My daydreams usually go something like this:
I wake up in a luxuriously soft bed, a tropical breeze curling through the open window, and wander out onto my private veranda to drink in the sight of the sun rising over the endless ocean. The air smells like salt and frangipani. Colorful fish dart in the water below my feet. The only sound I hear is the gentle lapping of the ocean against the wooden stilts that support my private little slice of paradise.
And then I go get a massage and a cocktail. Because I’m on vacay, baby.
If that sounds anything like your own daydreams, you’re in luck! That blissful solitude, desert island decadence, and million-dollar view can be found all over the world in the form of one of the hottest travel trends around—-the overwater bungalow.
You might be thinking, “Oh sure, it’s only going to cost me an arm and a leg to book one, 🙄” to which I would say: hang on to those limbs, girl, ‘cause you’re gonna need them for swimming.
Overwater bungalows come in all shapes and sizes, and you definitely DON’T need to be a millionaire to stay in one.
Yes, there are plenty of swanky resorts where you can book a mini-mansion on stilts that comes with an Olympic-size infinity pool, solid gold cutlery, and your very own butler (only slightly exaggerating)... but there are also plenty of overwater digs in gorgeous locales that offer maximum comfort for minimum cash. You just gotta know where to look. 👀
To help jumpstart your planning, I took a deep dive into Google and came up with some real gems to suit every style of traveler and trip. Read on to discover the overwater bungalow of your (day)dreams!
Are you a lover of the finer things in life? Fan of the royal treatment? Possessor of a disposable income? If so, these mind-blowingly luxe vacation spots are for you.
St. Regis Bora Bora | Bora Bora
St. Regis Bora Bora is what other luxury resorts want to be when they grow up.
It offers the largest overwater villas in the South Pacific (seriously, the floor plans here start at 1,550 feet), each one outfitted with a separate living room and bedroom, a massive bathroom, and multiple glass viewing panels cut right into the floor so you can watch all sorts of fascinating marine life swim by.
Amenities at St. Regis Bora Bora are exactly what you’d expect from a 5-star resort visitors have called “beyond amazing”—miles of pristine beach, a private “Lagoonarium,” a state-of-the-art fitness center, gourmet dining facilities, and a gigantic spa perched on its own private island within the island.
Just be warned: one night at this heavenly resort will have you dreading your inevitable return to the real world.
Song Saa Private Island Hotel | Cambodia
Cambodia might not be the first place you think of when you hear “luxury resort,” but Song Saa Private Island hotel aims to change that.
Tucked away in Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago, this stunning island resort serves up secluded castaway vibes and ultramodern comfort in equal measure. Villas here are rustic-chic, their thatched roofs and timber beams contrasted with earthy stone accents and polished marble walls. Each one is perfectly equipped for lounging around (think: sheltered sundecks, plush canopy daybeds, and private infinity pools) but guests who want a change of pace will find a wide array of activities on offer, including sea kayaking, diving, island safaris, yoga, conservation tours, and traditional Buddhist ceremonies.
Not only is Song Saa dazzlingly beautiful—it’s got some serious eco cred. Husband and wife co-founders Rory and Melita Hunter founded both the resort itself and the million-square-meter marine reserve that surrounds it (Cambodia’s first-ever marine protected area). The hotel supports all sorts of sustainability and conservation initiatives in the area, meaning you can feel good about spending your hard-earned cash here.
If you love traveling but hate worrying about the details—accommodation, meals, airfare, activities, tours—then all-inclusive is the way to go.
You can score some pretty incredible package deals these days, and we’re not talking your grandmother’s Best Western with the breakfast buffet. These modern all-inclusives are top-quality, hip, and (best of all) just a quick flight away.
El Dorado Maroma | Mexico
“This is not just a resort. This is romantic escape,” El Dorado Maroma declares, and I’m inclined to agree.
Named the 4th Best Resort in the World by Condé Nast Traveler, El Dorado Maroma blows the competition out of the water with unparalleled beachside vistas, bespoke experiences, and Mexico’s first and only overwater bungalows—beautifully-appointed palafitos kitted out with all the good stuff, like glass floor panels, outdoor showers, private decks, two-person jacuzzis, and an exquisite view of the sunset.
