These trendy and super-luxe oceanfront escapes make for an incredible getaway.
There are many ways to escape and enjoy nature—whether on top of the Alps or at the foot of a volcano—but one way that seems to be on everyone’s travel bucket list is staying at an overwater bungalow. These rooms, perched above bodies of water, allow guests to experience nature uniquely by waking up and falling asleep to the sound of the waters below your private quarters. Often these elevated bungalows are found on the white sand beaches of the Maldives, Fiji, and French Polynesia, yet this list of the world’s very best overwater bungalows features surprising spots including Mexico, Switzerland, and Cambodia. With various amenities on offer from plunge pools to rooms with glass bottoms, and even floating breakfasts, check into the top overwater bungalows in the world.
Top Picks for You
Song Saa Private Island
WHERE: Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, Cambodia
This resort, which opened in 2011, is spread over two islets in Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago, which are connected by a footbridge. Come here for total privacy, as Song Saa Private Island is the only resort in the archipelago. The bungalows feature indoor and outdoor showers, private pools, and uninterrupted views of the sea. Song Saa also has impressive green credentials: Driftwood and recycled timber from old Cambodian fishing boats were incorporated into the villas’ design and furniture.
INSIDER TIPThough it may be hard to tear yourself away from your villa, Song Saa offers kayaking through mangroves, hiking through the jungle, beach picnics, and visits to Prek Svay fishing village on the neighboring Koh Rong Island.
Cocoa Island by COMO
Although there are plenty of beautiful overwater resorts in the Maldives, what makes Cocoa Island by COMO stand out is its design. Instead of the traditional thatched roof bungalow, guest rooms are built to look like traditional dhoni boats. All overwater suites have private sundecks with loungers, and guests can enjoy the services of Cocoa Island’s butlers, who tackle everything from arranging romantic dinners to giving guided snorkeling tours.
INSIDER TIPCocoa Island’s surrounding waters are filled with coral reefs, manta rays, and even a shipwreck. For the thrill seekers out there, shark viewing is offered for experienced divers.
This four-acre private island resort has only seven villas, and those looking for total privacy can rent the entire island. One Cayo Espanto villa, the Casa Ventanas, is built over the water, located off a 150-foot-long dock, and surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean Sea. Guests can relax on sun loungers at the end of their dock, where a private dinner can also be served.
Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
WHERE: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Bora Bora is often described as one of the most beautiful spots on earth, but the Four Seasons Bora Bora kicks it up a notch, featuring 108 overwater bungalows perched on stilts above a private lagoon. The largest ones have private plunge pools and ladders leading down to the water. In late 2019, the resort completed its overwater renovations where six plunge pools were added to existing overwater suites, bringing the total of overwater accommodations with pools to 27. Guests who feel motivated to leave their villas can unwind at the spa, where treatments incorporate local ingredients like vanilla.
WHERE: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
The Rosewood Mayakoba is spread over 1,600 acres of beach and jungle, connected by a series of freshwater lagoons. The hotel is located just south of Cancún, but guests won’t find a spring breaker in sight. While all guest rooms have a contemporary design, the Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suite sits above the resort’s lagoon and comes with its own deck, private plunge pool, and outdoor garden shower. Book one of the property’s eight new wellness suites each with a private salt-therapy pool, meditation pavilion, reflexology fountain, in-shower aromatherapy, and a “wellbeing” butler to help curate a personalized stay.
INSIDER TIPGuests can sign up for a daily, guided eco-tour of the resort’s lagoon, led by the resort’s on-site biologist.
WHERE: Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Billing itself as Europe’s only overwater accommodation, the Hôtel Palafitte‘s bungalows are built on stilts over Lake Neuchâtel. With an industrial-modernist look, the rooms resemble shipping containers, and some of them have ladders leading down to the lake.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the Musée d’art et d’histoire de Neuchâtel, known as MAHN. Highlights include three frescos by Léo-Paul Robert, and the 18th-century Jaquet-Droz automatons.
Pangkor Laut Resort
Located off the coast of Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca, Pangkor Laut Resort offers a mix of overwater and garden bungalows. The Sea Villas are built on stilts above the water, which has an unusual green hue thanks to the abundance of surrounding vegetation, and feature large balconies and bathtubs with seaside views. You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to quite literally the middle of nowhere, as about 80% of the island is undeveloped jungle.
INSIDER TIPSpend an afternoon exploring the surrounding area. Pangkor Laut arranges excursions to a restored Dutch fort and the Fu Lin Kong Temple, a Chinese Taoist temple built into the hillside.
InterContinental Bora Bora Resort and Thalasso Spa
WHERE: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
This resort is nestled between Motu Piti Aau, a coral island on a barrier reef, and can only be accessed by boat. All of the InterContinental Bora Bora‘s overwater villas have a spacious shaded terrace, loungers, and a private pontoon for sunbathing. Go big or go home, and opt for the over-the-top Villa Teremoana Suite, which debuted in December 2017. The over the top suite sleeps eight and features 3,465-square-feet of indoor space (two master bedrooms), plus multiple sundecks and bathtubs with views of the ocean. Even the resort’s wedding chapel has a glass-bottomed aisle, where couples can spot fish while saying “I do.”
One of the most secluded places to stay in the Maldives is the Ayada. The resort has a streamlined modern design, and bungalows come with private verandas, plunge pools, and overwater hammocks. Unwind with a visit to the AySpa, which features a Turkish hammam, or choose from six different restaurants that offer everything from Japanese to Indian cuisine
Misool Eco Resort
The new, private island Misool Eco Resort is difficult to reach but well worth the journey. It’s located in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, nestled among uninhabited islands. The resort has plenty of green credentials, including reclaimed tropical hardwood that was used to build the resort. The overwater cottages have hammocks built into the cabanas and steps leading down to the sea, so guests can snorkel right off their decks.
