Episodes Vegas Tips

The Vegas Pool Scene

In this episode of the podcast, I discuss, you guessed it, pools in Vegas. To be clear, I’m not going to try to make a list of the “best” Vegas pools, since it’s all subjective. Today, I just want to make note of some pools that offer a great value. You may have seen most of these on previous posts, like my inexpensive cabana list. But, no matter, it’s fun to talk about the Vegas pool scene.

Downtown Grand cabana

Downtown Options

Let’s start with downtown, where there are only three pools worth considering in my opinion:

Downtown Grand

  • My favorite pool downtown
  • Small pool, but spacious area and plenty of shaded spots
  • Easily accessible bar if you’re looking to serve yourself or escape the sun
  • Inexpensive F&B inclusive cabanas

Plaza

  • A hip looking relatively new pool space
  • Plenty of pickleball courts if that’s your thing
  • Needs more shaded space
  • Has gaming in the pool area, but not in the pool
  • Moderately priced cabanas

Golden Nugget

  • The most unique pool Downtown
  • Gets absolutely packed
  • Limited shaded space unless you grab a cabana which can be really expensive
  • Has a private, adults-only secluded pool on the second level

The D pool is hardly bigger than a backyard pool and Binion’s, while offering great views with its rooftop location, lacks in amenities.

Strip Pools

On the Strip, every major resort has a pool to offer. Every pool is serviceable and most are actually quite good. For the resorts built in the 90s or later, it’s clear that the pools were in no way an afterthought. Older properties, like Harrah’s, have a more traditional rectangular pool with no ornate design or theme but are still adequate. The Linq, like Harrah’s, has similarly boring pool but plays up the space with plenty of trendy outdoor furniture and lounge areas. If you like the pool enough, you can even reserve a cabana room in the Linq’s hotel. Inside, it’s a standard room, but outside you have access to a private, 300 square foot poolside cabana. You’ll pay a premium for these digs, but if you’re planning on booking a Linq cabana while staying at the property anyway, it could make for a fun experience.

Harrah’s pool

There isn’t really a bad pool on the Vegas Strip. Yeah, the kidney shaped pool of Casino Royale’s Best Western Plus isn’t very awe inspiring and some pool, like those of Circus Circus and Excalibur may have a few too many kids running around, but it’s difficult to find a spot that’s truly uncomfortable, but you could enjoy them while winning some slotocash, it’s pretty addicting and you have way more chances at winning prizes so give it a try.Even lower tier properties like the Luxor have nice complexes. In fact, the Flamingo pool might have the best space for value when compared to its average nightly room rate. Be cautioned, however, as Caesars properties tend to overprice their cabanas compared to their MGM Resorts counterparts. I’ve been quoted $600+ for a Flamingo cabana and, while it does include a bottle of alcohol, it doesn’t offer much else. Additional food and beverage on the bill could run up the tab to anywhere from $200 – $300 per person.

Cabanas

Let’s talk about cabanas for a second. If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to spend the day, finding the right pool can be a very economical way to have a good time and still revel in the Vegas scene. From my experience, a safe number per day of spend per person at the pool is around the $100 mark. This, of course, depends on your level of consumption. But for two to three hours, this would cover about 4 drinks at $15, some food for around $20, leaving room for 20% tip and some tax. Ok, so about $105ish per person.

Plaza cabanas

If you’re a true high-roller, then any cabana at any high-end resort will suit you just fine. Those of us ballers on a budget will want to be more judicious in our pool day planning. For us money-mindful pool goers, most Caesars resorts are off the table. Reason being, as I mentioned with the Flamingo, they tend to overprice their cabanas. Harrah’s is an exception, their cabanas, on a weekday, will run you around $100 with an additional $150 mandatory spend. Also, Planet Hollywood is a decent choice as I’ve found rentals around $70. The PH rental, like that of Harrah’s, comes with complimentary bottles of water and a fruit platter.

Typically, the better the resort, the higher the cabana rate, with Flamingo being an odd exception. Weekday cabana rentals at upscale properties will be anywhere from $300 -$1200. It really all depends on the place, number of expected guests, and demand that day. Every once in awhile, if it’s slow, you can score a good deal at a high-end pool. For instance, I found a $250 option at Aria when I was searching around this week.

Just because you’re at a premium pool, it doesn’t mean you’re getting a premium experience. Last year a group I was with booked cabanas at Cosmo’s BLVD Pool. It’s a really cool place and has a great pool scene, but some of the cabanas are on a second floor without direct access to the pool or restrooms. I know that, for some people, those two places are the same thing. Gross, guys. Anyway, while it didn’t put much of a damper on our day, it did feel like we were somewhat removed from the action below. That being said, we only paid about $300 for each 8 person cabana and that deposit included a food and beverage credit, so it was still a good deal.

BLVD (Cosmo) cabana

That’s another thing to consider- does our deposit act as a credit towards our spend at the pool? Most do not offer this feature. The ones I’ve pinpointed so far that do are MGM, Tropicana (optional), Cosmopolitan, and Downtown Grand. There may very well be more, so if you know of any please let me know so I can share that information.

This is where the real value play comes in. Let’s take Mandalay Bay as an example. It’s one of the best pool complexes in Vegas. It’s expansive, it has a beach, it’s just cool. Further, if you find a slow day, you may be able to secure a cabana for around $300 – $400. Not bad for the scenery. But, that cost only covers the reservation. All spend at the pool is added onto the total bill. If you have 8 people, which is the capacity for most large cabanas, a $50 charge might not be so bad, but any decrease in guests or increase in the reservation price, and the value diminishes quickly.

This is why, in my time writing and podcasting about the Vegas scene, I think that the MGM pool offers the best value in Vegas relative to the experience you get. I’m pinpointing their lazy river cabanas for this illustrious achievement. Their lazy river cabanas, as you may have guessed, sit just off the winding lazy river. It’s a perfect place for people watching. What’s more, the cabana price includes a food and beverage minimum. Think of the reservation price as a credit. You have to spend whatever your reservation price indicates. I recently booked a lazy river cabana for $400. Say my group only spends $200 while we’re there. It’d be odd to only have that much in spend, but we’d be on the hook to pay the remaining $200 towards the reservation plus tax and tip. Say we spend $600 while there. Our bill would only be the $600, not $600 added to $400. I’m probably making this more complex than it needs to be. Essentially, the property wants to ensure you’ll spend a minimum amount while there.

Oddly, MGM is the only pool in the MGM Resorts portfolio that offers this. With the service I’ve received there in the past coupled with the ambiance, I have no hesitation recommending it highly. You should know that you do not have to be a hotel guest to book a cabana. Also, you should not have to pay any per day fee to use the pool if you have a cabana reservation. As always, double check if you’re concerned, but this has never been an issue I’ve experienced. This is great for those maybe staying at a lower end property who want some sort of elevated experience elsewhere.

If you’re by yourself or maybe just a partner, a full cabana may not be necessary. That doesn’t mean you have to get to the pool right when it opens to fight over a decent spot. Daybeds and reserve seating can be a great option. It’ll cost you a little extra, but if it guarantees you some shade under an umbrella and a secured place poolside, it’ll be worth it. Usually, if the pool offers a food and beverage credit/minimum for their cabanas, the offer is extended to the daybeds. Reserve seating can be had from $15 – $50 per chair, based all factors indicated earlier. The Mirage’s Oasis Pool, for instance, charges $30 a chair.

Oasis pool (Mirage)

The bigger resorts have multiple pools with multiple reservation options.  You can find pods, daybeds, cabanas, gazebos, and more. It’s not hard to find something for any sized group. It’s finding the best deal that takes a little bit of work.

Some Other Pool Tips:

  • Ask about shade- the pool attendants will know the idiosyncratic nature of the pool and will help you find a good spot based on your preferences
  • Extended pool days are great for the last full day of a trip or after a hectic night- you get a chance to rest and ease back into your home routine
  • Tell your cabana host ahead of time if you only want charges from your group on the bill – sometimes unexpected guests may stop by and may order drinks on your tab
  • Book well in advance

Some of my favorite pools:

Caesars’ Temple Pool

MGM Grand

Downtown Grand

Tropicana

Mandalay Bay

And that will do it. Have a favorite pool or pool experience? I’d love to hear it.