There is something especially captivating about overwater bungalows. The epitome of indoor-outdoor living and rustic-chic style, this unique accommodation option is found in some of the world’s most alluring spots, offering easiest-ever water access and can’t-be-beat views. Suspended just feet above the ocean, the focus is on pampering and indulgence, from a King-size bed with luxurious linens inside to a swim-up patio outside.
Hotels and resorts typically offer a range of overwater bungalows, so it is important to pay attention to room descriptions and bungalow locations before booking—e.g. the more affordable choice is often the least private bungalow closest to the beach and facing a busy resort. Of course, I am here to help you navigate a sea of options, so you find one that is just right for your travel style and budget. To get you started, here are a few of my favorite overwater bungalows from around the globe.
A thatched-roof bungalow set on stilts just feet above a crystal-clear lagoon, with a private sundeck and glass floor viewing panel. It is this image that may first come to mind for overwater bungalows, and it is just what you will find in Tahiti, a closer-to-home option for those on the West Coast. Here, delight in all the beauty and joy of Polynesian culture, from hip-swinging dances to lip-smacking dishes, and resorts that range from modest to uber-luxe. Rather than stay on the busy island of Tahiti, set your sights on Moorea Island, with its fine resorts and mix of outdoor adventures, or Bora Bora, a more exclusive, remote island group where you might dive with manta rays by day and dine under the stars at night. Trips should last 7 to 10 days at a minimum.
The Republic of Maldives is an archipelago nation known for sea, sand, and sun, sun, sun. Not yet a popular destination for North American travelers, it is already a favorite for Europeans, who flock here for the spectacular white-sand beaches and world-class water activities. Most of the accommodations are island resorts, so choosing one comes down to preferences: for those who want to stay in an all-inclusive with lots of variety, consider Club Med Kani (several of its most luxurious overwater suites allow for the ultimate indulgence: the ability to dive into the ocean straight from your suite) or the Four Seasons Resort Maldives, offering a trio of distinct and distinctly upscale options, like Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa with its extraordinarily generous Water Suites. No matter which you choose, it is important to note that resorts here are not typically all-inclusive, but meal plans are available. Because of increased travel time, trips should last at least 10 days; if possible, try to schedule a stopover in Dubai on your way there or back.
Sandals Resorts recently unveiled overwater bungalows at two of their resorts in Jamaica (Sandals Royal Caribbean and Sandals South Coast) and one on St. Lucia (Sandals Grand St. Lucian). The cost is higher for similar accommodations in Tahiti or the Maldives and you have to book very (very!) far in advance since there are only a handful of overwater bungalows at each resort. On the flip side, both Jamaica and St. Lucia are easy-to-get-to destinations for most Americans, meaning you do not have to spend all day in transit and you can justify a shorter trip. More positives: Sandals Resorts are all-inclusive (so you can leave your wallet in your suitcase) and adults-only (so you can leave the kids, and the whining, with Grandma); in addition, its overwater bungalows are modern and romantic, with divine details like an over-the-water hammock, swim-up platform, and a big patio with Sandals signature Tranquility Soaking Tub™ for two.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya (just south of busy Cancun) is known for its outdoor adventures, from exploring the world’s second-largest reef to experiencing its famed Mayan sites. Yet you may never enjoy any of that for yourself if you stay at El Dorado Maroma, a most affordable upscale, adults-only, all-inclusive, and the only place in the country with overwater bungalows, called palafitos. You see, these elegant palafitos are uniquely situated off one of the best beaches in the world, Maroma Beach, with pinch-me views of sunrises and sunsets and indulgent details like a private infinity pool and ladder into the ocean. In other words: there is absolutely no reason to leave the sweet sanctuary of your overwater bungalow. Trips should last 7 days at a minimum.
On the east coast of Central America, Belize has one of the world’s lowest population densities, meaning it is a destination of open spaces to discover and enjoy; in addition, English is the official first language, making Belize an easy international escape for US travelers. Thatch Caye has a series of bungalows built on stilts over the ocean; because of all the sea grass, the seawater is not as clear and smooth here as it is in the other destinations on the list, giving its rustic-chic experience a touch more rustic charm. Because it takes a while to get to this rather remote location, suggest booking a 3- to 5-night stay on the beach and then heading inland for thrilling fun in the jungle, like hiking, zip-lining, and waterfall rappelling.
Finding it hard to choose your favorite? Let me match you with your just-right escape—it might even be a place not on this list! As a Travel Specialist, I have spent the last 20+ years helping people plan and enjoy their dream vacation, and I know the best places to visit.
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