The Hotel Shangri-La’s pool at its Santa Monica property, where you can hang out without being a guest with the new app, Dip

A new app grants you the privileges of staying at a swanky hotel for a daily fee.

When Dylan Bushnell, a 20-something software developer with a background in game design, was growing up in Los Angeles, he was surrounded by luxe hotel pools—most of them off-limits.

This was a drag. “Spending time at these pools is such a singular, lovely experience,” says Bushnell. “But there was no clear, easy way to buy a day pass at most hotels.” That’s when it struck him. What if he could convince hotels to let people who weren’t guests pay to use their pools?

Boom! Dip was born.

The free travel app specializes in hotel day passes, enabling non–hotel guests to buy limited access to swimming pools, hot tubs, cabanas, daybeds, spas, gyms, steam rooms, and private beaches, among other exclusive hotel amenities. From a budgeting standpoint, it’s kind of like taking afternoon tea in a fancy hotel—you can experience the high-end ambiance without staying overnight. Participating hotels, meanwhile, generate additional revenue on amenities they’re already offering. 

Marina All Suites Hotel
21 Insanely Cool Hotel Pools
A hotel that boasts a pool always seems that much more enticing. Whether it's an infinity edge pool 57 stories above Singapore or your own private plunge pool off your room in St. Lucia, you won't want to forget your swimsuit.
Collected by Jen Murphy , AFAR Contributor
  • 1 / 19
    Marina All Suites Hotel
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    Instead of the beaches, visit rooftop pools in Rio. If you are looking for a good pool to check out, head to the Marina Palace Hotel in Leblon. The ideal afternoon includes a hike in the Dois Irmaos Park, which is a pretty steep uphill climb but with plenty of stops along the way. There is a beautiful monument to remember the victims of the Air France flight 447 crash half way to the top. Post hike, return to the Marina Palace Hotel for cocktails on the roof - which you can enjoy even if you aren't a guest - swim in the infinity pool and love Rio for everything it offers.
  • 2 / 19
    Post Ranch Inn
    Big Sur, California
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    Described by devotees as the most luxurious, one-of-a-kind lodging experience in all of California, the Post Ranch Inn was purpose-built to blend in with the Santa Lucia Mountains. Opened in 1992, and designed by famed Big Sur architect Mickey Muennig, the modern dwellings here resemble sophisticated tree houses—at one with the earth, sky, and water. Each of the 39 buildings is built from recycled redwood and paneled glass, and each was designed with complete seclusion in mind. Choose ocean-view accommodations, like the Cliff House with a deck suspended over the cliffs, to feel as if you’re soaring with the red-tailed hawks. Or if you get your inspiration from the mountains, book the Peak House, which faces the top of the ridge. The Post Ranch Spa offers soothing body and facial treatments, private yoga and meditation practices, and even shaman healing sessions, while two pools on the cliffs have views that blend sea and sky. Other activities—morning yoga, guided nature walks, tours of the chef’s garden, and stargazing—keep guests immersed in nature. This is the place to go off the grid, commune with loved ones (or reconnect with yourself), and enjoy total privacy.
    By Serena Renner, AFAR Contributor
    Lisa Corson, AFAR Media
  • 3 / 19
    Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort
    Saint Lucia
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    For a taste of Miami by way of St. Lucia, look no further than Sugar Beach. Set on a white-sand crescent between the Piton mountains—within a 100-acre former sugar plantation studded with shady palm trees—the resort’s white-on-white cottages have all the amenities worthy of a five-star retreat, from sumptuous Egyptian cotton linens to butler service and access to a private chef. (No wonder Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon have stayed here.) But don’t linger too long in your room. The coral reefs in the bay are home to triggerfish, turtles, and exotic sponges that can be viewed on an instructor-led dive or snorkel trip, and whale-watching, waterfall hikes through the rain forest, and adventure tours on ATVs await. If you have more leisurely pursuits in mind, the tree-house spa offers treatments using locally sourced ingredients for the ultimate in relaxation.
    By Jennifer Fernandez, AFAR Contributor
    Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Resort
  • 4 / 19
    Likya Gardens Hotel Kalkan Turkey
    Kalkan, Turkey
