Nearly three-quarters of Earth’s surface is covered by water. What lies beneath is a fascinating and mysterious world of submerged canyons, brilliant corals, and dazzling marine life.
Entering the home of whales, jellyfish, and other sea creatures usually means scuba diving—requiring in-depth, open-water training and certification for using complex equipment. But new diving technology, submarines, and underwater destinations are giving non-divers a chance to get closer to the realms beneath the surface. (See beautiful photos of life underwater.)
Here are 10 unforgettable undersea experiences accessible to anyone—whether you want to dive in, go for a spin, or stay dry below the surface.
Snorkel with the H2O Ninja Mask: Traditional snorkeling often means wrestling with foggy masks and awkward breathing tubes. But the full-face H2O Ninja Mask allows you to breathe normally while gazing down to the seafloor. The Hawaii-based company’s revolutionary design features Dry Top technology that keeps water from entering the air tube—even when you dive underwater—and an anti-fog system that reduces fogging by up to 90 percent. The newest models have GoPro mounts to help film your island adventures.
Dive with snuba: Snuba bridges the gap between snorkeling and scuba diving; you can stay completely underwater without bulky and complicated scuba equipment. A simple regulator and lengthy hose connect to an air supply floating on a raft, allowing swimmers to move freely and dive up to 15 feet. With their clear, shallow waters, the Florida Keys are among the most popular places for snuba. Divers can explore the 140-mile-long Great Florida Reef, the only barrier reef in the continental United States.
Ride a submersible scooter: With the B.O.S.S. (Breathing Observation Submersible Scooter), you don’t even need to swim. The self-propelled motorized bike cruises through the water eight feet below the surface. A clear dome rests over the head and shoulders, allowing people to breathe normally; the bike holds the attached scuba tank. It’s like being in your own (mini) yellow submarine. Based in the U.S. Virgin Islands, B.O.S.S. tours can be found in Honduras, Hawaii, and Mauritius.
Norway’s Under Restaurant: Norway’s new Under restaurant on the craggy Lindesnes coast angles 18 feet below the icy waters of the North Sea like an upended periscope. Head chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard’s Immersion tasting menu features nearly 20 seasonally inspired dishes, with a focus on locally caught Norwegian seafood. Sustainability is built into the restaurant itself: the rough concrete exterior attracts limpets and kelp, gradually forming an artificial reef; visiting researchers study the biology and behavior of the abundant cold-water marine life.
5.8 Undersea Restaurant in Maldives: Named for its depth 5.8 meters (19 feet) beneath the surface, Hurawalhí Resort's aquatic restaurant rests on the seafloor just off Lhaviyani Atoll in the Maldives. A clear curving roof offers panoramic views of Indian Ocean’s fish and corals, where stingrays swim overhead and inquisitive parrotfish come right up to the glass. The food is fittingly seafood focused, with seared scallops, smoked lobster, and sea urchin mousse on the menu.
Manta Resort in Tanzania: Manta Resort’s Underwater Room is a floating oasis in a marine conservation area off Pemba Island, part of the Zanzibar archipelago. The roof-deck offers sunbathing by day and stargazing by night, while a ladder leads down to a submerged bedroom surrounded by windows that frame the reef (and schools of tropical fish). At night, underwater spotlights attract squid, octopus, and blazing red Spanish dancer sea slugs that ripple past the glass. (Find other unusual hotels around the world.)
Huvafen Fushi Pearl Spa, Maldives: Spas are meant to be places of tranquility and escape, where all your cares float away. What better location than under the sea? Huvafen Fushi’s Pearl Spa, on North Malé Atoll in the Maldives, has two underwater couples massage rooms that look onto schools of silvery fish flitting over the reef. The two-hour Underwater Rendezvous treatment features top-to-toe revitalizing massages with indigenous island coconut oil, made all the more soothing by the swirling currents beyond.
Go for a ride
Aquatica Submarines: Aquatica’s nimble three- and five-person Stingray submarines can slip through spots most other subs cannot reach and dive up to 3,300 feet. Research expeditions to Belize’s Blue Hole and the British Virgin Islands have created 3-D maps and are assessing the health of the reefs. In the Pacific Northwest, sub enthusiasts can ride on tours of the beautiful 9,000-year-old glass sponge reefs off the coast of British Columbia, the only living specimens known to exist.
Atlantis Submarines: From Hawaii to the Caribbean to Guam, Atlantis’s 10 submarines ply depths up to one hundred feet and can carry dozens of passengers. The battery-powered subs don’t emit pollutants and glide quietly through the water so as not to disturb ocean life. At dive sites in Waikiki and Maui, the company has installed artificial reefs from sunken ships, creating habitats where green sea turtles, yellow tangs, and reef sharks flourish. (Discover more shipwrecks around the world.)
Lover’s Deep: This is the ultimate honeymoon indulgence: a private, luxury submarine where couples can spend a night under the waves. The sub can be moored wherever guests desire, from a reef off St. Lucia to a sunken battleship in the Red Sea, and the interior is styled to their preferences. The price is steep (from $230,000), but it comes with a personal chef, butler, and a tasting menu starring oysters, champagne, and chocolate fondue.