Splash Out: Eight Glorious Ocean Pools in Europe

Splash Out: Eight Glorious Ocean Pools in Europe

Glistening with the promise of salty skin and warm ocean breezes, these sun-soaked sea pools across Europe are our favourite places to cool down when the weather heats up.

it comes to taking a summer swim, it doesn’t get much
better than a dip in the ocean. Except, sometimes, it does. We’re
not ones to turn our noses up at gloriously retro hotel pools or stunning outdoor swim spots in the UK, but when it comes
to swimming in the great outdoors, you’d much rather be dipping
into a Cote d’Azur piscine than slogging through the River Severn,

That’s where sea pools come in – you know, those pockets of
aquamarine built to hold in seawater when the tide retreats. Ocean
pools let you laze in salty waters without the risk of lost-at-sea
lido incidents. Fed by the waves, but cosseted away from the
buffeting of irritating currents or unexpected sea creatures, these
saltwater swimming pools are made for sun-soaked lolling on
mercury-stretching summer days.

From secret hideaways only accessible by cliff tunnels, to
lava-carved rock pools, our favourite sea-refreshed swim spots
across Europe promise gentle breezes, salty skin and safe waters.
We’ll see you by the pool.

Soak up European sun with our pick of the most beautiful
ocean-fed pools

The ocean-fed pools at Porto Moniz, Madeira, Portugal

Porto Moniz

Madeira, Portugal

Paddle between black lava rocks on the northwestern tip of
Madeira. These crystal-clear paddling spots
were formed when volcanic lava bubbled furiously into the sea and
settled to form a natural rock pool. Despite being tamed for
swimming purposes (with added steps, and a few perky parasols), the
natural waters are strikingly superior to any hotel pool we’ve
encountered. Head out in the morning, pay the £1.25 entrance fee
and flop on a sun-drenched sun lounger for a few sizzling hours by
the pool. It’s the perfect place to perfect your crawl (read: cool
off between tanning sessions).

The sea pool at Hotel Les Roches Rouges, in the Cote D'Azur

Hôtel Les Roches Rouges

Saint-Raphaël, France

A curved slice of Riviera life awaits at this Cote d’Azur stalwart. Perched above the
ochre-red rocks that lend the hotel its name, the 50-key stay’s
pièce de résistance is its ocean-dipping pool carved into the rocky
coastline of France’s southern shore. Hotel residents can wind
their way through fragrant gardens planted with tamarisk, thyme and
mimosa to spend the early afternoon flat-out on crisp-white sun
loungers under a periwinkle sky, a rosé spritz in hand. When the
Gallic sun gets too much, cool off with a slow lap (or self-brine)
in the 30m pool. Fed by the lapping waves of the Med, this is the
real deal as far as Cote d’Azur living goes. Dinner at the hotel’s
Michelin-starred restaurant Récif is similarly ocean-focused, with
fresh-off-the-fishing-boat seafood taking centre stage.

Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Spain

Charco de Isla Cangrejo

Los Gigantes, Tenerife

The subtropical Canary Island climate and a refreshing ocean
pool make good bedfellows. Take a dip at this secluded swimming spot at sunset for primordial views
across the spectacular Los Gigantes cliffs on Santiago del Teide’s
coast. Charco de Isla Cangrejo is our sea pool of choice when
avoiding the towel-swamped beaches of the island’s high season. Few
dare edge down the set of spine-tingling cliffside steps to access
the semi-circular pool, but join the intrepid handful and you’ll be
rewarded with a cooling soak in the natural swimming pool, and
rocky patches perfect for a tapas-packed picnic. Just be aware that
high tides and strong waves can combine dangerously: don’t swim if
the waves are breaking over the wall.

The ocean-fed pool Piscina das Marés in Porto, Portugal

Piscina das Marés

Porto, Portugal

Built in the Sixties between the custard-yellow rocks of one of
Northern Portugal’s longest beaches, the sparkling pools of
Piscina das Marés give us serious long, hot
summer vibes. Linked by sand-brushed concrete walkways, the two
pools disappear into Leça da Palmeira beach, a seamless soldering
of public space and natural beauty dreamt up by Portuguese
architect Álvaro Siza Vierira. Submerge your toes in the Slush
Puppie-hued salty waters, crack open an ice-cold Sagres from the
beach bar and toast Siza Vierira’s vision from your poolside perch.
For dinner, pootle down the coast to Boa Nova
Tea House
– an intimate seafood restaurant housed in a
singularly striking property, also designed by Siza Vierira.

Tunnels Beach in Devon - one of our favourite sea pools

Tunnels Beaches

Devon, UK

Tiptoe along hand-hewn tunnels, through the layers of
caramel-coloured rocks that make up Devon’s northern coastal
cliffs, to find this hidden swimming stretch beneath the seaside town of
Ilfracombe. Created by Welsh miners in the 1820s, the burrows lead
to the pitmen’s legacy: between two sheltered, silver-pebbled
beaches sits an ocean-fed sea pool. You’ll need to time your visit
right; the pool appears above the tumbling waves for just three
hours each side of low tide, and is only open in the warmer months.
Practise your stroke, then scooch along the coast for further
rock-pool explorations at Combe Martin.

One of Europe's best ocean-fed pools, at Hotel Excelsior in Croatia

Hotel Excelsior

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Sea-gazing Croatia lacks the white-sand excesses of some of its
Mediterranean neighbours, but it more than makes up for its beach
deficit with great swathes of rugged, rock-strewn shoreline lapped
by the jewel-like Adriatic. Who needs beaches anyway? Upon arrival
at the white-stone Hotel Excelsior, just outside of Dubrovnik,
guests should head straight for the diminutive measure of
marine-blue seawater held tight by honey-coloured stone on its
sea-facing side. Though small, the sea pool offers a brisk,
post-flight refresh, plus an introduction to the hotel’s
jaw-dropping view of Dubrovnik’s red-roofed old town. The historic
20th-century villa-turned-hotel has long been a nucleus of
glamorous living: past guests include two rather regal Elizabeths:
make like Hollywood royalty Taylor, or the UK’s monarch, and sink
into the salt-washed depths.

Nun's Pool, Bundoran, Co. Donegal

Nun’s Pool

County Donegal, Ireland

Fierce and furious Atlantic currents keep all but the most
intrepid surfers out of the water on the salt-sprayed beaches of
Bundoran’s Tullan Strand in Donegal, but gamble a little way down
the coastline and you’ll find Nun’s Pool (or, officially, West End
Pool). Separated from the grumbling seawater by a barnacle-studded
breakwall, the tidal pool was given its nickname thanks to its
proximity to a former convent. This being Ireland, we’d err towards
sisterly dress for a dip (no word on whether the nuns ever actually
ventured in) – a wetsuit wouldn’t go amiss.

The Mermaid Pool at Burgh Island in Devon, a naturally formed sea pool

Burgh Island Hotel Mermaid Pool

Devon, UK

Take the plunge on balmy Devon mornings at this au naturel
saltwater swim spot. Hidden away on a private tidal island retreat,
the rock-ringed pool offers early-morning invigoration for
residents of the art deco Burgh Island hotel. Head down for a dip at
noon, followed by an hour under the sun on the pool’s raised
central platform. Some might find the Jazz Age-esque hotel
experience a little overwhelming – if this sounds like you, opt,
instead, for the charming Artist’s Studio, above the island’s only

The pool at Hotel Lou Pinet in St Tropez, France

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