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Dive Into the World of Real and Imagined Underwater Hotels

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In an age where ill-advised and unrealizable renderings are made somewhat believable thanks to the abundance of batty buildings out there, it can get hard to keep straight which surreal developments are actually getting built. Still, few architectural tropes are more of a running joke than the underwater hotel. Every few months, it seems, a new proposal surfaces, hoping to capitalizing on the market for ultra-expensive adventure tourism. (Naturally, Dubai has at least two of them "in development.") But for all of their insanity, these plans do have roots in real, bookable locations. They may not be sea-floor utopias reachable by submersible tram, but most of them are still off-the-charts opulent, and hey look, fish outside. What follows is a tour of the architectural fever dream that is the underwater hotel, including both the enviable and the completely absurd.

Photos via Jules Undersea Lodge

↑ The Jules Undersea Lodge currently carries the distinction of being the only underwater hotel in the United States. Built in the early 1970s as a research lab stationed off the coast of Puerto Rico, the lodge has been in business in Key Largo, Fla. since relocating there in 1986. With a single overnight stay starting at $675, as well as an "Ultimate Romantic Getaway" package starting at "$1,395 per night, for 2 people in love," lodging doesn't come cheap, and is limited to those who already know how to SCUBA dive, although a three-hour crash course is available for the uninitiated. According to the official site, celebrity guests have included former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, and Jon Fishman of Phish. The highlight, according to Yelp: "Probably that weird guy we saw in a speedy through one of the hotel underwater viewing windows."

Photos via Conrad Hotels & Resorts

↑ Though most of its accommodations are situated on Maldive's Rangalifinolhu Island, or on a series of floating bungalows just off the coast, the Conrad Maldives Rangali has been known to transform its underwater dining room into a suite for two when the price is right. Accommodations start at $815 a night, and include access to all kinds of completely normal things, like spa treatments in a glass-floored room floating above a coral reef.

Photos via Deep Ocean Technology

↑ Currently one of a few underwater hotel projects slated to up Dubai's already considerable architectural craziness factor, Deep Ocean Technology's proposed Water Discus Underwater Hotel is composed of two large, UFO-like sections, one perched above the surface of the water and another located about 32 feet below it. Should the project ever exist as anything but a set of renderings, guests will be accommodated in one of 10 suites in the undersea portion, which is connected to amenities in the top portion via lift. Because people will claim anything to get a chance at high-end tourism dollars, one rep told World Architecture News that the plan should advance "opportunities for ecology support by creation of new underwater ecosystems and activities on underwater world protection."

Photos via Design Boom

↑ Anchored to the sea floor near Pemba Island, off the coast of Tanzania, the Manta Resort charges $1,500-a-night for a stay on "East Africa's finest island sanctuary." The floating suite was designed by Sweden's Genberg Underwater Hotels, and features a rooftop terrace for sunbathing, a sea-level landing deck with a lounge, and an underwater bedroom equipped with spotlights for finding mantas, jellies, and other aquatic critters. In other words, this place is best suited for Jacques Cousteau types on sabbatical.

↑ When British architect Richard Hywel Evans first unveiled his plans for Reefworld, a floating hotel with eight underwater cabins, there was a good deal of controversy over the proposed project site. Honestly, who would've thought people would be protective of Australia's threatened Great Barrier Reef? Preservationists can relax, however, as little has been heard on the project since 2008, even though it was allegedly approved by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and run under the helm of Fantasea, a large day-cruise operator. The likelihood of it ever getting built? How about more than South Korea's $28B "Dream Hub," but less than the Libeskind-designed North Ireland Peace Center.

Photos via Oliver's Travels

↑ For around $292,800 night, luxury rental company Oliver's Travels invites couples to spend one unforgettable night on an adapted submarine called The Lovers Deep. Guests who book the vessel—which typically stays moored off the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia—for honeymoons in 2014 are offered a complimentary "Lovers' Dinner" that includes caviar, oysters, and chocolate fondant with essence of pomegranate. Ideally, that meal ranks high enough on the aphrodisiac scale to distract from the fact that the captain, private chef, and other crew members are staying nearby in soundproof living quarters.