El Dorado Maroma is an adults-only resort, which makes it the perfect destination for a honeymoon or romantic getaway. Indulge in a couples spa treatment, find nirvana together at an outdoor yoga session, or get spicy in the kitchen with a cooking class. (Or spend the entire time cozied up together in your luxurious overwater suite—no judgment here. 😉)
With the sun-kissed sands of Maroma Beach at your doorstep and the jungle-wrapped ruins of the Riviera Maya just a quick day trip away, this is the perfect place to experience wild adventure and supreme relaxation side by side.
Sandals Royal Caribbean | Jamaica
The name doesn’t lie—Sandals Royal Caribbean resort is a destination fit for royalty.
Set on its own private island in Montego Bay, this place is a glamorous cocktail of trendy Asian influences and irresistible Caribbean rhythms. The most spectacular of all the suites are the overwater villas, which are arranged in a heart shape above the topaz waters. A stay in one of these magnificent villas involves every luxury imaginable—mahogany beds with soft Egyptian linens, exclusive in-room dining, private infinity pools on secluded terraces, see-through floor panels... even your own personal butler. (Helloooo, royal treatment! 👑)
If for some reason you get tired of being waited on hand and foot while gazing out at the beautiful ocean, there are plenty of resort activities to keep you entertained. Hit up the Red Lane Spa, strap on a snorkel and explore the reefs, try your hand at a new sport (land or water), or order a cocktail and soak up the incredible live entertainment happening around the clock.
Off the beaten path
Mainstream has its appeal, but sometimes you want an experience that’s truly one of a kind. You might have to venture a little farther abroad to uncover these over-the-water gems, but I promise it’ll be worth it.
Constance Prince Maurice | Mauritius
2,000 miles off Africa’s east coast, adrift in the blindingly blue waters of the Indian Ocean, lies the island nation of Mauritius. Its natural beauty is jaw-dropping, with swaths of tropical rainforest giving way to towering mountain ranges and coastlines dusted with powdery white sand. Balmy temperatures, ample sunshine, and a relatively small population give the island a real hidden paradise vibe—a feeling that intensifies when you walk through the doors of the extraordinary Constance Prince Maurice.
Designed with the principles of feng shui in mind, the Constance Prince Maurice is a collection of architecturally dazzling buildings, including open-air restaurants, thatch-roofed villas, a world-class spa, and (of course) overwater bungalows. The bungalows blend upscale touches with hints of Mauritian warmth for an intimate, relaxed experience that would make a perfect couples holiday.
Sunbathe or stargaze on your private furnished balcony, sample gourmet delicacies on a floating, candlelit deck, or blissfully unwind at the spa—no matter what, you’ll leave the Constance Prince Maurice feeling serene and refreshed.
Hôtel Palafitte | Switzerland
When you picture an overwater bungalow, what comes to mind? I’m willing to bet it’s something tropical. Switzerland is pretty much the farthest from tropical you can get, and yet even this land of snowy mountains and alpine valleys isn’t immune to the charms of the overwater villa. Case in point: Hôtel Palafitte.
This strange and wondrous hotel sits right over Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake in Switzerland, perched on tall stilts. It was built in 2002 as part of a national exhibition and its artsy roots are evident in both the clean, modern look of the exterior and the Nordic-chic decor of its suites. Lake rooms come equipped with a private terrace that offers sweeping views of the distant Alps as well as direct access to the water via a swinging ladder.
One of Hôtel Palafitte’s coolest features is its staggering array of high-tech integrations, from fingerprint-scanning door locks to room tablets that control the lighting, window blinds, and entertainment system. (There’s that classic Swiss ingenuity shining through.)
Despite its futuristic technology and sleek design, however, the hotel maintains a warm and peaceful atmosphere that has you unconsciously relaxing from the moment you arrive. Whether you visit in summer or winter, the magic of the mountains and the lake is sure to pull you in.