Author: Roger Wade

Over-Water Bungalows Around the World

It’s impossible to see one of those gorgeous photos of over-water bungalows and not dream of staying in one yourself at some point. They are most popular for honeymoons and other romantic getaways, but well-heeled globetrotters can choose to just treat themselves to a bit of paradise at any time.

The concept of building rooms over the water started in the 1960s in French Polynesia, and since then it has spread around the world, though the highest density is still to be found near their birthplace. Most, but not all, of them are rather expensive, and some of them even go beyond that. Until you can afford to book one yourself, join us on a tour of some of the finest and most interesting over-water bungalows around the world.

Le Méridien Bora Bora

Le Méridien Resort on Bora Bora

The Le Meridien resort in Bora Bora has luxurious bungalows on the beach, but if you are going all that way why not spend a bit more on one of their over-water bungalows perched over their crystal-clear lagoon? Every room is air conditioned, and the premium bungalows near the end of the walkways are jammed with every imaginable amenity you could hope for in such an isolated place.

Each unit is around 600 square feet, with a large glass-bottom section, so guests can watch each other swimming down below while sipping a drink from the mini-bar. If swimming in warm lagoon water isn’t your thing, you’ll be happy to know that each bungalow has a large bathtub and a separate shower as well.

Prices range from around US$600 to US$800 in high season.

Getting there: Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia, and to get there you’ll have to fly to Tahiti, and then on a small plane from there, which sometimes stops at multiple islands on the way.

>> Find flights to Tahiti

Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Givaavaru

Four Seasons Maldives at Kuda Huraa

If you have never even heard of the Maldives, and you were hoping it was a place where you could get an amazing over-water bungalow at a discount, you are going to be disappointed. This huge group of tiny islands southeast of India is as photogenic as it is remote, and it’s also home to several high-end resorts offering spectacular over-water accommodations.

The Four Seasons at Kuda Huraa here has 32 regular over-water suites, with 16 facing the sunrise and 16 facing the sunset, and at over 650 square feet with all the amenities, they are undoubtedly wonderful. But their best are the pair of two-bedroom water bungalows, checking it at over 1,800 square feet each, including a 1,000-square foot private deck. Each suite contains a deep soaking tub with ocean view, and a private bar.
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Givaavaru

The Four Seasons at Landaa Givaavaru has 38 over-water bungalows that each run almost 1,000 square feet, and 10 of those have their own private pools. If you want to swim but have something against the warm and clear seawater your room is hovering over, they’ve got you covered.

Prices for their over-water bungalows at both places start around US$950 per night for the smaller ones, but the two-bedroom suites go up to almost US$3,500 per night.

Getting there: Unless you already happen to be in Singapore or elsewhere in the region, it’s likely to be a long and expensive group of flights. But once you land in the Maldives capital of Malé, it’s only a short speedboat ride to Kuda Huraa, or a short seaplane ride to Landaa Givaavaru.

>> Search airfare to the Maldives

9 Beaches Resort in Bermuda

9 Beaches Resort in Bermuda

While most of the over-water bungalows are in tropical areas far from the US and Europe, you’ve got a closer option if your goal is to sleep in a stilted room over the ocean. The 9 Beaches Resort uses a completely different design that is better suited to the climate and winds of Bermuda. Each of their 16 over-water cabanas is made of a soft sail-like cloth, which stands up surprisingly well, even in hurricanes.

The rooms each have a 2-foot by 4-foot glass panel in the floor, so guests can keep track of which tropical fish are making a home beneath them. When taking a break from your bungalow you can relax on the famous pink-sand beaches, or enjoy various water sports including sailing and scuba diving.

Prices for the over-water bungalows range from $350 to $570, depending on season.

Getting there: Nonstop flights from the US, Canada, and the UK to Bermuda are easy to find, and these flights often end up on the weekly specials lists, so they can be surprisingly affordable if you keep your eyes open.

>> Find romantic resorts in the Bahamas

Likuliku Lagoon Resort in Fiji

Likuliku Lagoon Resort in Fiji

One of the finest resorts in Fiji, the Likuliku Lagoon Resort has your typical beachfront bungalows (which they call by the Fijian name ‘bures’), but their most deluxe offerings are their 10 spectacular over-water bungalows lined up in a row out front. The water here may not be quite as clear as at some of the other places, but they make up for that with added size and luxury.

Each bungalow features about 650 square feet of living space as well as about 350 square feet of private deck area. All units are air conditioned and come with flat-screen televisions, complimentary wi-fi, music systems, and a separate bathing pavilion, as well as all meals included.

Regular prices are around US$1,150 per night, but they also have wedding and other romantic packages available.

Getting there: Fiji is about 1,000 miles north of New Zealand, and direct flights from the US are rare. You’ll probably have to change planes in Auckland or in Australia, but at least once you arrive at the main Fiji airport you are only a short boat ride from the resort.

>> Book flights to Fiji

Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge in Panama

Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge in Panama

On the Caribbean side of Panama, a unique concept in over-water resorts has taken shape. The Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge consists of only 9 bungalows, all along the same pier stretching out from an island featuring a virgin rainforest. Everything was built in a ‘green’ fashion with natural materials, and the result is one of the premiere resorts of its kind. The clear Caribbean water below may not look as impressive as the water in the South Pacific, but the prices are much more reasonable and there is plenty to do in the area.

