Tap into decades past by swimming at these stunning pools housed within historic hotels.
There’s nothing quite like staying at a historic hotel that is rich with history, especially when that hotel has a pool. Public hotel pools are generally a modern innovation, but there are a few iconic ones that have been delighting travelers for generations—from the storied oceanfront saltwater pool at a seaside resort in France to a quirky tiki den atop San Francisco’s Nob Hill. Wherever the pool is located, they all share one thing in common: they’re delightful places to relax and reminisce about years gone.
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This cliffside resort opened in 1887 and is one of the oldest continuously operating hotels in the Caribbean. The historic pool, with its towering Doric columns, was completed in the 1970s. Enjoyed by generations of travelers, this pool is an oasis of serene, adults-only respite.
INSIDER TIPArrive early to snag a seat near the balcony with commanding views of the pink sand Crane Beach 50 feet below.
WHERE: Lake Como, Italy
This 16th-century villa was constructed around 1560 when a cardinal razed a local nunnery to build a lavish holiday home. The property has been a summer resort since 1876, with the pool having been built around the 1960s. Considered a novel feature at the time, the pool remains a beauty, with the entire pool and pool deck floating right into the waters of Lake Como.
Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, a Four Seasons Hotel
WHERE: Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France
The hotel, perched on the rocky edge of a peninsula overlooking the Mediterranean, is over a hundred years old, but the saltwater pool just down the hill at the water’s edge, built in the spring of 1939, made her ready for the sunseekers of the midcentury. Generations of French vacationers had swimming lessons from the hotel’s instructors, one of whom recently retired after a six-decade career at the pool, where a French actress once even practiced waterskiing.
INSIDER TIPArrive hungry. The food at the poolside Club Dauphin is legendary.
Miami Biltmore Hotel
WHERE: Coral Gables, Florida
This 1926 vintage Spanish Revival tower was the tallest building in Florida when it was completed. The 23,000 square-foot pool, completed along with the original hotel, was once the largest hotel pool in the world and still ranks among the largest. The hotel was an instant draw for Jazz Age flappers from colder climates in its early years. Today, there’s DJ entertainment on weekends.
INSIDER TIPThe pool cabanas come in two sizes to accommodate various groups and are surprisingly affordable.
Glenwood Hot Springs Resort
WHERE: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
The natural hot springs here have been used by the Ute tribe for medicinal purposes for centuries. In 1888 investors pooled the springs and built a sandstone bathhouse and lodge, and a modern lodge was built in the 1980s. The waters have a distinctively sulphuric odor, which can sometimes be detected from miles away!
INSIDER TIPDay passes are available to the public, not just lodge guests.
WHERE: Berlin, Germany
First opened in 1902 as a public bathhouse, the pool operated until the 1980s, when it was closed due to disrepair. After spending time as a convention hall and art gallery, the pool was restored to reflect its original architectural heritage with the property’s reopening as a hotel in 2016.
INSIDER TIPThe pool remains open to the public on a reservation basis. Hotel guests don’t need reservations and get preferential pricing.
The Beverly Hills Hotel
WHERE: Beverly Hills, California
The 1912 property first opened its pool as the “Sand and Pool Club” in 1938, when the pool had a faux beach with real beach sand. Of course, as one of greater L.A.’s most storied historic hotels, there are plenty of celebrity stories to share surrounding the octogenarian swim spot. Katharine Hepburn once jumped in, fully clothed, and The Beatles hosted a private pool party. Today, hotel guests can luxuriate in pink striped cabanas or cushy loungers while attendants offer lemonade slushes and chilled M&Ms.
INSIDER TIPFor a meta feeling, rent a cabana and watch one of the many films shot on the property, including ‘Troop Beverly Hills’ and ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’
The Palace Hotel
WHERE: San Francisco, California
The hotel itself dates back to 1875, and the present building to 1909 after the original was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake. The pool was added during a 1980s renovation and has been treasured by guests for nearly four decades. On the roof, underneath an elegant dome reminiscent of the soaring glass ceilings of the popular Garden Court in the lobby, this pool is just one of the many Beaux Arts touches on this historic property. It’s a circuitous route to reach the pool, but it’s worth the hike.
The Grand Hotel
WHERE: Mackinac Island, Michigan
Installed in the 1920s, the hotel pool is nicknamed “Paul Bunyan’s Footprint” after a local legend that tall tale hero Paul Bunyan used Mackinac Island as a stepping stone on his way across the Great Lakes. The pool was used in a 1949 Esther Williams film which attracted much attention to the grand summer resort, and today, both the pool and a suite in the hotel bear her name.
The Fairmont San Francisco
WHERE: San Francisco, California
Our last entry is quirky but perhaps the most entertaining. The “pool” at this 1907 hotel was indeed built as a swimming pool in 1929—until 1945, when a swimming pool was repurposed into a tiki bar and restaurant that is still in existence today. The Tonga Room & Hurricane Bar still has the open waters of the pool as part of the restaurant’s classic midcentury theme, but instead of swimmers, it holds a barge with a live band and is the catchment for the nightly tropical “rain showers” that pour from the ceiling.
INSIDER TIPThose who can’t secure a table in the dining room can still enjoy the show from the bar, which has an energetic dance floor.
It's Katharine not Katherine Hepburn