What’s the best way to handle global warming? By purchasing a swim spa, obviously.
Joking aside, swim spas aren’t just for cooling down and relaxation. They can also be great for exercise, especially for individuals with arthritis or joint issues — or just anyone who prefers swimming to stay in shape.
Most importantly, swim spas are much more compact than a pool, meaning some are a good choice for a small yard, deck, or patio while others are big enough for that spa party with all your friends. And since swim spas are heated, you can use them all year long.
But should shell out the considerable moolah needed to procure a Swim Spa?
We’ll provide everything you need to know to make an informed decision.
The Swim Spas We RAVE About
- In this ranking, we’ll tell you how to bring the luxury resort spa experience to your own backyard.
- The best purchasing choice always comes from an informed decision, so we provide what you need to know to make an informed choice about swim spas.
- Our ranking methodology identifies the best swim spas that offer value, durability, and enjoyable features to make your backyard a paradise.
Let’s begin by defining a swim spa as well outlining a few important differences between swim spas and hot tubs.
What Is a Swim Spa and Why Would You Want One?
The primary difference between a swim spa and a hot tub is user intent. Hot tubs are most often used for relaxation and to help sore muscles feel better.
Swim spas, on the other hand, are a bit larger, and most have a small pool-like area with jet propulsion that creates its own water current, allowing you to exercise.
You really can swim in a swim spa, by swimming in place with a tether (though a tether isn’t always required).
You can also simply jog or walk in place. This makes a swim perfect for stretching and decompressing sore backs, knees, and other injuries.
You might even be able to write off a portion of your swim spa’s cost as a medical expense (if you have medical conditions that might truly benefit from using it).
Ways to Use a Swim Spa
In this short, helpful video from Activ Chiropractic, Nick explains some great low back exercises to use in your swim spa.
The Difference between a Swimming Pool and Swim Spa
It’s important to note that swimming in a swim spa isn’t exactly like swimming in a swimming pool. Swimming pools are still, and the current created in a swim spa makes it more like a moving body of water.
This means you will need to engage your core to stay in place more than you might otherwise in a pool.
But don’t worry — swim spas are also for relaxation, with adjustable jets just like a hot tub for when it’s time to wind down.
The temperature in a swim spa is adjustable, and some have extra jets — like the Xtreme Therapy Cove — that target muscles in the back and legs, cutting down on muscle soreness:
So to sum it up, swim spas are something like a hybrid between a hot tub and a pool.
They’re cheaper and easier to install than an in-ground swimming pool, and unlike an aboveground swimming pool, swim spas are heated so they can be used all year long.
But the fact of the matter is swim spas aren’t cheap, and while they’re easier to install than a pool, there is some expense and planning required before a swim spa can be installed (more on that later).
Are Swim Spas Worth it?
If you’re still wondering whether it’s all worth it — here are some things to consider.
Your Backyard Will be Like a Resort
With your very own swim spa, you’ll never need to leave the house again. Your backyard will provide hours of fun and relaxation in the warm waters of your swim spa.
Plus, with the convenient exercise options provided by a swim spa, you’ll save money on your gym membership — and with the addition of a swim spa, you may just add a little value to your home!
Put in the work to prove your swim spa is for therapeutic purposes, and it may even be tax deductible!
Install it and Forget it
But what about the maintenance? That’s another big plus to owning a swim spa, because unlike a traditional pool — which requires expensive chemicals and upkeep — most swim spas are energy efficient and self-cleaning. When it comes to the time to invest in maintaining a swim spa, expect roughly 5-10 minutes a week.
Swim spas also last a long time, an estimated 10-20 years on average, and you can buy with confidence since most come with long warranties.
Up next, we’ll provide some pointers on what to look for — and what to avoid — when it comes to choosing a swim spa current.
How to Choose a Swim Spa and Current
Because there are a lot of different swim spa brands promising all sorts of added features, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Before considering the current, here’s a list of things to look for in a swim spa in general:
- Ease of maintenance
- Fun and fitness features
- Comfort ratings, plus bonuses like massage jets
- Pleasing design and aesthetics
- Solid construction, including insulation
But what about the current?
After all, the current is what sets a swim spa apart from a regular hot tub or pool.
Here’s how to choose the proper current for your purposes:
When evaluating swim spas to purchase, consider comparing currents and swimming lanes.
Strength of the Current
Will the current be strong enough for you to swim against? Also, how smooth is the current and how easily can the current be controlled or customized to your preferences? Nobody wants a turbulent ride in their swim spa.
Is a Tether Required?
Some swim spas may claim to offer a strong enough current to swim against, but will ultimately require you to tether up for the best swimming experience.
This is a big turn-off for some buyers, so check to see if a tether comes with the spa or if it’s not required.