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    Stylish, secluded Likya Gardens is a hideaway amid the cliffs of Kalkan, a humble old fishing town on Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. Each of the seven suites has its own pool and a patio set on stilts, offering views of a crystal-blue bay and brightly colored fishing boats. Guests can sun on nearby beaches such as Patara or Kaputaş, or enjoy the privacy of the hotel’s beach club, where Moroccan-style cabanas are tricked out with minibars, laptops, and Wi-Fi. Personal butlers can deliver breakfast and book tables at the town’s rooftop restaurants; they’ll even arrange day trips to the Hidden Canyon, with its Indiana Jones–style swinging bridge. From $450. This appeared in the June/July 2014 issue.
    By Jen Murphy, AFAR Contributor
    Elixir Holidays
  • 5 / 19
    Marina Bay Sands Shoppes
    Singapore, Singapore
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    The Shoppes at MBS feature outposts of practically every major designer label from Armani to Versace. The Shoppes are also home to a number of celebrity chef restaurants. Here you'll find Guy Savoy, Wolfgang Puck's Cut, Mario Batali's Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza and, my personal favorite, Daniel Boulud's db Bistro Moderne. Be sure to call ahead to book a table. When you're done, stretch your legs with a stroll down the Marina where you can check out the fountain show up close.
    By Arwen Joyce, AFAR Local Expert
  • 6 / 19
    Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
    Venice, Italy
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    In Venice, it's hard to get a moment alone with a loved one or even with the city herself. The crowds of tourists reaching over your shoulder to snap shaky photos of the aged Rialto can become a nuisance as you try to realize the historical importance and sheer magic of the lagoon city for yourself. Here are my Top 5 ways to escape from the crowds and see the subdued elegance of the city. 1) Museo Correr: It is unfathomable why more people do not visit this charming and historic museum conveniently situated in the Piazza San Marco, opposite San Marco Basilica. While the Palazzo Ducale is not to be missed, there are no long lineups here. Museo Correr is a great way to see historic Venice without having to elbow your way from room to room. 2) The Hilton Molino-Stucky: For views of the Venetian island take a quick Vaporetto ride to La Giudecca (Dorsoduro) where many Venetians and artists live. The hotel itself is a restored flour mill with a rooftop pool and bar. Enjoy an afternoon beer or prosecco and be sure to bring your camera for the 360° views. 3) Scuola Grande di San Rocco: A confraternity that housed the most influential Venetian Renaissance painters the interior is entirely painted with works by Tintoretto. 4) The Rialto After 7pm: As most restaurants open at 7-7:30 most tourists are scrambling for seats. Have the bridge to yourself and a few passersby. 5) Get Lost!: Put away your map, be adventurous and wander the city. You'll be sure to find locals.
    By Murissa Shalapata, AFAR Local Expert
  • 7 / 19
    Casa Dos Chicos
    Sayulita, Mexico
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    Up the hill from town stands Casa Dos Chicos a four-bedroom residence of two structures connected by a rooftop bridge. Upstairs, under a thatched roof, the outdoor kitchen, living room, and soaking pool offer endless panoramas. From $570. This appeared in the January/February 2014 issue.
    By Meghan McEwen, AFAR Contributor
    Casa Dos Chicos
  • 8 / 19
    Posada Del Angel
    Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
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    Antigua is chockablock full of beautiful and intimate posadas. We stayed at Posada del Angel. The staff is so friendly and willing to take care of your every need. The bathrooms are large and well done. The best part about our stay was breakfast on the rooftop terrace overlooking two volcanoes--Fuego y Agua. Definitely the highlight of our stay. Gotta love the lap pool as well and kept at 22 Celsius.
    By Joseph Diaz, AFAR Founder
  • 9 / 19
    Cape Royale Luxury Hotel & Spa
    Cape Town, South Africa
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    “I send visitors to the Cape Royale," says resident Rashiq Fataar. "The hotel has a sophisticated old-world feel. Guests have access to a rooftop pool that overlooks the city.” 47 Main Rd., Green Point, 27/(0) 21-430-0500. This appeared in the June/July 2014 issue. Read more about Rashiq Fataar's Cape Town neighborhood
    By Jen Murphy, AFAR Contributor
  • 10 / 19
    Bayerischer Hof
    Munich, Germany
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    This five-star, 19th-century hotel, commissioned by King Ludwig I, commands an imposing position on Munich’s grandiose Promenadeplatz. With its seven bars, five restaurants (including one with a Michelin star), fitness studio, and private cinema, plus rooftop spa, pool, and lounge bar, it’s a veritable royal palace—and in fact does offer suites in the adjacent Palais Montgelas. Little wonder Michael Jackson chose to stay here.
