Five Breathtaking Natural Pools for a Refreshing Dip
With more than three quarters 83%* of travelers deciding to travel to a destination based on its beautiful natural scenery, natural swimming pools tick multiple bucket list boxes - not only do they provide something unique for the social media feed, they’re also a gorgeous way to cool off. With a mission to make it easier for everyone to experience the world, Booking.com has delved into its more than 28 million listings across 155,000 destinations across the world to select five of the best natural swimming spots around the world.
Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas
Fed by the Edwards Aquifer, Barton Springs is a set of four natural springs located near Barton Creek in Austin’s Zilker Park. Main Barton Spring is the largest and supplies water to Barton Springs Pool, a popular recreational destination in Austin, with waters that average between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20-22 Celsius) year-round, making it ideal for an impromptu plunge in any season. Not only is this pool surrounded by ample green space that’s ideal for relaxing, it’s also a protected reserve with measures in place to ensure the health of the plants and animals that call the area home, including the endangered Barton Springs Salamander.
As the opening hours of this pool range from 5am-10pm it's easy to enjoy the natural atmosphere of the spring during various times of day. With pleasant temperatures even in winter , a dip is never off the cards and always a great way to get a group of friends or family together, be it a morning, afternoon or evening swim. For those who want to spend even more time in the water, Booking.com offers a fun Austin Kayak Tour allowing travelers to see Austin from a new perspective as they paddle from downtown towards Barton Springs, passing along the famous Bat Bridge and taking in views of the city skyline from Lady Bird Lake.
Where to stay: Fairmont Austin Gold Experience is ideally situated in downtown Austin with excellent views of the city’s eclectic architecture. There are five restaurants and bars on-site, in addition to an elegant 7th-floor pool terrace and an extensive fitness center. The property is also surrounded by multiple lakes offering paddle boarding, boating and canoeing opportunities nearby.
Cave of Poetry in Roca Vecchia, Italy
The Cave of Poetry (Grotta della Poesia) is a natural swimming pool located in the village of Roca Vecchia on Italy’s Adriatic coast between Lecce and Otranto. The pool is one of a few beautiful natural spots where people can swim in the Apulia region and is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful natural pools in the world. Once two connected caverns, following a collapse of the ceiling long long ago and now completely open air, the Cave of Poetry is an important archaeological site, with numerous inscriptions and Bronze age artifacts having been discovered nearby. Locals and tourists don’t only come to swim in the turquoise water, but also to examine the structure of the rock and how the unique formation of this breathtaking cave has continued to develop over the years.
When in Italy, one of the best things to indulge in is the local food. The city of Lecce is around a half hour drive away from Roca Vecchia and after a day of exploring and being out in the sea air, a Cooking Class and Tasting at a Cesarina's Home is a must. During this hands-on cooking course you will learn about the gastronomy of Lecce, using fresh local ingredients to make some of the classic dishes of the region.
Where to stay: Agriturismo Masseria Costarella is an antique Travel Sustainable country house in the middle of Salento, only a short drive from the Cave of Poetry. This property is located just outside the small town of Borgagne, with the beautiful Otranto only a 20-minute drive away, providing even the most curious of travelers plenty of options to explore.
Bondi Beach Iceberg Pool in Sydney, Australia
When people think of Sydney and Bondi Beach, one of the first images that comes to mind is more than likely the unique Bondi Beach Iceberg Pool, as it’s the most photographed pool in the world. As many are aware there are plenty of other gorgeous beaches and open rock pools in Sydney, but nothing more iconic than this one and it still continues to take people's breath away the moment they see it.
What also makes this natural pool so great is the fact it is open to the public all year long and can be enjoyed by all ages. Swimming can be a hungry business, so after an energetic breaststroke in the Iceberg Pool, a bite to eat for lunch while enjoying a Harbour Cruise is a lovely way to spend the day and get to know the city better. On this leisurely boat trip, you can enjoy the scenic views, the refreshing sea breeze and fill your stomach with some classic Australian barbecue.
Where to stay: Bondi Beach House is a cozy Australian home just a short walk from both Bondi Beach and Tamarama Beach in Sydney. With the famous Iceberg Pool just minutes away, the house is an oasis of sun, sand and water.
Cenote Samula in Yucatán, Mexico
Cenote Samula is a peaceful and picturesque underground pool that can be found in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. It is one of the 3,000 or so underground cenotes scattered across this region of Mexico and also one of the prettiest. A cenote is a sort of natural sinkhole that forms when limestone caves collapse and then exposes the groundwater below. Cenote Samula has one single opening in the ceiling, allowing rays of sunlight to stream through, showing off the natural crystal blue color of the water below.
Cenote Samula is the perfect place for a swim on a hot summer's day as the water sits at a cool temperature all day long, thanks to being located underground. The closest town Valladolid is a short distance away and is where travelers can enjoy a Private City Walking Tour through the charming city center, learning more about the local culture and the city’s architectural landmarks. For those that prefer to extend their underground cenote explorations, a Mayan Underworld Experience with Dinner invites the curious to discover the nine levels of the Mayan underworld, along with some traditional cuisine.
Where to stay: Just a short walk from the beach, Casa Cuyo Hotel is a Travel Sustainable property, boasting a restaurant and lush garden views, with a massive shared terrace, perfect for enjoying a relaxing evening drink as the sun sets over the jungle.
Kuang Si Waterfall in Ban Long, Laos
Surrounded by lush tropical jungle and beloved by both locals and travelers alike, Kuang Si Falls are considered to be one of the most impressive and stunning natural landmarks in all of Laos. Located 18 miles (29 km) to the south of Luang Prabang, there are a variety of transport options at intrepid travelers’ disposal to each site from the country’s ancient royal capital and its many Buddhist temples . The waterfall cascades from a 164-feet (50-meter) height into a series of shallow pools before flowing downstream into the jungle river below. The climate at Kuang Si Falls is noticeably cooler, making it a really good place to escape the tropical heat and have a refreshing dip.
Booking.com’s Full-day tour to Kiang Si Waterfall makes it easy to learn more about the local culture and connect with locals firsthand. The day tour starts with gathering ingredients to help prepare a traditional Laotian lunch, followed by a hike through the jungle to Kiang Si Waterfall, where lunch is prepared together in a bamboo pavilion, with extra time to explore and even swim.
Where to stay: Overlooking the Mekong River, La Folie Lodge is a quick walk from the beach and just 5 miles (8 km) from the World Heritage Khmer Hindu temple of Wat Phou. With an outdoor pool to relax, the property also offers a free round-trip shuttle boat service to Don Daeng Island, an idyllic spot for a tranquil stroll or bike ride.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 48,413 respondents across 31 markets (2,000 from USA, 1,864 from Canada, 1,999 from Mexico, 2,003 from Colombia, 2,005 from Brazil, 2,002 from Argentina, 1,020 from Chile, 1,777 from Australia, 818 from New Zealand, 1,999 from Spain, 2,002 from Italy, 1,998 from France, 1,990 from UK, 2,005 from Germany, 2,003 from Netherlands, 985 from Denmark, 999 from Sweden, 910 from Croatia, 918 from Switzerland, 1,986 from Belgium, 998 from Russia, 953 from Israel, 1,999 from India, 1,990 from China, 901 from Hong Kong, 1,775 from Thailand, 1,001 from Singapore, 975 from Taiwan, 1,800 from Vietnam, 1,757 from South Korea, 1,001 from Japan). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once for business or leisure in the past 12 months, and planning to travel in 2022 and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in January 2022.