Traditional hotels may make for reassuringly comfortable homes away from home, but they can be bland and even boringly similar to one another – wherever in the world they might be. Fortunately, for the more adventurous vacationer, there are plenty of accommodation options that offer something slightly different while still retaining all the modern amenities of more conventional hotels.
What’s more, some of these establishments make inventive use of buildings and items that might otherwise have been abandoned and fallen into ruin. These repurposed structures range from former prisons and passenger planes to large wine casks and even giant drainpipes. We give you 13 of the quirkiest hotels – all converted from something else entirely – to check into around the globe.
13. 727 Fuselage Home, Hotel Costa Verde – Puntarenas, Costa Rica
On its website, Costa Rica’s Hotel Costa Verde explains that the inspiration for its impressive repurposed Boeing 727 suite was a piece in Forbes magazine featuring a company promoting “hurricane-proof living” using surplus Boeing 727 airframes. The website goes on to explain, “We were intrigued and found some new ways to introduce convenience and luxury to this very prosaic bit of aluminum scrap.”
The hotel – which first opened in 1988 – acquired a 1965 Boeing 727 airframe previously used by South African Airways and Columbian airline Avianca. Costa Verde then relocated the frame to Costa Rica’s lush Manuel Antonio National Park, fitting it out with teak paneling and furniture and creating a pair of air-conditioned bedrooms inside. What was once the plane’s right wing now serves as a base for a hardwood deck, offering incredible vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding jungle. Completing the unusual setting, monkeys, sloths and toucans act as the hotel rooms’ furry and feathered neighbors.
12. dasparkhotel – Bottrop, Germany and Ottensheim, Austria
Large drainpipes have been transformed into unlikely hotel rooms by dasparkhotel – which was conceived by Austrian designer and architect Andreas Strauss in 2004 and has locations in the west central German city of Bottrop and the Austrian market town of Ottensheim. However, what the rather industrial looking lodgings may lack in exterior beauty they apparently make up for with what the dasparkhotel site calls “an unexpectedly comfortable interior.”
A double bed, power outlet, light, bedding and storage capacity are packed into each 9.5-ton concrete cylinder; plus, colorful interior paintings created by Austria’s Thomas Latzel Ochoa are present. To answer nature’s call, wash, eat and drink, though, visitors need to venture out into the surrounding municipal areas. Still, the lack of on-site facilities allows the hotel to keep its rates extremely reasonable: a “pay as you wish” scheme is in place to ensure that the lodgings are affordable to all.
11. One King West Hotel & Residence – Toronto, Canada
One King West Hotel & Residence in the center of Toronto’s financial district features a playfully inventive nod to the past in the shape of its belowground bank vault meeting room. The vault was built straight into the rock beneath the former Dominion Bank building, which itself dates back a century. Moreover, the imposing 40-ton circular steel door – all four foot in thickness of it – still stands at the strongroom’s entrance today.
The surrounding structure’s original aesthetic details are also very much on display in the hotel’s splendid Grand Banking Hall, which boasts marble erstwhile banking tables and a gold leaf coffered ceiling – the latter decorated with the symbols of the early Confederation provinces of Canada. One King West Hotel & Residence was finished in 2006 following the addition of an impressive condo tower. Led by Toronto-based Stanford Downey Architects, the major revamp additionally restored the building’s existing plaster to its former glory.
10. Seaventures Dive Rig – Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Off the coast of the Malaysian state of Sabah – which is situated on the island of Borneo – a former jack-up rig now plays host to the Seaventures Dive Rig, providing accommodation and plentiful diving opportunities to people of an aquatic persuasion or those who just want to vacation in a unique spot. The striking primary-colored structure is the property of Singaporean entrepreneur Suzette Harris, whose father-in-law purchased it back in 1988. Having been towed into the aquatic location it today calls home, the oil rig-turned-hotel features twin and double room, suite, and dorm room options. What’s more, its many modern facilities wouldn’t be out of place in a more landlocked hotel, with a bar, sun deck and even a games room among its offerings.
Harris has said that to her knowledge this establishment is the only one in the world that uses “an oil rig as a hotel and diving platform.” Moreover, given its position in the western Pacific Ocean’s “Coral Triangle,” the former rig is perfectly placed for underwater exploration. Scuba diving packages are available, offering up-close-and-personal time with some of the stunning marine life in the waters around the islands of Sabah, including hawksbill sea turtles, barracudas and sharks.
9. The Liberty Hotel – Boston, USA
The name of The Liberty Hotel in Boston could be construed as being slightly tongue in cheek, given the structure’s origins as the mid-19th-century Charles Street Jail. Further references to the hotel’s past life are additionally manifest in its irreverently named CLINK. restaurant and Alibi bar. CLINK. features intimate dining compartments fashioned out of the remains of actual jail cells. Meanwhile, the hotel’s Alibi watering hole is to be found in the jail’s former “drunk tank;” here, present-day guests may now also find themselves a little worse for wear to a backdrop of the old building’s brick cell walls and bluestone paving.
The granite-built jail dates back to 1851, but after a $150 million acquisition and makeover, it was reopened in 2007 as The Liberty Hotel – a luxury establishment complete with 300 guest rooms and a design approach that complements the architecture of its previous incarnation.
8. Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel – Dumfries and Galloway, U.K.
Perched on the edge of the North Channel at Corsewall Point in Kirkcolm, Scotland, the Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel makes use – as its name suggests – of an operational and rather charming looking lighthouse. The magnificent 85-foot structure is one of Scottish civil engineer and noted lighthouse designer Robert Stevenson’s creations and was first illuminated in 1817.
The lighthouse was manned until 1994, when it became automated, and it continues to guide mariners to this day. Moreover, despite the close to 200-year history of the building, the hotel boasts a slew of modern post-renovation amenities in its suites, rooms and restaurant. Plus, of course, it offers magnificent views of the surrounding scenery, including the Isle of Arran and the Kintyre Peninsula.
7. Langley Castle – Northumberland, U.K.
Located in the village of the same name in Northumberland, in the north of England, Langley Castle has experienced a long, although not always auspicious, history. It was originally constructed in the mid-1300s at the behest of former Lord of Langley Thomas de Lucy. However, the castle was badly damaged when it fell foul of marauding forces – possibly those of King Henry IV – in 1405, and it then endured centuries of slow decay. Fortunately, historian Cadwallader Bates acquired the castle in 1882, and he and his wife Josephine saw fit to return the stunning structure to its 14th-century state.
The castle also acted as World War II barracks and as a school for girls, but now it hosts an opulent hotel set within a woodland estate stretching over ten acres. That said, remnants of the past are still present in the form of the garderobes – medieval latrines – found in one of the castle’s towers.
6. The Waitanic Ship Motel, Woodlyn Park – Waikato, New Zealand
For those who want to spend their free time playing captain, Woodlyn Park, situated in Otorohanga, New Zealand, is an ideal spot for a seafaring vacation – all while remaining safely on dry land. One of the park’s several unusual accommodation options is a decommissioned World War II patrol boat; originally christened The Motunui, the vessel began its life in 1942 in Auckland and is apparently one of only two of its kind that endured.
Having been safely brought to shore before getting refurbished over two years by park owner Barry Woods, the 112-foot vessel now holds an impressive five motel units, including two bedrooms in its hull. Re-dubbed “The Waitanic,” the former patrol boat isn’t, however, the only quirky alternative to regular hotel accommodation on site. The park also hosts a 1950s rail car, a Bristol Freighter airplane from the same decade, and the unique Hobbit Motel – perfect for The Lord of the Rings superfans.
5. Ledges Hotel – Pennsylvania, USA
Set amid swathes of green and the sculpted rocks alongside Wallenpaupack Falls, Hawley, Pennsylvania’s Ledges Hotel seems custom-built to take advantage of its awe-inspiring surroundings. However, the attractive bluestone Federal-style building in which the hotel is located was once the John S. O’Connor American Rich Cut Glass Factory, originally constructed in 1890.
