With summer right around the corner you’ll soon be looking for reprieves from the heat in bodies of water — be it a beach, pool, or lake — but switching up the predictable scenery of these warm-weather escapes by hitting a local swimming hole can be a nice change of pace.
The U.S. has countless swimming holes scattered throughout most states, many of which you’ve likely never heard of unless you’re from the area. Hawaii is home to many, including the two on this list: Chutes and Ladders off the side of a cliff in Maui and Queen’s Bath in Kauai. Florida, too, is home to plenty of natural springs, aquifers, and swimming holes. One that you’ve likely never heard of is Devil’s Den, which is not only a great watering hole for snorkeling and diving, but also an archeological and paleontological treasure where ancient human artifacts and fossils of extinct species have been found.
This gorgeous waterfall in the Grand Canyon is undoubtedly a destination spot requiring a 10-mile hike to the falls (and the same 10 miles back). You can take a guided tour to the falls, or choose to make the trek on your own. The Havasu Falls are on the Havasupai Indian Reservation, which means you’ll need to get a permit to visit — this has become increasingly difficult as more people discover this hidden gem.
Hamilton Pool was created when an underground river’s roof collapsed; exposing what is now the swimming hole and creating a 50-foot waterfall that flows over the above limestone. You’ll have to make a reservation beforehand to gain entry to the Hamilton Pool Preserve, but if you forget to do so and aren’t allowed in you can always drive a little further to Austin and enjoy food at the uniquely named Culinary Dropout gastropub with live music or at the city’s first Hawaiian restaurant, Ola Poke.
To get to this secret swimming hole, you’ll have to jump through some hoops — or at the very least, rappel down a cliff. It’s almost as hard to reach as the Hua Shan Teahouse on the top of a cliff in China. Appropriately named Chutes and Ladders, this blue treasure is not easy to find, and the adventure there will certainly remind you of the board game. You’ll have to ignore some “no trespassing” signs, take a rope 40 feet down the face of a cliff, and then climb down about 8 feet of lava rock to the pool. Once there, however, you’ll be glad you made the journey. The swimming hole is on the edge of the ocean — a natural infinity pool, you could say — with a depth that invites you to jump in and practice your cannonball technique without crowds of people around to watch.
The Homestead Crater is hidden under a rock dome with an opening at the top that allows for sunlight and air. It was once only accessible by that top opening (by rappelling down into the dome), but there is now easy access through a side tunnel for visitors. Scuba dive, snorkel, or go for a swim in this beautiful mineral water spring — or pamper yourself at Simon’s Restaurant at the Homestead Resort.
This Hawaiian swimming hole on the island of Kauai is more easily accessible than that of Chutes and Ladders in Maui. Spend less than 20 minutes hiking to the bath, past waterfalls and across lava rock, and enjoy an incredible view of the island mountains and ocean as waves hit against the rocks that separate Queen’s Bath from the open waters. However, while you’re here, be careful of the forceful waves that come over the rocks, since the powerful surf can sweep you out to sea.
Devil’s Den gets its name from the steam that rises from the water’s surface of the underground spring during winter due to the constant 72-degree water temperature. Although you can’t swim freely at this watering hole, it is a notable scuba diving site and open to guests who wish to snorkel (with rental gear available at the entrance). This beautiful blue spring has been found to have “many extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age” as well as prehistoric human remains and artifacts.
This swimming hole is easier to find than most spots on this list. Only four feet deep, the Big Deep’s pool area is actually pretty shallow but a great destination for a family summer outing. There are other areas, however, where you can dive off the rocks and swing into the water from a rope without hitting the bottom.
In light of the fact that there is a Chena Hot Springs Resort, it’s hard to say this swimming hole is exactly a secret, but it is often overlooked because of its location. The opposite type of swimming hole from the rest on this list, Chena Hot Springs is a warm escape from the cold temperatures of Alaska.
This spacious gorge is perfect for a light hike, a spectacular picnic, a relaxed swim, and group fun. To get to the Opal Pool you’ll have to hike seven miles through Opal Creek’s ancient forest. The swimming hole has waterfalls you can slide down and cliffs you can jump off into the deep waters below.