Man, hotel pools have changed over the years. Think back to the classic years of last century’s American road trips and hotel pools were simply a place for parents to decompress from a day of driving while their kids splashed in the water. Now, it’s not uncommon for the pools to be almost as important as the rooms, especially as background scenery for social fodder. Whether they’re set at the foot of towering red rock cliffs or adorned with hidden grotto bars, a picturesque pool goes a long way toward a hotel’s success. From sprawling tropical pool decks to hotel pools ensconced in the mountains, here are our picks for the coolest ones in America.
Amangiri – Canyon Point, Utah
The pool at this red rock oasis near Lake Powell is a big reason why it’s one of the coolest hotels in America. The tranquil, sunken pool deck wraps around a mammoth rock escarpment, almost like you’ve discovered a secret desert swimming hole that just happens to serve drinks. The area is equally as inviting at night, when kicking back on one of its king-sized deck chairs makes for world-class stargazing.
Andaz West Hollywood – Los Angeles, Calif.
You’ll feel like a lord of LA gazing out across the hazy skyline from the highest rooftop pool in the city. While the panorama of tall buildings, the Hollywood Hills and Sunset Strip hasn’t changed, the pool deck just finished up a major renovation, adding stuff like high-tech lighting and teak wood furniture to keep things fresh.
The Ben – West Palm Beach, Fla.
One might think a city full of beachfront wouldn’t have much of a rooftop pool party scene. But that’s not the case in West Palm Beach, where the art-filled Ben hosts the city’s hottest happy hour next to its elevated swimming pool. By day, the pool also offers stunning views of the city, Palm Beach Island and the iconic Breakers hotel in the distance.
The Biltmore – Coral Gables, Fla.
With the abundance of sexy, modern hotel pools in Miami, oft forgotten is the classic Mediterranean lagoon at Coral Gables’ Biltmore. The 600,000-gallon mini-lake is lined with marble columns and historic statues, giving the feel of laying out somewhere along the Amalfi Coast. It was a celeb hangout during the first half the 20th century, but will be far harder for you as the pool is open to hotel guests and members only.
Circa – Las Vegas, Nev.
Sure, there’s a certain degenerate allure to spending a sunny day inside a sports book and watching all your parlays play out. But for sports lovers who also love the sun, Circa might be the coolest pool ever, where a 143-foot, 14-million-megapixel LED screen shows games over a sea of lounge chairs and six different swimming pools. Sports are nothing without beer, and you’ll also find two swim-up bars serving plenty of cold drinks.
Crystal Springs Resort – Hamburg, N.J.
Not to leave indoor pools — or the great state of New Jersey — off this list, the pool doing the most with no natural advantages is Crystal Springs’ biosphere pool. It’s a little like walking through the butterfly exhibit at the zoo, where glass ceilings and temperature control make the deck downright tropical. But instead of a school group learning about metamorphosis, the interior of this biodome has a swimming pool, a waterslide and a jacuzzi.
Dive Motel – Nashville
There’s no stunning backdrops or groundbreaking architectural features at this retro motel pool in East Nashville. But the fact it has none of that but still draws bigtime summer crowds speaks to its inherent coolness, where a walk-up drink window, a Xiao Bao Biscuit truck and $15 day passes combine to create an enjoyable summer afternoon. The entire property feels like a stop on a 1980s road trip, and that time-warp effect is what makes this pool a hit.
Enchantment Resort – Sedona, Ariz.
If you came to Sedona to enjoy the brilliant contrast of forest green trees and burnt orange rocks, but your idea of exercise on vacation is lifting a cocktail to your mouth, the pool at Enchantment is your move. To show off its immersive views, the hotel recently raised and expanded the pool deck, making it twice as big and bringing it up 10 feet. The water’s kept at a constant 82 degrees, too, so if you want to stare up at desert stars while floating on your back, you won’t be cold.
Fairmont El San Juan – San Juan, PR
Art Deco icon Morris Lapidus — the same architect who designed the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach — designed this onetime airport hotel near Condado Beach in San Juan. The winding, resort-style pool gives the feeling of laying out in a tropical jungle, with palm trees and meandering water dotted by lounge chairs. If you tire of the chlorine, just step behind the last row of cabanas and you’ll enter a whole new world on the beach.
Four Seasons St. Louis – St. Louis, Mo.
Landlocked St. Louis doesn’t immediately come to mind when one thinks of fantastic hotel swimming pools. But the one atop its Four Seasons offers a stronger sense of place than almost any in America, with 360-degree views of the Gateway Arch, skyline and Mississippi River. The pool and jacuzzi are heated, meaning you don’t have to miss the view if you visit during winter. And during summer, you can cool off with strawberry daiquiris and watermelon margaritas from the Sky Terrace bar.
