It has got to be one of the most unique places in the world to spend the night: an underwater laboratory converted into a full-service hotel.
Do a search for underwater hotels and you will find a recurring list of ambitious projects in planning, due to begin construction soon. But if you want a place you can actually visit today, the list thins. There’s the Maldives Hilton Conrad whose basement restaurant extends majestically into the sea with big bay windows. There’s also at least two bungalows on floating docks that have a basement extending below the water level. But if you want a hotel that’s full underwater, resting on the ocean floor like a miniature Atlantis, then you only have one option: the Jules Undersea Lodge. Naturally, I had to go see it.
And immediately, my imagination took off.
The underwater hotel sits at the bottom of the Atlantic on the coast of Key Largo, in the Florida keys. It is fully underwater, with no part reaching the surface. This is what it looks like from the shore:
The only way to get to the hotel, is to scuba dive down to it. Thankfully, the hotel room comes complete with full scuba gear rental. So you only need to show up in your bathing suit.
Personal belongings, laptops, etc… are brought down separately by the hotel staff.
Once in the water, it’s not too hard to find the place. But just so you don’t get lost you can follow a line that stretches from the shore to the hotel.
The water in the lagoon is not the world’s clearest. It’s not that it is murky, despite the injustice my camera does it, but the visibility isn’t very far. In other words, it’s a good idea to follow the line… until you see this:
This is what the hotel looks like from the outside. It huge and daunting, and somewhat scary-looking. The barnacled outer shell completely belies the clean comforts contained inside.
To enter, you have to swim under the structure, to a moon pool leading to what is called the wet room.
This is where the vacation starts! To the left are the bedrooms. There are only two of them, and they’re connected, so when you stay at Jules you should have the place all to yourselves. Each room has a giant window, a TV, a double bed, a bench by the window, and a fresh water faucet.
The nautical theme is a bit tacky, and the rooms are not gigantic, but this is high luxury given that everything needs to be brought down by scuba. On the other side of the wet room is the living area. There you have two dining room tables, another TV, another window, board games, and a fully stocked kitchenette complete with everything you need to enjoy your evening: snacks, pop corn, drinks, etc…
You can see on the tables, a part of our supper. We ordered pizza which the staff delivers right to the hotel in a water-tight box. This is also how they brought down our personal belongings for the night; they were in our rooms by the time we arrived.
Now while you are a guest of the hotel, you are provided with unlimited air tanks for scuba diving. Since the hotel is at depth pressure, you undergo saturation and can dive as much as you want. So you can pop out anytime to give your girlfriend prison glass kisses from outside the window.
All the while, topside, the hotel staff keeps an eye on the gauges in the control van. Should you want anything, they are available 24/7 to bring you more air tanks, towels, or in our case ice for the world’s first underwater ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Or pop out before bed for a quick night dive? You can turn off your flashlights and let the glow from the windows guide you back to the hotel.
And while you’re exploring around, if you swim straight due East, you’ll eventually find a very creepy looking underwater laboratory. The hotel itself was built as a lab for deep-water living experiments, but other structure is a still in-use lab. Although it seemed empty when I came, I could see from the window that someone had been living there recently (*shiver*).
Finally, in the morning, fruits, cereal, and bread are available in the kitchen so make yourself a healthy breakfast before one final dive back to the surface.
Of all the many places I’ve laid my head down, this was by far the most unusual. The entire stay was extraordinary, I cannot recommend it enough. If you are a diver and are ever in the Florida Keys and why not, there’s so much to do, this is one not to be missed.
Thanks for reading!