It’s the SmartShanghai pool listings for 2012 and, after a week like this, you need them. Yeah, it’s pretty much the same list we put up last year — plus ça change, but the pool situation remains la même chose. A few places have upped their fees. A few have tightened up their entrance policies and we have one new entry. So here’s what’s out there. Suit up, shades on, pull your Speedos up to 11 and plop in.
Damage: 150 Hours: Mon 11:30am-7pm; Tue-Fri 9am-7pm
This Huaihai Lu compound has two pools, one indoor and one outside and yes, it’s open to non-residents. The outside pool is divided into two halves, neither of which is very deep. It’s more a place for a little cooling splash after you’ve been sunbathing. At the weekends, its convenient location means it gets busy, and you might not find a sun bed unless you get here early. It’s also overrun with children, which can be cute or irritating, depending on your disposition. Come in the week and you’ll usually have the place much to yourself. Gym members can use the pool free and bring non-member guests, but only during the week.
Damage: 80rmb / two hours Hours: 6am-10pm
This hotel is out in Thumb Plaza, in the garden of the Radisson Blu hotel. It’s not huge but certainly large enough for a dip and there’s a pleasant decked area for lounging. There’s also a kids’ pool if you need a wee. Only joking. On the Thursday afternoon when we visited, there were quite a few people so expect a bit of a crush at weekends. The fee structure works like this: it’s 50rmb for two hours in the week, 80rmb for two hours at weekends, or you can buy a whole day for 120rmb, or 200rmb for a couple. Lifeguard on duty overseeing the pool area.
Damage: 400-650rmb Hours: 10am-7pm
This is the closest pool to People’s Square and used to be a solid, high-end bet for a day by the pool without schlepping out to the burbs. It still is, but this year they’ve upped the price massively and bundled in a food and bev package. Weekdays pay 400rmb to get into the rooftop pool, but that includes 250rmb to spend on food and drinks. At weekends, it’s 650rmb, which includes 500rmb to spend at the poolside BBQ and the bar. Both outdoor pools are a little too shallow to swim, but good for splashing and cooling off. There’s an adjacent indoor pool for laps. Loungers here fill up, despite the price, so come early to secure one. No lifeguards.
Damage: 258rmb Hours: 7am-9pm
It doesn’t come cheap, but the pool at the New World Mayfair is one of the most tranquil downtown places for a soak. Facilities are clean and the pool is large enough to get some real swimming in, plus there’s a massive terrace which means there’s enough room to lie out. You get what you pay for, and here you’re paying — through the nose — for space, peace and superior sanitary conditions.
Damage: 120rmb Hours: 7am-10pm
It’s getting a little shabby as the years go by, but this rooftop pool is still a good option, inexpensive and rarely rammed, unless there’s an event going on (there have been none here so far this year). The view is still nice, there are plenty of places to lie out and tan, including a cabana, and the two circular pools are of decent size and depth. Everyone’s meant to wear a swimming cap when they use the pool, which sucks out some of the fun. The rule is not stringently enforced, but be prepared to have to buy or bring a swimming cap, even if you don’t end up wearing it the whole time.
Damage: 80rmb (adults), 50rmb (kids) Hours: 7am-9.30pm
This massive compound houses the go-to pool for many of the wilting denizens of Shanghai. It’s huge with lots of seating and it’s open to non-residents for a thoroughly reasonable 80rmb. There's a swim-up bar, a kiddy pool, on-site food and drinks and lifeguards. There's a bit of regular crowd, and it's not all expat-louche. There's reps from all age groups and lots of residents. It gets swamped on the weekends but overall is still a solid choice for big groups who want a legit pool with a relaxed door policy.
Damage: Members can bring guests in for 60rmb a day. Hours: 10am-8:30pm
This used to be a solid bet for anyone looking for a splosh out near Gubei, but this year they’ve tightened up their entry criteria. Now you have to be with a member or a resident of compound to get in, plus you pay 60rmb for the day. However, for that you get access to two pools, one indoor, one out. Both were pleasantly deserted the last time we checked, but that was during the week. If you don’t know a member, it might be worth heading down and trying to bluff your way in, or finding a kindly resident who will sign you in if it’s not busy.
