7 Hotels With the Dreamiest Outdoor Showers — From the Maldives to Mexico

Outdoor showers are one of summer's greatest pleasures — here's why and where to indulge.

Outdoor shower at NIHI Sumba, Indonesia
Photo: Read McKendree

Summer is the season of unadulterated hedonism — of spending as much time outdoors in as little clothing as possible. Ideally spent in some far-flung seaside locale (the Mediterranean, perhaps), days should be drenched in sun and saltwater. And when it comes time to rinse off all of that briny goodness, there's only one proper place to cleanse yourself: an outdoor shower.

Exquisitely dubbed "pure summer vernacular" by a delightful New York Times piece, the outdoor shower is both pragmatic and pleasurable. Sure, it keeps sand and dirt out of the house, but the real reason for stripping down and sudsing up in the great outdoors is just for the joy of it.

There's something both sacred and sinful about the act. A breeze or a bird renders you hyperaware of your own nakedness, which is the most natural thing in the world; after all, showering outdoors was the norm for most of humanity's existence until indoor plumbing arrived in the early 19th century.

And yet it's charged with a sense of illicit indulgence. It demands that you leave your home (a welcome imperative after these past few pandemic years) and take your most private daily task — washing your body — into the public sphere. It is the epitome of summer's escapism, tinged with a bit of magic that French surrealist Louis Aragon described as the "sense of the marvelous suffusing everyday existence."

Under the guise of escapism, I recently took a trip to the Maldives, a chain of islands that are all generously suffused with the marvelous. Over the course of a week at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, I found myself coming back to one place in particular to soak it all in: the outdoor shower.

Perched over the Indian Ocean, my overwater villa came equipped with a luxurious indoor bathroom twice the size of my Brooklyn apartment. The shower's water pressure? Phenomenal. The tub? Palatial. But it was the handheld, sterling silver showerhead — frankly not much more than a nozzle, glistening atop the steps that descended into the ocean — that sang to me. (Out of courtesy for other guests, I avoided singing back — arguably the one downside of an outdoor shower.)

So, what makes an excellent outdoor shower? I asked myself as a school of tiny, flint-colored fish flashed past me. Is it the view? The water pressure? The degree of privacy? The proximity to sharks?

I'd argue it's a mix of all of the above, give or take the sharks. On this particular occasion, it was just the outrageous delight of a warm breeze and cool water on slightly (okay, very) sunburned skin. The simple luxury of showering outside was a shockingly grounding experience, even, as it turns out, in the middle of the ocean. I felt there, finally — a sense of place that otherwise eluded me while wandering the pristine palm-fringed beach or snorkeling with whale sharks. Call it the intimacy of being undressed outdoors, or proof that showers really are where we do our best thinking and reflecting; amidst so much marvelous sensory overload in the Maldives, the outdoor shower was the place where I could soak it all in. It was — if you'll forgive the wordplay — a welcome palate cleanser.

This applies both at home and at hotels: A superlative outdoor shower strips away all the excess and brings you back to the basics, regardless of whether you're looking out over the ocean or at a plain wooden fence. There's just you, a bar of soap, some fresh air, and clean water.

While in a sense the ideal outdoor shower is one at your own house (for the sake of frequency), I can't pretend that I wouldn't recommend washing up beside the Indian Ocean. Here, I've rounded up a list of some of the best places to get clean, from lavish outdoor setups in Kenya to rustic bucket rigs along the Gulf of Mexico.

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

Outdoor shower at the Beach Villa Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island
Justin Nicholas

Spread across two private islands and home to the world's first undersea restaurant, the newly renovated Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is paradise manifest. Waking up to an endless view of the Indian Ocean is blissful; add to that a floating breakfast in your personal infinity pool and a shower beside the lapping waves and you get pure, unadulterated hedonism. While the hotel offers more architecturally gorgeous outdoor showers in their airy beach villas, I was drawn to the rustic, handheld experience at the overwater villas. For starters, it was an easy way to keep my villa clean (although the friendly and talented housekeeping team also saw to that, even drawing me a rose-petal-filled bath in what was ultimately a successful attempt to get me to bathe inside, just once). Moreover, it offered me an excuse to spend a few more minutes outside each day, ogling all of that sparkling blue splendor.

