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Trip Ideas

12 Wild Underwater Adventures

Back away from the brochures touting captive dolphin excursions and get on our level. We’ve uncovered reef trails, long lost cities and the Pacific Ocean’s equally unsettling answer to the Bermuda Triangle. So pack your new suit and get your playlist ready; we’ve got oceans to explore.

Artwork and image courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor/CACT Lanzarote

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

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Go on an Underwater Scavenger Hunt All around the world

Signing up for Geocaching – the world's biggest game of scavenger hunt – is easier than ordering Seamless (and much more fulfilling). Put in your email and set up a password, and suddenly at your fingertips is an endless bounty of coordinates, riddles, and hints leading to hidden treasures. While most caches are on land, dive caches are lurking in waters around the world. There's the Jellyfish Lake – Ongeim'l Tketau cache on the southern end of the Palau archipelago (nestled between the Philippines and Micronesia), and the Captain Jacques Yves Cousteau cache at the Avalon Underwater Park in Catalina, California. Coordinates and clues should be enough for you to find your target, but hint: you can always cheat a little by reading through comments and reviews.

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Sleep With the Fish at Atlantis, The Palm Dubai

That one was just too easy; but no, we don’t mean in the scary Godfather way you’re now imagining...we’re talking about spending the night at a 5-star luxury resort. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows in the bedroom and bathroom of the Atlantis' underwater Poseidon and Neptune suites spell out epic views of the Ambassador Lagoon Aquarium's native Arabian rays, sharks, and angelfish. The regal digs have pleased the likes of the Kardashian clan, so if the view, the complimentary 24-karat gold flake soap, and an around-the-clock dedicated butler don't have you feeling ritzy enough, we'd really love to see where you live.

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Visit Europe’s First Underwater Museum: Museo Atlantico Lanzarote, Spain

British artist Jason deCaires Taylor – creator of the Museo Subacuático de Arte in Cancún and the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park in Western Grenada – is back at it again, this time with Europe's premier underwater museum: Museo Atlantico. The newly-sunk displays include the Raft of Lampedusa, a haunting lifeboat piled with 13 hyperrealistic refugees, and The Rubicon, 35 figures frozen in time, walking towards a wall that the artist calls a point of no return (climate change, anyone?). Taylor's pieces are more than just politically eye-opening, they're also functioning as artificial reefs, rehabilitating and regenerating the sea bed. We're not saying you have to go and support the cause...but it is what Leonardo Dicaprio would want (and isn't that what we all want?).

Artwork and image courtesy of Jason deCaires Taylor/CACT Lanzarote

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Take a Mermaid Class Boracay, Philippines

Whether you’re new to mermaiding or have already invested in a splashy custom tail, the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy is ready to make you a veritable siren. Mermaids, mermen and criminally-adorable merchildren can hone their duck diving, handstanding, dolphin kicking and mermaid kissing skills with group classes, private lessons, or a scuba session. There are also options for mer-poseurs – those interested more in the flaxen-haired, shimmering mermaid aesthetic than the physically demanding dives. A 30-minute session with a personal photographer and pose instructor will ensure that you flood your friends' feeds with stunning shots.

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Photo by Doremon360 via Flickr


Dive to Yonaguni, the Japanese Atlantis Yaeyama Islands, Japan

With pillars, walls, platforms and a whole bunch of intriguingly perfect right angles, the submerged rock formations of Yonaguni have led observers to question whether or not they were naturally formed or totally man-made.The site has been so hotly debated that the History Channel devoted an entire episode of Ancient Aliens to it. Could this be the remains of a primitive civilization terrorized by a Pacific Rim tsunami? Or maybe just an impressively geometric, yet entirely organic rockbed? If you need to see the 5,000-year-old complex up close before you come to any conclusions, Inside Japan Tours will take you on a dive 60 feet under the ocean's surface and right into Dragon's Triangle – an area known for bizarre phenomena.

