Swimming has long since been lauded as a full-body workout that is great for your overall well-being. With water buoying up your body, swimming is an ideal activity for burning calories and destressing in an efficient and gentle manner. And while swimming lengths at your local pool is a great workout, taking your aquatic workout outside into the great outdoors can lift it to even higher levels.
Open-water swimming exposes you to nature and the cold, which can improve both your metabolism and immune system, and you get to enjoy spectacular scenery as you front-crawl your way to fitness. The sport has been gaining in popularity since its first recorded notable example on May 3, 1810, when the celebrated English romantic poet Lord Byron swam from Europe to Asia across the Hellespont Strait in Turkey.
Whether you plump for warm tropical waters for your open-water swimming or take a leaf out of Wim Hof’s book and take an energizing plunge in icier climes, you can rest assured your health and general well-being will feel the benefits. Here’s our roundup of some of the best locations for your next open-water swimming retreat...
As the former home of the sport’s pioneer, Lord Byron, the United Kingdom boasts several superb spots to enjoy open-water swimming and is becoming a hotspot for swimming retreats. The island nation has plenty of coastline, lakes, and rivers to dive into, and its northern location ensures that you will get that energizing boost from the colder water too.
Swim along England’s Jurassic Coast, in the shadows of Durdle Door, or in the picturesque Lake District, the muse for Byron’s great rivals, the Lake Poets. Head farther north to the Scottish Highlands region with its frigid lakes and wild coastline, or venture west into the Welsh wilderness for swims in the shadows of Snowdon’s towering peak.
The Aloha State, comprised of eight major islands, several atolls, and numerous smaller islets, sits some 2,000 miles off the California coastline in the North Pacific Ocean. With more coastline than all but three other US states, there’s plenty of opportunity to enjoy the myriad benefits of open-water swimming in Hawaii.
The volcanic archipelago boasts stunning scenery throughout, and your daily guided swims afford stunning views. Hawaii Island, known as the Big Island, is ideal for swimmers keen to explore craggy coastlines in crystal-clear waters, accompanied by turtles and spinner dolphins below. With coaching camps for beginners or more experienced open-water swimmers, Hawaii is a great location to take your swimming to the next level and boost your fitness and well-being.
The vast antipodean nation of Australia is renowned for its sunny climate and outdoor lifestyle. With most of its big cities located on the east coast, Western Australia is blessed with miles upon miles of wide open spaces, and its swimming retreats are the perfect escape. The lush Kirri Valley, the quiet town of Margaret River, and the island of Rottnest are all idyllic locations where tranquility and relaxation are guaranteed.
Open-water swim retreats in Australia are staffed with fully-qualified swim instructors with current first-aid certificates, and under their watchful tutelage, you can refine your technique and push your swimming on to the next level. There may also be excellent vineyards in this part of Australia...
The South Pacific island nation of Fiji is surrounded by crystal-clear, warm waters, and its 330 islands and more than 500 islets provide a superb, idyllic paradise to enjoy on your next open-water swimming retreat. Recover from your morning swim in a hammock under the shade of a coconut tree. With pristine coral reefs below you and the warm tropical sun on your back, pushing your swimming to the next level has never felt so luxurious.
Taveuni, Fiji’s third-largest island, is covered in lush rainforest and surrounded by technicolor coral reefs. The island is a popular location for swimming retreats, and its warm water helps keep the muscles working as you push towards improving your technique and speed. Recover and reconnect with nature with a gentle snorkel along the reefs or a cooling dip in shaded waterfall pools before going again the next day.
One of the world's most stunning natural environments, the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, could be the sublime setting for your next open-water swimming retreat. The archipelago has continued to capture the public’s imagination long after Charles Darwin brought it into public consciousness. You will be accompanied on your voyage of self-discovery by sea lions, marine iguanas, and turtles, and maybe even be able to watch graceful manta rays or huge-but-harmless whale sharks pass beneath you.
The Galapagos National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the world’s true biodiversity hotspots. What better place to continue your personal evolution as an open-water swimmer than a remote archipelago famed for its rich waters and natural beauty?
With its myriad islands split between the Ionian Sea to the west and the Aegean Sea to the east, Greece is also a top destination for open-water swimming retreats. The turquoise waters are supremely inviting, and the country’s rich culture and history make for an inspiring backdrop as you improve your overall fitness and swimming techniques in southeast Europe.
In the Aegean, you can improve your swimming along the white cliffs of Milos, past spectacular sea caves, tunnels, and breath-taking arches, or from the quaint island of Schinoussa, with its ancient Greek and Roman ruins. Farther north, 24 scattered islands make up the archipelago of the Sporades Islands, and in addition to your full-body workout in the sea, you may just get the chance to see a rare and protected Mediterranean monk seal too.
The quiet town of Sivota on Greece's western coast overlooks the Ionian Sea and its many islands, and its tranquil setting is ideal for increasing your daily swimming distance to two, three, four, or more kilometers. All under the watchful eye of qualified coaches. There’s plenty of choice for open-water swimming retreats in Greece; the difficulty lies in deciding which setting will suit your needs the best.
Whether you fancy frigid waters or tropical climes, your ideal open-water swimming retreat awaits. You don’t need to be a Romantic poet to follow in the footsteps of Byron and Wordsworth and swim in the UK’s cool lakes and icy seas. The Pacific archipelagoes of Fiji and Hawaii boast stunning coral reefs and postcard-perfect beaches, while remote Western Australia offers a great escape. Greece, once the crucible of European philosophy, offers tranquil islands surrounded by gin-clear water—perfect for resetting your mind. And opting to evolve your swimming in the bucket-list destination of the Galapagos will allow for a truly unforgettable experience among the ocean’s giants...