Width of the Swimming Lane
Most swim spas are between 15 and 19 feet long. Consider your own body size first, but don’t forget to consider anyone else who may use the spa. The last thing you want is to invest in a swim spa to only have it end up being too small for you to use.
And there you have it. Ready to get started? Coming up next are the 10 best swim spas.
When we set out to narrow down the best swim spas for our ranking, we narrowed down the field with an eye for the following:
- Does the swim spa brand offer multiple volumes of water?
- Are there options with and without current?
- Are the swim spas portable or modular?
- And does the brand offer dedicated swim spas, with no hot tub functionality?
Other factors we considered include the overall reputation of the brand, customer service and website user interface, overall cost, and add-ons offered by the brand like sound systems, lighting, and jets.
With all that in mind, we’re confident in our conclusions, and if you keep reading, you’ll find the right swim spa for you.
The Best Swim Spas
Earning the number one spot in our ranking is PDC swim spas, offering the best selection and versatility. PDC’s options range across all 14 different models, including lighting, accessory options, jet type, and filtration systems.
PDC spas range in size from about 1,800 to 2,700 gallons, and the current can be created either by jets or a dual-propeller system. So if a strong current is what you’re after, choose PDC. The longest model available from PDC is the SX19 at 19 feet long, and some models have as many as 65 therapy jets!
Also notable is that the therapeutic jet systems have both hard and soft massage settings, while you can change the water flow with an Ultra Massage Selector. Some models come with cascading water spouts, and all models from PDC come complete with LED lighting grip options, a floor mat, and an audio system.
PDC also earns high marks for energy efficiency as well, meeting or exceeding the California Energy Commission Title 20 energy use testing standards. The spas also trap energy from warm air from the internal pumps, helping to heat the water while cutting down on energy use and overall expense.
- Large customizable selection
- Jets and propeller options
- Adjustable resistance
- More gallon capacity available
One thing to be aware of is that few swim spa companies quote prices up front, leaving the final cost a mystery to the very end. Endless Pools reveals MSRP right on their website, allowing custom spa building entirely online — super convenient! This, among many other factors, is why Endless Pools ended up near the top of our ranking.
Customer support from Endless Pools is also notable. They’ll mail you an informational DVD and even follow up with a phone call to assist in the pool-buying process every step of the way. The pools themselves come in sizes maxing out at a little less than 2,400 gallons (which is small compared to other brands) but there are lots of customizable elements like lighting and jets. Other options include a surround sound system, a treadmill, and a four-piece cover.
Those interested in an especially strong current should also consider Endless Pools. This brand creates current with a 16-inch propeller, meaning resistance is stronger than what’s possible with a jet-created current. The current is also wider than most body types, and you can feel confident that an Endless Pool swim spa will be deep enough to accommodate most swim strokes.
- MSRP up front
- Propeller current
- Online pool-builder tool
- Few accessories
SwimEx Swim Spas
SwimEx is our pick for the best swim spa for exercise. These spas come in a range of dimensions to accommodate different styles of exercise and, of course, with lots of customization for relaxation as well. Producing six series of swim spas, chances are you’ll find what you need from SwimEx.
Some SwimEx swim spas create their current with a paddlewheel while others use a propeller. And even the smallest option — the 2,600-gallon 400 OS series, for example — is big enough to fit multiple people. The 1000 S series, holding 7,700 gallons of water, is even big enough for two people to swim side by side!
SwimEx spas are well suited for other kinds of exercise besides swimming, with some series featuring flat, non-skid flooring. Most models also accommodate exercise equipment. The running pad in the 1000 S series is at an angle, sort of like a treadmill.
There’s also a step-up area, an exercise bench, and three wells for weight-bearing exercise in some models. Other features include customizable colors, and an HD video camera system for monitoring your own swim strokes.
- Propeller and paddle-wheel current
- Six series available
- Running pad in some series
- Treading depth not always offered
- No hot tub features
- Modular only
For the best selection, choose Hydropool, the next brand of swim spas in our ranking. This brand offers the best mix of workout and relaxation swim spas, producing five lines and 14 models of swim spas, all completely customizable. Hydropools are also easy to maintain, and most are self-cleaning, like the AquaTrainer 14 AX, filtering all its water in less than an hour.
For add-ons, Hydropool also has you covered, with options like an external cabinet, covers available in a broad range of colors, internal shells, and both bromide and ozone filtration systems. External siding is also available — we like the wood grain option.
The current in Hydropool spas comes from hot tub jets, and the strength of the current is adjustable. Lengths range from 12 to 19 feet, but all units are about 4 feet deep. Also notable is the eZ Ultra Pure Salt System if you prefer saltwater over chlorine, and there’s also app integration, allowing for filtration, water care, and temperature settings to be adjusted directly from a smartphone or device.
For an additional fee, rowing machines and a fitness kit are also available, including items such as resistance bands and a harness.
