Cal Spas versus Hydropool: Which Swim Spa is Best?

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Cal Spas or Hydropool Swim Spa? It’s no surprise you’ve found yourself here if you’re in the market for the best swim spa. Both brands have been around for decades, so it’s a common comparison for anyone looking to invest in a swim spa.

Cal Spas and Hydropool each take their own approach to building swim spas. Since both companies have been in business for more than the past 40 years, our retailers are used to having customers come and in and ask, “how does this swim spa compare to Cal Spas?”

That’s why we wanted to write this piece, so anyone doing a swim spa comparison could see the choices Cal Spa made compared to Hydropool in building and designing a swim spa. Everything we’ve written in this article is what we found at the time of publication.

We’re going to break it down the following way:

  • Swim Spa Model-by-model comparison
  • Swim Spa Looks & Design
  • Swim Ability & Technology
  • Ease of Swim Spa Maintenance

We have tried to write it in the most unbiased manner we could, so you could make the choice yourself of which swim spa is the best one for you. Let’s have a look!

Cal Spas versus Hydropool: Guide to swim spa models, brands and collections

Hydropool offers three collections:

  • The AquaPlay, Aquatic and the Executive. These three collections progress with swim capabilities, with the Executive offering the greatest amount of swim capability and technology.
  • Aquatic and Executive come in both Sport and Trainer options, with the Trainer offering the most elite swim experience.
  • Sizes range from 13, 14, 17 and 19-foot options, depending on the model.

Cal Spas’ lineup is more varied.

  • They have a SwimPro, Freestyle and Commander series as well as an Olympian. These come in standard and X versions, which “take it to the next level of visual and ergonomic design” according to the company website.
  • The size range for the entire lineup includes 13, 14, 16, and 18-foot options, again, with all sizes not being available for all models.

So how do they compare? In terms of features and options, and what you can do with each swim spa:

  • The SwimPro from Cal Spas lines up with Hydropool’s AquaPlay.
  • Cal Spas Freestyle is most comparable to the Hydropool AquaSport.
  • The Commander and Olympian resemble Hydropool’s AquaTrainer.

We don’t see a swim spa that would directly compare to the Executive series offered by Hydropool and will explain why later on in this article, when we talk about swim capabilities.

Cal Spas vs Hydropool: Which Swim Spa Looks Better?

The two companies have built swim spas for a long time, so it should be no surprise that both take a classic approach to the overall design, with synthetic woodgrain panels on the outside and neutral acrylic liners on the inside.

Outside, Cal Spas X versions of the swim spas add unique corners with recessed lighting. Inside, Cal Spas has open shells, without internal hips, so the swim spas are more like a classic rectangular pool, most of them featuring bench seating inside the spa.

Hydropool’s AquaPlay and Aquatic collections both have hips to help create a swimming experience with a strong current but one that keeps the water flat while generating a strong current (the Executive does away with hips, but as we will see later, it replaces them with a Current Collector to achieve the same flat water effect).

Cal Spas swim spas cabinets come in a brown and a black, just like Hydropool, but the company’s sole acrylic color is Sterling Silver, according to its website, while Hydropool offers Alpine Mist, Pure White and Silver Marble as options.

Cal Spas vs Hydropool: Which Swim Spa Has the Better Swim?

Both companies use jets to create the current that powers the swim spa.

  • The two initial swim spas, Hydropool’s AquaPlay and Cal Spas’ SwimPro, are both better built for aquatic fitness workouts than actual swimming. Cal Spas has three pumps to Hydropool’s two, with one massage pump and two powering the swim technology. Hydropool has two because it has found ongoing power costs trump the need for raw power with this kind of swim spa, but your needs may differ.
  • The Cal Spas Freestyle is comparable to the AquaSport by Hydropool. It’s got two jets powering its current, which is certainly strong enough to create a current powerful enough to swim against.
  • Hydropool achieves its strong current with two pumps, however, which cost less to operate over time. It’s able to do this in part due to the way the acrylic inside the swim spa is built and a few other engineering techniques.
    • In the Aquatic series, the acrylic is shaped with built in “hips” that causes the water to curl around into an eddy at the back of the hot tub, which pushes the water into intakes. It all ultimately flattens the water for a better swim.
    • Hydropool’s swim jets feature a grater inside that chops up the water, again to flatten it while you swim against. Jets are also oval instead of round which helps achieve the same effect. Touches like these are engineering efforts to ensure your power goes into the water’s current, rather than creating a froth at the top of the pool, ultimately wasting it.
  • Next up from Cal Spas is the Commander, which most closely compares with Hydropool’s AquaTrainer, which is a step up from the AquaSport line. The AquaTrainer comes with three pumps, while the Commander has four, also adding three round jets to its swim jet system. The AquaTrainer keeps its same shell and other engineering touches, with the spa’s hips forcing the water to circulate in a way that flattens the swim and makes best use of the force from the jets.
  • Lastly, the Olympian from Cal Spas compares to the 19DTAX AquaTrainer from Hydropool. Both feature attached hot tubs and swim spa tanks, joined together to form one unit, but keeping the temperature unique in each section. Cal Spas has four pumps to Hydropool’s three here again, and Hydropool removes the hips on the pool section for better aquatic workouts, sacrificing the hips on previous models for increased space.
  • Hydropool has a separate line, without an obvious comparable at Cal Spas, that is designed for elite swimmers. It’s called the Executive collection. It does away with hips on the sides of the pool’s acrylic, and looks similar to the rectangle-box style featured in Cal Spas’ design. But it doesn’t feature any bench seating so you have room to swim, and the major difference in the unit is an engineering feat called the Current Collector. It appears as a grate dominating one end of the swim spa, opposite of the swim jets. It pulls in the water as it comes, creating a unique, conveyor-like effect in the water, and a strong current that can be adjusted electronically from 1-10, just like a treadmill can.

