Home » Think Disney Has the Market Cornered on Feature Pools? Think Again

Think Disney Has the Market Cornered on Feature Pools? Think Again


When booking a visit to Orlando, one of the most underrated hotel amenities is the humble swimming pool. A lot of people take it for granted — that is, they’re usually solid attractions that are included in your hotel costs (or, at worst, a mandatory resort fee).

But, all hotel pools are not created equal. Some are no different than you’d find at countless motor lodges and roadside inns around the country. They’re your basic water-filled rectangle, without much in the way of theming or fun features.

Some hotel pools, on the other hand, are glamorous attractions unto themselves, with water slides, splash zones, and lazy rivers.

Now, yes, Disney and Universal certainly have the most famous and iconic of these feature pools in Central Florida. However, there are plenty of incredible pools available outside of the theme park bubble. And some, in fact, might be far superior.

Here are the best pools in the Orlando area, but do take note: For nearly all of these pools, you have to be a guest of the resort to partake.

JW Marriott


Image: Marriott

The best pool for the money in Orlando can be found at the JW Marriott in Grand Lakes. Along with its neighboring luxury property, the Ritz-Carleton, Orlando’s JW Marriott looks the part of a high-end, elite-level hotel. There’s a convention center, a sizable and grand lobby, and an absolutely stunning waterside location out the back.

But the true star is the Instagram-worthy pool. Featuring cabanas, comfortable loungers, a lagoon-style pool, multiple cove relaxation areas, and even a lazy river, the Marriott’s pool is every bit as amazing as Disney’s best pools, but without the crowds.

That’s really the big difference, too: the crowds that do exist tend to be older, less hectic, and more keen to use the pool as extended lounge space. If you’re looking for an energetic, cruise-style pool experience, this isn’t the place for you. If you’re hoping to make your friends jealous with a gorgeous aquatic retreat, this is the spot for you.

Four Seasons

 Four Seasons

Image: Four Seasons

The Four Seasons tends not to do anything unless it can truly be the best in its class at such a thing. Their hotels are, typically, the most luxurious hotels you can stay at on the planet. Their restaurants are among the best you’ll find. Their service isn’t only second to none, it’s also so attentive that you’ll almost forget you’re not in heaven.

As such, the pool on property is every bit as incredible as the rest of the hotel.

Just outside the back of the main lobby, you’ll find the main pool — itself a classic take on the hotel pool. It’s large and comfortable, with plenty of lounge space and places to unwind. If you’re in town to visit the parks, or close some important business, this pool is the perfect place to unwind.

Just next door, however, you’ll find an aqua park that can hold its own with the best of Disney’s water features: Explorer Island. Featuring a lagoon-style pool, a lazy river, water slides, splash zones, and fountains, it’s hard to believe that such an amazing space is hidden away on Disney property. Even more unbelievable is how secluded and uncrowded the entire experience is. At Four Seasons prices, even that is taken care of.

Omni Orlando Resort


Image: Marriott

Unlike most of the other hotel pools on this list, the Omni Orlando Resort offers a neat opportunity for non-guests to enjoy their cool oasis. Starting at $40, a company called Resort Pass offers Day Pass reservations to a handful of Orlando pools, Omni among them.

And, that’s a pretty solid offer: The Omni features its own lazy river, a family pool with fountains and water features, an adult’s only pool, and a water slide. But, the big feature is the resort’s private wave pool.

Sure, Disney’s water parks offer a lot more, but at $40 a day per person — or less if you’re bringing a large group and rent a cabana — it’s tough to beat. Plus, you can save some money by not renting a room at one of these great hotels with pools. That savings adds up.

Orlando World Center Marriott


Image: Marriott

Marriott knows how to make great pools, and its pool at the Orlando World Center is something to behold. The entire resort is, really — a massive complex that is akin to a theme park all to itself. 

The pool features the standard list of great resort pool amenities, but with some key plusses: a lagoon-style pool that is absolutely enormous, relaxation coves that never get too crowded, and even a massive water slide that would be more at a major water park than a hotel.

With plenty of sun for those who want to tan, but plenty of shade for those who need a break as well, the Orlando World Center has something for everyone, and that is its greatest perk. Plus, if you get bored, you can always explore the rest of the resort — which is so big, it has to be seen to be believed.

Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress


Image: Hyatt

Another Resort Pass hotel, the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress gets some extra credit for being so close to the Walt Disney World Resort. For those staying at the Disney Springs Area hotels, the Grand Cypress is just a few minutes away by car.

For $25, you can even enjoy this pool with a simple Day Pass — which includes access to the pool, beach, rock climbing wall, game room, bike and boat rentals, and even the mini golf course.

However, the pool area is clearly the main feature, and at $25 for a day pass, it’s a no-brainer for guests with suboptimal pools at their own accommodations. In addition to the standard lagoon-style pool and hot tubs, Grand Cypress has tons of small spaces to hide away, far from the hustle and bustle you might expect from such a great deal. There are so many places to explore in the pool area, you can easily spend a whole day getting lost among its relaxation coves, suspension bridges, and water slides. And, if you get bored, you can go and hang out at a real sandy beach just near the pool.

If your resort is lacking for a pool, head to the Grand Cypress — it’s easily the best deal in Orlando.

Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando

 Grand Bohemian Hotel

Image: Grand Bohemian Hotel

There are hotel pools, and then there are hotel pools. The Grand Bohemian Hotel in Downtown ORlando falls squarely into the latter category, offering Orlando’s only true Las Vegas-style rooftop pool experience.

The vibe here is decidedly different: There are no big water slides or lazy rivers. There is no attempt to create a faux-lagoon feel. There are no sandy beaches. Instead, all you’ll find is luxury and glamour like you’d expect in a cosmopolitan city.

The crowd here certainly is more night-out than time-off, but if you’re looking for a more luxe poolside experience, this is it.

Margaritaville Resort Orlando

 Margaritaville Resort

Image: Margaritaville Resort

Opened in 2019, the Maragaritaville Resort Orlando is definitely the new kid on the block. But, with that relative youth and inexperience comes a ground-up rethink of what a resort pool is supposed to be. And, as a result, you have what might be the best new addition to the Central Florida area since Stormalong Bay swam into our hearts at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club.

Not content to open a moderately well-featured pool, the Margaritaville Resort Orlando also built its own full-sized water park called Island H2O Live. With water slides, wave pools, and a ton of party space, Island H2O Live is every bit a major water park — for a fraction of the cost of Disney’s and Universal’s.

But, if you don’t want to spend that but you’re still willing to stay on property at Margaritaville, you still get a wonderful resort pool. With both a more traditional hotel pool and an expansive lagoon pool, there’s plenty of space to stretch out and explore. Plus, swimming alongside real stretches of Florida waterfront adds to the vacation feel.

In all, Margaritaville is the best of all worlds: An action-packed water park for those who want it and a relaxing resort oasis for those who need it. And, its location just outside Walt Disney World makes it a great spot to head out from.

Yes, Disney and Universal have great hotel pools, but they aren’t the only places in Orlando that boast such amenities. Sometimes, staying off property can have some perks of its own — including those hotel pools.