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June 7, 2012

Vacationing under the sea

What’s so cool about underwater architecture? It breaks the rules. It lets us live out a fantasy. It immerses us in a completely different realm, in a world not designed for humans. 

While still a relatively new innovation, the concept of under sea architecture dates back at least to 360 BC when Plato first wrote about the sunken island of Atlantis. But unlike Atlantis, today’s underwater architecture is real, it isn’t in ruins, and humans can walk, breath and explore the buildings just as if on land.

With no scuba certificate required, affluent travellers may soon be able to choose from several undersea resorts and restaurants that grant them privileged access into another world — and they can stay dry with pressed shirts and high heels on while doing so.

Poseidon Undersea Resort (Image via Luxatic)

In the early ’60s, five aquanauts lived inside underwater architecture in the Red Sea for 30 days as part of Jacques Cousteau’s Conshelf II project.

“We believe sunken cantons and peopled reefs will become as commonplace on the Continental Shelf as oil drilling towers have in recent decades,” Cousteau said after the project.

And that day might not be far off with concepts like the Poseidon Undersea Resorts. The underwater hotel — said to be “the world’s first seafloor resort” — was conceived by L. Bruce Jones, president of U.S. Submarines, Inc., and was initially scheduled to open on privately owned Katafinga Island in Fiji in 2009, but has been delayed to an undisclosed date.

“Poseidon is a vision that I have carried in my mind for decades,” Jones said. “There is something magical, mystical and uniquely captivating about the prospect of living under the sea. So many of us as youngsters immersed ourselves in the books of Jules Verne or sat, wide-eyed and mesmerized, as we watched Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

The plans for the Poseidon Undersea Resort include 22 guest rooms, a 1,200 sq ft luxury suite, a restaurant, spa, library, conference room and wedding chapel, all under water. The proposed price? $30,000 per couple for a week, with only two of those nights being underwater, (the other four nights were to be spent at a beachside resort on Poseidon Mystery Island). The resort was also designed to include a nonprofit coral reef sanctuary program that would invite and engage people from around the world to learn about protection and preservation of the reefs.

But without an opening date, that still sounds too futuristic, so we turned to Dubai, a city known for audacious architecture, and here we found the Hydropolis Hotel. While designed for the affluent — it was reported it will cost up to US$5,500 a night — it was also designed for pioneers, as this resort too aspired to be world’s first underwater luxury hotel. Rather than 22 guest rooms, this $300 million hotel would offer 220 suites as well as three bars, a museum and a cosmetic surgery clinic. Its initial opening date was supposed to be in 2007, but sadly its construction is on hold too.

The Hydropolis Hotel

So is there anywhere we can experience living underwater yet? If dinner counts, then the answer is yes at the undersea restaurant at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Hotel in Rangalifinolhu. For $120-$250 per person, up to 14 people can dine under the turquoise waters and watch marine life as they enjoy their meal.

Underwater Restaurant in the Maldives (Image via

Don’t give up on the hotel concept just yet, though. Deep Ocean Technology has unveiled the Water Discus Hotel, proposed to be built 21 stories underwater in Dubai.

“Offering guests a view directly into the Persian Gulf from the beds of their modest two-person rooms,” Inhabitat wrote last week. “The hotel is to be constructed by shipyard firm Drydocks World. In addition to the unusual accommodation, the proposed hotel is to include a diving center, underwater tourist vehicles, a spa, garden areas, an above-water terrace, and a helipad for guests.”

The Water Discus Hotel by DOT (Image via Inhabitat)
The Water Discus Hotel by DOT (Image via Inhabitat)

And perhaps the concept might extend to homes too. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield asked Art History Archive, “Why does everyone live on land anyway?”

“Three-quarters of our planet is water and yet mankind is clustered haphazardly on the land. From space you can easily see where people are congregated. You just look for the ‘Big Smear,’ the bands of pollution that permanently surround our large cities.”

With international airports in major cities, increasingly affordable airfare and hotel options, and more efficient methods of transportation, traveling the world has become accessible to millions of people the world over. Going halfway around the globe to explore new landscapes in a day? Not a problem. Meeting an array of people from foreign countries in a single place? Possible in many major cities. But traveling under the ocean, or meeting people who have lived below sea level? It pushes the boundaries of design, but yes, based on what we’ve looked at today, it could very soon be possible.

We’d love to know: if visiting an underwater hotel was financially available to you, would you stay at one? Why or or why not?