Jules’ Undersea Lodge (51 Shoreland Dr., 305/451-2353, from $375 per person) asks its visitors a simple question: Have you slept underwater lately? Since most people can’t answer this question in the affirmative, Jules is truly and easily classified as a unique lodging experience. Guests have to swim to their guest rooms some 21 feet beneath the surface in an underwater research facility.
There’s a distinctly futuristic vibe to the lodge, like the spy-movie “moon pool” where water comes right up to the floor to the pod-like structure itself. Guest rooms are small, but a common room has a television and stereo as well as a mini-kitchen.
Most guests avail themselves of the services of Jules’s “mer-chef,” who dives down to prepare a gourmet dinner. Still, most folks who come don’t spend their entire time cooped up in the sea pod and instead come and go as they please on scuba-diving expeditions in the area; the lodge provides unlimited air tanks for divers. Although staying here is understandably pricey, the two guest rooms are often booked months in advance.
Nondivers are not deprived of their own choices for unique accommodations in the area. Largo Lodge (101740 Overseas Hwy., 305/451-0424, from $150 d) is located on the bay side of the island, with six cottages and one hotel-style guest room situated on three foliage-thick acres. The guest rooms here are a bit old-fashioned but they are cute, clean, and certainly economical—all are equipped with kitchen facilities. The swaying palm trees, chirping birds, and gently lapping water make for a charmingly pastoral setting.
Kona Kai (97802 Overseas Hwy., 305/852-7200, from $300 d) is considerably more luxurious, with 11 guest rooms set among bougainvillea, palm trees, and fruit- and flower-filled gardens. Guest rooms are airy and large, with tile floors and large windows. The secluded resort has a freshwater pool that overlooks a private white-sand beach; most of the property’s activities take place in this area, from lazy hammocks and barbecue grills to a Ping-Pong table and a hot tub. There’s also a tennis court. Despite the insulated surroundings, the resort is surprisingly close to a number of restaurants along U.S. 1. Both the Largo Lodge and the Kona Kai are adults-only facilities.
Families should head for the Bayside Inn (99490 Overseas Hwy., 305/451-4450, from $129 d). There are only 56 guest rooms, all of which are studios or one-bedroom suites; decorated in clean bright tropical shades, the atmosphere is quietly classy but not overbearingly luxurious. There’s a small white-sand beach that opens onto the bay as well as a freshwater swimming pool, either of which make for beautiful vantage points to watch the sunset. There’s a sushi restaurant and a bar on the property as well.