Photos via Dezeen

↑ Atkins Architecture won a bid for the Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental with its design for a 19-story hotel partially submerged inside of a water-filled quarry, and—surprise of surprises!—the thing is reportedly under construction. The 400-room resort expects to charge visitors around $325 a night, and will have two underwater floors with guest rooms, and a huge man-made waterfall running through its center. Left unanswered: how the sailboats pictured in the renderings are faring wind-wise at the bottom of a quarry.

Photos via Atlantis, The Palm

↑ Built in 2008 on one of Dubai's palm tree-shaped artificial islands, Atlantis, The Palm is a 1,500-guestroom resort immediately recognizable for the huge 22-story archway connecting its two "Royal Towers." It also has two underwater suites, the Neptune and Poseidon, that charge $8,800 a night, come with dedicated butlers, and promise that visitors will be "captivated by the dramatic ancient ruins of the mythical lost city and its 65,000 marine inhabitants."

Photos via Design Milk

↑ First slated to open by September 2008—naturally, as the fully realized underwater hotel is ever the prize catch that keeps getting away at the last moment—the Poseidon Undersea Resort was developed by L. Bruce Jones, president of U.S. Submarines, Inc., and proposed for Katafinga, a private island in Fiji. At $30K a week, a stay in one of its 25 guests suites would include access to a spa, a 100-seat restaurant, a fitness center, and a wedding chapel, because nothing says destination wedding like the second-to-final frontier of human exploration. (Recommended songs for Poseidon nuptials: Faith No More's "Underwater Love," "The Water Is Wide" by Joan Baez, Led Zeppelin's "The Ocean.") Anyway, according to Design Milk, "the company has completed all of the necessary design and engineering for the subsea structures and is currently working to secure the capital necessary to begin construction," which should wrap up approximately two years after it commences. Fingers crossed!

Photos via Uniq Hotels

Utter Inn (that's "Otter Inn," but in Swedish) is an early project by the same Mikael Genberg who went on to create Tanzania's floating Manta Resort, and because they share the same basic design scheme, the lineage is pretty clear. First unveiled in 2000, it still floats in Lake Mälaren in Västerås, Sweden, and currently asks $500 for a single-night stay. With little more than a twin bed and a table in its submersed bedroom, the experience is a rather pared-down one, but the structure, which perfectly embodies the characteristically Swedish pursuit of setting up in a tiny cabin away from worldly concerns, is easily as cute as its namesake.

Photos via Gizmag

↑ Because investors gaming for a slice of Dubai's bonkers hospitality offerings are apparently convinced that the city is big enough for any number of submersed resorts, a underwater hotel called the Hydropolis—with an estimated construction bill of $550M—was proposed in 2006. The plan is still kicking, despite the fact that construction was postponed indefinitely in February of 2013 due to "technical issues," with a reported 20 percent of the necessary funding secured. The proposal had visitors starting off at a land station on Dubai's Jumeriah Beach, housing staff accommodations, research labs, and a cosmetic surgery practice, of all things, and continue via underwater train to one of the hotel's 220 bubble-shaped suites, which would charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,500 a night.

↑ The honorable mention for projects that are obvious scams—as opposed to a few other proposals on this list, where there is at least a modicum of reasonable doubt—goes to Planet Ocean Underwater Hotel solely on the strength of the language used to describe it. Despite being in the process of seeking "qualified investors to help," Planet Ocean will currently book and charge you for a $1,500 a night stay, or even better, "for one million USD we will begin testing at your international location." Be assured, though, this venture isn't all about profit: "our underwater hotel program is a win-win solution for our Planet Ocean! We truly feel the majority of the Planet Earth population, will appreciate our team's efforts - immeasurably!" Why you should invest TODAY: "We are not just building an underwater hotel; WE are building a new industry for Planet Ocean!"

· Sleep with the Fishes in this Suite's Submerged Bedroom [Curbed National]
· All Hotels Week 2014 coverage [Curbed National]