x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 October 2017

Top 10 hotel pools: dive into decadence

From the Maldives to the deserts of Utah, we've scoured the globe to find the world's most inviting swimming pools.

The pool at Hotel Torre Di Bellosguardo in Florence, Italy. Courtesy Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo
The pool at Hotel Torre Di Bellosguardo in Florence, Italy. Courtesy Hotel Torre di Bellosguardo

1. Santorini Grace Hotel, Santorini, Greece

Santorini Grace's exquisite infinity pool is set on the hillside of Imerovigli and snakes around the cliff edge and over the lip of the island's famous volcanic caldera, offering perfect vistas across the ocean to Skaros rock, Thirasia, Palaia and Nea Kameni. The gorgeous 18-room boutique hotel (including 12 suites) from the stylish Grace Group opened in 2008 with soft-edge "Grand Design" architecture, cubist furnishings and whitewashed walls. The bedrooms are chic and cosy in shades of white and soft grey, with ample cushions, polished concrete floors, iPod docks and private terraces, where blissfully romantic dinners can be served for just US$6.60 (Dh24) in addition to the restaurant price. Tasteful black and white photographs balance out the vivid tones of the Mediterranean and its sunsets, which dapple the whole place salmon pink.

A double room with a plunge pool costs €425 (Dh2,120) per night, including breakfast, transfers and taxes. Children under 14 are not allowed. Visit www.santorinigrace.com or call 00 30 22860 21300.

 

2. One & Only Reethi Rah, North Malé Atoll, Maldives

Picture yourself floating in crystal clear waters in front of your own stilted villa-over-water at the ultimate Maldivian getaway, and this exclusive resort - frequently voted "best hotel in the world" by international travel magazines - is likely the one you're imagining.

Reethi Rah's 30-metre lap pool merges seamlessly with the horizon of the Indian Ocean in daylight and shimmers with underwater LEDs at night. Lazy types can head to the hammocks in the gloriously lush greenery that surrounds the free-form infinity pool to gorge on homemade ice lollies and chilled fruit from the poolside Rah bar. The 130 private villas consist of 32 over-water bungalows (water villas) and 98 detached shore-edge villas (thatched, stilted or with private pools) that provide the five-star facilities - Egyptian cotton, private terraces and ocean views - you'd expect from a One & Only resort. Vast sliding doors and cathedral ceilings create airy living spaces, bringing the outdoors inside throughout the property. The decor is luxurious, far eastern chic, yet this jewel in the crown of Maldivian retreats is built from natural materials: teak, mahogany, rattan and coconut shell. It houses a yoga pavilion, an Espa Spa, organic Japanese, Middle-Eastern and fusion restaurants, a Padi registered dive centre and free equipment for the sea-based activities on and around Reethi Rah's dozen white sand beaches.

A villa costs from US$1,077 (Dh3,956) per night, including taxes. Round-trip transfers for two on a yacht costs $760 (Dh2,791). Visit reethirah.oneandonlyresorts.com for more details.

 

3. Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Swim into Singapore's skyline at the Sands Skypark that opened last summer. Spanning three 55-storey towers at Marina Bay Sands resort, the structure resembles a bail balancing on a 200-metre-high wicket. This 1.2-hectare tropical oasis contains a public observation deck, Sky at 57 restaurant, designer bars and cool lounges, but its pièce de résistance is the infinity pool - the world's largest outdoor pool (150 metres long) at that height - where you can relax in the shade of the rooftop garden or experience awesome sunsets from the deckchairs dotted in and around the water.

The hotel complex boasts a 74,332 sq m mall with shops and a whopping seven celebrity-chef restaurants, including the eponymous Daniel Boulud, Guy Savoy and Santi Santimaria, two state-of-the-art theatres, and a museum, not to mention Swarovski chandeliers. Contemporary bedrooms in earth tones boast king-size beds and views of the city skyline or sea.

Double rooms cost from 493 Singapore dollars (Dh1,420) per night, including taxes. Visit www.marinabaysands.com.

 

4. Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali

Designer luxury reaches a new high at this postmodern clifftop resort which boasts "green" credentials that other five-star resorts can only dream of. Blending locally sourced building materials with sustainable practises, Alila Villas Uluwatu beautifully enhances the natural environment it's built into. Panoramic sea views surround the contemporary cubist structures that sit around the cliff-edge infinity pool. The 84 spacious villas with private salt-water pools overlooking the sea, and the resort's attention to water conservation, recycling and energy-saving, makes this luxurious lifestyle practically guilt-free.

The open-plan design, incorporating flat lava rock roofs, bamboo ceilings and detachable doors ensure sea breezes flow through, dismissing the need for air conditioning. Quality bed linen, 32-inch flat-screen televisions, private pools, a personally tailored butler service (from far-too-frequent to barely there) and the in-villa dining and treatment menus make it hard to leave your villa, but check out the excellent western and traditional Indonesian restaurants- and the day trips out to Bukit Peninsula.

Double rooms cost from $650 (Dh2,387) per night, including taxes. Breakfast costs $25 (Dh92) per person. Book through www.designhotels.com.

 

5. Amangiri, Canyon Point, Utah, US

Nothing beats being pampered in a world-class national park resort with 34 sumptuous suites, a desert lounge and a spa. With its ancient sandstone mesas and glass walls, Amangiri's modernist architecture merges outdoors with indoors within the time-hewn landscape of Canyon Point. Except for the occasional howl of a coyote, the silence is heavenly and, as dusk falls, the lack of ambient light makes it perfect for stargazing.

Swimming in the pool, a blue oasis sunk into the centre of the resort and surrounded by awe-inspiring natural phenomena - Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley - makes you feel like a pixel in an Ansel Adams photo. Romantic suites with open fireplaces, emperor-size beds and picture-windows ensure constant canyon vistas from both lounge and bathtub. If you tire of lounging, join Mike Friedman, a mountain guide veteran, for a rock-climbing expedition.

