10 Destination Open Water Swims

9 - Sunset Silhouette
Photo Courtesy: Phil White and Arik Thormahlen

By Kelsey Mitchell, Swimming World College Intern

With warmer months approaching so are many exciting open water swims. With so many races available worldwide, it can be hard to choose which to compete in. Here are ten open water swims that can also make for great vacation destinations.

1. Flowers Sea Swim

Grand Caymon

Photo Courtesy: Grand Cayman Island, Pxphere

Located on Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean Sea, the Flowers Sea Swim has a one mile, 5k and 10k course along the island’s famous Seven Mile Beach. The swim will take place on June 16, 2018, and will offer a variety of prizes to entrants, pricing in at over $100,000 in cash and other prizes. Entries are due June 13, 2018, and are limited to 1,000 participants in the one mile race, 100 in the 5k and 50 in the 10k. Besides the race, the island offers visitors white sand beaches, crystal clear water and luxury resorts.

2. TikiSwim8


Cummings trains in Santa Monica, California, July 2016. Photo Courtesy: Eliza Cummings

Taking place on Sept. 16, 2018, the TikiSwim8 offers both a 1.2 mile and 2.4 mile course along Oceanside’s pier, harbors and beaches. Registration is currently open and all finishers receive a visor, towel, handwoven lei, finisher medal and breakfast burrito. Between San Diego and Los Angeles, Oceanside offers many opportunities and destinations to explore along with some of the West Coast’s best beaches.

3. Big Shoulders

Ohio Street Beach

Photo Courtesy: Jay Babin, Ohio Street Beach

Held on Chicago’s Ohio Street Beach, Big Shoulders offers a 2.5k and 5k race in the beautiful Lake Michigan. The event offers discounted rooming at the Courtyard Marriott on the Magnificent Mile, located walking distance from both the beach and downtown Loop. Registration for this year’s event is already closed as the race caps off at 1,200 entrants, so keep your eyes open for next year. Chicago offers visitors great shopping, magnificent museums, delicious food and beautiful parks.

4. Alcatraz Sharkfest


Photo Courtesy: Don Ramey Logan

Also sold out for the 2018 year is San Francisco’s Alcatraz Sharkfest. For those not interested in competing, a “Swim Only” option on June 23, 2018, is available. The race starts on the south side of Alcatraz Island and ends in the San Francisco Aquatic Park. A ferry is used to shuttle swimmers to the race start. Besides Alcatraz Island, San Francisco offers stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

5. Waikiki Roughwater Swim


Photo Courtesy: Collin Happ

On Sept. 1, 2018, the 2.38 mile Waikiki Roughwater Swim will take place between Hilton Rainbow Tower and the New Otani Hotel. Registration is open until Aug. 28, 2018, but the price for entry will increase from $75.00 to $85.00 on Aug. 13. From its clear water, white sand beaches, and proximity to Honolulu, Waikiki offers something for everyone.

6. Dock 2 Dock

Royal Dock

Photo Courtesy: Liline sur Flickr

London’s Dock 2 Dock offers a 1500m, 5k and 10k swim, all taking place on London’s Royal Docks. For those doing the 5k and 10k, a provided tow float is required. Taking place on July 28, 2018, the Dock 2 Dock allows swimmers to see the Royal Victoria Dock and Royal Albert Dock. With its beautiful architecture and rich history, London is the perfect place for a vacation.

7. St. Croix Coral Reef Swim

2015-coral-reef-swim (2)

Photo Courtesy: Steve Simonson

The St. Croix Coral Reef Swim offers a five mile, two mile, and one mile swim through the beautiful Caribbean Sea. Taking place on Nov. 11, 2018, all three races allow participants to swim over St. Croix’s beautiful coral reefs. With its stunning beaches and reefs, St. Croix is any open water swimmer’s dream.

8. Barbados Open Water Festival

Barbados Swim

Photo Courtesy: Berit Watkin, Flickr

Also located in the Caribbean, the Barbados Open Water Festival takes place in the beautiful Carlisle Bay starting Nov. 7, 2018, and ending on Nov. 11. The event offers two days of 2k practice swims and two days of racing including both a scored and unscored 1.5k, 3.3k, 5k, and 10k. Starting and ending at the Copacabana Beach Bar, the Barbados Open Water Festival offers swimmers turtles and fish sightings and a relatively current-free course. Registration is currently open.

9. Messina Strait Crossing

Cesilie Carlton of the USA dives from the 21 metre platform during the first competition day of the third stop of the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series at Polignano a Mare, Italy on 23 July 2017. // Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool // P-20170723-01392 // Usage for editorial use only // Please go to www.redbullcontentpool.com for further information. //

Photo Courtesy: Romina Amato/Red Bull Content Pool

Starting on the Island of Sicily and ending in Canitello, Calabria, Italy, the Messina Strait Crossing offers warm water and favorable currents. Registration is limited to 15 swimmers and is currently open, so act fast if interested. The area offers visitors incredible Italian food, wine and landscapes.

10. Classic 12

Jul 12, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Guillermo Bertola of Argentina competes in the men's open water swim during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Ontario Place West Channel. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

Taking place in the serene Lake Geneva, the Classic 12 is a 13k swim that allows for participants to cross the border from Switzerland to France on the course. Starting in Lausanne, Switzerland and ending in Évian-les-Bains, France, boats and kayaks are used to safely guide swimmers across the lake. Taking place on Aug. 26, 2018, registration is currently open. Lake Geneva’s beautiful and peaceful scenery makes it the perfect place to kick back and relax.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. Lisa Pennington

    Teresa Duba Hardesty Ryan Ferguson

  2. Ryan Ferguson

    Can I go and just watch the races

  3. Gabby Trotter

    Nick Pryde think we should take up open water

  4. Kay Campbell

    Tracy Cameron – one day we can do these!

    • Tracy Cameron

      They would be amazing 🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️🏊‍♀️

    • Blaik Ogle

      Which one we doing?

  5. Jen Coady

    Sarah Coady

    • Karah! Myra – THANKS! I haven’t been in the water in almost two years. I am actually going to try and get in the pool this summer with the goal of getting back into open water swimming. I love it and miss it so much!