When the summer sun beats down, it’s easy to head to the neighborhood pool or a local beach to cool off. But it’s much more interesting, adventurous, and scenic to find a swimming hole created by nature and enjoy some refreshing fun. Here are seven unique natural springs to add to your summer bucket list.
Cenote Ik-Kil, Mexico
Of the hundreds of cenotes dotting the Yucatán Peninsula, Cenote Ik-Kil is easily the most well-known. Located only three kilometers from the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá, this gorgeous natural spring has become an Instagram hotspot. The sheer vertical walls surrounding the 40-meter-deep swimming hole are draped with vines and assorted flora — many of them cascading down to grace the water’s surface. This curtained hideaway was once a sacred site for the Maya, as the rain god Chaac was thought to have resided in its depths. Visitors today may recognize it as a Red Bull Cliff Diving Word Series venue since it hosted the event in 2010, 2011, and 2014.
Mooney Falls, Arizona, USA
Nestled in the Arizona desert near the Grand Canyon is Mooney Falls. Its more popular neighbor Havasupai Falls may be awe-inspiring, but for those who want a slightly quieter swimming experience, Mooney Falls is the way to go. Follow a short hike of less than a mile through the canyon passage to reach your destination. But keep in mind that although the trek is short, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The passage has a sharp decline and is best approached with caution, however, don’t let that scare you off. The views from the bottom are well worth the descent. Mooney Falls is the tallest of the Havasupai Reservation waterfalls and is located in an excellent area for camping. Be sure to reserve your permit from the Havasupai Tribe if you plan on staying, though.
Laguna el Dudú, Dominican Republic
These two small lagoons near Cabrera in northwestern Dominican Republic are the perfect way to kick back, cool off, and enjoy a taste of relaxing Dominican life. They’re connected to each other and the sea by underwater tunnels, so the water is constantly changing with the tide. The larger of the two pools can be reached by a staircase that descends gently, though those with a more adventurous spirit may choose to leap the 10 meters on their own instead of stepping in. There’s also a zipline for launching yourself into the refreshing depths. The second pool is better for the less daring with shallower depths and extra clear water. The nearby network of caves is also excellent for experiencing pre-Columbian art — specifically Taíno Cave.
Hali’i Falls, Hawaii, USA
These beautiful falls on the island of Kaua'i are only accessible by hiking your way through the tropical jungles and old sugarcane fields surrounding them. The word hali’i means “spread out” and that’s exactly how the cascading waterfall looks. Swim in the crystal-clear waters under the falls to reward yourself and prepare for the hike back. Like the rest of Hawaii, Hali’i is a great spot for outdoor adventures of all kinds. Many activity and tour groups on the island offer tours through the Lihue Plantation lands that include hiking, zip lining, kayaking, and generally immersing yourself in the lush vegetation and landscape.
To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa
Located in the middle of a lava field, to sua translates to “big hole with water coming out of it” — and the description couldn’t be more apt. The swimming hole was formed by an ancient lava eruption and is now joined to a second hole by a lava tube cave. With a single platform and ladder as the entrance, this natural spring is great for those who like to take a leap of faith. The water is deep enough to accommodate your ensuing cannonball, however, you may want to make your way over to the rope suspended across the pool once you’ve emerged. The tidal surges can get fairly strong and the lava tubes leading out to the ocean mean you’re at risk of being swept away.
Fairy Pools, Scotland
This series of waterfalls and cold pools on the Isle of Skye near Carbost, Scotland are strongly reminiscent of Celtic mythology and folklore. Although there are no specific stories connected to the Fairy Pools, it’s easy to imagine yourself in the middle of a Scottish fairy tale when you’re there. You have to hike a long way through the Glen Brittle forest to get to this frigid watering hole and a wetsuit is recommended for anyone who wants to take a dip. These waterfalls are fed by flow from the Cuillin Mountains and are a wonderfully scenic backdrop for your summer adventure.
Marble Caves, Chile
Bordering a large glacial lake in Patagonia, the Marble Caves are a sight more artistic than an impressionist painting. These huge stone formations were worn into the landscape by centuries of aggressive waves wearing against the marble deposits on the shore and the result is awe-inspiring. Named The Cathedral, The Chapel, and The Cave, these colorful natural attractions are only accessible by boat. As you swim or paddle through, you can gaze at the painted marble ceilings and walls that reflect the water to attain a brilliant turquoise hue. The recommended season for visiting the Marble Caves is between September and February and no trip to Patagonia is complete without them.