Ah, summer. There are few better things than swimming in the great outdoors. Ofcourse, one of them is swimming under the waterfalls.
1. Alamere Falls, California
There’s nothing better than a sweeping ocean view—except taking in the same vista from a burbling waterfall pool at the top of a cliff overlooking the sandy beach. That’s exactly what Alamere Falls offers, a spot to soak your body and cleanse your mind after the long and gorgeous hike along the Coast Trail. The cold freshwater flows down a series of stepped cliffs spotted with wildflowers and in and out of pools perfect for dunking your head in, finally tumbling down into the ocean. The pools offer enough tiny inlets and hidden, craggy rocks that you’ll find a private patch to bathe, eat lunch, or just watch the sun setting over the ocean.
2. Lago Izabal, Guatemala
Taking a natural hot waterfall shower in the lush former plantation lands of Guatemala requires a truck ride off the beaten path and a short hike, but it’s well worth the effort. Just a two-mile hike from the shore of Lago de Izabal, a small waterfall cascades over a mini Gibraltar-like rock formation into a cool, clear swimming hole. The falls are fed from a small hot springs, providing a decadent way to steam and stay cool at the same time. Peer behind the veil of the falls and you’ll find caves with just enough room for a natural sauna.
3. Baja Sur, Mexico
When you’ve finally tired of frequenting the watering holes of downtown Cabo San Lucas, venture inland to experience a watering hole the way nature intended. About a 1.5 hour drive north of the Cape, you’ll find Fox Canyon’s Sol de Mayo: a natural, crystal-clear green water swimming pool flanked by a 30-foot waterfall and rock formations. Set in the middle of the dry Baja desert’s multitude of cacti, you can easily escape the midday heat with a cool swim in the water or if you’re brave enough—a jump off the rocks.
4. Taranaki Falls, New Zealand
Don’t worry, the numbness in your feet will soon be replaced by a rush of adrenaline as you step gingerly through a bed of slippery rocks. Close your eyes and relish the spray of crystal-clear mountain water ricocheting off the surface and the roar of Taranaki Falls drowning out the calls for photo ops from the shore. A quick, nose-plugged dunk freezes time just long enough to appreciate gulps of fresh air when you break the surface. When you get back to the shore, hands shaking from temperature and elation combined, do your best to bundle into the multiple layers of warm clothing that you packed before your hike.
5. Batad, Philippines
The tiny, secluded village of Batad is a half-hour tricycle ride and a strenuous three-hour hike from Banaue. Yet the views there, of verdant mountains and ancient emerald rice terraces, eclipse even those of its comparatively large cousin, which makes it an essential destination for any visitor to northern Luzon. But the most beautiful sight of all is more hidden still: Tappiyah Waterfall. Hire a local to guide you through the meandering rice paddies and down the steep trail, and as you take the last bend you’ll see it: a hundred foot cascade, fringed with wet, glinting ferns, and plumes of mist rising from the pristine pool at its base. Take a dip. You’ve earned it.
6. Krka National Park, Croatia
Perhaps you’ve been to Plitvice Lakes National Park, a more famous neighbor… so why walk the waterfall maze again? Because, here, you can get up-close and personal with the water. Skradinski Buk in Krka National Park has an old mill open to tourists; splashy sights ranging from small streams to the deafening, foaming cauldron of the largest falls; cascades stacked on top of each other like a white wedding cake; and a corner where visitors are allowed to swim at the foot of the smaller falls. You can even go in the caves behind the pearly curtain, and turn back to catch the prisms breaking through the watery veil.
7. Havasu Canyon, Arizona
Skip the Grand Canyon crowds to explore Havasu Canyon. It may not be easy to get to, but it’s proof that water exists in the desert. There’s only one “easy” way down–a 10-mile trail from Hualapai Hilltop, at the end of a primitive road. After hiking down through the narrow canyons, follow the crystal-clear river through the Havasupai Reservation to reach a series of waterfalls and refreshing swimming pools. First comes the 75-foot Navajo Falls, surrounded by its own little forest. Then comes the mighty, 100-foot Havasu Falls. The most thunderous of all is Mooney Falls, dropping 200 feet. If you are feeling even more adventurous, keep on trekking to the flowing cascades of Beaver Falls.
8. Niagara, Canada
As you walk past the century old mill, you’ll hear the water before you see it. Although there is a great view from the top of the cliff, you can only experience the real beauty and power of this waterfall once you are in it. The relatively unheard of Decew Falls in Niagara, Ontario is a lovely detour off of the Bruce Trail. There are two ways to get down into the waterfall: the safe and long way involves navigating a winding path which follows the river, the scary and quick way requires lowering yourself into the gorge by way of a yellow rope left by some kind soul. Once you reach the waterfall, you are free to swim in the surprisingly warm pool, as well as explore the many caves dotting the cliff walls. While thousands crowd around the mighty Niagara Falls, you can revel in the fact that you are experiencing a true piece of hidden Niagara that so few people get to see.