Truly spectacular design leaves an impression, and swimming pools are no different. No matter the climate, any luxury hotel worth its salt has one—after all, it’s hard to say whether it’s more awe-inspiring to be submerged beside a sand-trimmed sea or surrounded by snowy peaks. And, increasingly, as originality becomes more valued, properties are getting ever more creative with them. It’s not simply enough to have a serviceable lap pool or plunger for cooling off—the bar is high and is getting higher. The distinction between a pretty pool and a gorgeous one oftentimes comes down to the environment around it. These standouts, from cities as diverse as Cape Town, Las Vegas, and Hong Kong, to islands spanning Bali, Japan, and Santorini, and inland locales such as the Swiss Alps and Patagonia, marry their surroundings with unique shapes and amenities for results that are stunning.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, France
The Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc was far ahead of its time when took dynamite to the basalt cliffs surrounding it to put in a pool in 1914. Now, the organically shaped piscine juts past the rock out over the cobalt Mediterranean Sea for a different effect from when Slim Aarons photographed it. The impact of the salt-water infinity pool today, however, is admittedly more powerful than the historic version.
The Lake Argyle Resort, Australia
On the edge of Western Australia’s border with the Northern Territory lies an out-of-the-way Eden for nature lovers—think crocodiles, freshwater tortoises, mountains, and a vast lake—that sets the ultimate scene for soaking in a 115-foot infinity-edge pool. Though the closest body of salt water isn’t exactly a hop skip and a jump, this feature, embedded in a rugged hillside of the Carr Boyd Ranges, is filled with it.
Laucala Island, Fiji
It’s hard to imagine any way to better a 21,500-square-foot lagoon-style pool, but an 82-foot glass cube–cum–lap pool plopped right in its midst is a safe bet. The crystalline cube seemingly floating over the slightly more standard offering is perfect for both lap swimming and pretending to be a mermaid on this Fijian private island resort. The surroundings fuel the fantasy: a pristine beach, blue South Pacific, and towering palms—plus a shell-like bar for swim-up cocktails—embrace it all.
Hotel Indigo Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong
The design of this Hong Kong Island hotel references the old neighborhood of Wanchai and its street market in many ways, but its swimming pool is wholly modern. Elevated on the 29th floor and overhanging the busy city street, it graces guests with unmatched views from both the deck and its exhilarating glass-bottomed
The Silo, South Africa
It’s both the 360-degree views and construction of The Silo’s pool—atop a historic grain silo on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art—that wows in Cape Town. Only guests of the vibrant 28-room boutique hotel have the pleasure of floating on a striped cushion in the glass-sided T-shaped pool while admiring Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, the Atlantic Ocean, and city skyline. It’s the place to be at sunset.