We’re halfway through another scorching Texas summer, and the triple-digit heat continues to break records across the state. I’ve come across countless articles highlighting the alarmingly high temperatures, and each time I read one, I can’t help but yearn for a swim. And not just any swim but an unusually cold one, the kind that will take my breath away for a moment when I jump in and even leave me shivering—yes, shivering—after I climb out. In Austin, where I live, that usually means a plunge into Barton Springs Pool. Its water hovers around 68 to 70 degrees and feels like nothing short of a miracle.  

There’s something special about a cold spring-fed pool, swimming hole, or chilly river on a brutally hot day, when regular pools, which feel like lukewarm bathwater in this heat, just don’t cut it. I love the exhilarating sensation that comes from taking a dive instead of cautiously entering the water, shocking myself out of a heat-induced stupor. It’s like making a silent agreement with the sun, a pact that goes, “All right, as long as I’m swimming here, you won’t make it feel like I’m roasting in the center of the Earth, deal?”  

Of course, Barton Springs isn’t the only place to achieve this kind of escape. While many of our chilliest swimming holes are in the Hill Country, there are delightfully brisk options to be found across the state, including in the Panhandle and southwest Texas. To help you plan a refreshing getaway, we’ve put together this curated list of places to stay near extra-cold water. (And yes, they all have AC.) A change of scenery might be just what you need to beat the summertime doldrums.

Cottage Near Hancock Springs Pool 

Price: $184/night
Sleeps: Five 

Every place on this list has its own charm, but this one has a special addition: horses. Bring your morning coffee on a walk to observe the majestic creatures. Guests are also allowed to bring their own pets—a rarity in short-stay rentals. However, this isn’t surprising considering the host, Joanna, has a genuine love for animals. In online reviews, former guests can’t stop praising her for her hospitality and gift for hosting. The cottage itself is spacious and well-kept, with cozy, inviting decor that makes the place feel like a true home rather than a staged demonstration house. Other activities to enjoy in the area include watching mesmerizing sunsets and, of course, taking a trip to Hancock Springs, where the water temperature is 69 degrees. 

Frio River Cabin

Price: $296/night
Sleeps: Six

The Frio River is an obvious choice for this list, given that it’s named after the Spanish word for “cold.” Fortunately, it isn’t called Congelado River (which translates to frozen), as that would make it impossible for kayaking, fishing, or tubing. Trust us, the water is just cold enough for these recommended activities. The nearby village of Leakey is known for its countless maple trees and surrounding mountain views, making this cabin a popular destination for nature enthusiasts and leaf-peepers in the fall. With its cozy, rustic bedrooms, it comfortably fits up to six guests, and the riverbank is just a short walk away. However, the true gem is undoubtedly the front porch, which offers views of deer, birds, and other wildlife. This is the spot for late dinners while stargazing and tranquil mornings waiting for swallows to make an appearance before you head out to the Frio. 

Lake House by Buffalo Springs 

Price: $304/night 
Sleeps: Six

This expansive suburban-style house with a lake view is an excellent choice for longer stays. Lots of big picture-windows create a bright and spacious scene, including in the kitchen. Buffalo Springs offers a variety of activities: swimming, of course, but also fishing, boating, and hiking. Guests can bring their own boat or RV. There’s even a barbecue cook-off on the lake every summer. The house comfortably accommodates up to six people, the only drawback being its single bathroom. However, isn’t it all about taking things slow when you’re on vacation? No need to rush through that shower.  

Motel at Fort Clark Springs 

Price: From $74/night 

You can’t beat the price to stay at this no-frills motel at the third-largest spring-fed pool in Texas, which is open again this summer after running dry last year. This under-the-radar oasis attracts far fewer visitors than its peers, Balmorhea and Barton Springs, but those who make the drive to tiny Brackettville, two hours west of San Antonio, will be rewarded with peace; quiet; and crisp, clear water. Fort Clark Springs also has a par-3 golf course, a historic gift shop, and a small historical museum with photos and artifacts from the early years of the fort, which opened in 1852. Travelers should note that only guests staying at the motel can go to the pool.

The outdoor hot tub at the tiny home in Wimberley.
The outdoor hot tub at the tiny home in Wimberley. Courtesy of Avandaro Ranch

Tiny Home Near Blue Hole

Price: $241/night
Sleeps: Four

This tiny house takes glamping to another level. While it offers an immersive nature experience due to its location on a rural ranch, you can still escape the heat with the house’s powerful air conditioner and show off photos from your vacation with speedy Wi-Fi. A private spa in its backyard with a personal sauna and small pool is a selling point. The outdoor shower is both rustic and luxurious—the perfect place to rinse off after spending the day at Blue Hole Regional Park, just fifteen minutes away. Just be sure to book your spot at the swimming hole early: reservations are required, and the place fills up weeks or months in advance, especially on weekends.

Serene Retreat at San Marcos River

San Marcos 
Price: $729/night
Sleeps: Twelve

What sets this place apart is its ability to take you back in time. The antique decor calls to mind the 1920s, when this ranch was built. You can marvel at vintage cowboy hats and boots, paintings, and other charming tchotchkes as you stroll around the home, which is formal without feeling stuffy. Best of all, there’s a river running right through your backyard. This place is ideal for large groups, with plenty of chairs and sofas scattered all over. And if you ever need some alone time, there’s enough space to find a quiet corner when things get a bit too crowded. 

The outdoor patio on the Yurt property in Krause Springs.
The outdoor patio on the yurt property in Spicewood.

Yurt Close to Krause Springs

Price: $175/night 
Sleeps: Two

Just an eight-minute drive from Krause Springs, this eccentric rental has bohemian decor, such as a Buddha statue by the door and Moroccan tile in the bathroom. The attention to detail ties everything together, creating a cohesive and visually pleasing aesthetic. On the generously sized patio, guests can nap in a hammock, lounge on a couch, or eat under the shade of an umbrella. A yurt is a good option for those seeking to disconnect. Despite its rustic charm, the yurt still provides all the commodities you might need, including air conditioning, a television, and a coffee machine. 

Zilker Cottage Near Barton Springs

Barton Springs 
Price: $125/night
Sleeps: Two

City people, this one is for y’all. If spending your entire vacation immersed in nature isn’t your cup of tea, this place will probably do the trick. The private cottage is walking distance from Barton Springs and from some of the best bars and restaurants in Austin. It is a small but stylish one-bedroom house with tasteful, understated finishes to please even the pickiest traveler. Guests rave about the well-stocked kitchen and quiet, walkable neighborhood. Spend the mornings swimming in Barton Springs or paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake, then freshen up and go explore the dining scene downtown or along nearby South Congress Avenue.