Dubai is always striving to achieve a new world record. Just last year the InterContinental Festival City Hotel unveiled a dizzying new take on floating balcony pools, with a huge transparent tank veering off the side of the building. And who can forget the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower? Now it seems plans are afoot for yet another bizarrely fascinating feat of engineering – the world’s largest underwater hotel! But, if you can’t stomach the two-year wait for a chance to bed down with the fishes, you could try one of these subaqueous alternatives with our guide to the best underwater hotels!
Jules Undersea Lodge
Key Largo, Florida
If you’re worried about decompression sickness, a submarine probably isn’t the kind of place you’d want to spend your hard-earned week off. So, how about an underwater research facility? First constructed for use as a state-of-the-art undersea research lab off the coast of Puerto Rico, the iconic Jules Undersea Lodge was renovated and relocated to Key Largo, Florida, in 1986, where it was unveiled as the world’s first fully functioning underwater hotel. Inspirationally named after “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” author Jules Vern, the subaquatic sea lodge has played host to a plethora of rock and movie stars, including Aerosmith frontman Steve Tyler, and former Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau. Located 21 feet below the surface, Jules Undersea Lodge offers a truly unique aquatic experience, with 46 inch windows looking out onto the sea bed, and even private “fathom” pools for daring deep sea divers. Rooms are at best, bijou, but with modern conveniences like air conditioning and satellite TV, are still a comfortable place to unwind after a day riding the waves.
Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Could you handle a shoal of frisky parrot-fish for bedtime company? Situated directly above the World Heritage protected Great Barrier Reef, just 44 miles off the coast of Queensland, Australia, Fantasea Reefworld presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to, quite literally, bed down with the fishes. Created by British architectural firm Richard Hywel Evans, the unique, floating hotel boasts eight, glass-enclosed underwater suites, with breathtaking views across one of the world’s most endangered barrier reefs. Parrot fish flit among basking sharks and manta rays, whose cloaked bodies form a mottled carpet as they congregate for feeding on the sea floor. Reefworld offers no end of ways to relax and enjoy these unique surroundings, including an indulgent, glass-fronted undersea spa, and alfresco restaurant overlooking the Whitsunday Islands. Despite its size, Reefworld has only limited capacity for overnight stays, so you’ll have to book at least three months in advance to nab one of the coveted suites!
Lake Malaren, Switzerland
Anchored to the seabed approximately 1 km from Lake Malaren’s shore, the quirky Utter Inn looks like little more than a garden shed cast adrift on a floating platform.
But this tiny red house with its quaint gable roof and shutters conceals a fascinating below-surface secret. Designed by local sculptor Mikael Genberg, the floating lodging house sits atop an underwater concrete box, within which Genberg has created a leak-proof one-room suite. Simple, yet homely, it boasts three impressively large windows looking out onto the lake bed, two single bunks and even overhead storage space for your suitcase. Unfortunately for guests, the only way to and from the mainland is by boat, so if you’re planning on doing a bit of sightseeing, you’ll probably want to ensure your host is available to ferry you to the mainland before making any concrete plans!
Poseidon Undersea Resort
Forget aquatic-themed weddings, if you really want a day to remember, book your nuptials at the exclusive five-star Poseidon Undersea Resort, Fiji. Boasting a glass-domed underwater chapel, lofty ‘bubble’ honeymoon suites and four submarines to transport guests to and from the wedding reception, the fantasy lagoon resort trumps even established subaqueous hotels for innovation. Nestled on the lagoon floor some 40 feet below the surface, the envisioned underwater village boasts impressive panoramas of the coral reef and its colourful inhabitants. Accommodations comprise spacious plexi-glass pods, decked out in the same sumptuous woods and soft furnishings you’d associate with a five-star hotel on terra firma. Visitors can also enjoy panoramic views of the reef from the underwater gym and bar, both of which feature huge glass-domed ceilings for the ultimate aquarium experience. Slated to open in just under a year, the Fijian resort is clearly aiming for a very select clientèle. Suites cost a whopping $18,000 for one week’s stay, and there’s already a six-month waiting list!
Hilton’s Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort
Rangali Island, Maldives.
Luxury doesn’t come much better than Hilton’s Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Resort. Twice voted ‘Best Hotel in the World’ by TripAdvisor readers, the opulent, five-star mega-resort boasts seven world-class restaurants, a glass-bottomed floating sea spa, floating cabins with private decks, and some of the best sunsets to be had anywhere in the Indian Ocean.
While impressive, these luxuriant amenities pale in comparison to the Conrad’s most defining asset: the world’s first and only subaqueous fine-dining restaurant with Michelin star status. Encased within a domed glass tube 16 feet below sea-level, Ithaa Undersea Restaurant offers 180-degree panoramic views of the South Ari Reef, coupled with a delectable menu of Maldivian-Western fusion cuisine. For a price, Ithaa can be transformed into a private bedroom suite – providing, of course, the restaurant has no advance bookings!