What is a Swim Spa? A Guide to Swim Spa Pros & Cons

By Jon Filson

Hydropool Hot Tubs and Swim Spas

Published Apr 29, 2024

You’ve heard of them, by now. Someone’s uncle’s cousin’s sister got one and they just love it. Your teenage daughter saw one when she went to that house party on the other side of town and said she had a blast. You saw one at a home show demo, and you remember it was a neat idea, worth checking out when you had the time.  

The elusive swim spa! 

“What is a swim spa?” is one of the most common questions we get at our Hydropool retail outlets. 

So that’s why we wanted to write this article. We sell hot tubs and swim spas, but hot tubs have been around long enough for people to know what they are. There is no “Swim Spa Time Machine” movie though. James Bond has yet to get out of a swim spa and go fight international villains. Its cultural moment has yet to arrive. 

So anyone and everyone is forgiven for not quite knowing what a swim spa is. Here’s what a swim spa is: a stretched hot tub long and wide enough for you to swim in like a year-round pool, while having seats and heaters so that it can function just like a hot tub. It’s the best of a hot tub and a pool in one, but at (roughly) half the cost of a pool.  

Neat, huh? If you want to learn more, in this article, we will answer the following questions:

  1. What is a swim spa?
  2. What is the cost of a swim spa?
  3. Pros and cons of swim spas.
  4. How does a swim spa work? 
  5. What to look for in a good swim spa? 



What is a Swim Spa?

Okay, by now we know that a swim spa combines the best of a pool and a hot tub into one, year-round aquatic playpen. It’s a unit capable of providing swimming for everyone from children to elite-level triathletes, with seating and a heater so it can be used year-round as a hot tub. 

What is the cost of a swim spa?

At Hydropool, most customers spend between $30,000 and $70,000 (Cdn). That price includes everything you need to get up and running: the swim spa, the concrete pad, the electrical work, plus delivery, which varies across the country. If you’re looking at an-in ground pool, our estimate is that $60,000 is where you would start and prices go up quickly from there.   

For more on swim spa costs, have a look at this article.

Here are average sizes of a swim spa:

  • Swim spas range from about 13-21 feet long, with stops at all points in-between.
  • About 8 feet wide.
  • 3-4 feet deep.   

As for installation, swim spas need to sit on a pre-made concrete base and can be put in place most often with a crane. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Swim Spas?

Swim spas make it easy for you to stay fit, healthy, relaxed and happy. If it’s cold out, you always have a place where the water is warm and if it’s hot, you have an oasis to cool off and relax. If you want an aquatic workout or swim, the option is always there and if you want to soothe tired muscles in a spa, you can do that too.

Lastly, the swim spas do function very well as pools. They are a great place for kids to play and can provide a fun place for the entire family to enjoy. They are also a terrific place to teach kids how to swim.  

Here’s a quick list of swim spa pros and cons:


  • The primary advantage of a swim spa is that it has everything a hot tub has, while allowing you to swim as well.
  • It costs significantly less than an in-ground pool.
  • It can be used year-round at a reasonable cost.
  • It can be installed with less effort and hassle than an in-ground pool and usually requires fewer (or no) permits from your local municipality.


  • While less than an in-ground pool, it costs more than a hot tub to buy, run and install.
  • It must be installed on a concrete pad and it requires hardwired electrical to operate.
  • Like a pool or a hot tub, it must be regularly maintained.   

One last thing: Chances are your friends and neighbours will want to use it. This can be good or bad, depending on how friendly you are.

How Does a Swim Spa Work?

A swim spa functions along the same principles as a treadmill. A treadmill has a conveyor belt that allows you to run in place, while a swim spa substitutes jets (or in some cases a propeller) for the treadmill to generate a current that allows you to swim in place without reaching the other side.

The quality of swim varies so that you can buy the swim that works best for you. Some swim spas have one jet setting, while others allow you to change from 1-10, upping the swim power. Some come with jets to help keep you in place as you swim against the current, while others come with a tether that you can attach to yourself so it holds you in place as you swim.

Hot tub or Swim Spa: Which is Best for Me?

Our best advice here is to think of what you really will use either for. If you primarily want a place to relax and get a massage, then a hot tub is your best bet. If you want the option of working out, while still being able to relax and have a massage, then a swim spa is likely where to start.

Hot tubs offer more intimate experiences, as they are designed for wellness, relaxation and fun. You’re able to do more in a swim spa, as it provides more opportunities for athleticism.

What Should I Look for in a Good Swim Spa?

There are many swim spas worth buying. But ultimately you will want to figure out what your needs are and how you intend to use the spa. If you want one for aquatic fitness that’s one thing, if you want one for the kids to play in, that’s another and if you want one for both, that’s yet another. You can have it all too, but the important thing is to figure out what you want in advance.

Here are the four elements to consider when looking at any swim spa:

  • The swim system: The spa should produce an above average and versatile swim current. You should be able to set the spa to cater to a beginner, intermediate and athletic swimmer, so that anyone can use it.    
  • A range of in-water fitness features: Additional tools, such as a fitness kit that would enable a user to do in-pool fitness exercises are now expected from a good swim spa. 
  • Small pool: Any spa needs to function as a small pool as well as a place to actually swim. Or you want room for the kids to play in. Too many seats shrinks the space and the way you can use your swim spa. 
  • A workable hot tub: At least two to four seats so people can sit and enjoy the pool, with sufficient jets for massage.

To help you figure out what you want and how to prepare to buy a swim spa, we wrote this article

Have an idea of what you’re looking for and want a deeper dive into what’s out there to actually buy? Have a look at this article for U.S. swim spas and this one for Canadians. 

Why A Swim Spa Might Be Right For You

So a swim spa is like a stretched hot tub that generates a current strong enough for you to swim in without ever reaching the other side. We wrote this article because swim spas haven’t been around long enough for everyone to understand what they are yet. Still new in the markets, they are the kind of thing people say, “what’s that” when they walk in the store or home show and see one for the first time.

There are many reasons to consider a swim spa.

  • If you have always wanted a pool, but want less hassle.
  • If you like the idea of a hot tub but you wish you could do more with it.
  • If you want a backyard aquatic workout facility.
  • If you want to swim all year.
  • If you want a place where you know your kids or grandchildren will have fun in.

If you have more questions about swim spas, we’re happy to help. Find a retailer closest to you by clicking here.

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