Skip to main content
woman swimming in a lake

7 Sweet Spots to Go Swimming this Summer

Know before you go: Want to visit the places recommended in this article? With local regulations changing frequently, it’s a good idea to check the web site of any attraction or business to make sure it’s open before you go. 

What’s not to love about the summer? Long days and warm nights, road trips and outdoor adventures, new cities to see and new friends to make at HI USA hostels. And, when the sun gets a little too hot, is there anything better than taking a refreshing swim to cool down? Take a look at some of the sweet spots we enjoy when the days heat up and the water calls.

1. The James River – Richmond, VA

James River in Richmond VA

The James River, which runs through Richmond, is lined with parks and beaches for canoeing, fishing, and swimming. While Belle Isle is a popular option for many to spend the day, Texas Beach, on the north side of the river, is perfect for a secluded swim with laid-back locals and their dogs. Ask the friendly staff at HI Richmond hostel for their favorite spots to pick up snacks and supplies for your day at the beach.

2. Coronado Beach – San Diego, CA

Coronado beach, San Diego

In San Diego, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing a swim spot. A highlight is Coronado Beach, which is consistently ranked as one of the country’s best beaches because of its white sands sparkling with mica, gentle waves and sweeping views. This is the type of beach where you post yourself for an entire day of swimming or surfing, and though it’s popular, it’s also spacious enough for sunbathers to have their own space. Grab the ferry to Coronado Island from the San Diego Convention Center, a quick walk from HI San Diego Downtown hostel.

3. The Dock – Portland, OR

Willamette river Portland

On a hot Portland day you’ll find the cool kids hanging out the Holman Dock just south of the Hawthorne Bridge. Known simply as the Dock, the swimming spot is on the Willamette River and is pretty perfect for a dip and a bit of sunbathing. Bring some friends,snacks, a hat and plenty of sunblock (because there’s no shade) and spend a good few hours sunbathing against the city backdrop. You can bike to the Dock from HI Portland NW hostel in about 15 minutes.

4. Bass Lake – Point Reyes National Seashore, CA

Work up a sweat and get rewarded with a beautiful secluded swim in Bass Lake, complete with a rope swing for pure fun and nostalgia, in the serene and scenic Point Reyes National Seashore. The 2.5-mile hike to the water goes along the Coast Trail, which also includes breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, and ends at the lake hugged by trees. Stay at HI Point Reyes hostel and you can end your day of hiking and swimming with a BBQ under the stars.

5. Lake Michigan – Chicago, IL

People on the beach on Lake Michigan in Chicago

Don’t think there are beaches in the Midwest? Think again. In Chicago, locals and visitors alike flock to the shores of Lake Michigan for sand and sun. A few of the city’s lakefront beaches are especially good for swimming: if you’re in town during the summer, don’t miss Oak Street Beach — it’s about a 20-minute bike ride from HI Chicago hostel.

6. Paradise Beach – Sacramento, CA

the American River in Sacramento

During the seemingly perpetual hot days in Sacramento, locals and visitors flock to the American River, which sits pretty along a bike trail and has a number of beaches for people to hang out and take a dip. One popular (but not crowded) spot is Paradise Beach, which is on a cove created by a bend in the river. It’s a bit of a walk from the parking lot to the beach, but the reward is ample space for you to picnic, and the water is gentle enough for you to float in a tube without drifting too far. Whether you want to swim, float, or paddle the river, the staff at HI Sacramento hostel are full of insider tips to help your outing go off without a hitch.

7. The Pacific Ocean – Santa Monica, CA

people on the beach in Santa Monica

You don’t have to venture too far from home base to enjoy a swim when you’re staying at HI Los Angeles Santa Monica hostel — the Pacific Ocean’s just a few blocks away! The water can be chilly, but when the LA summer gets a little too hot, this is the place for a refreshing dip.