The First Annual Sweet Pool Awards: Miami

The city has the strongest pool game in the world. Dive in.

The beaches in Miami go on for miles: golden sand giving way to surf and a skyline dotted with cruise ships. But all that sand can get between your toes (or, worse, in your daiquiri); waves can entirely mess up your hair; and, wait, was that a shark? Your guess is as good as ours. Fortunately, for those wanting to swim in more civilized environments, Miami also has some of the very best pools on the planet. Here, we announce the winners of the much-coveted 2015 Sweet Pool Awards: Miami.

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The IDAF Award: The Villa Casa Casuarina "Million Mosaic" Pool

Gianni Versace, a man not known for restraint, showed absolutely none of it at all when he renovated this three-story mansion on Ocean Drive. The pool, which has tiles made of 24-karat gold, was reportedly built in Italy, then shipped in pieces to Miami Beach, where a team of 75 people rebuilt it. The property is now a hotel, so check in to check out the pool. The rotunda next to it is rumored to contain a secret code.

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The Lewis Carroll Award: The Delano Hotel

Philippe Starck designed the interior of the Delano Hotel and the pool, and he seems to have gone for an Alice in Wonderland feel. The slight disorientation starts in the huge lobby, with its towering columns, dramatically billowing curtains, and massive chairs, and flows through to the garden where an oversize chessboard sits in orchards (yes, orchards), chairs and tables are in the pool itself, and underwater speakers pipe fashionable music throughout. If you're really feeling like a baller (or perhaps, proposing), go ahead and book yourself a poolside cabana. If Kanye has the tunes on too loud next door, a few bangs on the wall usually does the trick.

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The Best Public Pool in America Award: Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

The only pool on the National Register of Historic Places, and the largest freshwater pool in America, the Venetian was created from an old coral quarry and opened to the public in 1924. Actual gondolas once coasted across it, and while they may be long gone, this is still one of the most dramatic, and downright impressive, municipal pools on the planet.

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The Far From the Maddening Crowd Award: The Freehand Miami

The Broken Shaker, a romantic cocktail bar with serious mixology credentials (thanks largely to Gabriel Orta), is what initially brought a steady stream of locals and in-the-know tourists to the Freehand, Miami Beach's first upscale hostel. But while people might come for the mixology, they often stay for the sheer charm of the place: its unassuming attitude is evident in the Freehand pool, which often hosts some of Miami's most exciting DJs, including Slap & Tickle and the Chocolate Sundays gang. It's a world away from the David Guetta club scene and the associated ridiculousness, and—bonus!—the place is actually affordable.

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The Good, Old-Fashioned Elegance Award: The Raleigh Hotel

Tommy Hilfiger's name may be more familiar in Macy's than on South Beach, but nevertheless the designer bought The Raleigh last year, saving one of Miami's most heartwarmingly beautiful hotels from an uncertain fate. Hilfiger is apparently planning to turn part of the 75-year-old Collins Avenue mainstay into an exclusive private club, but we'll still find a way to sneak into it for the saltwater pool, with its iconic crest shape, and deliciously old-fashioned striped loungers.

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The Decadence on Display Award: The Fontainebleau

For those moments when you simply need to make your fellow swimmers watch the throne, get thee to the Island Cabana at the center of the Fontainebleau's Round Pool. If a visual aid will help you more deeply soak up the history of the hotel, which opened in 1954, cue up Scarface on one of the flat-screens on offer and watch the scene filmed poolside at this very hotel.

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