10 Places to Fulfill Your Overwater Bungalow Fantasy
Staying in an overwater bungalow tops many travelers' bucket lists, especially honeymooners, and with good reason: being one with the water is a magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. After all, when else can you take a dip whenever you please without having to deal with crowds of beach-goers, feed technicolor fish beneath a sliding glass door, and watch the sun set over the ocean from the comfort of your bed? Plus, many have all of the luxurious amenities that you would expect from a five-star hotel.
Thatched-roof suites on stilts are synonymous with the islands of Tahiti and the Maldives, extending out over the blindingly turquoise lagoons like pearl necklaces, making for an enchanting view even from the plane. No longer relegated to just far-flung destinations, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America are following suit with overwater villas of their own. Check out some of the most awe-inspiring abodes from around the world!
Islands of Tahiti
Three American hotel owners known as the "Bali Hai Boys" are said to have come up the concept of the overwater bungalow. Over 50 years later, it is still a major draw for visitors to the islands of Tahiti, especially Bora Bora with its heart-stopping views of Mount Otemanu. The magnificent St. Regis Bora Bora Resort boasts the biggest overwater bungalows in all of the South Pacific, which include a king-size bed, a sitting room, a terrace with a private dining gazebo, double sinks, a full bath, an indoor shower, an outdoor shower, and Tahitian artwork. All come with butler service; some have pools and can sleep up to six people. Group trip, anyone?
The Maldives has no shortage of spectacular overwater bungalows — choosing just one feels like a sin. However, Gili Lankanfushi's 45 authentic and charmingly rustic villas are among the most highly rated. With rooftop terraces, spacious sun decks, mini wine cellars, private water hammocks, semi open-air private bathrooms, and 24-hour butlers that go by the moniker Mr. or Ms. Friday, it's not hard to see why. For the ultimate in seclusion, the Crusoe Residence (pictured here) and the Private Reserve (reputed to be the largest overwater villa in the world) are only accessible via motorized boat. The latter even comes with its own infinity pool and slide.
The wait is finally over — after overcoming
legislative and environmental hurdles, the Sandals Royal Caribbean at Montego Bay, Jamaica, debuted the first overwater accommodations in the Caribbean in 2016. The five villas and 12 bungalows connect to a heart-shaped boardwalk, which leads to Sandals Cay, the all-inclusive resort's offshore private island. All of the rooms include Tahitian-style glass floors to marvel at marine life, giant soaking tubs, butler service, a hammock net for two, ultrafast WiFi (all the better for uploading Instagram Stories), and a dedicated water taxi for transportation to and from the main island. Splurge on the villa option if you'd like your own infinity pool.
Following the successful launch of overwater retreats in Jamaica, the Sandals brand unveiled nine bungalows in May 2017 at their Grande St. Lucian resort as well. (They showcase all of the same top-notch amenities as the ones in Montego Bay, with the exception of the private infinity pool option.) The prime location has some of the calmest waters in St. Lucia, as well as an over-the-water serenity chapel for wedding ceremonies, which can accommodate up to 40 guests.
Riviera Maya, Mexico
For a sizzling south-of-the-border getaway, head to the adults-only El Dorado Maroma, which offers 30 palafitos ("stilt houses") on Maroma Beach. They each come equipped with a private infinity pool, outdoor shower, your own personal butler, and — wait for it — an indoor jacuzzi. Plus, you'll have access to Overwater Grill and Wine Bar, a Mexican-Caribbean restaurant that's only for palafitos guests. Can't tear yourselves away from the water? Room service is available 24/7 at this all-inclusive resort.
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge in Bocas del Toro, Panama, is made up of nine overwater suites that are two stories high. Solar panels installed on the roof provide electricity to the cabins. Although the vibrantly colored bungalows are more no-frills than some of the others on this list, the remote and peaceful location is a big draw. Built over the Caribbean Sea along a mile-long coral reefed coast, the shallow waters are fantastic for snorkeling. If you're lucky, you might even spot dolphins frolicking offshore while lounging on the deck.
Scuba-diving enthusiasts, rejoice: CoCo View Resort in the island of Roatán, Honduras, offers packages designed just for you. With well over 150 dive spots around the island, plus a shipwreck located onsite, there's no shortage of underwater playground to explore. The all-inclusive resort features 16 duplexes over the water with beautiful views of the barrier reef. Book a cabana if you want the most spacious overwater option.
Cayo Espanto, an ultraluxe private island resort off the coast of Belize, offers six villas on land and only one overwater bungalow: Casa Ventanas. The 1,000-square-foot retreat is located at the end of a 150-foot dock, ensuring maximum privacy and off-the-grid seclusion (the only other person you might see is your butler). Turquoise shutters and a canopy bed add Western Caribbean flair. You can enjoy meals and hot stone massages without ever having to leave the comfort of your villa.
Lagen Island Resort might be off the beaten path in the western Philippines archipelago of Palawan, but it showcases one of the most spectacular natural settings for overwater bungalows that we've ever seen. Flanked by towering limestone cliffs, the 18 water cottages overlook a lagoon. The surrounding jungle at this eco-chic property serves as a sanctuary for birds and mammals.
Romance is around every turn at Song Saa, a private-island resort off the mainland of Cambodia (fittingly, its name translates to "the sweethearts" in Khmer). Here, all 10 overwater villas feature infinity pools and glass-bottom floors for admiring the turtles, tropical fish, and seahorses below. In keeping with the resort's sustainability mission, they were constructed from recycled and reclaimed timber. The two-bedroom villa option comes with a personal chef.