When someone says the words “swim spa” what do you think of? Maybe the phrase conjures infomercial images of someone doing laps in a stamp-sized pool. Perhaps you heard somewhere that Michael Phelps used to train in a swim spa, (he has his own line!)

Maybe you already know exactly what a swim spa is, or perhaps you’ve never heard of one at all. No matter your level of familiarity, if you’re looking into alternative options to a traditional hot tub or spa, a swim spa has probably entered the conversation at some point.

As great as it would be, not all of us have the room for both a pool and a spa. And more than ever, we are focused on creating functional solutions from small square footage. Swim spas allow you to do this. 

But what is a swim spa, and should you invest? Great question. Let’s get into it. 

What is a swim spa?

If you’ve never heard of a swim spa before, the idea can take some getting used to. Simply put, the swim spa was designed to fill the role of both a luxury hot tub, and a lap pool. This means you can either sit down and relax against a wall of jets, or crank the settings and go for a swim, high resistance water-jog, or walk against the current.

The swim spa works as a pool by turning itself into a kind of small water treadmill. It generates a powerful current. From there, the swimmer is then able to drop into this current and swim infinitely. Think of the motion of the water as the motion of a belt on a treadmill at the local gym. When you are done swimming, simply switch the settings and relax in your backyard hot tub.

Many companies make their own versions of a swim spa, but most are fairly similar. Quantity of jets, size of the spa, and configuration may vary slightly, but all models are meant to function similarly and serve the same purpose in your day to day life. 

How much does a Swim Spa cost?

If this is the first you’re hearing of a swim spa, the concept probably sounds pretty appealing. The function of a swimming pool with the compactability and relaxation of a hot tub is tempting. But as with all of the finer things in life, luxury and convenience don’t come cheap.

You can count on a quality model costing you a fair deal more than the average hot tub. Final costs can range greatly, and typically depend on the brand and model you choose. Cheaper options may come in at around the $7,000 to $10,000 mark. More expensive options can top $30,000 dollars after all is said and done. For reference, a standalone hot tub or spa typically begins pricing at around $2,000. Prices grow from there, topping out at around $15,000 in most cases. 

Long story short, a swim spa isn’t cheap. Still, even the more luxurious swim spa is likely less expensive than the lowest quality inground pool.

How big is a swim spa?

Part of the appeal of a swim spa is that it offers a pool alternative for homeowners who are feeling short on space. When you’re working with smaller square footage, every inch begins to matter. That being said, feeling cramped and claustrophobic while getting in a morning swim isn’t fun, either.

Smaller models are usually around ten to eleven feet in length. Larger configurations can grow up to 17 or 18 feet long. Generally speaking, swim spas are about a third of the size of a traditional swimming pool. This makes it larger than a typical hot tub or spa, but still practical for smaller spaces. 

Before you decide which size is right for you, make sure you know where you will be putting your model. There’s nothing worse than getting something expensive delivered to your doorstep, and realizing too late that you have nowhere to put it. 

Swim Spas require flat, leveled ground that has been properly hardscape to withstand their weight. Poured concrete pads are the most popular choice to house a swim spa. To take things a step further, ask your local contractor about incorporating the piece seamlessly into your deck or patio design. 

Should I buy one?

Before you dive right in, consider what makes sense for you and your family. They can be a great addition to many backyards, but they’re not for everyone. This hot tub alternative may be best for those who:

  • are looking to maximize functionality in a small outdoor space.
  • are looking to reap the benefits of a lap pool without all of the extensive time, money, construction, or a visit to the gym. 
  • see themselves using both functions with regularity.
  • want a water feature they can use year-round. 

At its core, a swim spa is meant to add more movement and more relaxation to your day to day life. If you’re sick of hitting the gym to swim laps every morning, or simply want to reap the benefits of a multi-functional piece of equipment, this purchase could make sense for you.

On the other, we discourage people from buying a swim spa based solely on the idea of how they may hypothetically use it. They are not cheap, so treat it as an investment. If you have never had an interest in swimming prior, perhaps try the concept out elsewhere before investing in a mini lap pool for your backyard. The worst feeling is paying thousands of dollars for something you rarely use.

And at the end of the day, realizing you don’t need the multi functionality of a swim spa isn’t a negative thing. After all, not all of us are Michael Phelps. If anything, skipping a swim spa means you can direct attention towards buying a great traditional hot tub or spa instead.