INSIDER TIPEven the resort’s dive center is built on stilts. Misool Eco Resort offers three guided dives every day, including underwater excursions at dusk or at night.
The Nautilus, Maldives
As the only Relais & Chateaux resort in the Maldives, The Nautilus is an ultra-luxury bohemian-style property with only 26 villas, 11 of which are perched over the water. From 3,035-square-feet to a whopping 5,824-square-feet these accommodations have a 24-hour butler service, private sundecks, private pools, personalized wine fridge, and of course 180-degree views of the Indian Ocean.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss the complimentary small bites and daily cocktails at sunset at the Naiboli pool bar.
COMO Maalifushi, Maldives
The only resort in the Maldives’ Thaa Aoll, this COMO property is perfect for families and couples as well as those adventure seekers (read: surfers and divers). Located in the archipelago’s southern islands, the resort offers two-bedroom water villas that include an outdoor shower and a secluded sundeck with a plunge pool.
Nestled in a jungle setting, these bungalows technically stretch the definition of “overwater” but fit the idea with access to swimmable water. The villas are connected with three canal-like pools accessible only via the private rooms. Blending Japanese aesthetics with Balinese culture, the resort’s design was also inspired by Hindu temples.
INSIDER TIPDon’t miss Hoshinoya’s traditional tea service in a gazebo suspended over the Ubud jungle.
John Jacob Astor Estate at The St. Regis Maldives
We had to include this property as the John Jacob Astor Estate boasts the largest three-bedroom overwater villa in the Maldives. Spanning two floors and covering 16,500-square-feet, the expansive estate sleeps 10 and includes the usual butler service, Olympic-sized infinity pool, and more amenities but the real draw are the extras—a private fitness center, mini theater, three private spa suites, a large kitchen, and two butler rooms for guests who travel with their staff.
INSIDER TIPThere’s almost no need to leave this room, even for a meal, as a special dinner in the villa can be arranged for guests in the private full kitchen that accommodates up to 12.
Cheval Blanc Randheli, Maldives
When French luxury brand LVMH owns the hotel, you know to expect the utmost extravagance. The architect behind Aman hotels designed this 46-villa complex where there’s a hammam, Leonor Greyl hair salon, Guerlain spa treatments, three bars, five restaurants, and of course, stunning views of turquoise waters. The garden water villas offer the best of both worlds with lush greenery, an infinity pool, and ocean access. The luxury continues with the culinary arts as three-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alleno helms the kitchen at Le 1947 offering a high-brow tasting menu.
El Dorado Maroma by Karisma, Mexico
WHERE: Carretera Cancún – Tulum
Experience unobstructed ocean views in Mexico at this Riviera Maya property. The overwater bungalows, called Palafitos, have glass bottom floors, a 24-hour butler, outdoor shower, private deck with an infinity pool—all the trimmings you’d typically find in a South Pacific overwater bungalow, even thatched palm leaf roofs.
INSIDER TIPLeave the kids at home as this resort is adults-only and all-inclusive—with international fare including Asian, Peruvian, Italian, and Mexican Fusion cuisines.
St. Regis Bora Bora
WHERE: Bora Bora
The 44-acre resort has the largest overwater villas in Bora Bora. All villas at the St. Regis Bora Bora have 24-hour butler service, terraces, outdoor showers, and a glass panel floor inside to see fish swimming at your feet. Enjoy one-of-a-kind perks like the Jean-Georges restaurant and a spa nestled on its own private island, plus check out the resort’s Lagoonarium packed with marine life.
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam
WHERE: Ninh Vân, Vietnam
Sitting on a bay and set within the unique rock formations with a backdrop of green mountains, this property is truly one of a kind. Each villa includes a garden terrace or sundeck, but some even have direct access to the ocean. Opt for a Rock Pool Villa or Water Pool Villa to have the closest rooms to the water with wooden steps that lead directly to the sea. Located on the eastern end of the bay, these villas are the ultimate privacy. There’s a yoga pavilion, fitness room, salon, and detox and advanced oxygen treatments available for guests. Dine at one of the property’s restaurants, including a six-course waterfront tasting menu at Dining by the Rocks, or take a 20-minute boat ride to nearby Nha Trang City.
For those who really want to be a part of nature try going underwater. Located on Rangali Island, The Muraka at Conrad Maldives is a luxury two-level residence with a master bedroom submerged underwater. Imagine sleeping in a bedroom more than 16 feet below sea level under a 180-degree curved acrylic dome. The upper level features floor-to-ceiling glass windows, a plunge pool, and all the extra special trimmings.
INSIDER TIPTo add to the extra-ness of The Muraka, the activities on offer include nighttime snorkeling in the reef of the South Ari Atoll, having a 24-hour private chef, or even staring in your own underwater movie with a dedicated film crew.
The Maldives’ first art-immersive hotel offers guests experiential and sustainable art pieces created in collaboration with local artisans and artists to support the local community. The art studio and gallery at JOALI hosts guest artists such as Misha Kahn, Christ Wolston, Nacho Carbonell, Studio Glithero, Dough Johnson, Porky Hefer, and more, who create interactive art and nature-inspired collections. Check into the 10,665-square-foot three-bedroom ocean residence with two infinity pools, with private spa and sauna rooms overlooking the water and other plush in-suite amenities including an art collection, on-call Dhoni (boat), outdoor garden shower, and a private “jadugar” aka “magician” as a butler.
INSIDER TIPCheck out the Manta Tree House for a private dining experience for up to ten, inspired by the manta rays in the shallow waters. The underwater coral garden is a must-see as well—swim through this underwater sculpture that serves as a reminder to protect the oceans.