If that doesn’t work, there’s another pool at the compound right next door — Yanlord Riverside Garden. It’s only open to residents but look at it, it’s huge and perhaps worth it if you’re not in a big group and want to try to bluff your way past the guards.
Damage: 35rmb / two hours before 5pm, 40rmb / two hours after 5pm Hours: 9am-9pm
Still a cheap, noisy, crowded option for those who live out this way. This is one of the few state-run outdoor pools in Shanghai and, like such pools the world over, in the summer this place a quagmire of screaming kids, piss-warm water exciting new fungal diseases. But hey, it’s cheap and there are two waterslides. Good for kids, though less fun if you want to bob in the sun because half of the larger pool is covered with a tarp roof. This year they’ve changed the fee structure to try to move people through faster. Two hour slots are sold for 35-40rmb, but when it’s crowded at weekends it’s hard to know how this will be enforced.
Damage: 80rmb (weekdays) 100rmb (weekends) Hours: 9am-9pm
This is the pool in the compound where you’ll find Mayaand the Hustlers’ Lounge — another extremely convenient location, though the pool is tiny compared to what you get out in Gubei and beyond. There’s just a few tables and chairs and room for a couple of dozen people to lay out, but the water’s pretty clean and deep enough to swim, and there's a Kwik-E-Mart downstairs for cheap drinks and munchies. Tip: the proximity of the Grand Plaza’s towers means the sun disappears early so try to make it down by midday.
Damage: 120rmb; 60rmb for kids Hours: 7am-10pm
This is the closest thing to a resort pool we have in Shanghai. It’s clean, the pool is huge, deep and there’s pleasant landscaping all around it with palm trees and a sandy beach area where you can lie out and bake. The outdoor pool have a wave machine and there's also an indoor pool with lanes for serious swimmers. During the week it's quiet, but on weekends it's stuffed up with pasty laowai getting hopped-up on fizzy drinks. Outdoor seating is nice and plentiful. There's an expensive bar serving shakes, smoothies and cold beers, and the price includes a towel and a locker.
This is an excellent outdoor pool, large and sunken in a rather tasty sort of grotto. Unfortunately, the pool's closed at the moment. You can get to it, but the water's old and dirty. We believe the people managing the pool have had some quarrel with the owners of the compound, hence the closure. When and if it reopens, we'll let you know. Last year they were charging 100rmb for non-residents to use it. The name of the compound is "Oriental Manhattan" but the sign outside actually says "Century Metropolis" so don't get confused by that.
Damage: 100-200rmb, depending on time Hours: around 10am-11pm, but see their website for detailed hours
Dino Beach is Shanghai's Wet & Wild water park. It boasts multiple massive water slides, the largest wave pool in China, volleyball courts and a lazy river for tubing. And because of all that, it’s predictably crowded, sometimes to surreal extents. Along with your sunblock, you’ll need factor 50 tolerance for crowds, queues and noise. Bring cash for fast food at one of the outlets – outside food and drink can’t be brought inside, and neither can alcohol. To get there, take Line 1 to Xinzhuang station and then take bus 763 or 173, or a cab. Alternatively, take bus 803 all the way from Shanghai South Railway Station. The Chinese name for Dinobeach is Re Dai Feng Bao Shui Shang Le Yuan, or use this link and send the address to your phone.
Damage: 22,000 / year membership Hours: 6am-11pm
Last year this was the most expensive spot on our list, at 500rmb a day. This year, the pool-keepers of the Portman have outdone themselves by closing it to everyone except those with a (22,000rmb / year) gym membership. Ouch.
Damage: 200rmb (weekdays), 300rmb (weekends); kids half price. Hours: 10am-7pm
This is a real trek but it’s a great place for a day out with kids. Le Meridien's pool facilities are large, clean and very pleasant. The grounds surrounding the pool are five-star, there's an indoor lap pool, an outdoor infinity pool overlooking a lake, and a beach with volleyball nets. Pool toys are available to hire. Lounging opportunities abound. If you get out here for weekend brunch, they’ll let you use the pool for free, all day. Brunch is 398rmb +15% with free-flow champagne, or 160rmb +15% for kids. More on that here.
To get there, take Line 9 Sheshan, then a cab (15rmb) to the hotel. A cab all the way is about 150rmb from Jing'an.