If the history of public swimming is your thing, you could take an archaeological vacation to Mohenjo-daro in Pakistan to see the “earliest public water tank of the modern world,” more succinctly know as the Great Bath, which was built in the third century BCE. In other words, a really, really long time ago. It measures about 39 feet by 22 feet and is about 8 feet deep at one end.
If you were to go the Great Bath, your initial reaction would probably be one of wonder at the overwhelming beauty of the ancient city. You might kneel to inspect the 5,000-year-old bricks that held the water in so long ago, made from baked mud and bitumen, a natural tar. If your tour guide wasn’t fussy about the rules, you might descend the steps and walk the length of the pool, feeling connected with the fathers of civilization who had swimming pools just like we do today.
But then you might look around and realize that the Great Bath is pretty much the exact same thing as the pool in your high school gym where you once tried desperately to look cool in your bug-eyed goggles and swim cap. Same shallow end steps, same little drain hole in the deep end. “Pools sure haven’t come very far,” you might think.
But that’s where you’d be wrong. In the past decade or so, someone had an idea that would revolutionize the way we swam — at least on vacation — forever. Swim-up bars, where you don’t even have to leave the water to catch a buzz. If the ancient Mohenjo-darians had thought of the swim-up bar, all human progress would probably have stalled. What else would we have needed if could drop our drawers, jump in the water, and sip a margarita while a cabana boy hosed down our camel? Nothing, that’s what. No advances in government, medicine, science, or engineering could have topped that swim-up bar in the ancient pool.
So to honor our ancestors, who were wise enough to know that mankind wasn’t ready to swim and drink daiquiris at the same time, we give you a ranked list of the greatest thing to happen to swimming pools in five millennia: the swim-up bar. To make this list, we looked at travel experts’ picks for best swim-up bars in the world and ranked them according to the most breathtaking views, the most beautiful architecture, and to be fair, which seemed like the most fun. Because even the ancient Mohenjo-darians could agree that a bar is supposed to be fun.
11. Hotel Galvez, Galveston
Who would expect a Four-Diamond AAA rated historic hotel to have a pretty happening swim-up bar as well? This opulent Spanish Colonial building features a romantic swim-up bar nestled beneath a vine-wrapped trellis for guests who like a little party mixed with their history.
10. The Raleigh, Miami
The Miami New Times 2012 pick for Best Pool exudes old school opulence. Enjoying a Cosmo at the pool bar beneath palm trees and the sweltering Florida sun will make you feel like the elegant jetsetters of the 1950s.