Ready to create your own poolside paradise? I’ve seen my fair share of pools over the years and can say the ones I’m most impressed by are those that look and feel like I’m on a tropical vacation.
There are ways of accessorizing your outdoor pool space in a way that’s not cheesy, which is what I want to cover today.
If you’re looking to make your pool a bit less boring, in this post I’ll cover a couple of ways you can re-create a tropical feel for as little as a few hundred dollars.
1. Add a tiki-style structure
A cabana is technically just a structure with a roof and Spanish for ‘cabin’; this is one of the few items that will instantly add some tropical vibes to your pool.
The nicest tiki-style canopies I’ve seen are the ones custom-built, usually in close proximity to a pool. They are great for changing clothes, getting out of the sun, and may or may not have a permanent roof. Some cabanas like tiki huts made of actual thatch will give you the most topical look and feel if that’s what you’re going for.
You will likely need a permit to construct something like this, especially you intend to include a kitchen or bar within this structure, so it’s best to consult a local contractor over the phone to ask about this. You should ensure any structure you build is up to code.
A temporary option like a quality tiki umbrella made of thatch is ideal, but you can find good reproductions like the one pictured above on Amazon. I’d recommend checking to see if these are waterproof; I’ve learned the hard way with some of the cheap ones where the fake grass falls off.
You can even build what’s called a tiki bar for the edge of your pool surround, complete with thatch and bar stools. I’ve seen these floating around on Etsy like this one for a few thousand bucks, and is something you can either install yourself or have a contractor help with.
2. Plant a palm tree or two
Palms are perfect for any pool if you live in a climate that can support them. On the east coast, many varieties grow as far north as North Carolina, with fan palms and smaller palms a bit easier to maintain than larger trees.
Palmettos are my personal favorite, but there are many other varieties ideal for swimming pools. Check out my post on the best palm trees by a pool, where I break down a few good varieties.
Some palm trees are messier than others like queen palms, some are more tolerant to cold weather like fan palms. You should consider where you want to plant a palm if you select a variety that drops seeds as seed pods can be a pain to clean from your pool.
Many pool owners plant palm trees in large decorative pots, but you may want to create a brick structure to insulate the roots from cold weather.
3. Hang a hammock
We’ve all seen those beautiful beach scenes that include a hammock overlooking the ocean. In combination with planting a couple of palms, a traditional rope-style hammock is an easy way to create a relaxed tropical vibe for your pool.
Hatteras Hammocks is one of my personal favorites, made in North Carolina. You can check out their collection on Amazon here.
These hammocks come with optional stands, including a 1-year warranty, and are handcrafted in the United States.
3. Consider Adirondack or resort-style beach chairs
A weather-resistant Adirondack chair is another perfect poolside accessory, great for creating a reading area. I think they look great under palm trees at the corner of a pool, or alongside a few chaise lounges.
Many Adirondack chairs are weatherproof and won’t splinter, so they’re safe to use in a bathing suit. I’ve purchased these unfinished before, so you’ll definitely want to paint or stain them or they will be uncomfortable.
I would spend at least a few hundred bucks apiece for some nice chairs, and make sure you read reviews before purchase.
Highwood is a great American-made brand that makes high-quality Adirondack chairs from recycled plastic that mimics wood, but won’t splinter. Click here to check out their collection on Amazon—available in white and several tropical colors.
4. Purchase cantilever umbrellas
Part of creating a ‘backyard oasis’ vibe involves giving people a place to relax. If you have the space near your pool chairs, a few cantilever umbrellas and tables make it easier for people to hang out around your pool without getting sunburned.
I’m a big fan of cantilever umbrellas like this one pictured above because they can be placed directly over pool chairs or patio sets without getting in the way.
Cantilever-style umbrellas are a step above your standard pool umbrellas, but well worth the money if you truly want to create a luxury resort-style experience. Many come in a variety of colors, are waterproof, and come with stands.
5. Add a pool bar
Relaxing by the pool means relaxing with a drink or two. If you have an existing pool you might not be able to install a bar inside your existing pool, but you can install a wicker pool bar set like this one that comes with a couple of bar stools.
For parties, these wicker bar sets are perfect because they are both portable and waterproof. The tempered glass top makes them easy to clean as well.
If you don’t have a pool big enough for a pool bar in the center of it (which most people don’t), you may want to consider an outer ledge to serve as the pool bar itself.
These are pretty common for curved pools, and something to ask your local pool builder about. You can choose to install permanent in-pool bar stools or portable stools that will sink to the bottom like these on Amazon.
6. Build a Baja shelf with in-pool furniture
The Baja shelf, basically a shallow ledge at the pool entrance, is a trend that’s picking up steam in pools across the world. If you have a ledge or thinking about a new pool that includes one, it’s a great way to stay cool without getting fully submerged by mimicking shallow ocean water.
You can find a variety of furniture options like the Ledge Lounger, designed specifically for this use case. I cover in-pool furniture in-depth in my post here, so be sure to check it out if you are looking for recommendations.
7. Add quality tiki torches
You’ve seen those cheap bamboo tiki torches that don’t last past one season; to add a luxurious tropical feel to your pool, I recommend picking up a few metal torches by the TIKI brand like these.
Tiki torches are at just about every beach resort and beyond adding a nice touch at night they also are very practical since they keep mosquitos and bugs away.
You can place these in the ground, or install them along a fence structure using a few tiki torch mounts as you can see in the image below.
8. Consider a sun lounger or daybed
During my last vacation to St. Lucia, a really enjoyed the sun lounges that were scattered throughout the property and something you don’t see every day. Sun lounges consist of a flat mattress-like surface combined with or without a canopy most times.
Some, like this one on Amazon also come with curtains for added privacy. If you’re going to be reading or just want more room than a lounge chair to spread out, this is a great option for your pool.
A daybed is another circular option to look into that is very similar, combining the function of a couch with cushions and a flat surface.
9. Build a pool house
Indoor decor next to your pool is a great way to make things feel more tropical, and a pool house is a perfect choice here. You can add a full kitchen or pool bar, complete with signage and bright tropical colors to give guests a place to relax and get out of the sun.
Most pool houses I’ve seen are either permanent and require a permit, or portable and can be collapsed if needed. If permanent, the edge of the pool is typically a good choice. Many only consist of a bar, a kitchen behind the bar, and a simple storage room or area.
Others I’ve seen include not only kitchen appliances, but a bathroom and small seating area. I prefer a larger pool house since it’s nice to have a place guests can change and use the restroom without entering your house.
You can’t go wrong with a neon sign either, like the one pictured below to add a bit of flair.
If this is your first pool, all it takes is a little creativity, some bright or nautical colors, and a couple of items you can pick up online to make your space a bit more like the beach.
If you’re looking for more inspiration for coastal decor both inside and out, check out my post here on 21 of my favorite coastal decor items.
I’ve personally always preferred more classic elements like blues, whites, as well as wood elements like teak and carved driftwood. You can of course add lots of grass and greenery as an easy way to make your pool feel a bit more tropical.
What other ideas are you considering? Let me know in the comments!