The control issue of underwater robots is very challenging due to the nonlinearity, time variance, unpredictable external disturbances, such as the sea current fluctuation, and the difficulty in accurately modeling the hydrodynamic effect. Conventional linear controllers may fail in satisfying performance requirements, especially when changes in the system and environment occur during the operation since it is almost impossible to manually retune the control parameters in water. Therefore, it is highly desirable to have an underwater robot controller capable of self-adjusting control parameters when the overall performance degrades. This paper presents the theory and experimental work of the adaptive plus disturbance observer (ADOB) controller for underwater robots, which is robust with respect to external disturbance and uncertainties in the system. This control scheme consists of disturbance observer (DOB) as the inner-loop controller and a nonregressor based adaptive controller as the outer-loop controller. The effectiveness of the ADOB was experimentally investigated by implementing three controllers: PID, PID plus DOB, and ADOB on an autonomous underwater robot, ODIN III.