Pre-pandemic, many hotels hopped on the trend of offering non-guest passes, offering access to their pools, fitness centers and amenities like free Wi-Fi — making them a smart option for travelers and locals alike looking to squeeze in a few hours of R&R (or find a more scenic office space). While this option disappeared for most of 2020, the offering is slowly starting to make its way back to hotels.
“Day passes allow guests to experience the property’s amenities without requiring the normal time commitment of an overnight stay,” says Brad Mills, hotel manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. “As locals and travelers strive to maximize their personal time, but still enjoy luxurious and relaxing experiences, the ‘daycation’ is a perfect alternative.”
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Offering day passes can also have benefits for the hotel that go beyond the price of a pass, like free publicity through social media posts — and the chance to earn your business down the road. “(Hotels) hope that business travelers taking advantage of their facilities will consider staying with them on a future visit, versus a property with no pool or less impressive offerings,” says AJ Perry, founder of Think Travel.
InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile (Chicago)
Escape winter’s grasp on the Windy City by temporarily checking in to this historic Michigan Avenue hotel, where a day pass ($27.50) grants you access to one of Chicago’s oldest pools as well as a trilevel fitness center with Pelotons, Finnish saunas and weights. Built in 1929, the heated, junior Olympic indoor pool on the 14th floor features a terra cotta fountain of Neptune and elegant stained-glass windows, rendering an afternoon spent reading, working (thanks to free Wi-Fi) or relaxing here a Gatsby-like experience. Poolside cocktail service will resume soon; try the Hemingway daiquiri from the “Adult Swim” menu.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (Dana Point, California)
Take advantage of this oceanside hotel’s coveted beachfront, two heated pools and hot tub with a new day pass ($150 per adult) that lets even non-guests soak up the California sunshine. As a meetings-focused property, it caters to business travelers with free Wi-Fi, poolside dining, discounts on food and beverages and complimentary valet parking for those looking to WFP (work from pool). During winter and spring, the poolside vibe is laid-back, the sound of waves punctuated only by acoustic melodies. Pick your perch, from day beds to loungers, and order the pulled Jidori chicken salad from the poolside cafe — or take advantage of beach butler service (included in the day pass), with beach chair and umbrella set-up, to catch a wave before catching your flight.
La Cantera Resort & Spa (San Antonio)
Spending time in nature may be just what you need after 2020 — and there’s no better way to reap the benefits (without losing Wi-Fi) than spending a few hours at this hotel’s Topaz pool, overlooking the glorious landscape that is Texas Hill Country. A day pass ($65) scores you a spot at the adults-only, infinity-edge pool (plus access to three others on the property), hot tubs, a tennis court, poolside food and beverage service and an upgraded fitness center with daily classes — as well as free Wi-Fi and parking. Enjoy a Painkiller cocktail served in a whole pineapple from one of the partially submerged lounge chairs.
The Gates Hotel South Beach (Miami Beach, Florida)
You can use your Hilton Honors points to enjoy the pool life at this DoubleTree by Hilton property. But even if you’re not a guest, you can buy a day pass ($30) for access to its outdoor pool, hot tub and poolside food and beverage service. Inspired by the hotel’s original iteration as Motel Ankara in the ’50s, the pool has a Miami art deco vibe and is the only one in town with a view of Collins Canal. With a vibe that’s mostly relaxing (day passes include free yoga classes Thursday, Friday and Sunday), the pool is a bit more energetic on weekends thanks to DJs, salsa dancing lessons and killer mojitos from the Banana Bungalow bar. Passes are available at resortpass.com.
Andaz West Hollywood (West Hollywood, California)
The price of a day pass varies by the day and the season (starting at $35), but no matter when you pop in for some R&R — and a little poolside working if you must — you’re guaranteed top-notch views of the Sunset Strip, Downtown L.A. and the Hollywood Hills from the highest rooftop pool in L.A. This hotel grants day-pass holders access to its pool, food and beverage service and free Wi-Fi, with the option to add on a couch, cabana, drinks and more for an additional fee. Thanks to its central location, it’s easy for those staying around Beverly Hills and Santa Monica to slip in for the afternoon.
Marriott Marquis Houston (Houston)
Nothing says vacation, or staycation, like jumping into the one-of-a-kind, Texas-shaped lazy river atop this hotel connected to the city’s convention center. With a day pass ($65, available Monday through Thursday), you get access to the entire sixth-floor terrace, which has a heated infinity pool, hot tub and poolside service in addition to the river, and can sneak in a workout at the fitness center overlooking downtown. Cool off with a minty Terrace tea from the High Dive bar, served in a whole pineapple.
The Don CeSar (St. Pete Beach, Florida)
At the iconic Pink Palace, as this 1920s hotel is known, two large outdoor heated pools steps from St. Pete Beach are the centerpiece — and the non-guest day pass (from $75 for adults) grants you the chance to bask in all of their glory. You’ll also get access to the fitness center and complimentary classes, a steam room, indoor and outdoor hot tubs, private beach access with loungers and umbrella rentals, poolside lunch and classic frozen drinks from the new Beacon Pool Bar & Lookout. Spread out the property’s signature pink-striped towels and settle in early for a good spot; you can grab a coffee at Uncle Andy’s Market before taking advantage of poolside free Wi-Fi, starting at 8 a.m.
Mountain Shadows Resort (Paradise Valley, Arizona)
Two sparkling 75-foot pools offer dramatic (and completely Instagrammable) views of Camelback Mountain at this quiet Paradise Valley resort, with midcentury-inspired architecture and a relaxed vibe. Rent a cabana for a day (from $196, excluding Saturdays) and get your sweat on in the tricked-out fitness studio, which offers daily classes like boot camp and reformer Pilates, before heading out to lounge poolside. Your cabana also includes bottle service, drinks, light bites and a flat-screen TV — in case you need to keep an eye on the stock market or catch a big game as you lounge.
Featured photo by Clair Ward/Unsplash.