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Swim spas vs hot tubs: Which should you choose, and are they worth it?

Swim spa vs hot tub: Which should you choose?
(Image credit: Master Spas)

Hot tubs and swim spas are incredibly similar in the way they work and are built, but they serve very distinct functions. The best swim spas are designed to substitute for a full size swimming pool in your home, whereas the best hot tubs will help you unwind and relax. These above-ground pools are designed to give you a high-intensity swimming experience by creating a current for you to swim against. This allows you to fit more strokes into the length of your pool, as swim spas are often smaller than typical swimming pools. Are swim spas worth it? Well, with many uncomfortable heading to their local pool, buying a swim spa is a fantastic way to keep active at home without going through the hassle and cost of installing a pool in your yard. 

If it’s the relaxation factor you’re looking for (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) then a hot tub is the answer. When it comes to health benefits, hot tubs can help you relax sore muscles. Hot tubs are smaller and usually cheaper than swim spas, but of course you won’t be swimming in them. If you struggle with chronic pain, arthritis, or stiffness, sitting in a hot tub can reduce symptoms and pain significantly. They also help with back pain and ease sore muscles. 

For those with kids, we would suggest buying a swim spa. They provide a space for kids to learn to swim and to be active, which is especially useful when swimming lessons are on hold and homeschool is in session. For couples, and those looking to relax and entertain, a hot tub is the obvious choice. Many hot tubs come with high-tech light displays, Bluetooth controls, and even waterfall features to create a luxury atmosphere. 

What’s the difference between a Swim Spa, a Jacuzzi, and a Hot Tub?  

People often use the terms “spa,” “hot tub” and “jacuzzi” interchangeably, but in fact, each refers to something different. Here’s a mini glossary:

Swim spa: This is a small pool that uses powerful jets to propel water toward you so you can get a workout by swimming against the tide, so to speak. They can be quite big, and you can also turn the swimming jets off and just soak.

Jacuzzi: This is the trademarked name of a corporation with a history of manufacturing excellent hot tubs and spas. It’s so well-known, its name has become synonymous with these products, much like Kleenex is with tissues. Jacuzzi also sells swimming pools, saunas, walk-in bathtubs and more.

Hot tub: Unlike swim spas, these are made for relaxation. They hold warm water, have seating and include jets that push hot water out from all sides. At the same time, water is drawn out, filtered, reheated and cycled back in.

Hot Tub vs Swim Spa: Why not get both? 

Hot Tub vs Swim Spa

(Image credit: Endless Pools)

Swim spas are mostly shaped like a traditional swimming pool, but they also include jets like a hot tub. These jets create a current for you to swim against to strengthen muscle groups and extend your endurance. The jets have different settings to vary current speeds, so you’re continually challenged as your strength increases. 

Although they're used in different ways, swim spas and hot tubs often feature the same elements, such as high-power jets and heating options. Due to this, many swim spa manufacturers also produce top-end hot tubs. Some even double up to produce two-in-one products which offer exercise options from a swim spa, with muscle-soothing solutions for relaxation and hydrotherapy. 

One such option is Endless Pools, which offers customization for models with swim spas, with hot tubs installed at the end. One drawback of these models is the size - so if you're looking to double up on swim spas and hot tubs we suggest making sure you have an appropriate space available for the investment.