Who can resist the allure of an over-water bungalow? Everything about it spells romantic, off-the-grid seclusion, from the thatched roofs and wraparound terraces to outdoor showers and spellbinding views of the azure waters. We traveled to Tahiti, Fiji, Bora Bora and beyond in search of the best over-water bungalows. Here’s what we found.
Four Seasons Bora Bora
To get to the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, a private yacht takes you across warm South Pacific waters to your very own over-water bungalow or beachfront villa. Once there, you’ll never have to leave the privacy of your thatched-roof retreat— you can request to have meals delivered by canoe, and decks mean that you’re only ever a stepladder’s distance away from the crystalline lagoon.
Vivanta by Taj Coral Reef, Maldives
This resort represents a younger, more affordable take on textbook tropical luxury, which translates into hip accommodations, a buzzy vibe and top-notch service. The 62 beach and over-water villas come equipped with outdoor rain showers that let you go au naturel in nature. Take a dip in the reef, then climb up your private ladder onto your deck to laze under the sun.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji
This adults-only resort is home to Fiji’s only over-water bungalows, making it a big draw for honeymooners. Splurge on a Deluxe Beachfront Bure for direct ladder access to the lagoon, a freestanding bath, lounger-strewn deck and a private plunge pool.
Six Senses Laamu, Maldives
On the tiny island of Olhuveli, the Six Senses Laamu’s 97 villas are secluded and luxurious, with indoor-outdoor spaces and private beach access. Throw in six distinctive on-site restaurants and bars, the glamorous spa and water activities, and it’s obvious why this resort is a beach vacay slam dunk.
Angsana Ihuru, Maldives
Ideal for lovers, divers and environmentalists, the Angsana Ihuru is a stylish haven on a tiny private island in the Maldives’ North Malé Atoll. Highlights include the thoroughly modern, thatch-roofed bungalows; the wildlife sightings (think: parrotfish, turtles and blacktip sharks); and the resort’s underwater coral garden initiative, which gives guests the opportunity to clean and restore the house reef.
Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
The resort encompasses two adjacent islands, connected by a 500-meter footbridge, and offers both standard beach villas and the coveted over-water variety. The expansive 1,600-square-foot spa accommodations have large Roman baths, vaulted ceilings, ceiling fans, teak floors, and, of course, unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean.
Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius
This 60-acre resort is on a private estate at the end of a peninsula on the unspoiled East Coast of Mauritius. Thanks to the vision of Mauritian architect Jean-Marc Eynaud, the thatch-roof villas are just shy of over-the-top, with heated private pools, romantic outdoor baths and Feng Shui-inspired interiors.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam
You’ll need to endure a long-haul flight and a car and boat transfer to get to this luxury boutique hotel. But once you’ve arrived at Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, it’s all about pampered relaxation. The 58 villas are set amid massive rock and boulder formations and overlook the South China Sea; those along the beachfront are extra luxurious, with paths running directly to the sand.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort Thalasso Spa
Each spacious over-water villa at the Inter-Continental Bora Bora has oh-my views of the azure lagoon and the iconic Mount Otemanu. Designed with an environmental sensitivity, the resort uses revolutionary technology that draws seawater from the depths of the ocean to reuse it for electricity.
Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort, Tahiti
With sawtooth mountain ridges, vertiginous fern-cloaked cliffs, deep ravines and dramatic waterfalls, this wild and romantic island retreat is the ultimate far flung escape. Take in the views from the hammock on your bungalow’s deck or from your deep soak tub or rain shower.
The St. Regis Bora Bora
Starting at 1,550 square feet, the over-water accommodations at The St. Regis Bora Bora are the largest in French Polynesia. But it’s not just size that sets these lush bungalows apart. Blending minimalist Polynesian decor (think: plank wood floors, thatch-work ceilings, tribal-inspired art) and 21st century luxuries like glass floor panels, this property is a serious stunner.
Diamonds Athuruga Beach & Water Villas All Inclusive, Maldives
The villas at this all-inclusive Maldives hideaway eschew thatch-roofs and sand-colored interiors for a sleek, white-on-white aesthetic. Inside, find four-poster beds, lacquered writing desks, polished herringbone floors and open-air showers.
El Dorado Maroma by Karisma, Mexico
Move over, Maldives. Mexico’s now got its own over-water bungalow resort, and it’s out of this world. The adults-only enclave has 30 plafitos (stilt houses) on a secluded stretch of the Riviera Maya. As with most resorts there’s a glass-bottom floor, infinity plunge pool, outdoor shower, 24-hour butler and a ladder that leads into the sea. But, the design is the opposite of cookie-cutter: dark zapote wood from the Yucatán Peninsula, Mexican white granite and roofs made with thatched palm leaves.
Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
Lush rain forest, pristine beaches, and colorful reefs are just some of the reasons we love this Cambodian getaway set on two private islands along the Gulf of Thailand. Song Saa’s 27 waterfront villas are done up with natural materials (beach driftwood and recycled timber from old fishing boats) as well as handcrafted furnishings by local artisans. Split your time between the yoga and meditation center, infinity pool, spa, and snorkeling sites.
Pangkor Laut Resort, Malaysia
Nestled on a private 300-acre isle in Malaysia, Pangkor Laut Resort is a true tropical oasis. Its 43 posh over-water suites feature massive sundecks and over-sized bathtubs that look out over the azure sea. And around the resort, there’s four restaurants, two outdoor swimming pools, and a private beach to continue the bliss
Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
Cocoa Island is the ultimate romantic escape for couples and honeymooners. Here, privacy is paramount: the dhoni boat-inspired suites are spaced 24 feet apart, a personal butler caters to your every need, and the South Indian cuisine can be delivered straight to your bungalow (meaning there’s no reason to leave). There’s also an over-water Como Shambhala spa if you want to watch the fish while you get a massage for two.
Cheval Blanc Randheli Maldives
We try not to pick favorites, but it’s pretty damn hard to top the elegant ++Cheval Blanc Randheli++. Owned by the same French firm that represents high-end brands like Louis Vuitton and Moët & Chandon, luxury is in every detail. Starchitect Jean-Michel Gathy, who designed the stunning Aman properties, dreamt up the 46 villas in a blend of clean contemporary style and traditional Maldivian craftsmanship. The airy open-plan abodes have cathedral ceilings, Vincent Beaurin artwork, plus sliding glass walls that open onto a glam sundeck and 40-foot slate infinity pool. Other posh perks: lagoon-side pontoons, a seaplane chauffeur, Guerlain spa treatments, a hammam, Leonor Greyl hair salon and beauty studio, plus three bars and five restaurants, including Le 1947’s tasting menu fare courtesy of three-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno.
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa has all the trappings of an upscale island retreat. The 50 breezy bungalows have high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and minimalist decor (think: white stone, chunky black furniture and native wood). When hunger strikes, there’s the Island Grill, a toes-in-the-sand spot with a wood-burning oven. But most of your days will be spent snorkeling at the 30 dive sites nearby (a resident marine biologist can also give tours) as well as indulging in an indigenous treatment at the Vidhun Spa.