- Senior living options
- Good for small spaces
- Saltwater option
- Current created by jets only
- Reports of slow customer service
- Portable designs only
For affordability and energy efficiency, choose Arctic Spas. The energy efficiency this brand is known for comes from the heat transfer pure fiberglass shell and insulation system, trapping warmth even during the cold season.
Less energy spent heating the spa is less money on your monthly energy bill. Arctic Spas cost less than an estimated $2 a day, which is a bargain in the world of swim spas.
Otherwise, there are seven base models available from Arctic Spas, but all models are a little more than 14 feet long and 4 feet deep — pretty standard, but not a lot of variety.
Nevertheless, the current is created by high-volume jets across all models, and the number of jets varies. And the no-resistance models are perfect for aerobics, hydrotherapy, and other low-impact exercise. Salt water options are also available from Arctic to clean and sanitize the pool, and the onSpa app allows for remote operation of all spa functions.
Other options include a speaker system and a high-quality cover. We like the Kingfisher mode, with lights to help swimmers stay straight against the current.
- Cheap to operate
- Good all-climate spas
- App compatible
- Not a lot of size variety
- No paddlewheel or propeller
- No workout equipment
ATV Swim Spas
Aquatic Training Vessels, or ATV, are the next swim spas in our ranking. Offering a line of six swim spas, ATV Swim Spas range from models meant for high-intensity workouts to the perfect pool for your next party.
Models like the ATV-17 Kona, a 2,400-gallon, 17-foot swim spa, are available in a cordovan or barnwood exterior. This model features 26 therapy jets, and the current comes from six Whitewater-4 jets. We especially liked the two swim tether anchors and the mid-vessel Buoyancy jets for lower torso lift during swim exercises.
For something a little smaller, ATV offers the V150W, a 12.5-foot, 1,200-gallon spa with four multi-level seats, ideal for when you have company. Resistance in the V150W comes from the four Whitewater-4 jets, and like all ATV products, the spa is Bluetooth compatible with two surface speakers.
Another ATV product we like is the 14-foot ATV-14. Holding 1,725 gallons, the ATV-14 has 26 therapy jets and two high-volume turbo swim jets. A resistance and rowing kit comes optional.
When it comes to ATV, we especially like the add-ons and accessories, like the 12-point water feature on the ATV-14 or ATV-17 models with six waterfalls on either side. Two DuraCover energy covers are included with all swim spa purchases from ATV.
- Good for swimming
- Easy to install
- Good for injury rehab
- More electricity than expected
- Burned-out pump issues
- Some need a crane to install
Michael Phelps Swim Spas
The next swim spa brand in our ranking is Michael Phelps Swim Spas. When a product has the backing of an Olympic athlete like Phelps, you know it must be something special. There aren’t a lot of options available from Phelps spas — only three — landing this brand a little lower in our ranking, but each one is quality.
To begin with, there’s the MP Momentum Deep, a 2,325-gallon, 19-foot spa with Wave XP Propulsion technology. Exclusive to Phelps swim spas, the Wave XP propulsion technology is known for a wide, deep, and smooth current that’s also completely adjustable.
We like the Xtreme Therapy Cove and SoftTread Nonslip Comfort Floor System by SwimDek, both coming standard with the spa. There are some nice premium options as well, including a Fusion Air Sound System and Wave Light Package. Smaller, but not lower in quality, is the MP Force Deep, a 17-foot, 1,935-gallon spa with 39 stainless steel jets.
Another thing that sets Phelps spas apart is the exclusive Xtreme Therapy Seat, providing hydrotherapy with an X-pattern of jets available from no other swim spa. There’s also a unique set of swim spa exercises called the H2Xercise Swim Spa Fitness Program, developed and available only with the Phelps spas.
Another exclusive is the SwimNumber App, helping you design and track your own workout program to meet your needs and help you accomplish your goals.
- H2Xercise Fitness Program
- Xtreme Therapy Seat
- Xtreme Therapy Cove
- Only three models
- Wifi issues reported
- Jets not as smooth as expected
Eighth spot on our list of the best swim spas goes to ThermoSpas, which offers four dedicated swim spa models. At the most basic, there’s the Aquacisor, a 650-gallon hot tub–swim spa hybrid seating seven with up to 67 jets and up to six pumps. Choose this model for low-impact exercise, but also simply for fun and relaxation.
For more of a true swim spa experience, though, Thermospas swim spas range from 12 to 17 feet, and they’re all about 4 feet deep. The largest model provides less seating but more room for swimming. With up to 27 jets and enough room for at least 5 adults, this model’s currents are fully adjustable, with a unique, backlit buoyancy jet to help you find and maintain the perfect swim form. We also liked the 50-mg Ozone sanitization system and mineral-based purification system.
