Between the brouhaha of the winter holidays and the end of the school year is that coveted halfway point known as spring break. To gear up for that last lap of the academic year, grab the kids and significant others and go recharge at some posh pools.
Many Southern California hotels have cerulean gems that allow you to escape from it all without traveling too far or breaking the bank. Seeking pools outside Los Angeles? We have some destinations that may surprise you, but first, perch-worthy pools close to home.
Down the road
An hour's drive from downtown Los Angeles, you can find beachfront and historic landmark destinations with year-round outdoor pools worth Instagraming about.
The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa is a California landmark in Riverside, luring dignitaries and Hollywood stars for more than a century with its magnificent Mission Revival-style architecture, colorful Amistad Dome and massive Rotunda. Tucked amid all this stone beauty is a grand swimming pool and hot tub enveloped by a lush garden, palm trees and everything you need to while away a weekend. Grab a Rockin' Red Velvet or Decadent Dark Chocolate cupcake from Casey's Cupcakes, a sweets shop on the premises, and go sit by the pool. You'll be stress-free in no time. http://www.missioninn.com
Five years ago, the Biltmore Santa Barbara, a Four Seasons Resort, reopened the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club with a 165-foot Olympic-sized pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Hate competing for a chair by the pool? The club has 180 chaise longues plus 31 private cabanas, a children's wading pool, a rooftop sun deck, a whirlpool and a poolside cafe and bar. There's no reason to leave, except to stroll along Butterfly Beach. Before you know it, you'll be watching the sun set and wondering where the day went. http://www.fourseasons.com/santabarbara.
Disney is always about options. Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Anaheim both feature different types of pools, including the more private Fountain Pool with an outdoor hot tub, the Redwood and Monorail pools — family favorites with their own water slides — and the newly renovated Mariposa Pool. At both hotels, families can rent private cabanas outfitted with flat-screen TVs (in case you can't unplug), a safe for personal belongings and wireless Internet. http://disneyland.disney.go.com/hotels.
Huntington Beach is home to more than eight miles of uninterrupted coastline, making it great for an interruption-free weekend. Facing the Pacific Ocean is the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa with its lagoon-style pool, popular among those looking to unwind, and its Slyders Water Playground with three water slides, two splash pools and a kiddie wading pool, popular among families looking to loosen up. After sunset, no need to pack up the towel and pool toys; instead gather around the poolside fire pit at Mankota's Grill to roast s'mores. http://www.huntingtonbeach.hyatt.com
Oases in the desert
Drive two hours to Palm Springs and visit the eye-popping Splashtopia, a relatively new 1.2-acre water playground at Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa with two 100-foot slides, a sandy beach, a water-play zone, sprinklers and a swimming pool all within a circling "river." For a quieter spot, the adults-only Azure Pool features lounge chairs, a glass wall and a fire pit as part of a recent $5-million renovation. Start your summer beach reading early by curling up with a good book while sipping one of the hotel's signature cocktails, such as the Funky Monkey or a Mango Creamsicle. http://www.rancholaspalmas.com
Drive four hours to Las Vegas. Instead of gambling, spend your time at the remodeled Golden Nugget and its glorious $30-million pool complex featuring a shark tank, a three-story water slide and 15 private cabanas. Interested in getting closer to the sharks? The hotel offers a behind-the-scenes tour of the 200,000-gallon tank guided by marine biologists for $30 a person. If you want to escape both sharks and crowds, head upstairs to Golden Nugget's exclusive two-story infinity Hideout Pool for those ages 16 and up. Rent private luxury cabanas equipped with flat-screen TVs, mini refrigerators and snacks. http://www.goldennugget.com
Swim in Seattle
Seattle is known for coffee-loving computer geeks, not swimming pools. Yet one Seattle hotel offers a unique pool experience that few travelers or even residents seem to know about. Year-round, enjoy a view of the majestic Olympic Mountains from the fourth-floor heated infinity pool at Seattle's Four Seasons, the only downtown outdoor infinity pool in the city. Even when it's 50 degrees outside — which happens often in the Pacific Northwest — you can relax in an 80-degree pool that overlooks ferries crisscrossing the glassy Elliott Bay, Bainbridge Island and the Seattle Great Wheel. There's also a hot tub and outdoor fireplace to warm things up even more. http://www.fourseasons.com/seattle
Swim in the snow
Prefer snow drifts to palm trees? The outdoor rooftop swimming pool at the Hilton Bonaventure in Montreal is often surrounded by snow, but don't let that deter you from taking a dip. March and April snowstorms are known to hit Montreal, yet the pool is open year-round, even during mercurial spring weather. Heated to 87 degrees and accessible from an indoor annex to avoid exposure to cold air, swimmers can perfect their strokes or paddle about while catching snowflakes, which is exactly what we did. http://www.lat.ms/ZJf2rT