Plunge pool ideas: 9 small designs for a refreshing backyard dip

Ideal for small backyards or patios, these plunge pool ideas are the perfect option if you want to cool off in style but don't have space for a traditional pool

plunge pool on a deck at consilium hortus garden, RHS
(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs)

These gorgeous plunge pool ideas will help you visualize the perfect cool-down spot for your yard. If you love the idea of a refreshing dip but have minimal backyard space, these mini pools are a fantastic option.

While you won't be able to swim multiple laps in a plunge pool, you'll still get all of the same cold water benefits from a quick dip or casual lounge in this compact backyard pool design, as well as enjoying a way to cool off in hot and balmy temperatures. 

What's more, cold plunge pools are actively recommended for athletes and sport lovers as a way to quickly constrict blood vessels, reducing swelling and inflammation. Cold water can help with pain, give you better circulation and improve your tolerance of the cold too. 

According to Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof and his celebrated Wim Hof method (opens in new tab), 'cold body therapy is also linked to improved quality of sleep, more focus and even an improved immune response.' So adding a cold water plunge pool to your yard could give your health a boost too. 

9 inspiring plunge pool ideas to breathe fresh air into your yard 

Whether you want to participate in a little cold water therapy, or simply don't have the room for a full-size swimming pool, you can take your outdoor space to the next level with these pool design ideas – there's a plunge pool for everyone! 

1. Add a sunken plunge pool to your deck

sunken pool in modern decking of a backyard

A stunning architectural below-ground plunge pool

(Image credit: laflor / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

There are plenty of plunge pool ideas that can match your home, fitting seamlessly into the outdoor decor you already have. 

For a clean, contemporary look, why not consider an inground plunge pool that is surrounded by the same pool deck as the rest of your patio? That way, it's virtually indistinguishable and will create a sleek finish to your pool landscaping

2. Create a rustic spot for a quick dip

water barrel plunge pool with ladder and towel

Use a stock tank for a quaint aesthetic, like the Vitamin G Garden (opens in new tab) at the Hampton Court Flower Show, designed by Alan Williams of Landform

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs )

Climbing up a wooden ladder to enter your very own plunge pool makes the entire experience especially relaxing and restorative, right from the start. It's the perfect addition to a traditional stock tank pool, and these compact designs are ideal if you're searching for a simple and affordable way to enjoy a quick dip in your yard. 

This beautiful plunge pool was created as part of the Vitamin G Garden at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show 2022. Designed by Alan Williams of Landform Consultants, the pool evokes a sense of open water swimming and is surrounded by colorful perennials that encourage visits from wildlife. 

3. Connect a plunge pool to an open-plan bathroom

Modern bathroom overlooking luxury soaking pool

A wonderfully private plunge pool – or outdoor bath!

(Image credit: caia image / Alamy Stock Photo)

There's nothing like brushing your teeth at the sink and moving straight into your very own private pool. Connecting a plunge pool to your wash space will take an outdoor bathroom idea to the next level, making every day feel like a spa experience. It also means you're closer to the shower or bath when you need warming up. 

If you're planning an interior and exterior remodel, this is the ideal opportunity to incorporate some unique features into your space. And let's be honest, what could be more unique than incorporating your daily plunge into your morning routine? 

4. Enjoy an at-home twilight spa experience

tub and comfortable back deck of a rustic home at twilight

A sunset dip in a cool pool

(Image credit: stevehullphotography / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

When the sun goes down after a summer's day, a plunge pool is the perfect way to enjoy your cozy deck. Together with some soft-hued pool lighting ideas, you can make a really romantic set up. 

If a cold dip isn't top of your wishlist and you prefer something a little warmer, there are plenty of simple options for heating a pool, and some may cost less than you think. One of the many benefits of a small plunge pool is that if you do want to boost the water temperature it's a much smaller body of water to heat than in a large inground pool. 

There are even plenty of ways to heat a pool without a heater, helping you to save even more money. 

5. Attach a plunge pool to your main swimming pool

Swimming pool in front of a large pool house and lawn

Take a swimming break in a connected plunge pool

(Image credit: ucpage / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

There's something wonderful about enjoying a regular swim, getting your muscles warmed up, and then taking the edge off with a quick douse of cold water. 

With enough space, you can connect a plunge pool to a larger swimming pool. If you choose not to heat the water in this smaller area, you'll get all the health benefits of a refreshing dip in cool water, while the larger pool remains at a more agreeable temperature for spending longer periods of time in the water. 

