Strokes of genius

Pool tragic Brian Johnston has dipped into some of the world's sexiest hotel pools. Don your swimmers, grab your designer sunnies and dive in.

I've never been much of a beach person. I can pass on gritty sand, potential shark attacks, rips and saltwater on the skin. Give me a fine hotel pool, however, and I'm instantly seduced. Sun on bare skin, sly glances, cool cocktails and shivering delight all combine in a blue oasis just made for lingering.

Hollywood has helped create the image of the sexy swimming pool. As I wallow, I think of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, afloat on a lilo gazing at glamorous Mrs Robinson. Or Chevy Chase in National Lampoon's Vacation, when he scored a skinny-dip with Christie Brinkley, giving hope to us all.

Hotel swimming pools have been through a few fashion trends: whirlpools, plunge pools, wading areas, swim-up bars and the apparently here-to-stay infinity pool. More recently, daring new pools grace skyscraper rooftops or cantilever beyond building edges. Pool decks now feature chic bars, relaxation lounges and even outdoor cinemas, adding a sociable vibe.

Sexiness in swimming pools is hard to define, but here are my favourite hotel pools that, beyond style, attitude and good looks, have that extra something.

Amangani, Jackson Hole, US

A Wyoming ski resort - even if favoured by celebrities such as Jack Nicholson and Uma Thurman - isn't where you'd expect to find a top swimming spot. But ultra-cool Aman Resorts has a cliff-side pool that manages a blend of Asian minimalism and cowboy ruggedness. Quartzite tiling embedded in sandstone makes a dip seem like a plunge into an ice hole. Fear not: the tiles are heated underfoot and the water is a balmy 27 degrees. The Snake River mountains are jagged cutouts on the horizon. Steam rises gently and snow falls as swimmers glide through the water, sleek as seals. Amangani, 1535 North-east Butte Road, Jackson, Wyoming, US.

Hotel Fasano, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Scantily clad booty in bikinis is a Rio given, but at this Philippe Starck-designed hotel, the booty likely belongs to Brazilian models and soap starlets. It isn't only the clientele that gives this white-marble, rooftop pool sex appeal; it also has a 1960s Sean Connery vibe, cosmopolitan cool and a view over Ipanema Beach's ultra-chic waterfront, all the way to the statue of Christ. Make your way there in your complimentary hotel Havaianas. Sunsets are spectacular and, when the stars come out, so do bossa nova rhythms and best Caipirinhas in town. Hotel Fasano, 80 Avenida Vieira Souto, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. +55 21 3202 4000,

The Joule, Dallas, US

They call it the Joule Poule, but isn't poule French for chicken? Those with no head for heights might well feel chicken, since this Plexiglas pool is cantilevered beyond the rooftop, 10 floors above downtown Dallas. Poolside, staff in designer duds serve margaritas and spray your face with lavender mist. Wedged with uncompromising modernity into a neo-Gothic facade, the pool is the brainchild of Adam D. Tihany, one of America's greatest interior designers. It's especially spectacular at night, glowing electric blue with fibre-optic illuminations to a backdrop of glittering skyscrapers. The Joule, 1530 Main Street, Dallas, Texas, US. +1 214 748 1300,

Murano Resort, Marrakech, Morocco

Contemporary French design cool meets traditional Moroccan style at this shocking blood-red pool. Set among lush hibiscus and bougainvillea and surrounded by palm and tangerine trees, the pool has red tiles but is especially striking at night, when red lights add an extra ruby glow. Lounge on stylish white sofas and red cushions like a pasha and sip on mint tea - or order the signature cocktail, a mix of vodka, strawberry liqueur and white chocolate. Rock the casbah poolside at Sunday brunch, when a DJ spins from a booth in the middle of the water. Murano Resort, Douar Abiad, La Palmeraie, Marrakech, Morocco. +212 24 32 7000,


Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh, Britain

Sexiness and Scotland were seldom linked until the opening of One Spa. Housed in a six-storey blue-glass cube, Britain's largest spa is a wonderland of hammams, tropical rain showers and aromatic baths. Its full-size swimming pool is flooded with light from huge windows, but its hydropool is the winner - it's so large it's a swimming pool in all but name. Wallow in the 35-degree mineral-rich water, which massages you with tiny bubbles and soothes your neck with water jets. Just the place to float during a Scottish winter, as you gaze at Edinburgh's rooftops. Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, 1 Festival Square, Edinburgh, Britain.

Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Pools at private villas are usually the expected, pocket-size plunge variety - more warm baths than eye-catching showcases of watery delight. But at this safari lodge, you can get wet and wild at the same time. Sink into your pool at Vlei Lodge or the Homestead and chances are gazelles and zebras will wander by. Elephants sometimes suck water up from the pool as they pass in the evening. Kingfishers hover, bushbabies call in the early morning. It's a thrill - especially when you consider you might be eaten by a lion as you cavort. Phinda Private Game Reserve, North Uthungulu, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.

Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast, Australia

Meandering through the entire resort, the Palazzo's pool is as much a statement as the rest of this bling palace. Celebrity spot from behind your shades; after all, Pamela Anderson once swam here. Being beside the pool is even better than being in it. Lounge on Versace day beds or in cabanas draped with white material. Staff will serve you up anything from a pedicure or neck massage to a flute of Veuve Clicquot. Face spray and frosted grapes are also offered. On Saturday evenings, you can have a three-course meal poolside as tea lights flicker. Palazzo Versace, 94 Seaworld Drive, Main Beach, Queensland.

Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

This sleek 23rd-floor pool, just steps from the spa, is a thing of beauty and proves glamorous pools exist at hotels with mid-range prices. The swimming pool is open on one side, offering brilliant views over the city and making it seem as if you're swimming through skyscrapers. Pool lounges are immersed in the shallows - good for twirling your feet in the water, while keeping your book dry. When sunset drinks get going at poolside H2O Bar, jazz music plays, cocktails are shaken and pink and blue mood lighting turns the pool into a gorgeous urban oasis. Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel, 518/8 Ploenchit Road, Bangkok, Thailand.

Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor Laut, Malaysia

This private island off the west coast of Malaysia is surrounded by ancient forest and has an infinity pool in its Spa Village, overlooking a landscape of sea-smoothed granite boulders that seem to match the colours of the tropical sea. Bougainvillea and frangipani petals from surrounding bushes drift peacefully across its surface. It's a mesmerising place, where people often come just to sit and stare rather than swim. So well done are the infinity edges that the pool water seems to merge with the sea, which is utterly spectacular at dusk. Pangkor Laut Resort, Pangkor Laut, Perak, Malaysia. +60 5 699 1100,

The Chedi Club, Ubud, Indonesia

Beautiful pools are as common as satay sticks in Bali, and every villa has its pretty plunge pool. But it's hard to beat a long, cool swim in the 25-metre pool at the Chedi Club outside Ubud. The setting is sublime, with an outlook over rolling, jungle-clad hills and shimmering rice fields. In the early morning, mist often adds an almost surreal effect. The pool sits in a rustic-meets-romantic Balinese setting of sandstone, carved elephants and swan-filled lotus ponds. Private butlers stand by to supply cocktails as you relax on lounge chairs. Heaven. The Chedi Club, Jalan Goa Gajah, Tengkulak Kaja, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

Sexy six: pool must-haves

An outstanding setting or view. It's hard to beat a pool like the one at The Perry South Beach in Miami (, where vast decks have a seductive outlook right over Miami beach.

A temple-like aura of calm. Some even look like temples; among the best are the Roman-inspired pool at Le Meridien Piccadilly in London ( and the mystical Park Hyatt Melbourne pool (

Architectural merit. A great pool is an architectural feature, not an afterthought. A fine example is the pool at the legendary Ritz Paris (, featuring painted ceiling frescoes and neoclassical grandeur.

A party vibe. A good pool is where guests want to gravitate to. The Standard Downtown Los Angeles ( has hip poolside cocktail parties and screens classic Hollywood movies on the wall of the adjacent building.

Lighting, mosaics or a colour to make you stare, because blue is bland. The spa at the St Regis Lhasa ( shows how to create an impression: its pool is lined with 24-carat gold leaf, to stunning effect.

A unique feature. Take the pool on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong ( It's the world's highest, with vertigo-inducing infinity edges and harbour views to make you feel as if you're flying rather than swimming.

Trip notes

More information

Bali Tourism Board,
Bangkok Tourism,
Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau,
Edinburgh and the Lothians Tourist Board,
Gold Coast Tourism,
KwaZulu-Natal Tourism,
Marrakech in Morocco,
Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau,
Tourism Malaysia,
Wyoming Office of Tourism,