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You Can Swim in California’s Most Iconic Pool, But It Will Cost You

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California is hands-down the most iconic pool in California. Usually it’s forbidden for swimming, but there’s a rare chance to take a dip coming up–if you have the cash.

Constructed in 1936 by media magnate William Randall Hearst as part of his elaborate and bizarre Hearst Castle, the Neptune Pool is the most photographed pool in the state, and a major tourist attraction.

The Neptune Pool is 105 feet long and holds over 300,000 gallons of water. It’s surrounded by faux Roman ruins and statues, including of the eponymous Neptune. In Hearst’s day, the pool was heated by oil. It’s built using marble shipped all the way across the country from Vermont.

The Neptune Pool’s water has a deep blue color that’s been mesmerizing tourists for generations. It’s a major symbol of the opulence of California’s richest residents during the 1920s-1950s.

The Most Exclusive Swimming Event Ever

Don’t grab your swim trunks and show up at Heart Castle expecting to dive in, though. While millions of tourists gaze at–or take selfies near–the Neptune Pool each year, swimming in it is generally forbidden.

Except now. As part of one of the most exclusive swimming events in California, Hearst Castle is briefly opening up this iconic pool for actual swimming.

The Neptune Pool in 2018 during renovations

That’s right–you can swim in California’s most iconic and legendary pool. But it’ll cost you.

As part of a fundraiser called Hollywood at Hearst Castle which is happening on August 19th, the non-profit foundation that runs Hearst Castle is opening up the Neptune Pool for 50 lucky swimmers.

How much will a swim set you back? Tickets for the exclusive event run $1,000 per person.

Even if you have that kind of cash, you can’t just grab one. You’ll also need to be a member of the Foundation at Hearst Castle. Membership begins at $500 per year.

So if you want to grab your sweetheart and plunge into Hearst’s iconic pool, plan to spend $1,000 joining the Foundation, plus $2,000 for two tickets (if you can even get them before they sell out), for a grab total of at least $3,000. That’s a lot to pay for a dip in the water!

Elaborate statues at Hearst Castle

What’s it Like Swimming in the Neptune Pool?

Don’t expect a luxurious swimming experience, either. The oil heating system for the pool has long been phased out, and the pool is unheated. Since Hearst Castle is located on the top of a tall hill on the coast, the temperature of the pool is likely in the 70s F or lower.

View from the Neptune Pool deck

The webpage for the event says “wetsuits welcome.” That gives you a sense for the temperatures you can expect if you take the plunge!

This video from a traveler shows what it’s like to swim in the iconic pool. Spoiler alert: he looks chilly!

If you do have the cash to fork over for a swim, you’ll be supporting a good cause. The funds from the event help to support the Foundation’s educational programming.

You’ll also be in good company. Charlie Chaplin, Lady Gaga, Cary Grant and Laurence Olivier–as well as Hearst’s pet dachshund–have all reportedly swum in the pool.

Of course, you can just be like everyone else, book a trip to Hearst Castle, and take a selfie beside the Neptune Pool without forking over three grand.

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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