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Outdoors + Adventure

Dive Into These 9 Swimming Holes

Where better to cool off on a hot summer’s day than in a secluded swimming hole? We've got the scoop on the world’s most beautiful bathing spots in Arizona, Australia, and beyond.

See recent posts by Jennifer V. Cole

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Pamukkale Hot Springs, Turkey

The “cotton castle,” as Pamukkale is called, has been drawing people to its waters for thousands of years. Its stair-stepped pools, brilliantly white as a result of calcium deposits from the natural springs, look more like hot tubs tucked into a glacier. But the spring-fed water remains a constant 96 degrees. Go for a dip in the Antique Pool—rumored to be a gift from Marc Anthony to Cleopatra—where the marble columns from the Roman Temple of Apollo remain exactly where they fell.

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Havasu Falls, AZ

Sometimes you have to work hard for something to truly appreciate it. But even if you opt for the helicopter ride instead of the 10-mile trek on mules to get here, you’ll still be blown away by Havasu. Once you arrive, take a restorative moment to simply breathe and admire the view. A torrent of water streams 100 feet down across the deep red rock face of the Grand Canyon’s south rim, and falls into a blue-green pool framed by shady cottonwood trees.

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Cummins Falls, TN

Plan to hike at least a mile into this 211-acre state park halfway between Nashville and Knoxville to find Cumins Falls, where waters drop 75 feet over a group of wide, stair-stepped rocks into a deep brisk pool. This is not a swimming hole for the timid. Though there are guide ropes, it’s a hard-earned scramble over slippery rocks down to the water. But it’s worth the effort.

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Cenote Ik Kill, Mexico

Travelers to the Yucatan Peninsula go in search of cenotes, but you’d be hard pressed to find one more beautiful than Ik Kill. Located just a few miles from Chichen Itza, this pool of natural groundwater starts about 85 feet beneath the earth’s surface and continues underwater for another 130 feet. Waterfalls and vegetation frame the perfectly round opening all the way down to the crystal clear pool.

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Photo by Florida Department of Environmental Protection


Madison Blue Spring State Park, FL

There are swimming holes that were made for floating, and swimming holes that were made for swimming. At Madison Blue String State Park, it’s all about your strokes. The spring pool, formed by a limestone basin, is only 82 feet wide and about 25 feet deep and flows into the Withlacoochee River. You can easily access the water via a pair of wooden staircases. When you need a break, find a picnic perch on the high sandy banks shaded by pines and hardwoods.

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To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa

Bet you didn't know how badly you wanted to plunge into a vibrant blue pool in the middle of a lava field somewhere in the South Pacific. But had you known about the Sua Ocean Trench earlier, you surely would have. Just outside the tiny village of Lotofaga, the rim of this swimming hole feels like something straight out of Fern Gully. Swimmers descend by ladder to a wooden diving platform to reach the ocean-fed water where they're free to swim under immense rock arches among schools of tropical fish.

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Jacob’s Well, TX

Welcome to Texas’s “most dangerous diving spot.” Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring that funnels water up through an underwater cave that reaches depths of 120 feet. More than a few divers have lost their lives trying to reach the bottom, but there’s no need to test your nerve. At the surface, this swimming hole is super family-friendly, with a shallow shelf great for taking a dip. And the 12-foot-wide, seemingly endless hole, is a primo spot to practice your cannonball off the neighboring rocks.

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Grotta della Poesia, Roca Vecchia, Italy

Leave it to the Italians to wax poetic about a limestone pool on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. Folk tales tell of an attractive princess who used to bathe in the Grotta della Poesia (Cave of Poetry), collecting more beauty with each dip. But aside from being a source of local lore, the cave is a key archeological site with hundreds of Messapic, Greek, and Latin inscriptions. And needless to say, with its gorgeous turquoise waters, the fairytale spot fully embodies la dolce vita.

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Bondi Baths, Sydney, Australia

There’s no need to worry about sharks here, but you might have to share the swimming lanes with fish from time to time. While swimmers stroke their way through the saltwater, Bondi Beach surf crashes over the edge of a 164-foot pool that was built directly into the Pacific, hammered out the surrounding rock cliffs. It’s essentially the ocean in a pool, but without the risk of predators or riptides.

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