If you love the thought of giving your swimming space extra character, pool grotto ideas may be just the solution you're after.
Built up with boulders, grottos take inspiration from the natural landscape. When designed well, they transform a swimming pool into a jungle-style retreat that's a joy to splash around in – for swimmers of all ages.
Sure, if you prefer your pool ideas to be sleek, chic, and contemporary, a mass of rocks, waterfalls, and hidden caves might not be the look you're after. But, as our edit shows, adding a grotto certainly doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on style – and they're certainly a way to make a statement.
Gorgeous pool grotto ideas to transform a backyard swimming space
From statement patio shelters and slides to planting inspo, our pool grotto ideas may inspire you to add one of these adventurous setups to your own plot.
1. Shelter a seat with a waterfall
One of the key aspects of most grottos is a pool waterfall. Designs often incorporate them to screen a small cave, a separate swimming area, or, as seen here, a small seat to perch on complete with a window through to a view.
Whatever the case, being able to journey through tumbling water to reach a 'secret' destination will always instill a sense of playfulness and adventure for kids and adults alike.
What's more, these sensory features don't just look spectacular, but they also bring a soothing sound to a setup and help reduce algae by keeping the water moving.
2. Keep cool in a cave
This design also runs with the waterfall theme, but rather than creating a divide for a small seating spot, it incorporates a large, cool, cave.
If you're looking for pool shade ideas to shelter from the hot sun, it's a wonderfully creative solution. Keep the depth shallow enough so that you can sit and watch the wall of water fall in front of you from the safety of the shade – you'll feel like you're in your own tropical paradise in no time.
3. Enhance the natural vibe with plenty of plants
When designing a pool grotto, don't forget to take the wider space into consideration, too. Extend the natural, rainforest vibe to your pool patio with the addition of tropical plants – whether that's in containers or in nearby borders.
They'll help provide an aspect of shade as well as interesting texture, color, and form. As demonstrated in this setup, you could also build a raised bed to create a divide between different areas of your pool – for instance, to partition a grotto zone from a more serious space for swimming laps.
4. Create extra impact with on-theme lighting
With pool lighting, you can ensure your pool grotto ideas maintain their impact even when night falls. In fact, depending on the types of lights you go for, the space can be transformed into one that's even more enchanting.
Fire bowls and tiki torches are a top option, instantly adding drama with their warm, flickering glow. They're the perfect way to up the atmosphere of a grotto and will make after-dark dips feel even more appealing.
5. Light up the water for an after-dark glow
If fire features feel a little too themed for you, perhaps opting for modern wall lights both in and around your pool is a more suitable solution.
They'll illuminate the water with an enticing glow that can be appreciated even if you're not actually opting for a late-night swim. And, they're good for practical reasons too, as everyone will be able to see the perimeter clearly.
Consider hiring a pro to install recessed spotlights around the scene, too – an effective way to create focal points and highlight the natural form of boulders and cascading water.
6. Up the fun factor with a slide
Let's face it, grottos are one of those luxuries that are all about having fun. So if you're opting for this sort of style, why not go one step further and add a pool slide to the mix?
This one blends into the scheme beautifully, surrounded by its rocky landscaping and eye-catching lights. Meanwhile, an elevated hot tub nearby provides a stunning space to unwind and admire the scene.
7. Take inspiration from the great outdoors
Pool grottos don't have to look like they've come straight out of a waterpark. With considered design, they can look organic and natural, blending into surrounding soft landscaping beautifully.
This scene is a stunning example. We love how the rocky waterfall merges effortlessly with the surrounding greenery and provides a sense of shelter for the pool.
To take things a step further, you could even opt for a natural pool alongside your grotto. These designs are chemical-free and generally include the addition of aquatic plants, making them a gorgeous garden feature even once swimming season is over.
8. Make a statement with a giant waterfall
Got a large garden? Why not go all-out with your pool grotto ideas and choose a super-sized waterfall that's certain to turn heads.
Going for impressive heights with your display is a surefire way to define the pool from the rest of your plot as its own separate zone. What's more, it can up the sense of privacy, too, screening swimmers from neighbors or from view of the house.
As for the layout itself, keep the arrangement of boulders random for that natural aesthetic, making sure you include plenty of large, flat rocks for basking on.
9. Build a poolside shelter
Another option for large plots is to extend the grotto theme with a statement patio cover. It's ideal for very hot regions, as it will provide plenty of shade, and could be dressed up with soft glowy lanterns for an extra sense of magic.
Here, it cuts into a sloping yard, creating a sculptural accent that complements the blue water nearby beautifully.
How much does a pool grotto cost?
As you might expect, pool grottos aren't the cheapest addition to a backyard. According to Home Advisor (opens in new tab), adding a rock waterfall feature can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 or more, and that's before you add lighting, slides, caves, and any other features.
According to the experts at Poolcareguide.com (opens in new tab), you are likely to pay the most for grottos made from fiberglass, engineered rock, or real rock. Ultra-luxurious grottos with hidden rooms and swim-up bars can be upwards of $50,000, adds Poolonomics.com (opens in new tab).
Don't try to cut down on the cost by attempting to build a grotto yourself, however. As the Pool Care Guide team explains, a DIY job runs the risk of the structure collapsing, which can, of course, be incredibly dangerous for people in or around the grotto.
What are the downsides to pool grottos?
Aside from the cost of installing a pool grotto, there's also the downside of the complications it can add to your pool maintenance routine.
All those nooks and crannies are much trickier to clean than a standard pool design, and even the best pool vacuum won't be able to get them looking spick and span. Generally, you'll need to scrub it by hand – which requires plenty of elbow grease.
It's also very important to plan the design carefully with a professional, to ensure the final setup fits your space, needs, and budget as expected.
Can you use artificial rocks for a pool grotto?
Although you can use real rocks for your pool grotto, most homeowners opt for artificial ones. These are much lighter and easier, quicker, and cheaper to install. Depending on the type you go for, they can also be fade-resistant and super durable.
Plus, some products are made with rock particles and molded from real rock formations, meaning they look just as good as the real deal.
The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.
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