Sasaab, Samburu, Kenya

Outdoor shower at Sasaab Lodge, Samburu, Kenya
Courtesy of Sasaab Lodge

An outdoor shower is one thing; an entire outdoor bathroom is another. At the Safari Collection's luxurious Sasaab lodge in Samburu, you can indulge in a healthy dose of natural exhibitionism: Bathe in the buff while herds of elephants do the same just outside your spacious Moroccan-inspired room. Under the cover of a thatched roof, but still exposed to the elements, the open-air concept quickly makes you feel at one with your surroundings. Said surroundings also include a private aquamarine plunge pool, which is ideal for cooling off in between game drives in nearby Samburu National Reserve.

The Maritime Hotel, New York City

Penthouse terrace suite with outdoor shower at Maritime Hotel in New York
Courtesy of Maritime Hotel

Designed as the National Maritime Union headquarters in 1968 by modernist architect Albert Ledner — who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright — this nautically themed hotel has a boatload of charming details, from porthole windows to sweeping views over Chelsea. But perhaps even more unique is what awaits on the private white-tiled patios overlooking the Hudson River: the elusive metropolitan outdoor shower. Is there anything dreamier on a sticky summer day? There are a lot of things you can do outside in New York City; getting naked in public isn't a commonly accepted one. So, go ahead — this is your prime opportunity to strip in broad daylight in the middle of Manhattan.

Hotel Azúcar, Veracruz, Mexico

Outdoor shower at Hotel Azucar in Veracruz, Mexico
Courtesy of Hotel Azúcar

For those who prefer a more rustic experience — without having to sacrifice comfort or aesthetic — the bucket rig at Hotel Azúcar hits all the right notes. The simple setup strikes the right balance of novelty and efficiency, and is just a stone's throw from the beach. The hotel, from Mexico City-based hospitality group Grupo Habita, is a laid-back beach retreat with thatch-roof huts, pops of pink, and plenty of palm trees.

Nihi Sumba, Indonesia

Outdoor shower at NIHI Sumba, Indonesia
Read McKendree

An hour from Bali, the two-bedroom Lantoro villa at Nihi Sumba offers sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, a plunge pool, and private beach access. Accented with bright blue hues that emphasize the vibrancy of the water, the villa is designed to feel like your home away from home. The outdoor shower is a tactile experience: Nestled in a forest glade surrounded by sand and lush ferns, you walk along a trail of sun-kissed stones to reach it.

The Wensley, Wensleydale, Australia

Outdoor shower at Airbnb in Wensleydale, Australia
Courtesy of Airbnb

The notion of the "great outdoors" barely does justice to the 80 acres of rolling hillside upon which this luxuriously rustic Airbnb is perched. The Wensley — a spacious, secluded getaway in Wensleydale, a rural community in Victoria — brings the outside indoors, with panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows, wooden and natural finishes, and an airy space for dinner parties with pals (the space sleeps 10). While the home itself is so gorgeously curated that it would be tempting to stay indoors, there is one thing beckoning you outside: the outdoor shower, complete with its own galvanized French tub, where you can soak while stargazing.

Awasi Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Outdoor shower at Awasi Atacama
Courtesy of Awasi Atacama

The private patio at Awasi Atacama is an outdoor shower enthusiast's dream. The adobe enclosure features a sumptuous shower as well as two lounge chairs, just in case all that washing up proves to be too tiring. The 12-room, carbon neutral Relais & Châteaux property is an ideal home base for explorations of the Atacama Desert — the hotel even provides each room with their own private guide and 4WD, allowing you to explore at your own pace.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles