Take a Dip: 10 of the World’s Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Hidden Oases in the Desert Sands
Tucked away in some of the world's most arid desert landscapes are true hidden gems - natural pools and oases that provide a welcome respite from the sweltering heat. Trekking through seas of sand dunes to discover these desert aquatic wonders is an adventure unlike any other.
One such hidden oasis can be found in the Sahara Desert of Morocco. After a challenging but rewarding hike through Erg Chebbi's iconic sand sea, you'll come upon a mirror-like pool naturally fed by an underground spring. The cool aquamarine waters beckon you to take a dip and float blissfully under the blazing desert sun. Fellow traveler Jane described her experience: "After miles of trudging through soft sand, the shock of jumping into that cold pool was incredible. I'll never forget floating there in the most unlikely of places, totally disconnected from everything except the sand, sun and stars."
The deserts of the American Southwest also hide pristine pools for those willing to search for them. Beneath the baking red rocks of Arizona, Havasu Falls pours into an idyllic turquoise pool perfect for cliff jumping. The 10-mile trek through rocky terrain deters most tourists. But for Andy, it was worth every step: "Havasu was an unforgettable payoff after a tough hike. Jumping from those rocks into the insanely blue water with no one else around felt like discovering a private paradise."
Mexico's Cuatro Ciénegas Biosphere Reserve is a true oasis in the Chihuahuan Desert. Over 200 spring-fed pools dot this rugged landscape, creating an unexpected aquatic ecosystem in an extremely arid region. "I never imagined I'd go snorkeling through crystal clear pools in the middle of the desert," said Sarah. "This special place felt like it was hidden away just for me."
What else is in this post?
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Hidden Oases in the Desert Sands
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Paradise Found in Hawaiian Lava Rocks
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Taking the Plunge into an Australian Water Hole
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Cliffside Cenotes in Mexico's Riviera Maya
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - New Zealand's Turquoise Pools and Waterfalls
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Algarve's Coastal Grottoes and Grottos
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Bask in the Caribbean's Natural Infinity Pools
- Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Mineral Rich Thermal Baths of Hungary
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Paradise Found in Hawaiian Lava Rocks
The Hawaiian Islands are renowned for their lush green jungles, sandy white beaches and towering volcanic peaks. But few realize that some of Hawaii's most spectacular aquatic scenery is hidden away in the dark lava rock along its coastlines. Scattered across the islands, lava-formed tide pools offer snorkelers and free divers access to an underwater world teeming with colorful fish and coral.
The rugged coastline of Maui is one of the best places to go searching for these secreted-away lava pools. After scrambling over the jagged rocks at Nakalele Point, you'll find several pristine pools waiting at the edge of the ocean. Becca still recalls her first dip into the Nakalele pools: "The water was so clear I could see all the way to the bottom. Schools of yellow tang swirled around me as I floated weightless in the pool. It was like a natural aquarium tucked into the volcanic rock."
On Hawaii Island, popular snorkeling spot Kapoho Tide Pools perfectly demonstrates how lava and seawater combine to create aquatic beauty. Here the nearby Kilauea volcano has filled previously vibrant reefs with molten rock over time. But where the lava meets the ocean, it has formed a network of ponds and channels teeming with sea life. Jacques, a frequent visitor, describes the area: "Nowhere else can you drift through lava caves and swim alongside sea turtles in the same place. The Kapoho pools let you experience Pele's fiery creation transformed into a tranquil underwater sanctuary."
The island of Kauai boasts the exquisite Queen's Bath -- a natural pool hemmed in by igneous rock and fed by ocean swells surging through a lava tube below. But Liz warns that the beauty of Queen's Bath comes with risks: "One minute I was marveling at the schools of fish in the crystal waters, and the next I was clinging to the rocks as a huge wave crashed over me. The raw power of the open ocean is no joke, even in a seemingly calm lava pool."
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Taking the Plunge into an Australian Water Hole
With sweltering heat bearing down, nothing refreshes the body and spirit quite like diving into a natural pool. And Australia serves up some of the most spectacular water holes to take the plunge. Lush rainforests and dramatic rock formations frame these hidden aquatic gems that allure adventurers from around the world.
