It's a chilly October evening in Seattle. A steady drizzle slowly soaks the city, and it's the perfect moment to experience sunset on a hot tub boat floating on Lake Union. The cool rain falling over boaters' shoulders and heads creates an achingly divine contrast to the 104° water covering the rest of their bodies. As the sky darkens, Seattle's skyline lights up, and the glittering lights reflect on the surface of Lake Union. Hot tubbers' view of the Space Needle and the Smith Tower is unrivaled. The moment is magical.


What Are Hot Tub Boats And How Do They Work?

The idea of a hot tub boat may seem surreal, but rest assured, they exist. The idea is just what it sounds like--boats with a hot tub at their center.  They are small and only reach speeds of about five mph. Some models burn wood to heat the water and others use diesel generators. The result is the same: comforting warmth in a cool climate. The minimal edges of hot tub boats create the sensation of floating in the lake, but without having to endure chilly water.

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Two people seem to have had the idea for hot tub boats at roughly the same time but in two very different places. Seattle's own shipwright, Adam Karpenske, suffered through the cold, wet winter of 2011 on his houseboat. He longed for the warmth of a hot tub but didn't have the space to install one. The wheels in his head started turning. A few months later in the summer of 2012, far across the Atlantic Ocean, Dutch designer Frank de Bruijn was wondering how he could feel freer and more relaxed in a crowded city. His love for boats and saunas inspired him to look to the water.

Adam Karpenske built the first working prototype that winter and had it ready for a unique 2012 New Year's Eve party. His design includes a teak deck, a joystick steering device, and a diesel generator for heating the water. Today, visitors in Seattle can rent or buy a hot tub boat from his company Hot Tub Boats.

related: The Guide To Scenic Boating On Okanagan Lake In British Columbia

Frank de Bruijn completed his first prototype in the summer of 2012. His boat had a wood-burning stove to heat the water and was propelled by an electric motor. He originally intended his boat for personal use, but in September the organizers of a trade show invited him to share his creation. He started thinking about commercializing it. Today, people can rent or purchase a HotTug in several cities including Seattle.

How To Rent A Hot Tub Boat

There are two companies that rent hot tub vessels in Seattle: Hot Tub Boats and Lake Union Hot Tub Boats. Hot Tub Boats rents sleek, wooden watercraft built in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood. Lake Union Hot Tub Boats rents colorful HotTugs. Both companies receive outstanding reviews through Google and have five-star ratings. Clearly, exploring Lake Union in a hot tub is a top-notch experience. Often, these companies have full bookings far in advance, so people who want to try it should make a reservation.

Hot Tub Boats

  • Address: 2520 Westlake Ave. N.
  • Price: $400
  • Time slot: two hours
  • Max. capacity: six passengers
  • Contact info: (206)-771-9883

Lake Union Hot Tub Boats

  • Address: 2401 N Northlake Way
  • Price: $350-$450
  • Time slot: two hours
  • Max. capacity: six passengers
  • Contact info: (206)-566-3516

Bianca Lowkeen wrote this Google Review about her experience with Hot Tub Boats: "We had a great time with Hot Tub Boats on Labor Day morning! ... Andrew checked us in, gave us the rundown on the boat, facilities, gave us some bottled water, and a blue tooth speaker. The two-hour time limit ... was a perfect amount of time to go around most of the lake. It was easy to steer the joystick too. When we returned, we were able to take a hot shower and they had shampoos and soaps to use... While we were showering and changing, we saw them ... power scrub and sanitize [the hot tub] and put in new water for the next group. Everything at the facilities was clean, organized, and well kept. We would highly recommend it to friends and hope to be back one day!"

Where Else Can Travelers Try Hot Tub Boats?

Not everyone can make it to Seattle to try a hot tub boat, but, fortunately, there are other cities around the world where travelers can have this experience. Keep in mind, though, that Seattle and Rotterdam are the birth cities of this incredible watercraft.

  • Hot Tub Cruisin', San Diego, California
  • Hot Tub Boat Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia
  • HotTug, Rotterdam, Netherlands
  • HotTug, Helsinki, Finland
  • HotTug, Turku, Finland
  • HotTug Angel, London, UK
  • HotTug Canary Warf, London, UK
  • Skuna Boats, London, UK
  • HotTug, Zurich, Switzerland
  • Cruising Jacuzzi, Wellington, New Zealand

next: San Francisco To Seattle: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary