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Your Guide to the Best Overwater Bungalows in 2024

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Overwater Bungalows

Normally, if you’re asleep somewhere and you hear the sounds of water directly beneath you, you’re going to be very concerned about flooding or burst pipes in your home. Sometimes, though, it’s a comforting source of luxury to lull you to sleep or wake you in the morning.

Overwater bungalows are a relatively recent invention. The first to be constructed – for tourists, at least – was in Tahiti in 1967 as a way to give guests of their hotel direct access to the tropical lagoon. The idea caught on and soon spread throughout Bora Bora, Tahiti, the Maldives, and other tropical destinations around the world.

Today, there are overwater bungalows available to rent pretty much anywhere there is a tropical body of water to be poised over. They serve as a special kind of getaway, most often booked for honeymoons – including ours! – and they’re an incredible kind of luxury.

So, if you’re looking to partake in this incredible oversea experience, what are the best bungalows you can book? Let’s talk about the best of them from around the world.

Note that we’re putting these in a more or less random order; which ones are better than others will depend on what you want to get out of your trip and where you want to go.

Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica

Sandals is one of the top-rated all-inclusive resorts in both Jamaica in general and the world overall. It offers a wide range of incredible amenities, ranging from gourmet meals to activities. The resort isn’t just a series of bungalows near an otherwise public beach; they actually have their own small private island.

You can base your entire vacation in and around this resort and have plenty to do without ever traveling the rest of Jamaica. Of course, if that’s not quite what you want, you’re always free to simply use the resort as a home base and do your travel further afield. Plus, Jamaica is pretty close to home as far as tropical destinations are concerned, so it’s a quick flight and easy to reach.

Cayo Espanto, Ambergris Caye, Belize

While Belize might not be your first choice for a tropical destination, don’t overlook it; it’s close and easy to reach.

Cayo Espanto has six villas and a bungalow, which you can use as a hub to explore both the island side and the underwater sights to be seen. In particular, the Belize Barrier Reef is one of the best coral formations in the world, and there are nearly infinite numbers of things you can do, such as snorkeling, scuba diving, or exploring the nearby jungles.

Four Seasons in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

This is one of our favorite places to go for a tropical getaway and one we reviewed in our comparison between them and the St. Regis.

It’s close to the airport and incredibly scenic. Have you ever wanted to soak in a bathtub with a scenic view of a tropical mountain? You get that here. It’s a nice open bungalow with plenty of privacy, and the amenities are great.

St. Regis in Bora Bora, French Polynesia

We’re not writing a whole lot about this one here because it’s very similar to the Four Seasons in Bora Bora and because we’ve extensively covered both of them in the linked post above. If you want a full rundown of our trip to Bora Bora and our comparison of the two resorts, click through there.

Suffice it to say that while there are some differences, there’s no way you’ll be disappointed with either one.

Nayara Bocas del Toro in Panama

Another more local tropical resort, you aren’t going to be flying for twelve hours just to reach your tropical getaway here. Nayara Bocas del Toro is an adults-only resort with 16 overwater bungalows that rest perched over a gorgeous sea, with incredible views of the marine park and a glass floor to watch the world beneath your feet.

It’s another all-inclusive resort full of honeymooners having the time of their lives, and there are plenty of adventures to be had just off the grounds of the property as well. It even has a brilliant swimming option with bioluminescent plankton, though it doesn’t quite hold a candle to the Maldives’ Sea of Stars.

Joali, Muravandhoo, the Maldives

This is a relatively new resort that opened a mere six years ago, and it’s almost entirely unique. It’s art-centric and family-friendly and has 73 overwater villas throughout the resort.

Standard amenities like an infinity pool and your ocean view are par for the course, but they also have health and wellness programs, a full slate of kid-centric activities, cooking classes, and a deep attention to sustainability throughout it all. It’s a truly unique experience even for people who have stayed in a tropical overwater bungalow before.

Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge in Panama

Panama is one of the closest locations to the USA where you can go on incredible tropical adventures. Punta Caracol is an interesting example.

It only has nine cabins, and they were all built using traditional local methods and locally available materials, so they’re very rustic and natural-feeling. For some people, that’s a huge selling point; for others, it’s definitely a drawback. It all depends on how much you need modern amenities. One of the best parts, though, is that it’s priced accordingly; you can get an overwater bungalow experience for a fraction of the cost you would when going to most of the others on this list.

Sandals Grande St. Lucian in Gros-Islet, St. Lucia

St. Lucia is one of the smaller and less populated Caribbean islands, near the end of the chain by Barbados and Grenada. This resort is a set of nine villas in an all-inclusive resort stocked with world-class food and drinks, premier activities, and more.

It’s the second Sandals location on this list because Sandals is renowned for its incredible vacation destinations. It’s also another adults-only resort, perfect for a honeymoon if you don’t want to be disrupted by the sounds of irate children.

Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay in Fiji

Marriott might not be the first name in luxury resorts that comes to mind, but it’s definitely a large and reputable chain, and their first-class accommodations in Fiji are incredible. It’s also the only overwater resort in the Fiji mainland, with direct lagoon access sheltered from the wind and waves. It’s calm, warm, beautiful, and unforgettable.

Also, if you’re someone with sustainability in mind, this resort not only puts its money into sustainable initiatives and protecting the local coral but also has a range of activities to help you contribute as well, including helping build fish housing and more. It’s truly unique!

Kudadoo, Maldives

Kudadoo is a smaller 15-villa resort in the Maldives with two unique features. The first is that it is its own private island, with a loop of villas and main amenities on the island itself. The second is that a second overwater construction hosts a large bank of solar panels to power the resort and offset carbon emissions associated with it.

The villas are even constructed with a minimalist aesthetic inspired by Japanese construction and sustainable wood. It’s also an extremely personalized experience, with private butlers for each villa who will do anything from singing your favorite songs to setting up a BBQ in the middle of the night. Anything you want to make the adventure special, they can do for you.

Arctic Bath in Lule River, Sweden

We told you we were going to tell you about the top overwater bungalows, but we didn’t say they all had to be tropical, now did we? This is an incredibly unique overwater bungalow experience in Sweden of all places, and the name is very much part of the appeal.

It has six overwater cabins perched on the Lule River, adorned with a mixture of vintage and modern Nordic styles. It’s cold, but that’s why you’re there. It’s also an excellent place to get a shot at seeing the northern lights. It’s also very cheap compared to the tropical versions, which certainly doesn’t hurt the appeal.

Cheval Blanc in Randheli, Maldives

The Maldives are part of the broad Pacific tropical oasis where so many of these luxury habitats are constructed, and it’s no less incredible than any of the others on this list.

This is one of the larger groups on this list, with 46 overwater villas spanning across the Noonu Atoll. They have infinity pools, private terraces, direct access to the waters, and a dedicated spa island. If you’re willing to write the check, they even have an incredible private island with a four-bedroom villa you can book all to yourself.

Song Saa Private Island in Koh Rong Archipelago, Cambodia

Cambodia is another of those destinations that, like Belize, you might not think of when you’re considering a tropical getaway. Truly, though, it makes for a unique tropical experience. The scenery is unique, as the Cambodian coastline is unlike any other.

This particular resort is a combination of posh and luxurious accouterments and upcycled and recycled debris turned into everything from lamps to the decks of your villa. The only downside is that it’s a little far from the airport, so it takes a bit to get there. Once you do, though, you won’t want to leave.

Should You Book an Overwater Bungalow?

Certainly! Overwater bungalows are a unique experience. Unlike traditional hotels and resorts, where you may have access to a beach and an ocean view, an overwater bungalow is right there on the water, surrounded on all sides. Admittedly, it can be a little intimidating if the weather isn’t great, but in these tropical zones, that’s a rarity.

Overwater Bungalow Experience

There are really only two reasons why you might not want an overwater bungalow or villa. The first is if you just aren’t that into water adventures. If scuba diving isn’t your thing, boats make you seasick, and you’d rather be up on the mountains hiking, a water-based bungalow might not be the best idea. Fortunately, at least, they’re generally anchored to the sea bed, so they don’t float or make you nauseous.

The other reason is the expense. As exotic and luxurious getaways, overwater bungalows tend to be more expensive than even similar resorts on-short just a hundred yards away. You can get most of the same experience, cheaper, at one of those resorts, though you lose out on the extreme closeness to the sea and nature.

All-Inclusive or Not?

Another big decision you have to make is whether you want to book an overwater bungalow as part of an all-inclusive resort stay, or if you’d rather a cost-plus bungalow where you’re free to make different choices.

All-inclusive resorts can be incredible experiences where you don’t have to worry about the expense in the moment. Anything on the resort is yours for the taking or doing, and there’s no guilt about the extra expense of another drink or a fancier breakfast. The packages cost a good amount up-front, but depending on how much you make use of their amenities, it can all work out.

On the other hand, all-inclusive resorts tend to want to keep you around in their amenities and their activities. Going off the grounds to go hiking or exploring is fine, of course, but you still have to pay for those, and when you do, you may feel like you’re wasting money by not using resort facilities instead.

Overwater Bungalow Resort

Cost-plus (that is, you pay the cost of the rooms, plus whatever else you choose along the way) resorts are much cheaper to book a night, but they’re also harder to find. Most overwater bungalows are special destinations and carve out their niches as all-inclusive resorts, so the more affordable stays are rarer and harder to find, not to mention quickly booked up. They give you a lot more freedom and flexibility, but if you’re prone to decision paralysis, that might not be for you.

In the end, either way, it’s your choice to make to align with what you want out of the resort. Let us know where you pick!

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