Not everyone's dream vacay involves a week of lazing on a beach. For those who possess a more adventurous spirit, a few unique hotels promise to make fantasies a reality. If you've ever dreamt of taking a dip with an Olympian, swimming with sharks or shooting with a legendary photographer, read on for five hotels that will cater to your desire for experiences that are anything but ordinary.
Swim with an Olympian: Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Arizona
Misty Hyman, the 2000 Sydney Olympics gold medalist in the 200-meter butterfly, is on deck to teach swimmers looking to perfect their fly with private swimming lessons in the resort pool. You'll certainly improve your stroke (hello, triathletes!), and you're also sent home with an autographed action shot as proof of your up-close-and-personal Olympian encounter. $150 per hour.
Dive with Sharks: Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Riviera Beach, Florida
The world’s third largest barrier reef is just a few flipper steps from the door of the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa. You can sign up for the typical beginner's package or a regular old scuba dive, but why not go for broke and instead do a shark dive—either in a cage or cage-free? Swimming with sandbar, lemon, and massive tiger sharks will seriously get your adrenaline flooding. Beginner divers packages start at $454 per person.
Train for a Biathalon: Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York
More Olympians! At the home of the 1932 and 1980 Olympic games, Whiteface Lodge, dedicated athletes—some of them Olympians themselves—“coach” guests through year-round Olympic-themed retreats. Along with biathalon shooting (from $35), and summer bobsledding (!!!), whitewater rafting, and downhill mountain biking, you can tour the Olympic Village and museum, and hang with Olympic athletes at the Olympic Sports Complex.
Tag Sharks: Chatham Bars Inn in Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Jaws was released 40 years ago, and what better way to mark its anniversary than by joining a shark-tagging adventure off Cape Cod? Guests of Chatham Bars Inn can connect quite literally with the Atlantic’s most famous predator while helping scientists study the Cape’s marine ecosystem through an exclusive partnership with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy (AWSC). This month, sign up for the one-hour Receiver Excursion ($50 per person) aboard CBI’s private boat that includes a cruise to the Chatham Lighthouse to view “shark cove.” Not enough adventure for you? Get on board with scientists and crew on a full-day Reasearch Trip ($2,500 for two) to observe sharks from a spotter plane. Guests will sit beside the AWSC research team as they track, photograph, and apply a research tag to a white shark (if they are lucky enough to grab one).
Shoot with a Famous Photographer: Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills in Plymouth, Massachusetts
It only happens once: Aspiring photographers can spend two days (July 13-15) on a photography retreat with award-winning fine art photographer Charles Needle. Author of Impressionistic Photography: A Field Guide to Using Your Camera as a Paintbrush, Needle, who taught for 10 years at Claude Monet’s Givenchy, will show guests of the Monet-inspired Mirbeau how to capture striking images of the resort’s spectacular flower gardens armed with nothing but a digital camera or smartphone. The workshop begins with a cocktail reception and includes one-on-one instruction, immersive lectures about macro and impressionistic photography, group image evaluations, and Q&As. Package rates start at $1,870 for two and include hotel rooms and meals.