Double rooms cost from US$1,150 (Dh4,224), including transfers from Page airport and taxes. Visit www.amanresorts.com or call 00 1 435 675 3999.

 

6. Torre di Bellosguardo, Florence, Italy

Turning into the drive of this exquisite mansion on the edge of Florence, the views across the city take your breath away, totally justifying the "beautiful view" in its title. One-time home to Galileo and more recently visited by the fashion icons Christian Lacroix and Kate Moss, this culture-vulture's dream has been perfectly restored to its predominantly 16th-century origins.

Staying here is equivalent to resting your head in a beautiful historic residence - complete with staff. The ceiling frescoes, grand stone staircases and four-poster beds sit perfectly alongside modern touches such as Wi-Fi and walk-in showers. The house is surrounded by a formal Italian-English garden with a pool, a turquoise jewel edged with topiary, cypress trees and magnolias, with memorable views across the terracotta roofs, bell towers and Brunelleschi domes of Florence - reached in a 15-minute walk downhill.

Double rooms cost from €290 (Dh1,447) per night, including taxes. Breakfast costs €20 (Dh100) per person. Visit www.torrebellosguardo.com.

 

7. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara, Abu Dhabi

Swap sea views for undulating desert at this 206-room, mirage-like resort on the edge of the Empty Quarter while lunching in regal style by the expansive pools amid towering dunes framed by crenellated castle walls.

Modelled on ancient desert forts and paying homage to a more traditional Bedouin lifestyle, this stunning hotel houses a collection of 3,500 genuine antique pieces (from Al Ain Museum and the royal family) and 3,000 contemporary works of art, befitting of the royalty and other VIPs who fly in by helicopter.

The bedrooms sport elegant, indigenous fabrics, bejewelled chandeliers, fabulously comfy beds, large flat-screen televisions and terraces. Private villas boast plunge pools and personal butlers. Take a buggy across the resort's vast grounds to breakfast on camel-milk lattes while admiring the dunes of the Liwa desert, or sip iced hibiscus tea in a poolside cabana.

The facilities and service are five-star, from the Anantara spa and sunset camel treks to the charming staff and the four superb restaurants. Of these, the most exceptional is Suhail, a gastronomic affair with romantic torch-lit views across to the Royal Pavilion (a private 10-suite extension resembling a desert village). Chef Nicholas Herbault's degustation menu includes creamy foie gras ravioli, black cod with broad beans and Wagyu beef.

Deluxe double rooms cost from Dh1856 ($505) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Call 02 886 2088 or visit www.anantara.com

 

8. The Fasano, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil's hippest hedonists gaze upon the spectacular views of Ipanema Beach, Corcovado and the Two Brothers Mountains from the Fasano's exclusive rooftop, marble-clad infinity pool and bar, paying homage to celebrities, such as Madonna and Yoko Ono, who got there first.

Rio's finest views and people-watching opportunities are undeniable, but it is the architecture and decor that make the Fasano the coolest addition to Rio's hotel scene. The public areas and 91 bedrooms, ingeniously conceived and designed by Philippe Starck, combine natural woods, glass, leather and marble with 1950s and 60s-style furnishings, tipping a wink to the bossa nova era. Billowing white drapes subtly separate public spaces, and the bedrooms are small but chic with Dali-inspired mirrors, Sergio Rodrigues chairs, the finest Egyptian cotton bedding, private balconies and ocean-view rooms - so close to the sea you could almost dive in.

Double rooms with a butler cost from US$652 (Dh2,395) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Visit www.fasano.com.br or call 00 55 21 3202 4000.

 

9. W Hotel, Barcelona, Spain

The coolest recent addition to Barcelona's designer hotel scene is the W collection's iconic sail-shaped urban beachside hotel designed by the Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill. The 473-roomed hotel merges avant-garde design with razor-sharp service to create the ultimate city-beach combo.

W Barcelona boasts a glamorous all-white, LA-style rooftop infinity pool swathed in sail cloth and reflecting potted palm trees. Well-heeled 30-somethings laze on modern white leather day beds surrounded by views of the city and the sea, flicking through their iPhone messages before heading uptown for an afternoon of shopping. This cutting-edge Barcelona glamour-puss isn't city-central (it's located at La Barceloneta's boardwalk end of the port), but it is uber-chic, with a Bliss spa, Eclipse bar, cool poolside wet bar and super-chef Carles Abellán's Bravo restaurant. The glass-encased bedrooms enjoy endless views of the water, and boast high-tech gadgets, coloured uplighters and Wi-Fi.

Double rooms cost from €264 (Dh1,317) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Visit www.w-barcelona.com.

 

10. Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur, India

Would-be princesses must board a boat to be transported across Lake Pichola to the soaring maharajah domes and crinkle-cut turrets of this traditional-style Mewari palace at the lake's edge. At the heart of the hotel is a wonderfully colonial pool surrounded by creamy-white arched domes, expansive views and "days of the Raj"-style tasselled parasols under which to hide from the midday sun.

It's no small wonder that Oberoi Udaivilas has collected accolades and awards since it opened (Condé Nast Traveller and Travel & Leisure's 2010 readers' poll choice): it boasts beautiful hotel rooms resplendent in Indian textiles, Victorian bathtubs and pool views, with a butler service that's second to none. The city of Udaipur is worth a visit, but only if you can bear to leave the hotel, the private yoga, meditation and pranayama sessions - and your butler, of course.

Double rooms cost from 19,800 Indian rupees (Dh1,593) per night including transfers. Call 00 91 11 2389 0606 or visit www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_udaivilas for details.