11 Underwater Restaurants to Channel Your Inner Mermaid
Darling, it’s better down where it’s wetter, take it from me.
Coming off the heels (err, tails) of The Little Mermaid’s global success, we have the sudden desire to experience what it’s like to live—or at least to dine—under the sea. Taking dining beyond al fresco, these meals are served underwater, whether inside a literal aquarium or the actual ocean.
From the Maldives to Dubai to the USA, you’ll find the abundance of the ocean on a platter, ranging from raw tartare to high end caviar to casual shrimp and grits. And while it may seem a bit morbid to nosh on the same creatures that swim around you (it’s called seafood, after all… you see the food and then you eat it), these 11 experiences are certified musts for anyone who enjoys dinner with a spectacular undersea view.
It only makes sense to lead with the world’s first underwater restaurant, located 16 feet below sea level. The ocean views from this Maldives beauty go beyond “panoramic” when you’re literally submerged in said view. All around you, the Indian Ocean teems with colorful coral gardens and an impressive variety of active marine life. Just know that the King-Triton-level dining room comes at the cost of a royal paycheck: Dinners start at just under $400 per person, which doesn’t, unfortunately, include a complimentary, gold-plated dinglehopper.
Looking like a stunning shipwreck, the world’s largest underwater restaurant made a splash with its eye-catching architecture. Imagine a sleek shipping-container type of rectangle that’s tilted into the ocean and half sunken under the water. The best part is that the building will eventually take on a second role as an active artificial reef. Inside, a dramatic, floor-to-ceiling window lights the restaurants with a moody underwater glow and looks into the vast, somewhat ominous ocean at the country’s southernmost tip. Patrons are treated to a menu with locally foraged, seasonal ingredients, often including crab, limpets, and seaweed.
If you’re not looking to leave the States, head to Nashville for an underwater adventure at the appropriately-titled Aquarium Restaurant. Divers perform live feedings for the fish twice a day and the menu for humans is predominantly (and unsurprisingly) seafood, to hit the theme right on the nose. The venue also puts on mermaid shows every couple months, where fin-flipping divers perform and educate audiences on sustainability. Other locations can be found in Houston, Denver, and Kemah, Texas.
The world’s largest *all-glass* undersea restaurant places just as much of an emphasis on the food as it does its atmosphere. There are only 10 tables submerged 19 feet (5.8 meters, hence the name) under the ocean’s surface to form an enclave of inspired dishes featuring—you guessed it—only the freshest of locally sourced seafood. The dishes showcase fish that often shines on a bed of candied seaweed and oceanic foam. Guests are encouraged to book a reservation during dinnertime so that you can see the light transform as the sun sets and all sea witch-indebted mermaids tragically lose their newfound legs.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
In a city known for over-the-top experiences, where you can ski or scuba dive in a mall, it should come as no surprise that you can also enjoy a luxurious meal underwater in Dubai. Nestled below the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, arguably the region’s most iconic hotel, Head Chef Andrea Migliacco brings some Italian flair to the deep blue sea. The dining room here surrounds a massive tropical reef aquarium. While enjoying the nautical surroundings, dine on smoked eel or give anchovies another try. The award-winning restaurant experiments with frothy prosecco sauces and iced caviar. It’s an ideal venue for a romantic evening, so long as you still have your voice.
You might see a rodent swimming in the waters surrounding Disney World’s sought-after Coral Reef Restaurant, but fear not: that’s just Mickey Mouse floating around in scuba gear. Dine on American comfort food like shrimp and grits or New England clam chowder, all while surrounded by windows looking into an aquarium. The numbers here impress as only Disney can: Over 2,000 creatures swim in a 54 Olympic-sized swimming pool tank, replete with sharks, rays, and the occasional sea turtle. But it’s the company’s commitment to preserving coral reefs that really takes the cake; Disney has hired a team of scientists and conservationists at their Florida location to study and protect endangered marine species.
Durban, South Africa
Breaking tradition from typical restaurants in aquariums, Cargo Hold is situated in the helm of a shipwreck replica called Phantom Ship. As its name implies, many legends of ghosts and hauntings surround Phantom Ship. The ship structure is part of Ushaka Marine World, the largest aquarium in Africa, and one wall of the restaurant looks into a shark tank. Guests unhinge their jaws while searching for Jaws after a long day perusing the aquatic museum and its many treasures. Grilling is a specialty here, and don’t shy away from chilies, as seen in the Mozambique Chili Prawn. Pro tip: Be sure to inquire about package deals so you can save money on bundled tickets.
If you’re hoping to find Nemo, he’s likely residing in this glitzy and glamorous take on the underwater dining scene. Featuring an oversized bar, spiral staircase, plush fabrics, and glossed marble floors, the aquarium-paneled site looks like it’s been plucked from the Vegas strip and placed in Antalya, Turkey. If you’re feeling extra lucky, you may just have the opportunity to kiss the girl you brought (sans animal orchestra, unfortunately) over a meal of raw specialties like sushi, tartare, and ceviche.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
At Michelin-rated Ossiano, each course is fittingly called a “wave,” and the progressive meal is full of creativity, so don’t be surprised if food is served in pointy sea urchin shells or wisps of smoke rise from your dish. The world-class fare is inspired by the underwater shapes and colors that encase it, and many of the dishes come from sea foraging. The restaurant offers an upscale respite from the Atlantis resort’s family-friendly waterpark and arcade experiences, so a coveted reservation is the perfect excuse to ditch the kids for the evening and enjoy some intimate Ariel and Prince Eric time.
Translated as “submarine restaurant” in English, Restaurante Submarino is located in Valencia’s world-famous oceanarium, which is one of the largest aquariums in Europe. The restaurant offers Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine like paella, crispy suckling pig, monkfish carpaccio, and prawn aguachile. Aside from schools of metallic fish, the space boasts an impressive jellyfish-inspired light fixture that anchors elegant, modern decor. Ursula would give the space eight enthusiastic tentacles up.
The only way to reach Subsix is by speedboat. Upon arrival, you’ll descend into a capiz shell-lined lounge with statement chairs inspired by sea urchins. Go big with lobster tail or wagyu sirloin menu options. But what really attracts diners to the remote, underwater bistro is its ability to transform into a full-fledged nightclub with champagne breakfasts and an adults-only glow party that will have you swaying like the seaweed that surrounds you.