Garden of the Gods Resort and Club – Colorado Springs, Colo.
You’ll understand why Garden of the Gods Park got its name as you enjoy an all-encompassing vision of the landscape from the infinity pool at this private resort and golf club. Lush green hills give way to million-year-old red rock formations, with towering mountain peaks in the distance. And as you bathe in the warm water you’ll feel like a figurine in a fountain set smack in the middle of the garden.
Golden Nugget – Las Vegas, Nev.
The Golden Nugget might not be the destination casino it was during the Rat Pack era, but its new $30 million pool has ushered it into the 2020s version of cool. The three-story marvel has a 30-foot waterslide, waterfalls and a live shark tank right in the middle. What’s better, the waterslide runs right through the middle of said shark tank, so you get the dual thrill of swimming with tiger sharks and speeding down a slide.
Hyatt Regency Maui – Lahaina, Hawaii
Secret speakeasies are usually the province of big cities with old buildings to hide them in. Hiding one in a pool is a little tougher, but the Hyatt in Maui pulls it off, where those adventurous enough to peek behind the swimming pool’s waterfalls will find a hidden bar in a tropical grotto. It’s the only bar in America we’re aware of set behind cascading water, and a truly unusual place to enjoy a drink.
The Joule – Dallas, Texas
From far away, one might look at the side of this downtown Dallas hotel and think it has a small mural of someone swimming on the side. Then the swimmer would start moving. No, someone didn’t slip a different kind of mushroom into your lunch salad. It’s just the hotel’s pool, which juts eight feet out over the building’s edge. Its clear walls make it appear like a moving work of art from the outside, and like a flying trip over downtown Dallas from the inside.
The Lodge at Kukui’ula – Kauai, Hawaii
The boundless nature of Kauai is what sets it apart as the most scenically dramatic of all the Hawaiian islands. But if your kids aren’t up for a four-hour waterfall hike, spend some quality time in the salt pools of the Lodge at Kukui’ula, which are each connected with a waterfall. It’s like a little jungle swimming hole with an infinity pool, and brings the tropical wonders of Kauai to your hotel door.
Montage Healdsburg – Healdsburg, Calif.
Sticking a swimming pool in the middle of a vineyard might seem like the kind of over-the-top wine fantasy one would dream up when envisioning the extravagance of ancient Rome. But it also exists in Healdsburg, where the Montage lets you gaze straight into 258 acres of rolling wine country while you enjoy a local chardonnay inside the pool.
Marriott Marquis – Houston, Texas
No conversation of cool hotel pools is complete without a nod to the giant lazy river shaped like the state of Texas. It’s the most Texas hotel amenity one could possibly imagine, so it often overshadows the luxe infinity pool that sits only a few feet away. There’s also a sports bar near both pools called the High Dive, providing plenty of cold beer to chug between laps around the river.
Sheraton Waikiki – Honolulu, Hawaii
Easily the most photographed pool in Hawaii is the Edge Infinity Pool at the Sheraton Waikiki. The pool’s end seems to drop right into the Pacific, where looking out from a lounge chair gives the illusion of tanning on the edge of the world. But don’t sleep on the Sheraton’s Helumoa Playground pool, either, which might not have the same social media cache but does have a waterslide and two giant whirlpools.
W Aspen – Aspen, Colo.
Imagine skiing straight down a snow-covered slope and dropping straight into a perfectly heated swimming pool. That’s the illusion atop the W Aspen, where the pool appears to sit at the base of some of the city’s most renowned ski runs. In truth, the transition from slope to pool isn’t that simple, but the view is pure mountain resort immersion, and makes for an unmatched après-ski pool scene.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge – Brooklyn, N.Y.
If one hotel brand does rooftop pools better than anyone, it’s the 1, which adds this gem on the shores of the East River to its portfolio of jaw-dropping hotel pools. The Brooklyn Bridge location boasts a corner-facing pool with front-row seats to the Manhattan skyline. It also offers craft cocktails from Harriet’s, the hotel’s rooftop bar. So even if you’re not lucky enough to be a guest, you can still enjoy the view with a drink in hand.
1 Hotel South Beach – Miami Beach, Fla.
It’s easy to make the case that this pool atop South Beach’s 1 Hotel has the best hotel pool view in America. In one direction, the bright turquoise waters of the Atlantic shine on to infinity. Turn your head around, and the towering skyline of Miami twinkles across Biscayne Bay. Even the bathrooms at the 1 are Instagram darlings, as every stall offers a view that makes you do a double take.