Extraordinary Cave Experiences Across The World – From Luxe Spas To Viking Feasts

Woman in cave, explore, exploring cave

Caves are the coolest (literally) unless, of course, you fear small spaces. For the rest of us, however, caves are a unique opportunity to experience what often feels like another world. Of course, we've all seen cave formations like stalagmites and stalactites in movies or television shows, but the adventure opportunities with these extraordinary cave experiences go way beyond these cave basics.

There are caves filled with crystal clear water, perfect for snorkeling, while others might have clues about ancient civilizations. Among the most surprising, though, some caves have been transformed into boutique hotels and even spas. Anyone looking for a truly uncommon vacation will delight in these unique cave experiences from across the world.

Private Cenote Snorkeling at Viceroy Maya Riviera Maya

Cave Snorkeling Image Credit: Scuba Nation TV.

Tucked away in the oceanfront rainforest of Riviera Maya, near Playa Del Carmen in Mexico, the Viceroy Riviera Maya offers an all-suite experience like no other. Each villa has its own plunge pool, and most are surrounded by a layer of lush rainforest growth, which swooshes in the breeze and lulls away the toll of modern-day stress.

The hotel offers a private cenotes excursion, which understandably might prompt the question, “What's a cenote?” A cenote is a water-filled cave, and the Viceroy's private tour includes snorkeling and a simple-yet-memorable picnic lunch. Spend time snorkeling with the fish, but be sure to leave time for the exhilaration of the rope swing.

Viking Feast in an Icelandic Cave at Hotel Rangá

Viking Feast in an Icelandic Cave at Hotel RangáImage Credit: Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir.

You'll find Hotel Rangá, in southern Iceland, is one part boutique hotel and two parts home away from home. It's nestled in Hella and provides easy access to some of the island's extraordinary waterfalls, volcanoes, and geological wonders. Above-ground attractions aside, Hotel Rangá is just minutes from the mysterious Caves of Hella. Although still cloaked in mystery, experts are confident the caves were created by humans and used when the Vikings arrived in Iceland in 850 A.D. Visitors can get an up-close look at the wall carvings, altar, and relics.

In addition to the usual tour, guests of Hotel Rangá can book a private three-course Viking feast of wines and local beers paired with gravlax, an indulgent lamb shank served over whipped potatoes, and a traditional Icelandic skyr dessert. Ultimately, you have a choice. You can sit home watching movies surrounding Norse Viking culture and folklore or get to Iceland to experience it yourself.

Adventure in Bonaire's 300+ Natural Caves 

Bonaire CavesImage Credit: Elliott Howell.

Island adventure takes on new meaning on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Bonaire. The small island east of Curaçao is part of the ABC islands, consisting of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. Known for its diving and reef snorkeling, Bonaire also boasts over 300 wet and dry natural caves. 

Would-be adventurers can grab a room at Bamboo Bonaire. From there, they can shimmy, snorkel, and climb through Bonaire’s caves and the breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites, which are thousands of years old. Visitors will also see incredible ancient coral imprints and even meet some cave creatures – both underwater and winged kind. Since these caves are a critical part of the island's ecosystem, tours are led by experienced guides at Cave Tours Bonaire – who often share the island's “hidden” caves with visitors. 

This Napa Spa Is Hidden in a Cave Under The Vineyard

The Meritage ResortImage Credit: The Meritage Resort.

Some 40 feet below sprawling vineyard vines, The Meritage Resort in Napa, California, offers guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The property has a 22,000-square-foot Estate Cave, once used as part of the land's wine heritage, reinvented into the luxe Spa Terra. As one might guess, an estate cave in a vineyard is a collaboration between Mother Nature and the winemakers. With this in mind, the underground spaces are beautifully curated, with the addition of grand archways. 

Guests can take their love of wine to a new level with wine-infused massages or lean into the cave vibe with the spa's Cave Man facial. If you're not into shimmying between cave formations or snorkeling in the water of a cenote, this Napa experience offers a luxurious alternative. Plus, the hotel has onsite tasting rooms, gourmet culinary experiences, plus nearby hot air balloon rides. With subterranean relaxation, terra firma wine tastings, and sky-high adventure, The Meritage Resort has memorable experiences on every level. 

How About a Turkish Cave Suite With Its Own Pool?

Argos in CappadociaImage Credit: Argos in Cappadocia.

