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

Image: Marriott

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

 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

 Marriott

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.

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