For the best mix of seating and room to move, though, choose the 12-foot model with seating for nine adults. Also notable is the ThermoFlex current-creating swim nozzles and the custom-designed SoftStride mat. This mat covers the swim channel footwell, adding comfort and safety.
Other things to expect from Thermospas include UV-resistant maintenance-free cabinetry, a galvanized steel frame, and a multilayer insulation system, providing energy efficiency and reducing operational costs. We also like the intuitive control panel and dual in-wall skimmers with removable strainer baskets that help keep the water clean.
- Backlit buoyancy jet
- ThermoFlex swim nozzles
- UV-resistant cabinetry
- Not much pricing info online
- Replacement parts hard to find
- Warranty issues reported
H2X Swim Spas
Offering eight models of swim spas, H2X swim spas are ninth in our ranking. Manufactured by Master Spa, the same company that produces the Phelps line of spas, H2X spas range in depths from about 4 feet 3 inches and lengths spanning 11 to 19 feet.
H2X swim spas also feature SoftTread by SwimDek, providing traction when you’re getting in and out of the pool or doing aerobics. Depending on the model, the current in the H2X comes from three or four jets that mix air with water, creating negative pressure for additional resistance.
H2X is also known for using energy-efficient Icynene foam to insulate their spas. The advantage of Icynene over urethane foam, we learned, is that Icynene loses less volume over time, and H2X spas stay more energy efficient than other brands. It’s important to note that two H2X models have a barrier separating the swim lane from the spa area, making the swim lane too short for some.
But most importantly, all models come with the H2Xercise System, ideal if you’re interested in using their spa for aerobics as well as swimming. This package includes a rowing kit, H2Xercise Bells, resistance bands, H2Xercise Fins, and the H2Xercise Aquatic Workout book. Getting that all-in-one package is quite a savings in itself.
We also like the Corona Discharge Ozone generator, helping keep the tub free from bacteria and metals.
- SoftTread by SwimDek
- Icynene foam insulation
- Lengths up to 19 feet
- Short swim lane in some models
- Better warranties available
Last in our ranking of the best swim spas is Catalina Spas. What caught our attention about Catalina is that they offer longer-than-average pools, reaching lengths of up to 21 feet. There’s a nice variety of depths as well, reaching over 5 feet. Otherwise, spa lengths begin at 12 feet, and other available depths are 3.5, 4.25, and 4.5 feet.
Catalina Spas create water resistance with jets located in the front area of the pool, and the number of jets vary between models. Also available are passive resistance devices that attach behind you for an added challenge, but these aren’t included with purchase.
Catalina also offers some nice appearance customizations for the tub, cabinet, cover, and even the accent tiles. Choose the LED lighting option for some fun lighting effects. We also like that Catalina offers some installation options, both partially in-ground and aboveground. The aboveground option means your spa is portable, and you can take it with you if you ever have to move.
There are also some nice stereo options available from Catalina, with subwoofer and Bluetooth compatibility.
- In and aboveground installation
- Appearance customization
- Extra long pools
- Not many accessories included
- Sub-par warranty, consumers say
What Are the Best Swim Spa Exercises?
You chose a swim spa over a hot tub for the exercise options. Here are some additional suggestions for exercise besides swimming.
With these tips, you can make the most of your new purchase.
Jogging in Place
Like anytime you exercise, warming up is important. This remains true even in a swim spa. To warm up in a swim spa, we recommend jogging in place.
How to do so is pretty self-explanatory, just try to get your knees as high as possible.
For added difficulty, turn on the jets and try to go for at least two minutes.
Many of us are familiar with bicycles for exercise on dry land. Here’s how to do them in a swim spa:
- With your back against the swim spa, extend your arms along the edge of the pool.
- Pull your legs up toward your chest, but not so far as to break the surface of the water.
- Kick your feet in a motion similar to that of pedaling a bike.
It’s best to do 3-4 sets of 15-20 rotations.
Some swim spas come complete with a bar to do exercises like kickbacks, an excellent workout for the derriere. If you choose a swim spa with this feature, here’s how to try the exercise:
- Stand straight, facing the bar. Grab a hold of the bar.
- Lift one leg as close to the surface of the water as possible.
- Hold the position for at least 10 seconds, and then switch legs.
For best results, attempt 2-3 sets of kickbacks, 10 reps each.
To perform a core rotation, you’ll need a set of water dumbbells. Here’s what to do next:
- Holding the dumbbells, stand with your legs shoulder-length apart.
- Hold the dumbbells in front of your abdomen vertically, with knees slightly bent.
- Rotate your torso left, and then right. Be sure to keep your back as straight as possible.
Frequently Asked Questions about Swim Spas
Need to know before deciding between a hot tub, swimming pool, or swim spa?
In this section, we’ll attempt to answer more of your questions to help you make a decision!
Just click the question in blue for a drop-down answer.