10 Extraordinary Fine-dining Experiences Around the World — From Dinner Under the Sea to Lunch in an Ice Cave

Add these captivating, one-of-a-kind culinary destinations to your travel wish list.

Dinner under the sea. Lunch inside an ice cave. Small bites in a subterranean root cellar. A wine-paired picnic on a lava field. They say you eat with your eyes first, and nowhere is that truer than at the world’s most unique fine-dining restaurants and otherworldly environments where the settings are as epic and imaginative as what’s on the plate. There’s nothing wrong with a beautiful restaurant and exquisitely prepared meal, of course. But for those who crave surprises, suspense, or even adventure with their supper, there are some exciting options out there. 

A Terra dining pod at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, Maldives

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

We’re talking one-of-a-kind eating experiences that are unavailable anywhere else on the planet. Some of these destinations lean toward theater, while others border on the surreal. Though wildly different, all of them marry a truly extraordinary landscape or design — say, Catholic garb inside a chapel-themed kitchen — with fun, memorable food for a several-hour journey that makes for the meal of a lifetime. Without giving it all away, here’s a taste of what’s being served up in the rarest settings that will totally blow your mind. 

Klein Jan at Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa 

Klein JAN at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa

Courtesy of Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

The adventure begins en route to this one-of-a-kind dining destination, since wildlife and matchless landscapes encompass the drive in. Combine a century-old farmhouse in the midst of the Kalahari Desert’s iconic orange sand, an awe-inspiring subterranean root cellar 13 feet below, and a soaring dining room open to the wild, and you start to get the picture of Klein Jan, a transportive culinary experience created by Michelin-starred chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen for South Africa’s largest private safari reserve. The surprises are endless and stupendous, both in the way diners physically move through the meal and the flavors, textures, and stories packed into the delectable journey that is distinctly of the Kalahari. This is no passive lunch or dinner; it’s participatory, immersive, and wildly thrilling, mysteries unfolding with every exceptional bite. 

The Inn at Little Washington, Virginia 

The dining room at The Inn at Little Washington, Virginia

Gordon Beall/Courtesy of The Inn at Little Washington

Food so good it’s a religious experience is what you can expect at this three-Michelin-star restaurant near Washington, D.C., where visionary chef Patrick O’Connell — dubbed the "Pope of American Cuisine" — puts a Catholic-themed spin on things. Just two special six-person tables flanking a baronial fireplace in the culinary chapel (a.k.a kitchen) are available nightly for the show, a multicourse service, which begins with a ceremonial incensed arrival plus Catholic garb and chanting. Designed by illustrious set designer Joyce Conwy Evans, the maximalist dining room also pushes the boundaries; there’s even a cheese cow that moos while rolling through. 

Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, Maldives

A Terra dining pod at Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, Maldives

Courtesy of Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi

It’s hard to imagine a cooler way to dine on the fringes of an ocean and lush jungle than suspended in a handcrafted bamboo pod where the treetops meet sky. The two-person sculptures ensconced in green are a breathtaking place to enjoy a seven-course menu composed with ingredients such as Maldivian lobster, beluga caviar, and A5 wagyu, all of which are almost too pretty to eat. 

Shangri-La Vancouver, Canada

Ice Caves Heli Adventure at Shangri-La Vancouver, Canada

Courtesy of Shangri-La Vancouver

If your favorite kind of blue is icy, not tropical, the Ice Cave Heli Adventure from Vancouver’s luxurious Shangri-La hotel might be your kind of extravaganza. It starts with a helicopter flight to an ice cap, and includes a snow machine tour of the stunning Whistler ice caves and glacier golf using biodegradable balls. A private chef de cuisine is on hand to prepare a five-course lunch that guests get to savor amid a blue-ice fantasy worthy of Frozen. Hop back on the helicopter and touch down again for dessert and a Champagne tasting in another spectacular location, before returning to the hotel for a private mixology class using actual ice collected from the 12,000-year-old glacier where you just dined.  

Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

A couple dining in the Ithaa Undersea Restaurant at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, Maldives

Justin Nicholas/Courtesy of Conrad Maldives Rangali Island

Join gourmet cuisine with the wondrous fish-filled experience of snorkeling or diving, and that's the under-the-sea daydream that is dining at Ithaa Undersea Restaurant in the Maldives, 16 feet below the shimmering surface of the turquoise Indian Ocean. Mid-morning cocktails, lunch, and dinner are all opportunities to be one of just 14 guests in this singular glass-topped eatery while the marine world swims overhead as entertainment. 

Under, Norway

Taking guests past their comfort zones is a mission of chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard, whose restaurant — designed by renowned architecture firm Snøhetta — dips 18 feet under the surface of the stormy Atlantic Ocean. A gargantuan acrylic window lets in light from the seabed and presents the mysterious underwater world as if it was on stage. The ingredients Ellitsgaard uses are fresh, naked, and of the environment, guaranteeing to immerse guests in the marine surroundings in an entirely new way. 

Eden Roc Cap Cana, Dominican Republic 

A private dining table at Eden Roc Cap Cana, Dominican Republic

Courtesy of Eden Roc Cap Cana

As far as fantastical settings go, this opulent Dominican Republic resort’s private cenote is up there. The deep, open-air cave with a waterfall streaming off rugged rock and lush flora dripping down the walls has been made habitable for romantic dinners with the addition of an intimate wooden deck where a violinist accompanies an unforgettable meal of four customizable courses. 

The Cave, Bali, Indonesia

On spiral stairs, diners descend to a moodily lit 25,000-year-old cave where just 22 seats on a starry-lit floor face ancient stalactites and crescent walls. Chef Ryan Clift created the subterranean Uluwatu restaurant’s seven-course menu (certain evenings it expands to 10) that includes inventive dishes such as fossilized peppers with wasabi soy espuma, leek ash, and smoke powder and a foie gras apple, with an optional wine and cocktail pairing. Between courses, interludes are projected on the cave walls, amping up the astounding ambience. 

Joali Maldives, Maldives

The Manta Tree House at JOALI Maldives

Courtesy of JOALI Maldives

The giant manta rays that entice so many to the Maldives’ utopian lagoons inspired this remarkable private island retreat to build a manta-shaped tree house using traditional local techniques and materials. The exclusive dining destination for up to 10 people is an idyllic perch above the beach where multiple courses of Maldivian cuisine from the sea and farm are accompanied by music tailored to the magical evening. 

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, Hawaii 

The Island of Hawaii is a wonderland of unique landscapes (from active volcanoes to snow), and the goal of this paradisiacal resort’s Iki experience is to help guests access the inaccessible — while enjoying Gosset Champagne and a gourmet picnic prepared with ingredients grown, raised, or caught on the isle itself. A helicopter is the key instrument ensuring you make it to the destination that’s impossible to reach otherwise — think a lava field overlooking the ocean. It’s nothing short of magnificent.

Necker Island, British Virgin Islands 

The sushi boat at Necker Island, British Virgin Islands

Courtesy of Necker Island

A $110,000-per-night buyout of Richard Branson’s private island comes with the most decadent and photogenic lunch opportunity: the famous sushi kayak. It’s exactly as sounds, a floating spread of sushi delivered to guests in a dreamy turquoise pool by a mermaid. Yes, mermaid.

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