From a century-old Cote d’Azur icon (complete with trapeze) to a desert oasis hipster hang, pools are as much about the scene as they are about the swimming. Jetsetter dives into the good, the rad and the boozy.
Ace Hotel & Swim Club
Palm Springs, CA
When the boho babes of LA tire of the Silverlake scene, they take their macrame bikinis and fringed caftans to this hip kid party oasis in Palm Springs. Days meander from hangover-curing yoga sessions to afternoon parties with DJs spinning old school hip hop or 90s indie rock. Bearded indie dudes ferry fish tacos and buckets of icy brews to crews of friends lazing on circular loungers and swaying hammocks as the sun hangs heavy against the San Jacinto mountains. The hotel hosts everything from throwback arts-and-crafts weekends to craft brew tastings to legendary pool parties.
The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
Las Vegas, NV
The pool party has become a Vegas institution and no one does it wilder than the The Cosmopolitan. The besotted and bikinied throng Boulevard, the hotel’s sprawling rooftop pool club, for concerts by the likes of Vampire Weekend and Counting Crows. The pool also hosts weekly “Dive in Movie” nights during the summer, and there’s an ice-cream bar on the south edge offering boozy popsicles, shakes and treats spiked with flavored vodkas and liqueurs. Note that the occasional pool party peccadillo may present itself—a competitive scramble for seating, fakery (as in tans, eyelashes, boobs) and paying top dollar for cocktails—but the surrounding views of the Strip more than make up for it.
Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc
Straight out of a Slim Aarons photo (no, really), this dreamy saltwater pool carved from the basalt rock over the Mediterranean has been a Riviera icon for 100 years. We’re not usually ones to name drop but, um, Pablo Picasso, Marlene Dietrich, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Johnny Depp, Mick Jagger, Clintons, Bushes, Windsors. We could go on, but instead we’ll pour you a glass of Perrier-Jouët and let you gaze upon the glittering waters of the Med from Juan-les-Pins to the Estérel coastline and the Lérins Islands. Care to take a dip? Take the plunge from a trapeze that swings above the sea. Then towel off and hitch a ride aboard one the yachts tethered out front.
Hotel Fasano Rio
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
In Rio, Brazilians usher in the sunset with a round of applause. And you’ll be inspired to join in if you’re viewing it from the eighth floor bar of this rooftop pool above legendary Ipanema Beach. Designed by Philippe Starck, the glass walls and marbled infinity pool reflect the landscape, the emerald peaks of Tijuca Forest and Christ the Redeemer presiding in the distance. But the scenery around you is equally jaw-dropping with Brazilian models, international playboys and fashion types lolling in the shallows in oversized shades. The steamy bossa nova beats should help you play it cool while peeping Madonna and Giselle sipping caipirinhas at the teak bar.
Opened in 1929, this Art Deco glamazon was the original scenester pool. The bikini was introduced here. One of its first lifeguards? A beefcake Olympic gold medalist turned Tarzan star. Its sandy deck was an oh la la urban beach for topless sunbathing. Closed in 1989 though, it fell into disrepair, later turning into an underground skate park, graffiti and rave spot. For summer 2014, architect Jean-Philippe Nuel added up the sum of those parts into a seriously sexy new 124-room hotel and pool club, restoring the ocean liner-inspired deco architecture, while preserving its spraypainted past by inviting street artists to do pieces in the new spaces. The teeny bikinis have returned with Paris A-listers happily throwing down the $245 daily fee to dive into the action.
Potato Head Beach Club
Most people think of Bali as honeymoon central, but Aussies know the truth: it’s a killer place to party. And stylish Seminyak is the center of the fun. Architect Andra Matin created Potato Head Beach Club as a modern take on the Coliseum, it’s circular façade composed of hundreds of mismatched 18th century teak shutters from throughout Indonesia. Inside, you’ll find Aussie surfers, bronzed models and international jetset types reclining around a palm-fringed infinity pool overlooking the ocean. Swim up to the circular bar for tiki cocktails, make friends over boozy punch bowls in the midcentury bar and then lock down a prime spot to watch the sunset as international DJs spin you into the after-dark party scene.