6. Match your plunge pool with the surrounding landscape

Exterior of modern house with curved plunge pool

Use the natural world as inspiration for your plunge pool

(Image credit: YAY Media AS / Alamy Stock Photo)

No matter what type of pool patio you're considering, there's a beautiful harmony to matching the outdoor surroundings to your swimming pool shape

This gorgeous example uses the same combination of curves and sharp edges seen on both the house's exterior and the shape of the mountains beyond, creating a harmonious mirroring effect wherever you look. 

7. Shock your system with an ice plunge pool

Ice on the edge of the plunge bath

Take cold-water therapy to the next level with an ice plunge

(Image credit: nieriss / Alamy Stock Photo)

It's widely documented that icy cold water can help to lift your mood, soothe muscles and even boost your immune system, so if you're already a fan of a daily blast under a cold shower, why not take it a step further and incorporate an ice water plunge pool into your yard? 

While you might only get ice freezing around the rim of the pool itself in the depths of winter (depending on where you live), leaving the water unheated is enough to ensure you'll still get to enjoy the benefits of some cold water therapy. 

8. Surround it with foliage for privacy

senior woman relaxing in hot tub on sunny summer patio overlooking green plants

Turn your plunge pool into a unique hideaway spot

(Image credit: Caia Image / Collection Mix: Subjects / Getty Images)

When you need a little personal time away from family (or from prying neighbors), a plunge pool's particular location is important. The idea of hiding it away makes the space feel entirely your own, providing maximum privacy. 

Ferns and palms will create a tropical garden vibe all year round, while heavily scented plants such as lavender will ensure that taking a dip is a more sensory experience thanks to their strong fragrance. 

As a plunge pool is only a small area to shield from view, many of our favorite hot tub privacy ideas would work equally well for this setup too. 

9. Watch the world go by from your plunge pool

open air hot tub on decking beside the natural river

Location is key, so position your pool near a fantastic view

(Image credit: Jointgai2424 / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

If your home is lucky enough to enjoy a great view over the surrounding landscape, make sure you position your plunge pool in the best spot. We love the idea of watching the world go by on the water while you're reaping the benefits of your own cold plunge. 

Do bear in mind, however, that if your plunge pool is located at the far end of your yard and some distance from the house, this can make it seem less accessible and you could end up using it less frequently. It can also make pool maintenance more time consuming as you'll need to ferry all the necessary cleaning equipment to the far end of your plot. 

According to the Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association (SPATA (opens in new tab)), the practice of cold-water therapy has been around for a couple of millennia. The combination of wellness achieved by heating the body and then cooling it quickly is believed to have begun in Scandinavia and Finland, by sitting in a sealed room full of steam and, after a prescribed time, running out of doors and jumping into a snow drift. 

Heating the body induces sweat which cleanses the internal organs, while the snow removes the sweat. Whatever prompted that first jump into the snow, it clearly resulted in an enjoyable feeling of wellbeing.

Supporters of this cold plunge technique believe that cold water therapy can improve your circulation, deepen your sleep, spike your energy levels, and reduce inflammation in your body, and backyard plunge pools are an easy way of replicating this in just a small area of your yard. 

Mature woman jumping into fresh cold water tub

(Image credit: Leon Harris / Image Source / Getty Images)

How deep is a typical plunge pool? 

While you probably won't  be able to swim in a plunge pool, it should still be pretty deep: about 56in (142cm) deep, enough for the water to come up to shoulder height for most adults. This way, you can actively move around in the water and not just sit still. However, should space be at a minimum, you can still reap the benefits. 

In terms of temperature, a plunge pool is typically set at around 50˚F (10˚C).

modern paved patio with a small plunge pool in the center and a covered seating area

Landscape design by Consilium Hortus (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs)

Are plunge pools easy to maintain? 

Unless you're fastidious about covering up your plunge pool when not in use, there's a likelihood that garden debris will find its way inside. You can use chlorine tablets to purify the water, but the actual pool will need cleaning too. 

Pool maintenance can involve labor-intensive wall brushing and surface skimming, but thanks to the various automatic options available, the process of cleaning a pool can be made pretty easy. 

For a small above-ground pool, you can use a lightweight pool vacuum, while below-ground plunge pools might need something more heavy duty. 

Flora Baker
Freelance Writer

Freelance writer and author Flora Baker is a keen amateur gardener and houseplant enthusiast. Her small garden in South London is a constant work in progress as she gets to grips with snail prevention, DIY trellises and what to plant in shady spots overrun with ivy.