Why settle for a boring hotel room when you can check into one of the world’s best overwater bungalows? For a self-confessed water baby who’s partial to romantic tropical getaways, if given the choice I’ll always choose a room with a water view, water side location or, best of all, over the water with direct ocean ocean access from an overwater bungalow. Here are some of the best overwater bungalows from around the globe.
Fiji has cornered the South Pacific market when it comes to idyllic beachfront hotels but there are only two resorts in the entire country that has overwater bures (Marriot Momi Bay opened in 2018). Islands magazine rates Likuliku Lagoon Resort at No. 3 in their Top 10 Most Romantic Resorts globally in part because of their stunning overwater offering. We rate Likuliku as one of our favourites too. Teetering atop the reef at the northern headland of a crescent shaped cove, 10 bungalows are styled on a traditional Fijian village. A luxurious adults only retreat, Likuliku means calm water and perfectly describes its Yasawa Islands location.
Glass panels in the floor as well as the bathroom vanity top bring the ocean indoors providing a sort of personal ‘marinelife TV’. Timber decks with sun lounges, outdoor showers and ladders into the sea allow full immersion for water babies.
Bora Bora is well known for it’s ridiculously turquoise seas bathed in a balmy tropical warmth. But this island archipelago is also famous for a proliferation of hotels perched above the sheltered water of ocean lagoons. Few are as plush as those found on the lush private island known as Motu Piti U u Uta. Arrive in James Bond speedboat style, zipping across the lagoon after touching down at Bora Bora Airport. Once ensconced in your Island Luxury Overwater Bungalow, enjoy views of the craggy peaks of Mt Otemanu. That is if you can drag your eyes away from the mesmerising ocean vista that dominates the foreground.
Naturally, elegant French-based Sofitel luxury hotel brand is at their most stylish in French Polynesia. Expect understated perfection. Accor’s sustainable development Planet 21 program includes such practises as serving non-endangered seafood and sourcing local produce in the restaurant and capturing that Tahitian sun to heat bungalow showers.
While we’re talking Tahiti, Royal Huahine Resort is worthy of inclusion in our Best Overwater Bungalows feature simply because these Tahitian overwater bungalows are not located at Bora Bora. Not that there is anything wrong with Bora Bora, quite the opposite in fact. But it’s good to have options beyond the mainstream popular choices, right? Making few red carpet appearances for the paparazzi, Huahine Island gets a gong thanks to its far-flung location on the ‘Isle of Gardens’.
Moderately priced, small and intimate, Royal Huahine is for those who like to indulge in nature and can get by without an endless menu of scheduled activities or tours. Just eleven overwater bungalows face west to capture the sun setting over the watery horizon. Shaded sun decks and a swim platform at sea level make it easy for diving into the deep blue sea.
Beautifully located above Erakor Lagoon in the heart of Port Vila, there are just 4 much-sought after overwater villas at Warwick Le Lagon. Unlike more traditional South Pacific overwater complexes that are linked to the land by elevated boardwalks, the villas at Le Lagoon are partially built onshore on a peninsula jutting out into the lagoon. They’re a little like a hotel room with the added advantage of tranquil lapping water viewed from a private patio on the seaward side.
All inclusive meal plans keep things affordable while Ni-Vanutua people rival Fijians for their warmth and friendly hospitality. Don’t miss Port Villa Markets for a fascinating insight into how the locals live, eat and play. Pop into the maze of craft stalls for some souvenirs to take home.
New Caledonia’s only overwater bungalows can be found at L’Escapade Island Resort, a short boat ride from downtown Noumea. 25 overwater bungalows are spacious, styled on functionality rather than luxury while being well appointed. Wide staircase-like steps to reach the sea where it’s likely you’ll see turtles foraging in the shallows.
As the resort is located on a private island, activities are limited and dining options outside the resort are non-existent. Go here for far-flung, tranquil relaxation with a French Melanesian cultural style.
It would be remiss of us to neglect to mention the Maldives, a country which is undisputed leader in overwater accommodation. The problem with the Maldives is where to start, with over 80 private island resorts, most of which have bungalows tottering above the sea. Some, like Conrad Maldives Rangali Island offer extreme indulgence. Like a 24 hour Butler service, glass floors, outdoor spa, private infinity pool and ocean view bathtub for example. How about a circular bed that rotates through 270 degrees to follow the sun as it sinks into an endless Maldivian sea? Sure, why not.
If all that overwater action gets a little too tedious, drop down below sea level for an underwater dining experience at all-glass Ithaa Undersea Restaurant. But Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is not just a pretty face. The resort (which is actually 3 resorts in one) makes regular red carpet appearances, picking up awards for its outstanding accommodation, cuisine and hospitality.
In Samoa bungalows are called fales (pronounced far-lay) and are usually pretty simple huts consisting of little more than a raised timber platform with thatched roof. Samoan fales are just about always situated on a glorious white-sand beach shaded by coconut palms. Bedding down in a fale much as the locals do, is definitely one of those highly recommended ‘when in Rome’ holiday experiences. The six overwater fales at Coconuts Beach Club on Upulo Island raise the comfort factor significantly.
Walls of glass frame panoramic views from within and are a bonus for those who struggle in tropical heat and like to keep the air-conditioning cranked up yet still enjoy dreamy ocean views. Bathrooms are superb with with opaque ceilings bathing the room in light creating an outdoors feel – slide back the glass doors onto the sundeck and bathe indoors/outdoors while enjoying the salty scent of sea air wafting through.
4 Rivers Floating Lodge | Cambodia
Let’s move away from dazzling tropical atolls with overwater bungalows perched atop coral reefs for the moment. In Cambodia 4 Rivers Floating Lodge has an inland location surrounded by virgin jungle. In southern Cambodia at Tatai, 4 Rivers Lodge is not far from the Thai border and is midway between Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The jungle location is serene and green where nature dominates the view while forest walks and wildlife spotting is the main activity.
The 12 Tented villas are reminiscent of African safari game parks and are cleverly connected by floating boardwalks. Canvas walls are broken up with floor to ceiling mesh windows. The cathedral ceiling channels a Big Top circus tent with its lofty central peak. Octagonal shaped overwater tents come with king or twin beds, plush ensuite and a comfy sitting area. The best view in the house is from a sun lounge on the deck where jungle and river views dominate.
Dreamy Cook Islands brochures were tantalising water babies to its shores long before Instagram became flooded with photos of untouched beaches shaded by palm trees. The Cooks ticks all those essential tropical holiday boxes: white sand, tick. Palm trees, tick. Tranquil lagoon teeming with marinelife, yep. Aitutaki Lagoon takes the gong for the most picturesque atoll on the planet. Throw in overwater bungalows lined with woven pandanus leaves, lofty thatched roofs, outdoor bathrooms on the edge of that lagoon and we’ve found holiday heaven. Warm and friendly Polynesian culture who open their ample arms to embrace visitors will ensure you never want to leave.
Less than one hour’s drive from Kuala International Airport lies a little Malaysian secret getaway that feels a million miles away from the big city bustle. Admittedly, with 300 Polynesian-inspired overwater villas, the word is definitely out about this little piece of tropical paradise. No matter, it’s pretty easy to imagine you are the only resident once ensconced on a sun lounge bathed in a golden late afternoon glow, G&T in hand as the sun sinks below the horizon.