Manufacturing continued at the site throughout the subsequent decades, with the structure going on to house first a silk mill and then a textile throwing mill, the latter of which produced parachute nylon and yarn for insignia during World War II. In 1988, though, the building began to welcome tourists through its doors as an inn. Today, notwithstanding its luxury amenities and design, Ledges Hotel prides itself on being mindful of the structure and surrounding area’s fertile history and charm.
4. Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren – Friesland, The Netherlands
Oenophiles might want to make a beeline for the Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren, located in the small Friesland town of Stavoren in The Netherlands. Why? Because, along with more conventional guest bedrooms, the establishment offers visitors the chance to spend the night in one of four converted wine casks. These casks once held an astonishing 3,830 gallons of Beaujolais each and were transported to the hotel from Switzerland in 1981.
Each cask has been transformed into a fully functional and rather impressive hotel room, complete with beds, a TV, and a bathroom and shower. What’s more, for those a little disappointed that there isn’t a drop of wine left in the casks, the hotel kindly provides a bottle of red as apt recompense. According to its website, the Hotel de Vrouwe van Stavoren is even set to expand its wine-related accommodation with the acquisition of eight 6,075-gallon French barrels.
3. Sala Silvermine – Sala Municipality, Sweden
Opened in 2006, Sala Silvermine’s Mine Suite is billed as “the world’s deepest hotel room,” since its plucky guests have to venture 508 feet beneath the Earth’s surface to reach it – via an elevator, thankfully. The mine itself – located in Sweden’s Sala Municipality in the country’s Västmanland County – was originally used from the 1400s through to 1908, with further production taking place between 1950 and 1951.
Despite its subterranean location, the suite’s décor – fashioned by interior design company Wohnzimme – is perhaps unexpectedly elegant, with chandelier-esque lamps providing light and silver-tinted furniture tying in with the mine’s history. Temperature isn’t an issue, either, as the suite is warmed to a balmy 64° F. On the downside, there’s no cellphone signal, and using the bathroom involves a rather inconvenient 164-foot trek in the cold. Even so, the establishment’s website explains that the often “fully booked” suite “connect[s] the past with life today.”
2. Gamirasu Hotel – Cappadocia, Turkey
Visitors staying at the incredible Gamirasu Hotel in the village of Ayvali, close to Ürgüp in Turkey’s historical Cappadocia region, will be following in the footsteps of Byzantine-era monks. Yes, these religious ascetics used the location’s hollowed-out “cave rooms” as a spiritual sanctuary. The area has an astonishing past dating back over two millennia, with the so-called cave hotel housing an 11th-century Byzantine Orthodox place of worship.
Since 1999 the hotel has provided one-of-a-kind accommodation where travelers can have a meal in a dining hall that once catered to the medieval monastery residents. The establishment’s present-day kitchen also served the same function for its devout former inhabitants, and some of the hotel’s 35 cavernous rooms were at one time cells used by the monks for solitude. Even the swimming pool, which was opened in 2010, harks back to days gone by – its design influenced by Roman-era pools found in Cappadocia.
1. Spitbank Fort – Solent, U.K.
Spitbank Fort in the Solent strait – the waterway that divides England and the Isle of Wight – isn’t quite a hotel, but it is an exclusive-use venue available for hire by those seeking something a little different and more secluded when it comes to accommodation options. Moreover, it’s an ingenious example of how to repurpose a former sea fort. The structure was originally built in the 1860s and 1870s and was intended to help defend England’s shores from any unwelcome ships able to get beyond the strait’s two primary forts.
Decommissioned in 1982 and now privately owned by quirky British company AmaZing Venues, the fort has enjoyed new life as a festival and party site and TV shooting location as well as serving as a private hot spot for slightly off-the-beaten-path celebrations or vacations. The fort is today even kitted out with its own champagne bar, sauna, rooftop heated pool and a selection of nine bedroom suites.