Miami Beach, FL
The Shore Club knows how to get things started right for its Sunday pool parties: with bottomless brunch for the ladies. They throng the poolside Terraza, eating lemon ricotta pancakes washed down with a bellini or twelve. A sought-after Miami DJ (Irie, Mateo Difontaine and Gunars to be exact) always presides over the festivities along with celebrity guests (why, yes, that is Ryan Locthe) and other eye candy (why, yes, that is a hungover bachelorette party). Other days, the two immaculate infinity pools are a great place to escape from it all—the sheer-curtained, tufted day beds will lull even the most high-strung of social butterflies into a state of languid, sun-warmed bliss. But make it a disco nap—anyone who hangs here has to really love the nightlife.
The Standard, Downtown LA
Los Angeles, CA
LA’s celeb-studded pool scene is often the antithesis of laidback Cali culture, a tedious minefield of uptight bouncers and expense account cabanas. That’s why we’ll always and forever love the let-it-all-hang-out fun of The Standard Downtown. Set against a backdrop of glossy skyscrapers and lined with Astroturf, the buzzing 12th-floor pool’s weekend parties mix free-flowing bloody marys, ping pong matches and hipster party photogs to a soundtrack of big name house DJs like Maya Jane Coles and Nosaj Thing. For something more low key, stop by midweek: their Biergarten is still open and you wont have to fight for one of the highly covetable cherry red lounge pods (equipped with terrycloth-lined waterbeds, of course).
The Standard Spa
Miami Beach, FL
In South Beach, stilettos often outnumber flip flops poolside. Think that’s summer sacrilege? Head to the Standard. Their legendary Lazy Sunday parties draw a let-it-all-hang-out crowd of yoga-toned locals and NY expats to its 24-hour infinity pool (complete with live DJs and underwater speakers), waterfall hot tub and circular sound showers. Start off in the co-ed Turkish baths smearing up with mud, scrubbing down with sea salts and plunging with your new friends into the hot and cold pools. Everyone ends up around the infinity pool noshing on margarita popsicles while the sun sets over the bay.
New York, NY
See and be seen is the name of the game at this New York pool, where watery peep holes offer guests in the hotel lobby below glimpses of its bathing beauties. Pool parties are a novelty in NYC, but you won’t find throngs of bikini-clad bachelorettes a la Vegas or South Beach. That’s thanks to the bouncer and strict guest list. Instead it’s a models-and-bottles scene complete with pimped out cabanas, a sandy tiki bar and suites that open onto the scene (hello, after party).
Hotel El Ganzo
Los Cabos, Mexico
Just far enough removed from the drunken spring breakers in Cabo San Lucas, Hotel El Ganzo, in San Jose del Cabo, knows how to throw its own kind of party. Hint: they have a clear hot tub...within an infinity pool...on the roof. Lined with Bali daybeds and illuminated at night, cocktails by the pool are met with panoramic views of the marina and live music from a different artist in residence each week. The El Ganzo sessions, as they're known, welcome local and international musicians like Mexico City's Hello Seahorse!, Nashville-based Escondido and Slash (as introduced by Charlie Sheen) to perform at their rooftop venue in intimate night concerts suspended over the Sea of Cortez. The sessions are open to the public – no hotel reservation needed – so get there early for a prime poolside spot.
Delano South Beach
Miami Beach, FL
Delano’s Philippe Starck-designed pool is iconic for a reason. The infinity-edged ‘water salon’ is lined with pristine white-everything – slick daybeds, breezy shuttered cabanas (with flat screen TVs, no less) and chic striped accent pillows – not to mention the spot is known to throw something of an all night party. Saturdays are great, but Delano saves its best for last in a weekly event they like to call Privileged Sundays. A DJ spins as brunch is served from 11 am to 4pm (rum-infused gelato and bottomless Veuve and Bloody Marys, anyone?) while the real party picks up at 2pm and rages till sundown.
W Retreat & Spa - Vieques Island
Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
Hidden away in Vieques’ relatively secluded north coast, the effortlessly bohemian W Retreat & Spa rocks a palm tree lined, bi-level infinity pool with all the extra touches one could want. White loungers sit at the water's edge – perfectly poised for dipping toes, plush private cabanas provide shade from the Caribbean sun and W mixologists (as good looking as the guests) are on hand to keep the cocktails coming. At nightfall, the WET pool glows neon green and a dip under the surface reveals music pumping through submerged speakers. Once you've indulged enough in that scene, we suggest you take the party to Bahia Fosforescente, their bioluminescent bay.