Show a person a photo of an overwater bungalow or water villa and suddenly they have a new goal in life. 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. Here’s what we found.
1. Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
Curious where A-listers go to slip away from the limelight and decompress? Famous faces consistently flock to Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives. Owned by LVMH—purveyors of prestige brands like Louis Vuitton and Moët & Chandon—and the handiwork of architect Jean-Michel Gathy, this lavish celeb-favored hideaway corners the market on exclusivity and contemporary luxury.
Fitted with sumptuous linens, sculptural art pieces, and over-the-top amenities, the spacious standalone villas (the smallest is a whopping 2,600 square feet) have welcomed everyone from Hollywood stars to royals (ahem, Prince William and Kate Middleton). Besides shacking up in style, guests enjoy transfers in a customized seaplane, personal butler service, indulgent Guerlain treatments at the Cheval Blanc Spa, and haute cuisine prepared by a Michelin-starred chef.
2. Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Mamanuca Archipelago, Fiji
This 5-star, adults-only property sits on a small private island, capturing the romance of the South Pacific with its powdery white sand beaches and turquoise lagoon. It preserves the distinctly Fijian culture in its luxury overwater bungalows, called “bures,” all designed using traditional Fijian architecture and built with materials native to the region. Step right into the ocean from your private balcony, where you’re situated on top of the vibrant coral reef.
With sprawling ceilings and a mix of natural materials with modern elements, this resort is a luxury 5-star oasis for couples. There are lots of romantic extras too, like outdoor showers and private plunge pools. In addition to relaxing in the pristine environment, you’ll have access to unforgettable sailing excursions, outstanding snorkeling and windsurfing, while the tranquil spa is perfect for a Fijian-style massage and beauty treatment.
3. Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa, French Polynesia
Often overshadowed by big sister Bora Bora, Moorea, an island in French Polynesia, also impresses with its clear waters and mountainous backdrops. Set on Moorea’s northern shores, Hilton’s overwater bungalows let you jump right from your balcony into the ocean. In general, these properties on Moorea are at a significantly lower price point than hotels in Bora Bora and the Maldives, and this one is bookable with Hilton Honors points. (Pro tip: Get the new Hilton Honors AmEx Aspire card and you could score a free trip to French Polynesia.)
4. Song Saa Private Island, Koh Ouen And Koh Rong, Cambodia
This resort is the first to be built on Cambodia’s mostly untouched islands in the Koh Rong archipelago. Song Saa spreads across two islands which are connected by a footbridge over a marine reserve, and with any luck, you’ll spot one of the protected sea turtles or seahorses during your stay. The resort’s ultramodern overwater villas have an air of always-been-here authenticity thanks to the reclaimed wood from retired fishing boats and local driftwood incorporated into the architecture and furnishings. The organic design manages to effortlessly blend luxuries like private infinity-edge pools, outdoor showers, and twin bathtubs into the surrounding rainforest.
Indulge in a Buddhist-inspired treatment at the resort’s rainforest wellness center or have local monks perform a traditional blessings ceremony for you. Staff can also turn your villa into a private cinema with a screen and projector for movie night.
5. The Manta Resort, Tanzania
Why rent just your average overwater bungalow when you can have your private floating island? That’s exactly what the Manta Resort offers their one-of-a-kind underwater room villa. The three-level bungalow is perched in the middle of the sea where a boat will drop you off at the start of your stay. You can lounge in one of the many rooms, but the best spot of all in the floating suite’s bedroom located 13 feet under the water’s surface. Yes, you can watch fish swim past while you fall asleep.
6. Conrad Bora Bora Nui, Vaitape, French Polynesia
One of the first major overwater bungalow properties in French Polynesia, Conrad Bora Bora Nui, formerly known as the Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort, is a lavish paradise that offers beautiful two-story overwater bungalows. Located on the private island and cove of Motu To’opua, the property offers 83 overwater bungalows that pamper guests with their stylish spaces such as outdoor showers, expansive decks, modern amenities, and king-size beds.
7. Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora, Moorea, French Polynesia
While many favour the well-known islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti, its neighbouring island of Moorea shouldn’t be overlooked. For an active stay, Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora offers a wealth of activities, while each of the 39 overwater bungalows offers direct access to the endless waters of the azure lagoon.
8. El Dorado Maroma, Mexico
Located on the northeastern coastline of Mexico, Riviera Maya is known for its all-inclusive resorts. Considered to be a tourist corridor of white sand, the place has best spectacular ruins, fun-filled cenotes and road tripping. Riviera is 135 Km long stretch and is it easy to get there through any means of transport. The best city for partying here is Playa del Carmen. It is a fast-growing city and has spectacular ruins perched high above the beach.
El Dorado Maroma is an adults-only resort in Riviera Maya of Mexico. It would take you just a few minutes to understand that El Dorado Maroma is not an ordinary resort. After all, it could back the world’s fourth-best resort award by Travellers? Reader Choice Awards. The overwater suites in this resort are magnificent. You would wake up to the beautiful turquoise waters below your feet. This is the best place to experience uninterrupted and unobstructed views of the stunning beach. Also, the sunrise and sunset views from here are breathtaking. You can also watch sunsets and sunrises from your private deck. Couples should not miss taking a romantic outdoor shower with glass bottom floors.
9. Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson, Malaysia
Opened in 2016, the Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson has 522 overwater villas, each with its own private splash pool. This is obviously now the largest overwater resort in the world, and it’s located a bit south of the AVANI Sepang (above), and still quite near the Kuala Lumpur Airport. Similarly, you can’t swim below the water villas here, but even the cheapest room class here are in freestanding structures.
