Great places to conduct open water races or do training sessions are located all over the world. The number of seashores, ocean fronts, islands, lakes, bays, river, fjords, canals, estuaries, bays and lagoons located on every continent and in every country is literally innumerable.
As a small sampling of the amazing number of great global open water swimming locations, the Outdoor Swimming Society has done a remarkable job in documenting and posting these open water swimming venues throughout Great Britain.
A list of 50 outstanding open water swimming locations in the Americas – in no particular order – is listed below. This admittedly subjective list is based on three primary criteria: natural beauty, the year-round presence of open water swimmers and the camaraderie of the local swimming community.
1. Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA: coastal location of innumerable races
2. Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, USA: one of the marvelous lakes among rolling hills of Texas where the open water swimming and triathlon communities come together for year-round practice sessions, clinics, long-distance relays, community events and competitive races, including high school and collegiate championships, that are sponsored and organized by the American Swimming Association
3. Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA: pleasantly calm tropical beach on the island of Oahu
4. Ala Moana Beach, Hawaii, USA: protected flat-water swimming beach on Oahu
5. Lake Cane, Orlando, Florida, USA: popular lake in central Florida
6. Brighton Beach, New York, USA: a coastal community on Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York City
7. Aquatic Park, San Francisco Bay, California, USA: protected cold-water popular swimming area near Alcatraz Island and Fisherman’s Wharf
8. Santa Monica Beach in Santa Monica, California, USA: a conveniently located beach, with Tower 26 as its focal point for triathletes, open water swimmers and fitness enthusiasts in the Los Angeles area. Groups, small and large, organized and informal, competitive and low-key, young and old, train for triathlons and ocean swims along the wide expanse of sand that offers currents, waves and surface chop on most afternoons.
9. Acapulco, Mexico: old coastal tourist destination in an exotic locale
10. Bermuda: popular tourist destination in the Atlantic Ocean warmed by the Gulf Stream
11. La Jolla Cove, California, USA: small beach within the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park, a marine refuge area where a passionate community of open water swimmers, channel swimmers, adventure swimmers of every age, ability and background gather year-round. Competitive events have been conducted since 1916 including several events sponsored and organized by the La Jolla Cove Swim Club
12. Cancun, Mexico: site of warm, tropical water in the Caribbean Sea and a number of high-caliber amateur and professional swims
13. Lake Zirahuen in Michoacán, Mexico: a beautiful lake to prepare for cold-water and channel swims where motor craft is restricted
14. Las Estacas, Mexico: a river in Morelos where warm water comes from volcanoes, 90 minutes from Mexico City
15. La Paz in Mexico: a beautiful location at the end of Baja California with abundant marine life
16. Oak Street Beach, Lake Michigan, USA: convenient urban beach in Chicago, Illinois
17. Washington Avenue Beach in Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin, USA: swim around and to Madeline Island in the beautiful and mighty Lake Superior
18. Panajachel in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala: a deep lake in the Guatemalan Highlands surrounded by three volcanoes
19. Torch Lake, Michigan, USA: described as the third most beautiful lake in the world by Natural Geographic (see above)
20. Waldo Lake, Lane County, Oregon, USA: a wilderness lake, scooped out by ancient glaciers, that is one of the purest in the world where you can see to depths of 30 meters
21. Lake Memphremagog between Vermont, USA and Quebec, Canada: site of professional and amateur swims in a lake where the local community is extremely supportive
22. Miami, Florida, USA: swim in the warm southern Florida waters with the Miami skyline as a backdrop in a picturesque tropically urban setting
23. Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Connecticut, USA: two miles of safe shoreline swimming in northeast America
24. Long Island Sound in Connecticut, USA: an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south that has produced a large number of English Channel swimmers
25. Manhattan, New York City, USA: while not open to training, races around Manhattan Island produced by the NYC Swim, provides unbeatable views of municipal swims and challenging currents and tides to deal with. However, the safety considerations and on-the-water safety personnel provided by the NYC Swim organizers make each race a memorable experience. Events range from short cross-river swims to the famous 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim
26. Mirror Lake, upstate New York, USA: one of two lakes in Lake Placid, located in a small-town destination area with cable swimming
27. Sky Lakes (Minnewaska, Awosting, Mohonk) in the Shawangunk Mountains, New York, USA: aqua colored mountain lakes with spectacular scenery during all seasons especially with fall foliage in breathtaking cold water.