    The hotel has commissioned an array of designers throughout its history, resulting in a wide variety of room styles, from African to Art Deco. Also available are a number of private suites, with glass-walled bedrooms that offer panoramic views. The designer flamboyance doesn’t stop at the guestrooms, however. Axel Vervoordt worked on the in-house cinema and Garden restaurant, and Andrée Putman designed the swimming pool and rooftop bar.
    By Paul Sullivan, AFAR Local Expert
    Bayerischer Hof
  • 11 / 19
    The Thompson Hotel
    Toronto, Canada
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    The Thompson Hotel, Toronto, opened in 2010 as a modern, translucent glass building soaring above its low-rise, red-brick neighbors and staking a claim as a symbol of glitz and glam in the King West neighborhood. Thanks to its fashionable in-house bars and restaurants, the hotel is a popular fixture both with locals and with the Hollywood set who visit each September for the TIFF film festival. The acclaimed Studio Gaia team designed the rooms, which have bold, dark-wood flooring and hot accents of orange playing off cool white walls. Heated marble floors in the bathrooms, spacious tubs, and sheets with high thread counts all contribute to the sense of luxury, and floor-to-ceiling windows ensure that rooms are flooded with natural light. After check-in, guests can use their room key to access the private elevator up to the rooftop bar, with its 360-degree views of the city. The rotating menu of seasonal cocktails is especially delicious.
    By Nikki Bayley, AFAR Local Expert
    The Thompson Hotel
  • 12 / 19
    W Santiago
    Las Condes, Chile
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    The W Santiago is where the cool kids stay. Which other hotel would dare to have a sign reading “WHATEVER” at the entrance? Since opening in 2009, the hotel has earned a strong following, both from locals and visitors. Dimly lit with a color scheme of purples, greens, and black, the rooms are modern, with full-length windows overlooking the city. Located in Santiago’s financial district, officially known as El Golf, the W is part of a large skyscraper (hotel reception is on the fourth floor) filled with restaurants and shops. The 196 rooms reach to the 21st floor, and the W has arguably the best roof terrace in town (Hotel Noi Vitacura being a close contender). The roof terrace has an infinity pool, knockout city views, and a heli-pad for those who want to whiz off to wine country or hit the ski slopes in speedy style.
    By AFAR Traveler
    W Santiago
  • 13 / 19
    Soho House Berlin
    Berlin, Germany
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    Looming over one of central Berlin’s most vibrant intersections, this restored Bauhaus building, with its distinctive 1920s curved facade, was transformed in 2010 into the Berlin outpost of the glamorous Soho House hotel and private members brand. The building has heaps of history, having started out as a Jewish-owned department store before being taken over by the Nazis and then occupied by the Communist regime (for archival purposes).
    Today, it’s one of Mitte’s foremost havens of hip, offering quirkily decorated rooms that mix vintage with contemporary design tropes—think Marshall speakers and old-school record players, floral armchairs, and Art Deco bathtubs. The lofts are even more astonishing, both for their capacious size and their industrial-chic aesthetic—some come with grand pianos and foosball tables. The hotel also has a rooftop pool and adjacent bar with views of Alexanderplatz, a concept retail area, a private cinema and library room—with a bar—that hosts occasional events open to the public, an in-house restaurant, and a Cowshed spa that’s a popular destination in its own right.
    By Paul Sullivan, AFAR Local Expert
    Soho House Berlin
  • 14 / 19
    SO/ Sofitel Bangkok
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    Nouveau French meets modern Thai at SO/ Sofitel Bangkok, which takes its design cues from four of the core Chinese elements: Water, Earth, Metal, and Wood. The result is like being transported into a fashion shoot or the pages of a decor magazine: Each of the 237 rooms and suites is themed, and depending on which element you end up with, there may be fantasy-inspired wallpaper, walls of glass and warm wood, or highly polished floors, plus extra touches courtesy of fashion designer Christian Lacroix. Tall windows allow for views of urban Bangkok and green Lumphini Park at every turn, bathrooms are stocked with YTSARA products, and amenities include 40-inch flat-screen TVs, Apple Mac Mini media hubs, and seamless Wi-Fi in all rooms, plus iPads in the suites. Even the staff, with their beautifully coordinated, mixed-patterned uniforms, look like they just stepped out of Fashion Week. All this incredible style is matched by a vibe that’s both energetic and wonderfully warm, including in the six buzzing restaurants and bars—which range from the street food-inspired Red Oven to the rooftop Park Society and Hi-Lo Bar and the poolside Water Club.