Which swim spa has the better swim? There’s no doubt Cal Spas creates a powerful current, if power is what you’re looking for. Hydropool focuses on creating a flat, consistent swimming experience that is powerful for most people, and has developed a unit entirely for elite swimmers if that’s the experience you’re after. If swimming is a key factor in your decision, we urge you to try out any swim spa you’re considering, so you can be sure the swim is able to cater to your abilities, now and in the future.

Cal Spas versus Hydropool: Which Swim Spa is Easier to Maintain?

Hydropool has also put a lot of engineering effort into this area. Both of these companies were originally commercial pool companies, but when Hydropool began building swim spas, the company committed to building them to the same rigors that commercial pools had to contend with, which to this day are tighter controls than hot tubs or swim spas. Cal Spa uses a traditional filter method, which is common in the industry, and similar to what Hydropool uses on the AquaPlay.

But both the Aquatic and Executive collections feature Hydropool’s patented self-cleaning system, designed entirely around how commercial pools are cleaned. Our self-cleaning feature has three defining elements:

  • First, one filter removes everything on the surface of the water, with the jets and pumps circulating the water to encourage it to head toward the filter. This type of filter is commonly used in the hot tub and swim spa industry.
  • Second, on the bottom of the swim spa, a vacuum filter removes anything that falls to the bottom of the pool. This is not common. It is common in public and residential pools, where it is often referred to as a drain.
  • Third, the tub or spa’s cleaning filter is placed after the pump, which causes the pump to push the water through the filter in a pressurized canister environment. It’s forced that way for a reason: so the water can’t go anywhere but through the filter, to ensure 100 per cent of the water is filtered through the cleaning system. Again, this is common in public and residential pools, but Hydropool is the only hot tub or swim spa company that provides it.
    • Want to see a video of how it works? Click here. For a complete account of Hydropool’s self-cleaning method, click here.

A couple of other areas worth noting: Cal Spas has wood frames on their swim spa, while Hydropool uses steel to resist any warping. Cal Spas has a perimeter-foam insulation system and offers full foam for cold-weather areas. Hydropool uses a combination of full foam and a thermal-blanket system that is built to handle Canadian winters, which traps the motor’s heat inside the cabinet, raising the efficiency level of the swim spa and insulating in a similar way to a triple-paned window.

Cal Spas versus Hydropool: Which Swim Spa is Better on Price?

Cal Spas doesn’t (at the time of this post) put its prices online, so it’s tough for us to gauge exactly what they are selling their swim spas for. Hydropool does cost more than Cal Spas, and in general, we expect that each Hydropool sells for about 15 per cent more than an equivalent Cal Spa swim spa, due to the differences in engineering, insulation and swim spa technology in each spa.

Cal Spas versus Hydropool: Which Swim Spa is Best?

Cal Spas has created a spa with a lot of great built-in features, lights, waterfalls and jets (including a stand-up jet system on some models, that gives you a massage as you stand in the spa). It has strong pumps and creates a good current for swimming.

Hydropool has taken a different approach, creating swim spas that are easy to use, efficient and that offer multiple levels of swim capability, up to the elite triathlete level, making features optional so that you can add only what you like instead of taking elements you may not necessarily want. It doesn’t offer a standup massage in any swim spa, but it does feature a full-body massage with the jets with a zone therapy system design so you can easily make the most out of the jets in the seats provided.  

Which is right for you? These two companies started around the same time, but have evolved differently, each with different priorities on what makes a good swim spa. We wrote this article so you could see the difference and understand which one was better for you and what you’re looking for in a swim spa.

  • Looking for more on Hydropool swim spas? Click here.
  • Have questions for a Hydropool retailer? Click here.

Jon Filson is the senior content manager at Hydropool Swim Spas and Hot Tubs.


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