Each bungalow is 2 stories, with a king size bed in the upper room. The 5 smaller suites are each 500 square feet of living space plus 250 square feet of terraces, and the largest one, called the Master Suite, is more than twice as large, with 4 additional beds downstairs. The bungalows are all powered by 12-volt solar panels just outside, so you won’t find satellite TVs or other energy-sucking electronic luxuries here.

Prices for a couple range from US$300 to US$504, depending on the season and which bungalow you choose.

Getting there: Your best bet is to fly into Panama City, and then take a 1-hour flight to the Bocas Del Toro region in the north. You can also drive and then take a water taxi to the island where the resort is located.

>> Find flights to Panama City

Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa

Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa

The newer of Intercontinental’s two Bora Bora resorts has only been open since 2006, and it’s considered one of the most luxurious properties of its kind. All 80 suites here are of the over-water variety, configured on two Y-shaped walkways that extend over their clear-water lagoon.

All the rooms are wonderful, but once you get out near the end of the road you’ll find the best and most private units. The Over-water Diamond rooms are the best, featuring about 1,000 square feet including a separate living room and bedroom, as well as a private terrace around the entire thing, so going for a quick swim couldn’t be easier. You also get a flat-screen TV and internet access out there if that appeals to you.

Prices range from around US$700 to around US$1,100 per night in high season.

Getting there: You can book a flight all the way to Bora Bora, but you’ll be changing planes in Tahiti, and possibly a few other places as well.

Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia

Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia

If you really like privacy you might like Pangkor Laut Resort, which is located on a private island 3 miles off the west coast of Malaysia. There are almost 150 rooms of various kinds on the 300-acre island, but not much else. You’ve got quite a few different kinds of villas and suites from which to choose, and of course the over-water Spa Villas and Sea Villas are usually the most popular.

All the over-water villas are pure luxury all the way, with large bathrooms and each with a private balcony overlooking the Pangkor Straights. There is also their Spa Village nearby, so you can pamper yourself with any number of treatments, including massages and body rubs.

Prices for the over-water villas start at around US$500 per night. The most expensive room is actually the hillside Pavarotti Suite, which is said to have been a favorite of the late tenor’s. It’s almost 1,100 square feet and goes for US$900 per night.

Getting there: First you must fly into Kuala Lumpur, which is easy to reach from anywhere in Asia. Then you have a variety of choices to get to the resort island by land, sea, or air.

>> Search airfare to Malaysia

Cayo Espanto in Belize

Cayo Espanto, a private island in Belize

Those who prefer not to leave North America might consider the amazing Cayo Espanto resort three miles off of Ambergris Caye in Belize. It’s billed as a “private island” and it’s probably as close to that as any of us could hope. They offer only 5 luxury villas and exactly one over-water bungalow, with a maximum of only 16 guests on the island at any given time.

Interestingly enough, their over-water bungalow is the cheapest place to sleep on the island. The five villas are all larger and come with their own private pools, so the over-water guests are slumming it by having to use the Caribbean to refresh themselves. All the villas, including the bungalow, come with personal butler service, all meals, and even free beer!

The over-water bungalow goes for US$1,095 during off-season, $100 more in high season, and nearly US$2,000 per night around the Christmas holidays. If this doesn’t sound private enough to you, you can rent all six places and the whole island for between US$10,000 and US$14,000 per night.

Getting there: Flights to Belize City are easy to find from many major cities. Once in Belize you can fly to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, or take an airport taxi to the water taxi to San Pedro, and then a short (and included) boat ride to Cayo Espanto.

>> Find your flights to Belize

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort

At the Pearl Beach Resort in Bora Bora you’ll have options including a garden pool suite or a beach suite with a Jacuzzi, but their main business is with their 50 over-water bungalows. Each unit is just under 600 square feet and has air conditioning, satellite television channels, and glass tables from which you can look directly into the clear water below.

The 30 bungalows farthest out into the lagoon are considered “premium” due to their privacy and incredible views of the mountain and the lagoon itself. The bathrooms in each bungalow are huge, with a full size bathtub as well as a separate shower and a vanity area. Their website says, among other facilities, they have both a wedding chapel and a mini golf course, so what more could a couple in love need?

Prices for the over-water bungalows range from US$800 to about US$1,000, depending on season, and not including taxes.

Getting there: As mentioned elsewhere, Bora Bora is part of French Polynesia, and the nearest island with direct flights to the mainland is Tahiti, though it’s only a short hop once you get there.

Club Bali Hai in Moorea

Club Bali Hai on Moorea, French Polynesia

Looking for the cheapest over-bungalows in the world? Look no further than the Club Bali Hai, which also is credited with inventing the style when they first built a bungalow out into their lagoon in the 1960s. Since then the resort has become partially a timeshare, and it hasn’t been modernized like many of its competitors, but it’s cheap, historic, and it’s in a gorgeous part of French Polynesia.

The resort’s website doesn’t give much specific information away about their over-water bungalows, or about anything else for that matter, but with a few clicks you can see the difference between this place and most of the others that charge around US$1,000 per night. On the other hand, this place is actually one of the more affordable of all resorts on this island just off Tahiti, so it’s actually a decent option for budget travelers.

Prices for the over-water bungalows are US$190 per night, and their website promises a seasonal discount of 25% off that. That might include a timeshare sales pitch, but let’s hope not.

Getting there: Moorea is a small island just off Tahiti, and many people think it’s actually nicer than its larger and more crowded neighbor. Once you land in Tahiti you can take a short ferry ride or a shorter plane ride to Moorea.

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Main photo by: thelastminute