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Stepping out of the pool to order a cocktail? Unthinkable. There’s just something irresistibly indulgent about a swim-up bar. Leave the towel on your lounge chair and splash, sip, repeat at these eight memorable in-water watering holes.
Bora Bora is an often used analogy for any exotic, far-flung place of indescribable beauty. Even the island’s name, derived from the local Tahitian dialect for “created by the gods,” conjures up swooning thoughts. The signature drink at the swim-up Aparima Bar, adorned with hanging lanterns resembling pillar candles, is the Hina cocktail, with fresh coconut water and purée and vanilla-infused rum served in a real coconut shell. And the local version of the Bloody Mary (invented at the St. Regis New York in 1934) replaces tomato juice with watermelon juice. Order both while plotting how to send for your things. You live here now.
If day drinking in a hidden cove sounds like a tempting way to while away an afternoon, hit up Grotto Bar. Tucked away from the resort’s shriek- and laughter-inducing water slides and activity pool and accessible via a quick swim under rock formations, it’s craftier than many in-water bars. Order the Smoking Guava, with Cazadores reposado tequila, El Silencio mezcal, lime, guava and habañero bitters, and follow it up with a potent Painkiller. Snag one of the coveted barstools or tables, and you won’t believe how quickly the hours fly by. You’ve been warned.
There’s ample space at the swim-up bar at this all-inclusive resort in the D.R., accessible both from the water and pool deck, though it does get packed, especially at happy hour and when the DJ is spinning during foam parties. But it’s major draw is the location along the massive 1,312-foot-long river-style pool with cozy nooks, built-in Jacuzzi bubbles and easy access from swim-up suites. The signature drink is a fruity, blended concoction with pineapple, orange, coconut and grenadine. For something a tad more thirst-quenching, opt for a cucumber or rosemary Gin & Tonic.
You have to swim through a cascading waterfall and get completely wet to grab a stool at the in-water Cave Bar at this beachfront resort on Barbados’ renowned West Coast that’s designed like a tropical village. But it’s completely worth it once you take in the unobstructed ocean views and soak in that Barbadian sunshine. Embrace sweet and fruity rum sips like the Crystalgia, the signature drink mixed with Mount Gay silver rum (produced on the island at the world’s oldest rum distillery), pineapple juice, falernum and blue curaçao.
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If you think every swim-up bar needs to be attached to a resort on some tropical beach, you’ll be surprised to stumble upon an indoor liquid lounge at a boutique hotel near Times Square. Sleek, swanky and awash in neon lights, Pool Bar is open to both hotel guests and the general public and doles out drinks like the It’s About Thyme, with High West bourbon, thyme, lemon and bitters. If you are in a voyeuristic mood and want to keep your street clothes on, watch the flirting unfold from a lobby window spanning the length of the pool.
If you need a little, um, liquid courage when you take the plunge at the nude pool at the clothing-optional beach resort on chill Negril, head to the lively swim-up bar that’s open until the wee hour of 5 a.m. Skinny dipping is highly encouraged at all six pools, but swimsuits are expressly verboten at this one. All you need is your birthday suit, lots of sunscreen, a little confidence and a Red Stripe beer, Rum Punch or Jamaican Kiss (made with rum, coffee liqueur and milk or cream) to be free of inhibitions—and tan lines.
If there’s an afterlife, the natives of French Polynesia are going to be sorely disappointed, because this collection of islands and atolls in the South Pacific is truly heaven on earth. If you’re lucky enough to find yourself at this resort, rated the top hotel on Tahiti, be sure to order a few rounds at Lotus Swim-Up Bar. Adjacent to a 2,600-square-foot freshwater infinity pool with a sand bottom and a view of sister island Moorea in the distance, it’s the only one of its kind on the island, where you’ll find libations like the Chi Chi, a vodka version of the Piña Colada topped with coconut ice cream.
Once you’ve explored the iconic geothermal lagoon (whose temperature averages a comfortable 100 degrees Fahrenheit), slathered your face and neck with silica and algae masks and lounged on a floating mat for an in-water massage, belly up to the bar. Most packages here already include a drink of your choice. Try a green smoothie, local Gull beer or a glass of bubbly. Want another? No need to worry about drenching your Icelandic Krona, because the bartender will scan your wristband. Three’s the limit for leaded beverages, though, lest you don’t get super relaxed and end up underneath all that mineral-rich H2O.