Besides being sprawling beach resorts in the Caribbean, these hotels have one very important thing in common: A spectacular swim-up bar. And while the swim-up bar is arguably the best part of being on vacation(who doesn’t love to backstroke towards their Slippery Nipple or Fuzzy Navel?), we at Oyster know that there are many factors that elevator a swim-up bar from good, to great. So below we’re taking into consideration drink quality, music, munchies – and more – to determine the absolute best Caribbean swim-up bars (apologize in advance for the not-so-hot beach bods).
Best Spring Break Swim-Up Bar
The swim-up bar at the Riu Paradise Island is fairly tame during the majority of the year, but everything changes come spring break when the pool is overflowing with young and wild partiers. “They be crazy,” one bartender explained, “one minute they’re crawling on the bar, the next they’re throwing up in the lobby!” We love this swim-up bar not only because it’s wild in March, but also because it’s so welcoming to all types of guests during the rest of the year.
Best Luxury Swim-Up Bar
Half Moon’s swim up bar is your spot if feeling pampered is more appealing than a wild spring break getaway. Surrounded by foliage and fountains, it would be hard not to appreciate the atmosphere around you. Even better, the bartender will not only know your drink-of-choice, but will become your best friend. The luxury, personalization, and privacy is probably why the resort has been the choice of many well-known celebs like Lil Wayne, Bob Marley, 50 Cent, and L.L. Cool J. Don’t let this fool you into thinking its a wild time: the latter two brought their families.
Best Party Swim-Up Bar
The Grand Palladium looks low-key and tame, until you make your way over to the swim-up bar (it’s in one of the resort’s five pools). It’s here that guests routinely break into songs like “Baby I Got Your Money” (for better or worse) and throw back wild shots you wouldn’t really want your kid to see. Luckily, the resort has brand name liquor, so if you’re drinking enough to partake in these activities, at least you did it with a bit of class.
Best Swim-Up Bar to Kick Back
Get in touch with your Rastafarian side at the Riu Negril Club. Known for its laid back and relaxing scene — proven by the smell of marijuana that sometimes wafts through the air — college kids and retirees alike will have a great time at this swim up bar. With plenty of pool side entertainment like pool Olympics, water aerobics, and reggae dance lessons run by an all-male staff (the most noteable being “Batman,” a chiseled work-0ut instructor) you will never want to go home.
Best Swim-Up Bartenders
There’s no need for pool side entertainment at Catalonia Bavaro Beach’s swim up bar, because the bartenders are entertaining enough. The bartenders often put on a show for their patrons, spinning bottles and throwing them around. Not to mention that their laid-back attitudes allow guests to have as much fun as they want. Our investigator even saw a woman refill her beer five times from the tap while the bartender stood by and watched; they only seem to interfere when necessary.
Best Swim-Up Bar for Eating Without Leaving the Pool
The Hyatt Regency Aruba boasts an impressive three-tier pool, but what we think is most notable is the swim-up bar that they take to a whole new level. Thanks to Balashi Bar and Grill, resort goers no longer have to leave the pool when they get the munchies. And trust us, with a pool like that you never want to get out. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., you can order an array of sandwiches and salads, or appetizers like wings and calamari.
Best Swim-Up Bar Entertainment
The swim-up bar at the Riu Ocho Rios feels more like party-central than it does a refined resort bar. With techno music and activities like water aerobics, you’ll never be bored. There’s even beer pong to take you back to the good-old-days of college. But here it’s even better, because you won’t have to wake up for an exam in the morning.
Worst Swim-Up Bar “Entertainment”
The bar at the Riu Bachata had to make our list — if a bit ironically. The pool here is usually a great party scene, made only better by the popular swim up bar. But be careful, because some people’s idea of entertainment is … borderline disturbing. When our investigator was at the bar, she saw 20-year-old women give an extremely provocative lap dance to a very uncomfortable 60-year-old man. At least the drinks are strong.