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Photo by Sandro Lucarbona


Mail a Waterproof Postcard at an Underwater Post Office Hideaway Island, Vanuatu

It’s the ultimate vaca humblebrag: mailing friends and family a waterproof postcard from the world’s only underwater post office. At the Hideaway Island Resort & Marine Sanctuary in Port Vila, scuba divers, snorkelers, and generally strong swimmers can send mail domestically or internationally by dipping 3 meters below the surface. Just pop your postcard in the submerged mailbox, or hand it to a postal worker who mans the tiny office a couple hours each day.

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Photo by James L. Wing


Night Snorkel with Manta Rays Kona Coast, Hawaii

Off the Kona Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island, manta rays playfully taunt divers and snorkelers. Since visitors are given express instruction not to pet the rays, the intelligent creatures indulge in a little you-can-look-but-you-can’t-touch jest, swimming within inches of contact before gracefully gliding away. Though the sassy behemoths are out all day, everyday (there is no peak season), the best time to catch them is at night, when illuminated by spotlights, the 20-foot rays come out to feast on plankton.

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Dive to the Ruins of Parco Archeologico Sommerso di Baia Pozzuoli, Italy

Poor Italy has had its fair share of debilitating volcano encounters, and Baia makes the country’s list of civilizations lost. Once a thriving resort town – favored by Roman hotshots Nero, Cicero, and Caesar – Baia met its watery fate in the 14th century. The city’s major draw – its medicinal hot springs – also happened to be its downfall, as the natural volcanic vents on which it sat swallowed it into the sea. Today, divers can peruse the remaining ruins to get a better picture of the underwater Pompeii’s bygone glory. Highlights include the Villa Protiro with its black and white tiles laid out in hexagonal patterns, and the Sunken Nymphaeum with its thermal baths and reconstructed marble effigies.

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Get an Underwater Massage at LIME Spa at PER AQUUM Huvafen Fushi Maldives

If you like your fish at an arm's-length, then a soothing underwater massage at LIME is the way to go. Softly silhouetted by the pale aqua glow of the Malé Atoll lagoon, you'll be led to a spa room with panoramic views for your choice of ultra-indulgent massage, bespoke facial, or reflexology. There's the signature LIME Light Ritual – 180 minutes of indigenous coconut, lime, and mineral massage, or our pick: the Escape – a bubbly, self-heating Maldivian mud treatment for soothing muscles and releasing tension.

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Glide Around on an Underwater Scooter Bali, Indonesia

No scuba diving certification, no problem; in fact, underwater scooters are a great alternative for those struggling with even the most basic doggy paddle. Full disclosure: the self-propelled scooters travel at a snail’s pace – about 1.2 miles/hour – (for a good laugh, watch a fleet of scooters make their leisurely descent), but the contraptions are easy to navigate and fun to putt around on. With regular old handlebars and a simple button for speed and depth, there's no complicated equipment to master - just stick your head in the bubble and breathe like normal. A day package from Bali Underwater Scooter, including transportation to and from Ceningan Island, is surprisingly affordable. For $95 USD, you get a 20-minute underwater scooter excursion, snorkeling, a banana boat ride, a BBQ buffet lunch on the beach flowing beer!

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Photo courtesy of Clear Lounge Cozumel


Play Jenga at the Clear Lounge Underwater Oxygen Bar Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re more of a pool person than an open water person, we’ve got options for you, too. In Cozumel, hit the pool at the Clear Lounge O2 Bar where you'll be fitted with a high-tech Sea TREK helmet that keeps you dry from the shoulders up and pumps out a steady stream of aromatherapy-infused oxygen (take your pick of peppermint, citrus, lavender, jasmine, piña colada, appletini or fuzzy navel). Float around at your leisure, shoot bubble guns, grab some props for the underwater photo booth, grab a magnetic writing board to communicate with others, or play a game of Jenga.

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Photo by Jan Lichterman


Snorkel the Trunk Bay Underwater Reef Trail St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

You don’t have to be an experienced diver or budding reef biologist to appreciate the colorful fan coral of Trunk Bay. The family-friendly, underwater trail which loops its way around Trunk Bay Cay, is dotted with informational plaques to help distinguish the island's marine life. Velvety-soft sands, mild island breezes, and serene, crystalline surf should ease the nerves of first-time snorkelers, but there's always the fruit smoothies (virgin and non...) at Colombo's if you really need something to help you unwind.



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