8 amazing underwater attractions
If you really want to "get away from it all," there's only one place for it. Outer space.
But a good second option can be found in the opposite direction -- under the sea, with only glass between you and oceans of water.
Try these attractions, usually the domain of snorkelers, divers and fish, for a pseudo-otherworldly experience.
No breath-holding required.
Jules' Undersea Lodge, Key Largo, Florida, United States
There's no front door to this hotel, which visitors enter by swimming up through a pool in the floor (compressed air keeps water from flooding the structure).
Named after French author Jules Verne, the former research lab isn't quite "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea," but rather 6.4 meters beneath the surface of the water.
Jules' caters to experienced scuba divers, with all dive gear and unlimited dives included in the room rates. But even guests who have never dived before can stay at the lodge by taking a three-hour class that allows them to dive in the company of instructors.
The hotel also offers certification training and numerous other dive courses.
Prices range from US$500-600 (meals and dive gear included) depending on the package, with discounts for groups of four or six people.
Jules' Undersea Lodge, Key Largo Undersea Park, Key Largo, Florida, United States; +1 305 451 2353; www.jul.com
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Miami Seaquarium Sea Trek Reef Encounter, Florida, United States
The Miami Seaquarium's "underwater walking journey" can make land-bound earthlings feel like explorers on another planet.
After strapping on special diving helmets and wetsuits, visitors take a 20-minute walk through the park's 1,135,623-liter coral reef. No scuba diving experience is required.
Admission is US$99 (which includes to the rest of the park).
Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Florida, United States; +1 305 361 5705; www.miamiseaquarium.com
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LIME Spa at Huvafen Fushi, Maldives
The LIME Spa offers massages, manicures and pedicures, body scrubs and aromatherapy while schools of fish and manta rays swim by on the other side of thick glass walls.
The spa takes its underwater theme seriously, right down to the seawater- and sea mineral-based tonics and elixirs.
The spa, part of the Huvafen Fushi luxury resort, also has steam and sauna rooms, a yoga pavilion and a gym.
Room rates at the resort range from US$1,000-9,600 per night, not including taxes and service fees.
Huvafen Fushi, North Malé Atoll, Maldives; +960 6644 222; huvafenfushi.peraquum.com/Spa
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Sea Restaurant at Anantara Kihavah Villas, Maldives
At the Anantara Kihavah Villas, a resort of lavish villas and residences, there are four dining options: Sea, Fire, Salt and Sky.
The octagonal-shaped Sea boasts not just a 360-degree view of passing marine life, but also an extensive wine cellar with more than 250 labels.
Dinner costs US$240 per person with wine pairing, lunch is US$185 per person and resort rates start at US$1,050, not including taxes.
Anantara Kihavah Villas, Kihavah Huravalhi Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives; +960 660 1020; kihavah-maldives.anantara.com
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Museo Subacuatico de Arte (MUSA), Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
The Museo Subacuatico de Arte (otherwise known as the Cancun Underwater Museum) is an underwater museum with no walls, guides or descriptive plaques.
This unique installation of sculptures by artist Jason deCaires Taylor was designed not only to encourage appreciation of the arts, but also to draw traffic away from nearby natural reefs, which were starting to bear the strain of 750,000 visitors a year.
The museum comprises more than 400 original sculptures, which also serve as artificial reefs. Many are of human figures, making the ocean floor resemble some beautifully spooky lost world, its inhabitants frozen in space and time.
MUSA is divided into two galleries, one of which is accessible to both divers and snorkelers, the others to snorkelers only. To visit, contact a Cancun dive or snorkel operation such as Delfin Diving, Aquaworld or Aqua Adventures.
Museo Subacquatico de Arte (MUSA), Isla Mujeres National Marine Park; +52 998 883 1210; www.asociadosnauticoscancun.com/museum
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Hotell Utter Inn, Västerås, Sweden
The Hotell Utter Inn (English translation: Hotel Otter Inn) is charming red house on Lake Mälaren with a sundeck -- and a single room beneath the surface of the water.
Guests are ferried out to the hotel and then left there with an inflatable boat, which they can use to visit a nearby uninhabited island or simply putter around their "backyard."
There's a refrigerator, a portable gas heater, twin beds and a toilet; but otherwise the Utter Inn is amenity-free.
Guests starving for food or company can spring for the deluxe package, which includes a dinner drop-off.
Rates start at 1,100 krona (US$150) per person per night.
Hotell Utter Inn, Västeråsfjärden/Amundsgrund, Mälaren, Västerås, Sweden; +46 21 39 01 00; www.vasterasmalarstaden.se
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Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Maldives
One of seven restaurants at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island hotel, Ithaa was constructed in Singapore in 2004 and then transported to the Maldives, where it was lowered into the water.
Now located five meters below sea level, the world's first underwater restaurant serves "Maldivian-Western fusion cuisine" in a stunning all-glass setting.
Prices aren't cheap, at US$320 per person for dinner, but it's not every dining experience that can boast a panoramic view of the very sea life you might be eating.
Fun fact: The restaurant is also available for weddings.
Prices are US$55 for cocktails (includes canapés and one glass of champagne), US$195 for lunch (per person) and US$320 for dinner (includes one glass of Champagne).
Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, Conrad Maldives, Rangali Island, 2034, Maldives; +960 668 0629; conradhotels3.hilton.com/en/hotels/maldives
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World Discus Hotel, Dubai
Dubai has been ruminating about underwater hotels for a while. The hyped Hydropolis, conceived in 2006, would have been the world’s first underwater resort (and one of the most expensive), but it was never completed.
Now, however, Dubai is back on track with ambitious plans for the World Discus Hotel, an underwater hotel being designed by Deep Ocean Technology and partially funded by Swiss firm BIG InvestConsult.
This hotel won’t, in fact, be entirely below sea level. Plans call for the construction of two discs, one of which will be 10 meters beneath the water’s surface and contain the hotel’s 21 rooms.
Hotel guests needing a breather can head upstairs to the disc located five to seven meters above the waves, which will house the hotel’s lobby, restaurant and spa.
Whether it will become a reality remains to be seen. No date has yet been announced for the hotel’s opening.
World Discus Hotel, Dubai; www.deep-ocean-technology.com
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