    By Celeste Brash, AFAR Local Expert
    Sofitel Hotels & Resorts
  • 15 / 19
    Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection®
    Orlando, Florida
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    One of Orlando's swankiest hotels, the Grand Bohemian boasts more than just a place to lay your head at night. It's one of my favorite places to soak up the Florida sunshine all while enjoying views of the downtown skyline. Enjoy the lap pool (heated for year-round enjoyment) & whirlpool. Both will give you panoramic views of Downtown Orlando. I just wish I could sip on a cocktail—there's no bar and they have a sign posted that reads "no food or beverages". Bummer. Locals and non-locals can score great deals for spa days, pool access, and free valet parking. Be on the lookout!
  • 17 / 19
    Montelucia Resort & Spa
    Paradise Valley, Arizona
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    Confusion. I think that’s what some people feel when they first lay eyes on the Montelucia Resort & Spa. With its ornate entryways and floral squares, the resort looks more like a charming European village than an Arizona resort. But, you know what? It works. Montelucia is downright enchanting. And in case you find yourself slipping and forgetting just where you are, simply look the south for the best possible reminder – Scottsdale’s iconic Camelback Mountain. There’s plenty to keep you busy on property, including five dining spots, but the very best way to pass the time is at Joya Spa. Inspired by the Moroccan desert and Spain’s Andalusian region, Joya is 32,000 square feet of total relaxation. Lavish lounge areas, a rooftop pool and terrace, and a detoxifying hammam are all a part of the experience. The latter improves circulation and balance using time-tested rituals from Northern Africa.
    By Katarina Kovacevic, AFAR Local Expert
  • 18 / 19
    Vander Urbani Resort a member of Design Hotels™
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    Tucked away on a narrow street along the Ljubljanica River, the Vander Urbani Resort is a five-story, 16-room gem of hip comfort. Most rooms are compact, but decked out with just the right touches such as Moroso chairs and big wooden desks. Downstairs guests will find a restaurant and cafe. The killer buffet breakfast is included in the rate and the spread includes Slovenian dishes such as polenta, grains and herb omelets. The central location in Old Town is hard to beat, but my favorite feature was the rooftop with its infinity pool that overlooks the river below and castle above. Drinks and snacks can be served at the handful of rooftop tables and if you ask, the staff can arrange morning yoga too.
    By Jen Murphy, AFAR Contributor
  • 19 / 19
    Llao Llao Hotel
    Bariloche, Argentina
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    The Bariloche region of Argentina is great for skiing in the winter, and hiking, biking and boating in the summer. A great place to stay in any season is the Llao Llao Hotel, located 25 min or so out of the main town, on the shore of the lake. Hard to beat the views, and they have a great brunch too.
    By Derek Butcher, AFAR Staff

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Dip’s first partner was the Hotel Shangri-La  in Santa Monica, where rooms start at $319 per night. The heated outdoor pool—with its multi-level teakwood decks and striped chaise lounge chairs—is the crown jewel. Before Dip existed, a budget traveler or wily local hoping to use such schmancy facilities would have to pose as a hotel guest (which we at AFAR don’t condone). With Dip, they can simply use the platform to buy a pool pass ($25 on weekdays, $45 on weekends)—and not risk the humiliation of being booted out by security.

Although 100,000 users have downloaded the Dip app to date, the startup life is not without its hiccups. Bushnell’s biggest challenge has been convincing legacy hotel brands to open their facilities to outsiders. “The hospitality industry is old and full of inertia, so convincing hoteliers to experiment with new revenue streams is no small task,” Bushnell says.

Since its July 2016 launch, Dip has recruited 30 hotel partners. It continues to broaden its L.A. portfolio and add new properties in Washington, D.C., and New York. Roll-out plans for 2017 include Miami and Las Vegas and a membership model is in the works. Bushnell is particularly excited about broadening access to opulent hotel spas that might otherwise sit empty, particularly in low season. The way he sees it, it’s a win-win for both hotels and the people who used to sneak into them.

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