I Tried Swimply, the Airbnb of Swimming Pools
You can rent your dream pool for a day—at a surprisingly fair cost.
At the top of my list each summer lies two items. The first: complaining about the ungodly smell of the NYC subway stations, which always manages to be twice as bad as I remembered from years prior.
The second: opening the group message and sending “Let’s have a pool day!” again and again and again without actually acting on it, because finding a good pool—although not truly difficult—feels like a pain in the ass. This cycle continues until Labor Day weekend arrives, at which point I can direct my attention away from being a pool-less plebeian and toward apple-picking season.
Thankfully, that laborious search for the best swimming pool—not just in New York City, but anywhere—may just be over.
What is Swimply?
Essentially the Airbnb of swimming pools, the Swimply app lets you rent from 25,000+ different private pools, hot tubs, tennis courts, and more across the US, Canada, and Australia. (And to quickly address a common question I’ve seen floating around—yes, Swimply is legit.)
Rentals range from $15 to a few hundred bucks per hour, which, split between a few friends, ain’t too bad—especially considering many pools allow for well over a dozen guests. Swimply also runs an online shop with gift cards, photographer rentals, and pool gear, including a truly enormous duck float which, at $100, may or may not be worth the photo opp—you be the judge.
How does Swimply work?
After you download the Swimply app and fill out the requisite sign-up info (which includes verifying that you’re at least 21 years old—sorry kids, this is Adult Swim), you’ll be directed to their main map, which allows you to search for available pools by location, date, time, and number of guests.
The Swimply app also includes the upcoming weather report so that quite literally nothing rains on your parade. Yours truly almost made the mistake of booking for a rainy Saturday afternoon, so this is a verified life-saver.
You can browse through all the hot single pools near you and get more details, including house rules, pool width and depth, on-site furniture, whether the pool is child- or pet-friendly, and available amenities (BBQ grills, pool toys, local shops/restaurants, et cetera).
The page will also list whether there’s a bathroom available—about 80% of listings offer toilet access, but at least you’ll know in advance if you’re shit out of luck (ba dum tss).
From there, all you need to do is show up and enjoy.
What’s the Swimply experience like?
In my case, most of the closest pools would have meant either a trek out to Jersey or deep into Brooklyn, so I went with a chill backyard hot tub and sauna combo nearby that cost $50/hour. (I booked three hours for $150—or about $75 per person for two—but looking back, two hours would have sufficed.)
Just before we were set to head over, my boyfriend couldn’t stop reminding me how weird it might feel to swim while our hosts sat inside, winding down on a Sunday night as two complete strangers hung out in their backyard. This was admittedly fair: Were I a host, I’d feel a little like that meme of Squidward gazing down from his window at Spongebob and Patrick enjoying their little day, and as a guest, I worried we’d feel like we were intruding on someone’s afternoon.
But ultimately, the experience was laid-back from start to finish. Our hosts were friendly, took just a few minutes to show us how the hot tub and sauna worked, and then disappeared back into the house. Barring the initial awkwardness of settling into somebody else’s space—much like one might feel in a shared-room Airbnb—we quickly adjusted and, within 30 minutes, found ourselves lounging comfortably and chatting in the hot tub between steams in the sauna.
In our case, our hosts had popped out for dinner by the time we left, so checking out was just a matter of going on our merry way. Overall, we had a good enough time taking a dip—and considering how miserably expensive most things in New York are, I’ve definitely spent more on worse outings.
Whether or not you feel satisfied with your own experience with Swimply, though, will probably vary based on a few different factors.
Things to consider before you rent on Swimply
1. Remember that you’ve rented the pool—not the entire house. Although it has a similar layout, Swimply isn’t Airbnb, and it’s up to each individual host to decide whether or not they want to leave their house during your rental period. Depending on what kind of experience you’re after, you might want to weigh your options. Want a quick day swim? Swimply’s your guy. Want a pool plus guaranteed privacy plus somewhere to take a post-swim nap? You’re probably better off booking a hotel or Airbnb with a pool.
2. Depending on where you live, your options may be limited, so adjust your expectations accordingly. If you live in a dense urban area, I’d recommend dialing back your standards for “dream pool” just a bit. For example, my options were relatively few since I live in New York—a city not exactly known for its sprawling backyards or household swimming pools. But if you’re in a place where yard space is a little more common—say, Los Angeles or Miami—you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice. Whereas less urban areas may have less competition and lower costs for a lot of space.
3. Book far in advance. As it goes with most fun things, book as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to rent during the afternoon and/or on a weekend. For what it’s worth, it was much easier to book last-minute swim sessions after 6 pm or during the workweek. In general, though, do yourself a favor and make your reservation as soon as the thought of lounging poolside crosses your mind.
Is Swimply worth it?
Final verdict: Maybe. At the very least, Swimply is a hell of a lot cheaper than building a pool in your own backyard, and a hell of a lot more attractive than sitting in a kiddie pool on your lawn or the rooftop of your apartment. But what it really comes down to is your locale and your group size.
If you live in a place where pools are relatively common and/or you’re interested in sunning and funning with more than a few friends, then you’re much more likely to enjoy Swimply. Even then, though, you may be able to find an Airbnb with a pool that sits within your budget and gives you complete and total privacy.
If you’re swimming with a small group or live in a concrete jungle where swimming pools (both private and otherwise) are harder to come across—your New Yorks, your Phillys, your Chicagos—Swimply becomes a little more enticing, but your options on the app may still be relatively few.
Overall, if you’re feeling a little bougie, I’d say splurge on a daytime dip; if you’re not picky and you’re just looking to do a cannonball without all the bells and whistles, a public pool will probably suit you just fine. And if all this option-weighing has stressed you out too much, there’s another option in which you just take our advice on how to throw an amazing pool party sans pool instead.