Dive deeper than ever before, to subterranean worlds and kaleidoscopic grottos at these natural underground swimming pools.
Blue Cave in Kastellorizo, Greece
Boats bringing bathers to the Blue Cave in Kastellorizo
At first glance, it’s hard to believe that the Blue Cave in Kastellorizo is a natural phenomenon. The way the sunlight reflects off the turquoise sea water, bathing the entire cave in blue light, looks a little otherworldly but it’s all real. Better yet, this Greek island is just as beautiful above ground as it is below, so grab yourself a room with a spectacular view at the harbour-side Megisti Hotel.
Hamilton Pool in Texas, USA
Free-flowing waterfalls tumble in Hamilton Pool in Texas
Thousands of years ago the dome of an underground river collapsed and created one of the USA’s most idyllic swimming holes. A free-flowing waterfall tumbles into Hamilton Pool, while the remains of the rocky roof provides swimmers with respite from the Texan sun. Limestone slabs around the water edge in the meantime, are perfectly placed for an impromptu picnic. Looking for somewhere to stay? The stylish yet homey Amici BnB is just 20-minutes drive away.
Cenote Xkeken in Yucatán, Mexico
Icicle-like rock formations hang above Cenote Xkeken in Yucatán
Maya tradition used to have it that the naturally-occurring Yucatán cenotes granted humans entrance to the afterlife. Today, these underground pools are popular among travellers eager to swim in the sapphire, sunkissed water and admire the cathedral-like ceilings – an awe-inspiring experience whatever your beliefs. Dry off at the nearby La Casa del Angel and then drive over to the archaeological site Chichen Itza, for further insights into the Maya people.
Grotta Giusti in Tuscany, Italy
Cave diving beneath Grotta Giusti in Tuscany
A 19th-century Tuscan villa, converted into a luxury spa hotel, Grotta Giusti was built on top of a natural hot spring and cave network. While above ground there are all the traditional facilities one might expect at a four-star hotel (a sizeable pool, a lavish restaurant, etc), below ground, there’s a little more to surprise you. The caves are part spa, part diverse playground, so lounge in the candle-lit steam room, or don a wetsuit and dare yourself to go cave diving.
Poco Azul in Bahia, Brazil
Float in the crystal waters of Poco Azul in Bahia
You can visit the atmospheric Poco Azul every day of the year as this underground swimming hole maintains an average temperature of 23°. The time you visit is, however, very important. In the early morning and late night the sunlight filtering through the rock makes the water so crystal-clear that it makes swimmers look like they’re floating 60 feet in the air. To give yourself the best chance of capturing this optical illusion, stay nearby at the Hostel das Estrelas.
Hidden Beach in Marietas Islands, Mexico
The remarkable "ceiling" at Playa del Amor in Marietas Islands
Another underground swimming spot that has to be seen to be believed, the Playa del Amor sits deep within the verdant Marietas Islands. This ‘Hidden Beach’ or ‘Lovers Beach’ can be reached by taking a long water tunnel, leading from the sea and white sand banks make it a relaxing spot to spend an afternoon. Travellers in search of a slightly more traditional retreat will love The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, which has its own private beach.
Green Cave in Griže, Croatia
Sunlight reflects off the sea-algae at Green Cave in Griže
The Green Cave entrance opens directly onto the Adriatic Sea and adrenalin-craving travellers often opt to hike up the soaring cliffs and then leap into the waters below. From there you can swim into the cave or opt for a leisurely boat ride. Inside the cave, sunlight reflects off sea-algae to transform the water from sapphire to emerald. If you’re looking to stay overnight on the island, the sea-facing Villa Kate is highly recommended.
The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park, Canada
The sea-sculptured overhang at The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park
A moment of Mediterranean-style escapism on Ontario’s striking shoreline, The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of Canada’s most popular wild swimming pools. Dolostone rock cliffs have eroded from below by centuries of waves, creating a sculptured overhang, beneath which the crystal clear waters of The Grotto glitter enticingly. It’s possible to camp at the park, but if you prefer four walls and mod cons, check into the nearby Escarpment Heights Motel.
To Sua Ocean Trench in Lotofaga, Samoa
The 30-metre deep To Sua Ocean Trench in Lotofaga
The To Sua Ocean Trench may not technically be underground, but it is in the ground enough to warrant including in this list. Sunk 30-metres into the ground, this natural swimming pool is surrounded by lush gardens and accessed by a charming-yet-sturdy wooden step ladder. Spend a few hours floating in idyllic surroundings, followed by an evening at the equally stunning Seabreeze Resort (complete with a private beach).