Guests at Argos in Cappadocia, Turkey, are immersed in an otherworldly life altogether. The boutique hotel is seamlessly enveloped in a volcanic landscape that once served as a monastery. Each of the 51 guest rooms is unique, making the most of each curve, craggle, and cave carving of the surrounding volcanic tuff. 

Guests that reserve one of the hotel's underground Splendid Suites can expect cave-style architecture, a private plunge pool, and a fireplace. With such cave solace, you might not want to venture out, but the property will tempt you with customized experiences, including hot air balloon excursions, hiking under the light of the full moon, fire-pit-fueled picnics, local culinary tours, cooking classes, and more.

Search for The Hidden Sea Caves of The Na'Pali Coast

Na Pali Cave BoatingImage Credit: Na Pali Experience.

Hawaii's island of Kauai is famous for the extraordinary beauty of its Na Pali Coast. Choose a centrally-located hotel like Sheraton Kauai Coconut Beach in the village of Ka'paa, which will put much of the island's adventures at your feet, including the island's secret sea caves. 

These caves are only accessible by small boats, but once there, guests are treated to incredible cliffs, waterfalls, and the rare opportunity to snorkel the second-longest sea cave in the United States. Lovingly referred to as the garden island, Kauai's secret sea caves also offer an underground Eden of sorts – a bounty of natural formations, including arches, lava tubes, and an impressive stalagmite.

Marine Coral Limestone Formations — Millions of Years in The Making

Curaçao Hato CavesImage Credit: Curaçao Hato Caves

If your dream cave experience includes the winding, twisting maze-like chambers seen in movies like the latest Indiana Jones flick, in theaters now, the Caribbean Island of Curaçao awaits. Though the caves are much older, the marine coral limestone formations of the Hato Caves are 300,000 years old. Its winding tunnels and hidden chambers are enough to bring out your inner Indy adventurer spirit, and no one would blame you if you wore one of his famed hats.

The stalactites and stalagmites of the Hato Caves are well known for their sheer size, but some have also morphed into recognizable shapes over time, including formations now named the Sea Tortoise, the Sleeping Giant, and Mother Teresa. Unlike many subterranean caves, the Hato system will require you to ascend 49 steps into its interconnected chambers.

An Adults-Only Cenote With Healing Waters? Yes, Please

La Valise Tulum Jungle Cenote suite lowerImage Credit: Sofia Hernadez.

Deeply rooted in the traditions of ancient Mayan civilizations, Mexico's La Valise Tulum invites guests to enjoy the healing waters of its onsite cenote. The property is in Tulum, and the surrounding area of the Yucatán Peninsula has thousands of cenotes, but why share when you can have the one at La Valise all to yourself? 

The idea of rolling out of bed and indulging in the hotel's authentic Mayan cacao ceremonies, bee venom facials, or ancient mud rituals is pretty tempting. Add to that, however, that the rooms and suits on the jungle side of the property are a short walk to a private cenote – and you might just have found the perfect digital nomad wonderland or ultimate spa getaway.

Author: Melanie Carden

Bio:

Melanie is a travel and adventure writer who grew up in the woods of New England. Her passion for riding UTVs on defunct train tracks as a child gave way to a lifelong passion for hiking. Moving to Alaska on her own at age 19 set the wheels in motion for a life of travel and adventure. Even when she tackled a seven-year passion project as a private chef, she kept traveling and has now visited over twenty countries. In her 20s, Mel began traveling solo, including diving with tiger sharks in the Bahamas and whale tracking in Baja, Mexico. Along the way, her interest in the National Parks led her to explore them in the less-traveled winter months, yielding lifelong memories of snowmobiling in Yosemite and wintery hikes in Yosemite. Whether it's the challenge of winter or being a January baby, she adores snowy adventures like dogsledding. She even took a day-long survivalist course with Mark D'Ambrosio from the History Channel's survivor-style show, “Alone.” If there's an opportunity to explore a winery in Austria, a snorkeling cove in the Galapagos, or a seaside Airstream camp in Cape Cod, you can be sure she'll always be ready—with the only luggage she ever travels with—a single backpack.

In 2017, Mel returned to college with a concentration in food and culture journalism, which included foraging and herbalism courses. During her tenure at UMass Amherst, Mel was a member of Alpha Sigma Lambda Honor's Society. She won the UMass Presidential Jack Wilson Scholarship and the Amherst Alumni Association Senior Leadership Award. She graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA.