The best outdoor public pools to visit this summer have their various strengths.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
As the June-July gloom starts to drift away, Monterey County residents can look forward to warm, sunny days. The options the weather encourages are everywhere: surfing, hiking, camping…
But the Pacific’s waters are cold and wetsuits are a hassle. Poison oak flourishes along local mountain trails. And sleeping on the ground is overrated.
Enter another option: The community pool. With it comes all the enjoyment of a backyard pool without the pricey pool boy or huge heating bill. Daily rates are cheap, and memberships make it even more affordable, offering a mini-vacay to escape the everyday and still have enough cash for a refreshing Sno-Cone later.
For locals who want to break in new bathing suits and get out flip-flops and beach towels, the Weekly went in search of pools that were public and outdoors, ultimately visiting seven. Of those, four pools stood out, each for different reasons.
The Sweet Retreat: CARMEL VALLEY YOUTH CENTER
The valley was made for lazy summer afternoons. This pool, located in the heart of the valley at Carmel Valley Park and a short walk from the Carmel Valley Library, is surrounded by an open, grassy field with two sets of jungle gyms: one for older kids and one for the young’ uns. When the mood for food strikes, guests would be hard-pressed to find a better picnic spot than under one of the many oak trees. Poolside, white lawn chairs and large green umbrellas offer variations of sun and shade ideal for an afternoon nap or reading a good book (did we mention the library?). Children will enjoy the large shallow end; adults can swim laps in the roped-off sections.
24 Ford Road, Carmel Valley. $6/general admission. Open noon-5pm daily. 659-3983, www.cvcyc.org/index.htm.
The Spot for Serious Fun: CSU MONTEREY BAY AQUATIC CENTER
It only takes a quick peek at CSUMB’s pool to sense it’s intense: The water is teeming with swimmers, newbies and seasoned athletes, each pushing their amphibious bodies to the limit. The water is constantly churning.
That makes this scouting report a snap: When exercise, strength and conditioning are goals, the best pool in the area belongs to the Otters. Conveniently located between downtown Seaside and Marina, and one of the cheapest places to splash down anywhere in the county, the NCAA-approved swimming facility has depths ranging from 3-13 feet, more than 7 lanes, and a gorgeous ocean mural dancing alongside swimmers, simultaneously providing art and encouragement. That encouragement comes in handy, as the area’s only public 50-meter pool truly tests swimmer fitness. Accompanying land lovers may observe athleticism from poolside bleachers, while smaller children may enjoy themselves in the shallow parts of the pool.
100 Campus Center, Seaside. $3/general admission; $2/parking. Open swim noon-2pm, 4:30-6pm daily. 582-3000, www. sports.csumb.edu/site/x18383.xml.
The Family Favorite: SALINAS COMMUNITY YMCA
For water-loving families that need some versatility from their swim venue, the Salinas Community YMCA pool knows no rival. Amenities abound here, and the entire two-level facility is maximized. Parents who want to swim undisturbed may coordinate child care with one of many programs, which include basketball, karate and rock climbing. For guests with built-up tension and stress, the locker rooms house a sauna, a steam room and a whirlpool. Or for families that want to splash around, there are floatation noodles and kickboards, an 8-foot-high twisty slide and a 6-foot-high slide for the younger kids.
When the weather is less than optimal, guests may hop into the adjacent indoor pool, complete with a glass observation area for chaperones. With children’s flotation devices, lifeguard supervision and a plethora of programs to keep both children and parents busy, it’s fun to stay at the YMCA.
117 Clay St., Salinas. $85 per month/family membership. Open swim 1-2:30pm, 7-9pm. Lap swim hours vary. 758.3811, www.ymca.net/.
The Party Pool: LOS LAURELES LODGE
Sometimes a dip in the pool and a blended margarita is all it takes to smooth the edges off a rough week. The pool at Los Laureles Lodge in Carmel Valley has adults of all ages covered when it comes to food, drink and relaxation. The lodge’s restaurant, operating since 1890, has a great old-time Western vibe with rusted wagon wheels, saws and scythes hanging near the entrance. Guests may dine poolside from a menu that includes everything from a hearty garlic-and-herb porterhouse to a lighter endive-blue cheese salad. After lunch and a quick dip in the 50-foot pool, the fully stocked outdoor bar is a mid-afternoon magnet with draft and bottled beers, specialty drinks and fruit smoothies.