There’s nothing like the sight of crystal-blue water to make us want to board an airplane. When the mercury rises, the urge to dive right into a glimmering turquoise body of water is hard to resist. But while pools are all too common and beaches often get crowded in summer months, here's another idea we'd like to float by you: natural swimming pools. Often more remote and pristine that popular coastal destinations, these bodies of water are hard to resist
With summer vacations upon us, we thought we’d instill some of that “Where in the world is that?” wanderlust in you, so we rounded up some of the most incredible natural swimming pools that you can actually take a dip in around the world. From a death-defying waterfall to a pool that’s Pepto-Bismol pink, these lakes, lagoons, caves, holes, and bays will stun you.
Swimming in Zimbabwe’s Devil’s Pool, a small 328-feet-high lagoon abutting one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, Victoria Falls, is the epitome of “living on the edge.” One can only imagine the surrealism of looking down into Victoria Falls—and thankfully there are guides there to ensure you don’t slip.
Located on the island of Eil Malk in Palau, Micronesia, Jellyfish Lake is a marine lake across which millions of golden jellyfish migrate horizontally daily. Although they have stinging cells, they’re generally not strong enough to harm humans, so snorkeling is a popular activity in the lake.
A sea cave on the island in the Inner Hebrides (western archipelago) of Scotland is formed by hexagonally jointed basalt columns within an ancient lava flow (similar to Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland). The cave is known for its natural acoustics; thanks to its size and cathedral-like arched roof, the waves echo inside, producing eerie sounds. To access the cave, you can take a local sightseeing cruise to the entrance.
About 60 miles off the coast and part of the Belize barrier reef, the Great Blue Hole is an underwater sinkhole that’s home to a number of distinct species of fish and other marine life. Encircled by an island of coral, it has a rich blue color and is close to 1000 feet wide and 400 feet deep—it’s believed to be the largest sinkhole in the world. Snorkeling and diving in it are popular, and it can also be seen by flight.
Located in the Grand Canyon, Arizona, within Native American (Havasupai) tribal lands, Havasu Falls is an oasis in the hot and dry Grand Canyon National Park. It consists of one waterfall chute that drops over a 90- to 100-foot cliff into a large pool. Due to high calcium carbonate content, the water has a vivid blue-green color that contrasts gorgeously with the surrounding red rocks.
On the island of Capri in Southern Italy, the Blue Grotto is a sea cave that is illuminated by a magical blue (and sometimes emerald green) light from an above-water opening. It can be accessed by tiny rowboats.
Technically, you can’t swim in the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water on earth, which is bordered by Israel and Jordan; swimming in it is more like floating. The salt lake has attracted visitors for thousands of years, and the salt and minerals offer many health and beauty benefits, as well as cause its milky blue-green color.
A natural site in Denizli, Turkey, the city of Pamukkale is marked by terraces of carbonate minerals left by flowing water from hot springs and travertines. The “cotton castle,” as it’s called, has welcomed tourists for thousands of years, and they bath on its calcareous rocks in the hot, mineral-rich water.
Located in the Marieta Islands a few miles off the coast of Nayarit, Mexico, Hidden Beach is an open, sun-drenched crater that can only be accessed when the tide is low. Technically it’s actually artificial, as it was created by the explosion of a bomb that accidentally landed there during military trials, but nevertheless, it’s a sight to see.
Located in Vieques, Puerto Rico, Bioluminescent Bay is a national natural landmark that lights up at night thanks to a microorganism (dinoflagellate) that glows neon blue when movement occurs in the water. It is a mind-blowing sight, so much so that early Spanish settlers thought the bioluminescence was the work of the devil.
A saline lake off the south coast of Western Australia, Lake Hillier is notable for its Pepto-Bismol–pink color, which is suspected to be caused by a type of microalgae found in sea salt fields. Like the Dead Sea, it is safe to swim in, but it can be difficult to reach other than via helicopter or cruise.
Famous for its remarkably clear, deep blue water, Crater Lake in South Central Oregon was formed by the collapse of volcano Mount Mazama more than 7700 years ago. The lake is filled by snow and rainfall—there are no rivers flowing in or out of it. There are also two islands in the lake.
A pristine mountain lake fed by glacial brooks, Öschinensee Lake in the Lötschberg region of Switzerland is a sight for sore eyes, surrounded by green cliffs and snow-capped peaks. Part of the Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn UNESCO World Heritage Site, it can be accessed via gondola lift. It's a great attraction for hikers, kayakers, swimmers, and all-around nature-lovers.
Thousands of years old, Hamilton Pool Preserve in Austin, Texas, is a natural pool that developed when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to erosion. It features a 50-foot waterfall that flows into a beautiful jade-green pool.
Located in Samoa’s Lotofaga Village on the island of Upola, which was formed by a massive basaltic shield volcano, To Sua Ocean Trench is an all-natural swimming hole with a visitor-friendly ladder and small dock. It is surrounded by lush gardens and filled with fish, crabs, and lots of other marine life.
Dive right in with our favorite swimwear essentials.
Next up: Your guide to the 10 biggest beaches in the world.
This story was originally published on June 3, 2015, and has since been updated.