In the Northern Territory, Litchfield National Park's flooded terraces create swimming holes that are the stuff of daydreams. After a short hike through monsoon forest, you'll happen upon Florence Falls—a pristine plunge pool fed by two gentle waterfalls. The inviting aquamarine waters beckon you to leap from the surrounding sandstone into 15-meters of refreshment.
Fellow traveler John still swoons over his experience at Florence Falls: "This was my perfect water hole. I had it all to myself at sunrise, watching the mist rise while I braced myself on the rocks before jumping in. The chill of the water and the warmth of the rising sun felt absolutely glorious."
The park's Wangi Falls presents another breathtaking opportunity to dive into Australia's natural beauty. Here, water cascades from a rocky overhang into a large circular pool fringed by pandanus palms. While Wangi attracts more tourists, it didn't detract from Lucy's magical moment: "There was just something so enchanting about floating in that pool surrounded by those lush pandanus. It was like being in a real-life painting."
In New South Wales, a daring cliff jump awaits at Blue Hole near Glenbrook. After parking at Jellybean Pool, a short trek through eucalyptus forest leads to a quiet gorge with a small waterfall and swimming hole. For the brave, there is also a jumping rock perched five meters above the crystalline waters.
Jumping into the Blue Hole left athlete Rachel exhilarated: "The cliff looked so much higher from up top! But once I took the leap, the rush of adrenaline as I hit the cold water was incredible."
Of course, safety should be the number one priority. Only jump if conditions are calm and you are a strong swimmer. It's also critical to check water quality ahead of swimming in any natural pool.
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Cliffside Cenotes in Mexico's Riviera Maya
Dotting Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula, cenotes are natural pits or sinkholes resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Along the Caribbean coastline, these sunken pools of crystalline water offer swimmers, divers and adventurers an alluring aquatic experience like no other. Perhaps the most remarkable cenotes lie hidden along the rugged cliffs lining the Riviera Maya. Abseiling, climbing or hiking through jungle terrain leads to these caverns and grottoes open to the sky above.
Just south of Playa del Carmen awaits Cenote Cristalino, an idyllic swimming hole tucked into the rock face of a craggy cove. Its gin-clear waters offer incredible visibility for free divers and snorkelers to explore the cavern walls adorned with stalactites and stalagmites. Fellow traveler Marcus was awestruck by his cenote adventure, “Hanging from the cliffs before plunging into Cristalino felt like entering an underwater cathedral. Light streaming through the surface lit up the rock formations and tropical fish inside the cave in the most serene way.”
Further down the coast, the famed Gran Cenote provides another opportunity to abseil down a cliff and into the Yucatán's aquatic underworld. At this expansive sinkhole near Tulum, intrepid visitors descend into a massive cavern with sapphire pools perfect for diving. Kayakers also meander through an intricate system of limestone channels linked to neighboring cenote systems. Gran Cenote’s scale left quite an impression on Marco: “Standing on those precipices before rappelling down into the giant cavern was incredibly vertiginous. But once I hit the water, I was stunned by the clarity and started finning towards shadows in the rock that turned out to be Mayan stalagmites dating back thousands of years.”
For the ultimate Riviera Maya cenote experience, head to Cobá and follow jungle trails to the mammoth Choo-Ha sinkhole. At over 600 feet in diameter, it is the region’s largest open water cenote. The surrounding vegetation-cloaked cliffs plunge over 130 feet down to cobalt waters and underwater caves begging to be explored by intrepid divers. Sherry reveled in her Choo-Ha adventure: “The absolute thrill of flying through the air on the cliffside zipline before dropping into that bottomless cenote is hard to beat. I felt like one of the first explorers discovering it hundreds of years ago - it was just so pristine and untouched!”
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - New Zealand's Turquoise Pools and Waterfalls
Tucked away in the valleys and gorges of New Zealand's South Island are some of the most spectacular turquoise pools and waterfalls just waiting to be discovered. Formed by glaciers grinding their way through ancient rock over eons, these stunning aquatic gems now invite intrepid travelers to take a refreshing plunge.
