 18 hours long and almost always sunny. If there are clouds it is from thunderstorms that you can watch meander across the endless sky. The river is wide, waist-deep and filled with sandbars. If you are willing to wade a few hundred meters you can have a sandbar to yourself. Much of the water flowing by you will have been snow less than two weeks earlier up in the Rocky Mountains but the hundreds of hours of sun warms it to a near perfect refreshing temperature.
posted by FrancisSteam at 6:26 AM on January 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Hanauma Bay. It was in the Elvis Presley film, Blue Hawaii. Closer to shore, you can snorkel and watch the colourful fish. Further out, you can swim and snorkel in the breakers.
There are parts of Wasaga Beach where the sand bottom recedes really gently... it is possible to walk quite far out into the Bay and still be only chest-deep in the water. Georgian Bay is a different colour every time you look at it.
Scandinave Spa has outdoor hot and cold water pools, along with saunas, steam rooms and massage. Their location at Blue Mountain stays open all year round, so you can soak in the hot pool, even in cold weather. (I don't know about the other locations.)
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 7:39 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Topaz Lake in Killarney Provincial Park, about 4 hours drive North from Toronto, Canada. It's a 3-4 hour hike in from the parking lot, the last 20 minutes or so are very steeply up hill. You'll probably have it to yourself. The quartzite stone is amazing, and the water is super clear. Go in August, after bug season.

Llanos de Cortez is about 40 minutes south of the airport in Liberia, Costa Rica. The pond in front of the falls is nice, and you can climb behind the falls. (bring water shoes)

We also liked Baldi Hot Springs in Costa Rica. It's a series of man made pools fed by hot springs. Some are big pools for swimming, some are shallower wading pools with seating and lounges, there are a couple of bars, there are waterfalls and waterslides. All are slightly different temperatures, so you can find your perfect soak. We were there on a weekday evening, and there were no crowds.

Hot Springs Cove near Tofino, BC on Vancouver Island. It's a natural hot spring that forms several pools on its way to the ocean. It's a boat ride from tofino, and then a boardwalk trail to the spring. A fantastic day out.

Nthing Iceland's Blue lagoon, and anywhere you can snorkel with the sea lions in the Galapagos. Those things are fast!
posted by thenormshow at 7:53 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Slide Rock State Park in Arizona. You can get into the water upstream and slide downstream for a very long time in gentle rapids, flowing currents, and intermittent deep pools.
posted by Miko at 7:59 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: The hot springs around Arenal volcano in Costa Rica. Have a soak and watch red-hot lava rocks bounce down the volcano.
posted by hhc5 at 8:17 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Barton Springs has to make this list, for several reasons. One, it is by far the nicest place I swam that had locker rooms (glorious outdoor artistic tiled ones) and lifeguards, and is only 15 minutes by car from downtown Austin. So it has convenience locked up. Two, the spring-fed water is cool in summer and warm in fall/spring, so you can swim in three seasons. Three, it is 300 meters / 900 feet long, so with a bit of steering you can get an open-water experience without the risk. Truly magical.
posted by wnissen at 9:03 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Such a good question! Some of my favorites:

- The hot springs waterfall near Rio Dulce, Guatemala. The waterfall is fed by hot springs, but somehow the pool is cool. Amazing contrast.

- Mikri Vigla beach in Naxos, Greece. Perfectly clear aquamarine water, white sands, boulders - the perfect Agean swimming experience. Followed by lunch at an amazing seaside taverna.
posted by lunasol at 9:23 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: The Luna Jaguar Spa in the middle of nowhere, Honduras. It's about 60 miles north of Copán Ruinas, right on the border of Guatemala and Honduras. If you go at night the spa isn't open, but WOW, you get to soak in a natural hot springs on the side of a frikkin mountain in Honduras!
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:52 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: While on our honeymoon, my wife and I swam up under the Pont du Gard Aqueduct and then floated back down on our backs, holding hands looking up at the massive structure. A jawdropping experience!
posted by drinkmaildave at 11:02 AM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Scramble up the limestone to the placid pool in the middle of Morgan Falls in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Northern Wisconsin. The water is stunningly cold and coppery.
posted by Jesse the K at 1:23 PM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: Opal creek reserve east of Portland Oregon
posted by hortense at 2:18 PM on January 22, 2018

Best answer: The fjords of Oman!

Roatan, Honduras--you can snorkel and just see amazing fish.

On my list: the Venetian pool in Miami and the travertines in Pamukkale
posted by jennybento at 4:19 PM on January 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The pools in Havasu creek in the Grand Canyon.
posted by OmieWise at 6:47 PM on January 22, 2018

Playa Tortuga on Culebrita.

Upper reaches of the Nam Ou, assuming it hasn’t been destroyed by hydroelectric dams.
posted by aramaic at 8:23 PM on January 22, 2018

Response by poster: Jennybento, FYI, the travertine pools at Pamukkale are no longer accessible at all, even to approach, much less to soak in. There's a path you walk along, with your shoes off to limit erosion damage, where you can see them but not approach. I keep seeing Pamukkale on Internet listicles about great outdoor pools and when I do I know the listicle isn't properly researched. Hence this question asked of folks' actual experience.

I'd love to hear more about Roatan and how the snorkeling there compares to other Caribbean sites if you have insight there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Waimea Bay on the North Shore of the summer
posted by Iamthepassenger at 10:31 PM on January 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

i soaked in Pammukahle just 4 yrs ago, wha happened?
posted by Wilder at 7:07 AM on January 23, 2018

Response by poster: WHAT WHAT WHAT

pm-ing you Wilder, we'll get to the bottom of this
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:44 AM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Black Rock, Maui, Hawaii.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 11:38 AM on January 23, 2018

A small lake (I have no idea which one because there are a million up there) in a long-defunct private campground named Woodsmoke, near Parry Sound, Ontario. When I was a young teen I'd spend *hours* snorkeling around it when my family camped there; the water was crystal clear and full of fish (bass, trout, pike and pickerel), turtles and other lake critters, logs, lillypads and other nooks and crannies to explore (the logs were often peppered with fishing lures to scavenge) and there was just enough of a current to keep leeches away. I remember going swimming at night one time and the water was so still and the stars so bright you could see the sky reflected in the water. It looked like this.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:40 AM on January 23, 2018

Best answer: Jellyfish Lake, Palau

You don't actually dive, you snorkel. It is truly magical.
posted by cyndigo at 12:56 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ooh, I meant to mention snorkeling off Roatan. I can't compare it to other Caribbean islands but it was amazing. I snorkeled through a canyon reef! I feel like that's the kind of stuff you normally only get to do if you're SCUBA diving.
posted by lunasol at 8:00 PM on January 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: rooftop pool in Bath in the UK, ThermaeBath Spa, set over the original Roman baths/hot spring and really affordable, but go in the off season and at sunset....when the illumination on 15th C Bath Abbey lights up it is a spectacular blend of history & bathing....bucket list!
posted by Wilder at 1:10 PM on January 29, 2018

The Santa Rosa Wall in Cozumel. Saw both reef fish and pelagic. And sea turtles.

posted by bashos_frog at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2018

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