28. Cape Eleuthera in the Bahamas: isolated, spartan with abundant marine life with wide rolling pink sand beaches to large outcrops of ancient coral reefs.
29. Lake Willoughby in Vermont, USA: a beautiful glacier lake with races organized by the passionate Northeast Kingdom Open Water Swimming Association. One of a number of lovely lakes of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont where the clarity and tranquility of the lakes rival any in North America. The geological aquatic marvels are the venues for a number of triathlons and open water swims from 1-10 miles
30. Rosario in Argentina: site of the world-renowned marathon where the swimmers are treated like stars
31. Lac Megantic in Quebec, Canada: beautiful nature augmented by a supportive local community
32. Hanauma Bay on Oahu in Hawaii, USA: a protected marine life conservation cove and underwater park with abundant marine life and a large coral reef and a bay floor is the crater of an ancient volcano
33. Makapuu near Rabbit Island on Oahu in Hawaii, USA: popular bodysurfing beach with large waves and riptides can make swimming challenging at best and hazardous at worst
34. North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, USA: gorgeously famous stretch of surfing beaches with high surf and impossible riptides in winter becomes a wonderfully calm showcase for ocean swimming in summer
35. Harrington Sound in Bermuda: each swim is breathtaking with underwater scenery that is continuously enthralling
36. Catalina Channel off the coast of Southern California, USA: on a calm, windless, clear, full-moon night, the bioluminescence is a marvel to behold. Part of the Triple Crown of Open Water Swimming, the channel presents a 21-mile challenge between Catalina Island and the Southern California mainland with marine wildlife that includes whales and dolphins
37. Twelvemile Beach in the Upper Peninsula on Lake Superior in Michigan, USA: an example of thousands of lakes in the upper Midwest
38. Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island in the Cayman Islands: beautiful stretch of tropical beaches with clear water
39. El Arco de Cabo San Lucas in Mexico: distinctive rock formation at the tip of Cabo San Lucas at the southern end of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula
40. Percé Rock in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Quebec, Canada: one of the largest natural arches in the world that rises sheer from the near the village of Percé, Canada
41. Maracas Bay in Trinidad & Tobago: popular swimming beach 30 minutes from the Port of Spain with a long history of ocean swims and strong local support
42. Lake Ontario: a supportive community of swimmers enjoys the cooler waters of the great Lake Ontario’s Canadian side.
43. Varadero Beach in Cuba: offering the brightest blue waters in the Northern Hemisphere
44. Maui Channel in Hawaii, USA: swimming year-round on the Maui Island side is calm and peaceful, but in early September, the channel becomes alive with hundreds of swimmers enjoying the often tranquil, but sometimes rough, deep-water channel
45. Lake Tahoe bordering the states of California and Nevada, USA: crisp, clear lake comes alive in the summer when hundreds of swimmers participate in solo and relay swims
46. Valparaíso in Chile: an urban seaport with a local ocean swimming community
47. Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada: a vibrant open water swimming community with a number of swims and events in the city by the sea
48. Ketchikan in Alaska, USA: a quiet, isolated, rugged stretch in the northern Pacific that has drawn swimmers from all over the world
49. Santa Barbara in California, USA: channel swimming, weekend swims, ocean swims are all strongly supported by a passionate, friendly group of swimmers
50. St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands: swimmers come from all over the Americas to swim within the largest island barrier reef system in the Caribbean
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