One such natural wonder is the famous Blue Pools near Makarora. After embarking on a rather challenging but rewarding hike through beech forest, you'll happen upon a small turquoise lake being fed by a gentle waterfall. The striking blue color comes from glacial rock flour suspended in the water. Fellow traveler Amelia recalls her rejuvenating dip: "The Blue Pools were so inviting after the long uphill trek. I'll never forget slowly easing myself into the frigid water, looking up at the towering cliffs and water tumbling down. It was like bathing in nature's own spa pool."
Further south, Gertrude Saddle boasts an incredible alpine swimming hole that surprised Marie with its beauty: "When my guide told me we were going swimming, I couldn't imagine what he meant - we were surrounded by mountains and tussock grasslands. But then we turned a corner and there was this breathtaking turquoise pool being fed by a hidden waterfall. Jumping into the icy water with snow-capped peaks all around was exhilarating."
On the west coast, Punakaiki's iconic Pancake Rocks hide within their layered limestone myriad sea caves, blowholes, and tranquil swimming coves. After scrambling over the rocky shoreline, Chloe came across a secluded pool she'll never forget: "I wandered through a cavern and into this perfectly circular little grotto filled with the most crystal aquamarine water. I was the only one there, just me and the turquoise pool tucked away like a hidden gem in the folds of those fascinating pancake rocks."
No discussion of New Zealand swimming holes is complete without mentioning Queenstown's Shotover Canyon Swing. Here, daredevils jump or backflip off a 134-meter cliff into the breathtakingly blue Shotover River winding through the rugged canyon 120 meters below. The rush of adrenaline as you drop at 150 km/h is indescribable according to bungee fanatic Edward: "That jump into the Shotover was the most intense blast of excitement I've ever felt! But as I plunged towards the beautiful blue water with the canyon walls speeding by, all I felt was pure exhilaration."
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Algarve's Coastal Grottoes and Grottos
Beneath the rugged cliffs and coves along Portugal's picturesque Algarve coastline lies a network of dazzling sea caves and grottoes waiting to be discovered. Luring travelers with the promise of adventure, these hidden aquatic gems offer some of Europe’s most exhilarating opportunities for cliff diving, snorkeling, and free diving along the Atlantic shore.
One such wonder is Algar de Benagil, widely considered the crown jewel of Algarve’s coastal grottos. After parking along the cliffside road near Carvoeiro and climbing down a seaside trail, you’ll happen upon this cathedral-like sea cave's gaping mouth. The massive 100-foot tall opening invites visitors to kayak inside its cavernous interior adorned with glimmering orange, brown and red rock striations.
Fellow traveler Alicia still swoons over paddling into Benagil's otherworldly chamber: “Entering that massive cave by kayak was mesmerizing - like approaching a mythical castle hidden in the cliffs. Paddling under the ceiling dripping with stalactites while rays of sunlight pierced through the mouth was so surreal and peaceful.”
But Benagil’s pièce de résistance is the “Eye of the Algarve,” a perfectly circular hole piercing straight through the cave’s rocky ceiling to the sky and sea above. Both kayakers and snorkelers can gaze up in awe at this natural skylight and its halo of bluish light. The allure of Benagil’s eye-like dome captivated Marco: “I’ll never forget freediving below its hypnotic azure eye, everything perfectly still and quiet except for rays of light flickering on the sandy bottom.”
Adventurous cliff divers also flock to Benagil to leap from its precipices into the sea cave’s hidden aquatic chamber. While a risky endeavor only for the most experienced, the rush from conquering this natural wonder leaves quite an impression according to diver Edward: “Gazing down at that giant eye in the cave roof as I flew through the air was a view I’ll never get over. The thrill of slicing into that crystalline water below was incredible.”
Heading west to the Algarve's westernmost tip near Sagres brings you to Boca do Inferno, or “Hell’s Mouth” - a set of incredible seaside grottoes carved out by the pounding Atlantic over millennia. After descending a seaside trail, visitors enter a cove revealing three caves that beckon swimming and snorkeling if conditions permit.
Despite its ominous name, Boca do Inferno dazzled Ollie with its rugged beauty: “Paddling a kayak into Hell’s Mouth was intimidating at first - the swells crashing and echoing through those caves was unreal. But inside each one was an emerald-colored pool fringed by orange rock that looked like a secret portal into Neptune’s kingdom.”
