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From bending elbows at the world’s first underwater bar in Madrid to swimming with humpback whales in the South Pacific.
Terrestrial exploration is so last century. Card-carrying members of the Travelers’ Century Club—globetrotters who have visited 100 or more countries—have increasingly been drawn underwater, where a growing array of next-level experiences await. There’s a roving luxury submarine on our radar called Lover’s Deep, considered the most expensive ultraluxe hotel suite in the world.
We’ve tapped a few more waiver-free ways (let’s at least keep it to a one-pager) to channel your inner Jacques Cousteau communing with oceanic wildlife, or just live it up in the deep like no generation of man has done before—a luxury life aquatic in living color.
We never see the true state of our neurosis complex until it is illustrated to us in contrast. Underwater, we cannot breathe without mental discipline. This has long been the appeal of deep-sea diving in my mind. It lies in the extreme contrast between swimming with whales in the archipelago of Bora Bora, and swimming with sharks in a banal landlocked home base.
The Brando’s backyard of the Tetiaroa atoll is the kind of place that can make you feel as if anything beyond this coveted sapphire necklace corner of the South Pacific ceases to exist. 30 miles northeast of Tahiti, Tetiaroa is composed of a dozen small islands surrounding a sparkling azure lagoon. There are few places on earth where you can check off every box on your underwater adventure bucket list, and this is certainly one of the most chic.
The Brando, named for former owner Marlon, has not built its mythology on tales of fleeting encounters. This place is about long, languid, unraveling experiences that leave one breathless. The resort is home to Topdive, helmed by the most trusted dive experts in the region; and a majestic new Swimming with Giants experience.
Divemasters here work overtime to maximize your window to swim alongside 66,000-pound humpback whales. Once in the water with behemoths the size of a chain of two freight trains, the euphoria sets in. You’re a guppie going all out to keep up with a meandering giant porpoise. Such underwater spectacle sends shivers, and just as your pulse slows, a massive peacock damselfish aggregation envelopes you in a cloud of ecstasy.
The likes of Leo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp and Pierce Brosnan have kicked back here, likely drawn to The Brando’s track record for privacy and Topdive’s sterling reputation. Let’s face it, if your franchise-carrying legs are insured by Lloyd’s of London, you can’t be trifling with two-bit operations. Former POTUS Barack Obama stayed for six weeks in 2017, as the only way to get here is via The Brando’s Air Tetiaroa (or a very long boat ride) so it’s pretty much paparazzi-proof.
Horizontal hedonism more your thing? Retreat to InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso, where underwater luxury means a rubdown worthy of James Cameron himself. Pampering is a main draw, and defies the orthodoxy of traditional spa menus—the Deep Ocean Spa bungalows feature glass-bottom floors; peace out to the marine life below while drooling into the silky face cradle. And no one will try to get you in a pair of paper undies here.
The downside to Baden Baden spa breaks is how they slip you a disposable brief packet, expecting you to put it on. This diaper folly, with no obvious front or back, is only outdone by the cheese-cutter G-strings of Hokkaido. Here, the emphasis is on unbridled, unimpeded bliss. Therapists drape linens like nimble ninjas, trained to protect modesty while manscaping your tender bits.
The Maldives is another preferred aquatic playground for the global jet set. At a cost of $15 million, the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island debuted The Muraka in 2018, a luxury suite submerged more than 16 feet under the water’s surface. Conrad Maldives is also home to Ithaa, a rather upscale undersea restaurant. This sweet pearl of a property presents premium underwater endorphins in lagoons the color of Olivia Wilde’s aqua eyes, with lush vegetation like something out of a break-the-bank budget fantasy flick.
For culinary aficionados, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas—located in Baa Atoll, a renowned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve housing some of the richest diversity of marine life in the world—offers SEA, an underwater restaurant and wine cellar featuring the country’s first certified wine education. Expand your wine knowledge and earn a globally recognized WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) certification on your next vacay. The resort’s wine collection is valued at more than $2 million.
For those who aren’t Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea types, preferring to temper bouts of underwater adventure with copious lashings of lobster and caviar, Shangri-La Al Husn is a rarified utopia on the Omani Coast. Home to one of the only turtle nesting sites in Oman, tortoise sightings while diving or snorkeling here are common.
Dive in the breeding grounds of endangered Hawksbill turtles by day; by dusk, assist the resort’s dedicated Turtle Ranger Mohammed Al Hassani—who grew up in a nearby fishing village—in patrolling nests and, if duty calls, pitching in if the hatchlings need a hand hammock out to sea.
Oman is one of the world’s most vital areas for sea turtles as five species visit these waters, and four of these nest on its shores. Sculpted from the side of a mountain, the Shangri-La holds prime position overlooking the crystal waters of the Gulf of Oman, and boasts a private beach.
This adults-only exclusive enclave is all about sensuality and contemporary high style, with Dhofari architectural riffs on classic Middle Eastern tropes. Each of the 180 sublime bedrooms has either a balcony or terrace, and all look out onto the seascape from one of the most regal resorts in Muscat—the Ferraris, Bentleys, and Bugattis lining the valet are a dead giveaway.
Fancy a gin and tonic under the sea? The first underwater bar opened its doors in Madrid last May to a fortunate few. The Hendrick’s Neptunia Pubmarine was born from the ocean legends that inspired the Scottish distillery’s newest limited gin, Hendrick’s Neptunia. The pub, designed in a Victorian style, was immersed in one of the cosmopolitan city’s main aquariums where intrepid attendees toasted gin-tonics underwater thanks to state-of-the-art scuba tanks specially designed for this purpose.
Encapsulating the spellbinding magic of the sea in a bottle, an alluring juniper base is lengthened with deep earthy notes of coastal Scottish botanicals and a crisp, clean citrus finish. The unique underwater experience surrounded guests with all manner of marine species: sharks, cownosed rays, and even mythological mermaids. Talk about putting your Lothario eye contact game to the test in a dive helmet. Tipsy flirting underwater has never been so tempting.