Freehand Miami, US
Occupying the 1930s art deco building of one of Miami Beach’s historic hotels, the Freehand is one classy joint. Surrounded by deck chairs and giant green palms to shade you from the Florida sun, the pool is just one of the elements that makes this such a laid-back place to stay. While the garden has plenty of lounging spots, inside you can relax, drink and dine in communal areas decked out with kitsch, funky decor, vintage oddities and cosy furniture. The hostel has a full-service restaurant with delicious fresh fish and shellfish on the menu, but the real treat is its James Beard Award semi-finalist cocktail bar, the Broken Shaker, where you can enjoy exotic liqueur, herb and syrup infusions thrown together by expert mixologists.
• Dorm bed from £17pn, thefreehand.com/miami
Swanky Mint Hostel, Croatia
Not just swanky by name, this already hugely popular hostel in Zagreb upped its game this August when it became the first hostel in the Croatian capital to offer a swimming pool. Situated on the hostel terrace, the pool gives guests the chance to cool off from the heat of the city, making it that bit more tempting to spend an extra night before heading to the coast. That said, the rest of the hostel is pretty inviting, too; the building is a former textile dyeing factory, and offers a beautiful sun terrace with foliage climbing up its red-brick walls, as well as simply designed rooms and dorms, plus functional but cool chipboard bunks. The hostel bar is a popular spot on the city’s main street – not just with backpackers – with live music and DJ nights, as well as those all-important cheap cocktails.
• Dorm bed from £16pn, swanky-hostel.com
Plus Hostel Berlin, Germany
As a place to stay for a lively weekend in the city, Plus Hostel Berlin – the newest of the half dozen Plus Hostels – couldn’t be better. The hostel is set right behind Warschauer Strasse U-bahn, so it’s walking distance from the city’s best clubs, as well as summer hangouts like Gorlitzer and Treptower parks. It’s perfectly placed for those who want to roll out of bed and go to a party. Though the decor and rooms are pretty basic, Plus Hostel makes up for this with its sauna and impressive indoor pool, which is big enough to swim lengths of, should you wish to clear your head after a heavy night. Free yoga sessions every Thursday morning also help – and the super-low prices even more so.
• Dorm bed from €18pn, plushostels.com/plusberlin
TOC Hostel Barcelona, Spain
Even without the pool, TOC Barcelona would almost be swanky enough to pass as a budget boutique hotel. The suites for two are simple and snug, with small balconies to look out over the city from; the communal areas are decked out with contemporary furniture and those low-hanging industrial lights that are a staple of hip establishments. The hostel also has a lively bar and cafe, as well as a kitchen where you can cook your own food. The rooftop pool and terrace, however, are what make the TOC special, with wooden decking and sun loungers to cool off on after a day exploring the cafes, shops and bars around La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter.
• Dorm bed from €29pn, tochostels.com/barcelona
Refill Now! Thailand
It’s not the most reassuring name for a hostel with a swimming pool, but Bangkok’s Refill Now! really is a tranquil place to stay. It’s east of the city centre, a little further out than most backpackers choose, but for those who want something quieter and better formed than the stacks of cheap beds around Khao San Road, this is a good place to start. The small pool is a cool feature in the four-storey hostel’s peaceful back garden, surrounded by tropical plants. The lobby area features more lush foliage and corners to hang out in, while on the top floor you’ll find the hostel’s massage parlour. The rooms are pretty sleek, too, particularly if you opt for a private loft.
• Dorm bed from £8pn, refillnow.co.th
Sunset Destination Hostel, Portugal
With views over the Tagus river and Lisbon’s Golden Gate Bridge, this stylish hostel is bang in the middle of the city’s best clubbing neighbourhood, Cais do Sodré, which is renowned for its pink-painted street and the overflowing bars that line it. The rooms in the hostel are well appointed, with wooden floors and pleasingly mismatched furniture, with custom-made bunks in the dorms and curtains for extra privacy. Still, guests will want to spend most of their time on the Sunset Terrace, with its pool overlooking the river, and the Zebra Bar, where people can sip cocktails from hammocks, smoke shisha and get a massage.
• Dorms from £16pn, destinationhostels.com/sunset-destination-hostel
The Backpack, South Africa
This Cape Town hostel has a host of awards under its belt, topping rankings for Africa’s best hostel for years on end – most recently for its green policies and employee involvement. It’s a big place, able to accommodate up to 100 people in rooms and dorms spread across four Victorian houses, courtyards and gardens. As for the pool, it’s surrounded by mosaic artwork and offers a stunning view of Table Mountain – which you can also enjoy from the cafe each morning over breakfast.
• Dorm bed from £13pn, backpackers.co.za
Bambuda Lodge, Panama
Surrounded by rainforest and tropical fruit trees, the huge pool at Bambuda is actually less impressive than its waterfront location. Just off the hostel’s dock is a coral reef, which guests can explore using free borrowed snorkelling gear from the hostel, or by renting a canoe. If that’s not enough to get you out of bed in the morning, then perhaps the 150ft waterslide – from the hostel bar into the ocean – will do the trick.
• Dorm bed from £12pn, bambuda.net
La Brisa Loca, Colombia
So, it’s not quite a pool to do lengths of, but the water feature in La Brisa Loca’s beautiful internal courtyard – with plants tumbling off the balconies – is a great place for a paddle while you cool off with a beer and get to know some of your fellow travellers. The impressive 100-year-old hostel building in Santa Marta, a former mansion, exudes colonial Caribbean charm, with high-ceilinged rooms and a stunning roof terrace, complete with rows of hammocks and views of the ocean and the town’s cathedral. Inside, the Rum Junkies bar has five happy hours a day to spice up the atmosphere.
• Dorm bed from £11pn, labrisaloca.com
Travellers Oasis, Australia
Ranked among the top three hostels in Oceania, Travellers Oasis in Cairns is a sweet little backpacker house with an easygoing, homely atmosphere – it’s not as much of a party hostel as many of the popular ones around the country are. As well as a relaxing pool side area, there’s a shady kitchen area with hammocks and benches and it’s perfectly placed to explore Cairns, or as a base for trips to the Great Barrier Reef.
• Dorm bed from £16pn, travellersoasis.com.au