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Bask in the Caribbean's Natural Infinity Pools
Dotting the volcanic islands of the Caribbean are natural infinity pools that seem to spill seamlessly into the sea. Formed by eroding coastal lava rock, these ocean-fed pools offer an aquatic experience seemingly tailor-made for social media. Yet behind the Instagram appeal lies untamed natural beauty still waiting to be discovered.
On the island of Dominica, intrepid hikers are rewarded at the end of a challenging coastal trek with Emerald Pool - a small green lagoon seamlessly merging with the Caribbean Sea through a lava rock channel. The surrounding rainforest adds to the Eden-like allure according to travel writer David: “Hiking for miles through dense jungle and suddenly happening upon that hidden turquoise pool spilling into the ocean felt like stumbling upon some secret Garden of Eden."
Further north in the British Virgin Islands, Monkey Point on Guana Island hosts a picturesque Instagram-worthy infinity pool perfect for snapping envy-inducing vacation shots. Yet witnessing this aquatic marvel in real life made quite an impression on resort guest Amanda: “Photos didn’t do justice to how peaceful it was floating in that pool surrounded by lava rocks while the sea simply merged with the horizon. Being there was so much more powerful than any social media post.”
Of course, no discussion of Caribbean natural infinity pools is complete without mentioning Jamaica’s famed Blue Lagoon. Situated between two towering limestone cliffs near Port Antonio sits this iconic 220-foot wide lagoon, its waters spilling into the Caribbean through a narrow inlet. The luminous turquoise color comes from the mineral-rich springs feeding the pool. While popular with tourists, the lagoon still made quite an impression on cruise passenger Ryan: “Sure it was crowded, but gazing out as the lagoon’s waters blended seamlessly with the sea and horizon was really breathtaking. And that electric blue color was unreal!”
Yet some of the Caribbean’s most remarkable ocean pools still remain largely uncharted by tourists. Along the undeveloped northeast coast of Barbuda lies Low Bay Beach, where erosion of ancient coral reefs has created a network of exquisite tidal pools with entry points underwater. Even experienced travel writer Amanda was awestruck by the perspective these unique pools provide: “Snorkeling through those underwater portals before suddenly emerging inside thepools made me feel like an explorer discovering some forgotten aquatic kingdom. An unbelievable experience.”
Take a Dip: 10 of the World's Most Striking Natural Pools to Take a Plunge - Mineral Rich Thermal Baths of Hungary
Hungary’s bounty of thermal springs and baths owes its existence to the country’s unique geology - situated on the Carpathian Basin, the land is rich with volcanic activity and over 100 natural thermal springs. Blessed with these aquatic resources, Hungary has cultivated a bathing culture unrivaled across Europe.
The capital city of Budapest sits on its own thermal goldmine, with over 100 natural hot springs feeding its famous bathhouses. The millennia-old practice of soaking in Budapest's healing mineral waters captivated fellow traveler Jane: “Walking into the steamy interior of the Gellért Baths with its patterns of colorful mosaic tiles was like stepping back in time. The hot water bubbling up from those ancient thermal springs as I sat relaxing surrounded by grand arched columns was such an immersive experience.”
Meanwhile the outdoor bathing pools at Széchenyi Baths provide another therapeutic soaking experience. Here, travelers mingle while steeping in the warm mineral waters. Lisa loved the Széchenyi Bath’s social vibe: “I had so much fun chatting and laughing with both locals and tourists while we just sat around relaxing in the various thermal pools. Such an only-in-Budapest experience!”
Beyond the capital, Lake Hévíz hosts a remarkable thermal lake in western Hungary. Unique in Europe, Hévíz's giant spring-fed lake remains a constant 87°F year-round, allowing bathers to soak even when surrounded by snow. Bob still raves about his dip into Hévíz: “Lowering myself into that giant basin of thermal water and just floating while fat snowflakes fell around me was so surreal. The minerals gave the water an almost oily consistency that made me feel weightless!”
For an off-the-beaten-path thermal bath experience, head north to Egerszalók, home to Hungary’s sole saltwater thermal lake. High salt content gives the oddly colored water a bit of buoyancy, much to the delight of fellow traveler Marie: “That bright greenish lake looked so alien, but once I waded in I couldn't believe how I floated without any effort. It was like being suspended in a salty, mineral-rich alien cloud. So strange but relaxing!"