The pool that juts out from the 36-story InterContinental Dubai Festival City is an urban oasis, but not for the faint of heart. Look down, and you’ll see through the glass bottom to the street far below.
In a city famous for pushing the boundaries of architecture, it's only fitting that pools are going to new heights. And it's not just Dubai: in cities across the globe, pools have evolved from background scene-setters to the main attraction. The 21st-century pool has blossomed to an imaginative work of art that flaunts a "wow" factor—be it a pool elevator, a whitewater slide, hidden grotto, or interactive aquarium.
Of course, a buzz-worthy pool doesn’t just happen overnight. "The interesting aspects of cool pools are in the choice and use of materials," says Cool Pools and Hot Tubs author Vinny Lee, “and its shape should complement the surroundings and landscape.”
"It's all too easy to design a pool that looks good, but to make strong and powerful connections to a place, a climate, a landscape, an atmosphere or a feeling—now that’s cool because it’s unrepeatable," says Marwan Al-Sayed, who developed the pool at the high-design Amangiri resort in the Utah desert, which is built around a natural stone outcropping, with his team, Wendell Burnette and Rick Joy.
Other pools are more of a novelty attraction. Las Vegas’s Golden Nugget Resort features a 50-by-30-foot aquarium stocked with fish and sharks in the middle of its pool; there’s even a waterslide tube that runs through it. But not all cool pools are the headline amenities of hotels. At the Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, for example, guests can swim with 18-foot-long crocodiles (in the safety of an acrylic cage, of course), and in Brussels at the world’s deepest recreational pool, it’s the caves (some as deep as 108 feet) that lure water-lovers.
Each of the world’s coolest pools certainly has its own personality, impressing thousands of visitors and serving as tourist attractions in themselves. With more tricks and rides, live creatures and local materials, and soul and character, their cool factors are sure to inspire more than just a dip—they may just inspire a whole vacation.