From the turquoise waters of the Maldives to the secluded shores of French Polynesia, and the enchanting landscapes of Fiji and beyond, these exquisite over-water resorts redefine the art of relaxation and indulgence. However, their existence resulted more from necessity than from extravagance when back in the ‘60’s the “Bali Hai Boys” (three entrepreneurial Californian’s) came up with the concept of building rooms above the water to attract tourists to the island of Moorea, which had no stretches of beaches to build accommodation for visitors. Little did they know that over 50 years on these floating villas would become one of the most desirable and romantic forms of accommodation around the world.
Opulent organic beauty and a connection with nature are inherent to these stilt-esque havens of serenity; where private pools, lush tropical landscapes and marvellous marine life come as standard.
Read on and immerse yourself in the epitome of luxury as we traverse these superlative overwater bungalows in unparalleled destinations each offering a unique blend of elegance, tranquillity, and unforgettable experiences.
Ozen Reserve Bolifushi – Maldives
Ozen Reserve Bolifushi is an ultra-luxurious resort nestled in lush tropical vegetation and surrounded by white beaches and turquoise waters. This exclusive island offers 90 stunning villas, each with a private swimming pool and beautiful ocean views. Just a short 35-minute luxury catamaran ride from Velana International Airport, the resort welcomes you to experience the epitome of relaxation and opulence. Villas feature timber flooring, high ceilings, and spacious bathrooms, providing a perfect blend of tradition and luxury. Some water villas even have slides leading into the lagoon. Culinary delights await you with a variety of dining experiences, showcasing traditional Indian dishes, Middle Eastern delights by the beach, and gourmet seafood creations complemented by excellent wines and champagnes. For adventure enthusiasts, the resort boasts one of the finest house reefs in the South Malé Atoll, making snorkelling and diving experiences extraordinary. A PADI-certified dive centre arranges courses and expeditions for exploration. Indulge in relaxation at the spa, offering 100% organic treatments, or stay active at the overwater gymnasium. Non-motorised water sports and semi-submarine adventures provide ample opportunities for marine exploration while complimentary bicycles are available for leisurely island rides around the island. Families are warmly welcomed with a Kid’s Club and Teen Lounge, where regular events and activities, including the educational Island Treasure Hunt, keep younger guests entertained.
Four Seasons Bora Bora – Bora Bora
Featuring 100 stunning over-water bungalows, the Four Seasons is a 13-year-old resort that oozes luxury. The site is expansive, with landscaped gardens, a plethora of onsite activities, its own boutiques and multiple dining choices. As such, you’ll need to like walking or grab a lift on one of its many golf buggies to get around. It’s not all about lying back and sunning yourself (although doing that on one of the poolside teak loungers is a pleasure). Here you can take part in a workshop with the hotel’s own marine biologist, learn a paddle sport, or practise yoga. The opulent Kahai Spa is quite something — it has treatments incorporating 24-carat gold.
Conrad Rangali Island Maldives – Maldives
Dita Von Teese, Roger Federer and Kris Jenner have all been spotted holidaying at this celeb-friendly idyll. It’s spread across two islands joined by a wooden bridge, in the South Ari Atoll. Villas and suites are either nestled among greenery or suspended above the lagoon. And if you want to see underwater without getting wet, you can book a table at the incredible Ithaa, which takes the form of a subaquatic tunnel, five metres below ground (there are 11 other restaurants besides). Or stay in the Conrad Rangali Island’s showstopping underwater suite, The Muraka, where you’ll receive 24-hour butler service.
The St Regis Bora Bora Resort – Bora Bora
It’s exactly how you imagine paradise: staying in an over-water thatched villa on stilts, with the blue, fish-filled ocean visible via glass panels, 24-hour butler service, spa treatments and your own pool. Guests have access to the resort’s main pool with a sociable swim-up bar, a fitness centre and four restaurants. Lagoon Restaurant by Jean-Georges is the resort’s exclusive signature venue and the food is hard to beat anywhere on the island. Like many of the villas, it sits over the water, serving fish caught from the local area. If you’re in the mood for some fine Italian cuisine, eat at Far Niente Ristorante, or there’s Bam Boo with classic wok cuisine, teppanyaki and sushi.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort – Fiji
Located amongst the green hills of Malolo Island, Likuliku Lagoon Resort offers the perfect tranquil, luxurious island escape. Enjoy the white-sandy beaches, the scent of tropical flowers, clear turquoise water, not to mention unique and stylish over-water bures and scenic beachfront bungalows that will make you never want to leave your room. The resort emulates the traditional Fijian villages giving it an authentic charm. It also houses a wireless network, a modern luxury spa, the creative cuisine of Fijiana Restaurant, stylish furnishings, and a freshwater pool that offers spectacular views of the lagoon. You will be welcomed with the warmth of the Fijian people.
Song Saa Private Island – Cambodia
This Cambodian island resort offers accommodation in the form of thatched jungle or overwater villas, with romantic muslin-slung four-poster beds and rustic wooden decks. It’s the perfect honeymoon destination; secluded and private, with isolated white beaches and coral reefs. Staff can arrange extras such as a monk’s blessing, a flower bath, an in-villa barbecue, couples’ massages and sunset cruises. Take a seat on an oversized bean bag at the seafront Vista Bar and Restaurant; eat on the beach at Driftwood Bar; or dine just the two of you in a hidden pocket of the resort.
Pangkor Laut Resort – Malaysia
Take the 15-minute boat ride from Marina Island to Pangkor Laut Resort where you can check into your overwater or jungle villa with up to four bedrooms. Some come with butler service, an outdoor tub, a private pool and a dining pavilion, overlooking Emerald Bay in the Strait of Malacca. The resort is built beside a rainforest (listen out for the resident macaque monkeys), which you can explore with the resident naturalist. It encompasses two swimming pools, a spa village employing Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai practices, yoga facilities, squash and tennis courts and seven restaurants.
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge – Panama
This collection of overwater bungalows is perched above the clear, turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea, on a private island that’s part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Constructed using sustainable materials and traditional techniques, the Maldivian-style resort has a rustic yet luxurious ambience, with accommodations accessed via a narrow wooden jetty. The restaurant, with its palm leaf roof and terrace, is a central meeting point, serving Caribbean and International dishes. Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge uses solar panels and a bio-digestor (that debugs sewage waters) to help protect the local environment.
Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort – French Polynesia
Get the full paradise experience by staying in a thatched overwater bungalow on the lagoon. Fans of the Real Housewives Of Orange County may recognise the resort from an episode aired in 2015, set on what is arguably the best beach on the island, close to Tootea Lookout. Sofitel Kia Ora accommodates 113 luxurious bungalows (some over the protected lagoon, others on the beach or immersed in tropical gardens). There are two restaurants — K by Marc Lintanf and Pure, with an outdoor terrace and dance shows — a bar, an outdoor swimming pool and a day spa.