Considering the huge and luxurious rooms with the private splash pools, the room rates here are amazingly low. Everything here is new, well built, and very well appointed with luxury amenities. The sheer size of the resort might be off-putting to some, but there is still a lot to like even if you don’t factor in the novelty value.
10. One&Only Reethi Rah, Maldives
There are hundreds of overwater bungalows in the Maldives, but these have the distinction of being some of the most private, since only a couple connect to each pontoon, each facing a different direction in the unbelievably turquoise Indian Ocean for an edge-of-the-earth feel. Lofty wood-beam ceilings keep things light and airy in the Grand Water Villa, but understandably extras like the long infinity pool (complete with built-in submerged chaise), separate jacuzzi, draped outdoor daybed and lounge areas minimize time spent inside.
11. 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.
12. Thatch Caye, Belize
Step outside on the deck of your bungalow, 1 of 5 overwater accommodations on this private island that’s a quick jaunt from the U.S., and you’ll quickly realize that the spot to be for the duration of this vacation is that Mayan hammock swaying in the breeze. So it’s only a matter of calling dibs before your travel partner does. Or, you can play nice and alternate days. When you’re not on hammock duty, practice floating in the clear Belizean water like you were 5-years-old in guppy class again, or convince your companion to go on a little adventure.
River tubing 2 miles through a nearby 5-cave chain is one for the bucket list. However you spend your day, it’ll end much the same way: with a belly full of fresh fish and local Belikin beer. INSIDER TIP: To mix things up, head over to nearby Coco Plum Resort for lunch one day (the water is shallow enough to wade, or you can kayak or paddle board). Room rates from $295.
13. Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
For travelers looking to get away from it all, a far-flung location and off-the-grid ambiance are major selling points. That’s exactly what you’ll find at Bawah Reserve. Tucked away in the remote splendor of Indonesia’s Anambas Archipelago—and reachable only by seaplane—this private island retreat offers serenity and seclusion.
With untrammeled white-sand beaches, cerulean lagoons, and lush vegetation at every turn, a sojourn at Bawah Reserve really feels like a true escape. Blissful quietude, outdoor adventures (think: kayaking, snorkeling, sailing, and hiking), and rustic-chic digs add to the fantasy of it all. Overwater suites boast canopied King-sized beds, outdoor showers, sundecks, and stairs that lead directly into the glistening shallows. Put your phone on airplane mode because this property and, of course, your spouse deserve your full attention.
14. 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.
15. Hotel Palafitte, Monruz, Switzerland
For a very different overwater bungalow experience, Hotel Palafitte’s bungalows are built on stilts over Lake Neuchatel in the Three Lakes Region of Switzerland. The unique hotel bills itself as Europe’s only overwater accommodation, and offers luxury amenities along with those awe-inspiring lake views. All the lakeside rooms are staggered so that they have an unobstructed view of the water, no matter where you happen to be, even if it’s the bathtub, yet you’ll still have plenty of privacy as none have direct views of other rooms.
Morning sunrises are particularly spectacular, and when the moon shimmers on the lake with the alps in the distance, you’ll know you’ve come to a very special place. The common area of the boutique hotel includes a full-service restaurant which boasts a seasonal menu with the freshest local ingredients., while available activities include sailing winery tours, hiking and more.
16. Niyama Private Islands Maldives, the Maldives
We love Niyama’s understated overwater bungalows, each with a partial open-air shower, private pool, and deck with stairs leading directly into the lagoon below. But what we love even more is that there’s so much to do on both land and water around these twin islands, including world-class surfing, kneeboarding, windsurfing, kites-urfing, jet-skiing, cycling, and yoga. Niyama has tapped into the family market, too, dedicating a significant swathe of the island to fun in the sun for little ones. No wonder the resort consistently ranks near the top in our annual Readers’ Choice Awards.
17. Cocoa Island By COMO, South Male Atoll, Maldives
Just a 40-minute speedboat ride from the Maldives’ international airport, this luxurious COMO resort on the private Cocoa Island (known locally as Makunufushi) is like no other. Cocoa Island by COMO‘s overwater-bungalow suites are built in the style of traditional Dhoni, the wooden boats used by local fishermen. They might look like mini Noah’s arks, but these suites don’t actually float. They’re fixed to stilts over the Indian Ocean and include private sundecks, luxurious bathrooms, and large windows with gorgeous views.
Wellness is a major focus at the resort, with therapies at the Shambhala Retreat center and Shambhala raw-cuisine options. Take a yoga or meditation class in the retreat center’s open-air pavilion, or experience India’s holistic Ayurvedic therapy in one of four massage-treatment rooms. Cocoa Island butlers often arrange intimate dinners for guests and give guided snorkeling tours.
18. Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama
These charming pastel-green overwater bungalows are as tranquil as it gets. In addition to being a slice of paradise where you can have your own private terrace and see frolicking dolphins, Punta Caracol also strives to be extremely sustainable and environmentally conscious. Everything from the solar panels to the pollutant-free sewage treatment strives to create as minimal an impact on the environment as possible so that people can continue to enjoy the natural beauty for decades to come.
19. Soneva Jani, Maldives
Soneva Fushi was one of the founding luxury Maldivian resorts, redefining the meaning of barefoot luxury when it opened over 20 years ago. Soneva’s second Maldives property, Soneva Jani, opened in 2016, and quickly became one of the most wow-worthy Maldives resorts. Home to 24 uniquely designed luxury overwater bungalows, ranging from a one bedroom overwater retreat to a four bedroom mansion complete with waterslide straight into the azure waters. Despite its impressive size, it’s maintained the same understated, castaway vibe of its sister property.
20. 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.