In the wake of enforced lockdowns, it should be no surprise that so-called “revenge travel” has become a trend in 2021. Travelers who have been trapped indoors for over a year are longing to finally go on that African safari or Arctic cruise they’ve always dreamed of taking and waited too long to book—until now. And, when it comes to bucket-list travel, overwater bungalows above a glistening sea are a mainstay on every traveler’s wish list. To that end, we’ve compiled the best overwater bungalows to visit in the world—so hopefully you won’t need to wait for another pandemic to occur and for the anxiety to set in as you wonder why you haven’t gone and visited these places already.
Plus, for responsible travelers, there’s a way to visit many of these secluded island destinations quite safely, both from a health standpoint and a savings perspective. (And there’s no better last-minute getaway than a private island in Tahiti—especially when you’ve managed to score savings on flight and hotel deals.) After all, social distancing is best enjoyed from the terrace of your private villa floating atop the Indian Ocean—or the South Pacific Ocean, or even the Caribbean Sea (as you will see on our list, the possibilities are endless.) From the white-sand beaches of the Maldives to the blue lagoons of Bora Bora, read on for the top 25 most incredible overwater bungalows to visit in the world.
1. Gili Lankanfushi (Maldives)
Located along North Malé Atoll, Gili Lankanfushi offers the ultimate in luxurious overwater accommodations—especially as it pertains to the Crusoe Residences, seven stand-alone overwater villas located only a short boat ride off the main island (Lankanfushi Island, home to the namesake resort.)
(Images courtesy of Gili Lankanfushi)
2. Conrad Bora Bora Nui (French Polynesia)
(Image courtesy of Conrad Bora Bora)
The Conrad Bora Bora Nui not only boasts one of the best locations in the entirety of French Polynesia—situated on the private island of Motu To'opua—but it also boasts the world’s first underwater hotel. Incredible views both over the water and beneath the sea? Sign us up.
3. Song Saa Private Island (Cambodia)
(Image courtesy of Song Saa)
From one private island to another—Song Saa Private Island, in the Koh Rong archipelago near Sihanoukville, is one of the world’s best-kept secrets. Enjoy blissful serenity as you take in the ocean views from your overwater villa overlooking Cambodia’s breathtaking (and severely underrated) coastline.
4. JOALI (Maldives)
(Image courtesy of JOALI)
Located on Muravandhoo Island in Raa Atoll, JOALI is the self-proclaimed #1 Resort in the Maldives, and we’re certainly not here to dispute that assertion—especially when the resort’s accommodations include gloriously picturesque “sunset luxury water villas” (which offer the exact ambiance the name suggests.) We recommend splurging for the accompanying plunge pool—always a smart choice in the Maldives.
5. Thatch Caye Resort (Belize)
The Maldives may be the golden standard for overwater bungalows but travelers trapped in the Western Hemisphere can discover luxurious overwater living closer to home—in the Caribbean Sea, to be exact. The all-inclusive Thatch Caye Resort is the next best thing to the Indian Ocean, with five overwater cabanas situated on a private island just off the coast of Dangriga in Belize.
(Images courtesy of Thatch Caye Resort)
6. Likuliku Lagoon Resort (Fiji)
We’re crossing the world (and the oceans) again for our next selection: Likuliku Lagoon Resort, located on the picturesque Malolo Island in Fiji. This adults-only property is home to the first-ever overwater bungalows to be found within the island nation of the South Pacific. The overwater villas, situated above a glistening lagoon, are the definition of paradise found.
(Images courtesy of Likuliku Lagoon Resort)
7. Cheval Blanc Randheli (Maldives)
(Image courtesy of Cheval Blanc Randheli)
It should come as no surprise that the owners of LVMH would settle for nothing less than perfection when it comes to seaside luxury. Enter Cheval Blanc Randheli. Located on Randheli Private Island in Noonu Atoll, the resort is the pinnacle of decadence and sophistication. There’s even a jungle island, Maakurandhoo, dedicated exclusively for the guest’s enjoyment of two U.S. Open and Paris Masters standard courts. Tennis, anyone?
8. Misool Eco Resort (Indonesia)
(Image courtesy of Misool Eco Resort)
If setting a court time isn’t really on your agenda, and you’d rather spend your vacation escaping social obligations instead, then Misool Eco Resort should be the next destination on your list. Located in Rajat Ampat, Indonesia, the resort’s eco-friendly design takes care to maintain the stunning beauty of its environs—all the better for its guests to appreciate the tropical wilderness surrounding their seaside bungalows.
9. St. Regis Bora Bora (French Polynesia)
(Image courtesy of Tahiti Tourism)
We’re returning to French Polynesia—one of the more popular destinations on our list, trailing only the Maldives in representation—to visit the iconic (and ultra-luxurious) St. Regis Bora Bora. We suggest dining out at Lagoon, the resort’s exclusive signature restaurant by famed chef Jean-Georges—but if you decide never to leave your picture-perfect accommodations, we don’t blame you. Just keep an eye out for an afternoon rainbow. (The near-daily event is as shockingly common in French Polynesia as they are in the Hawaiian isles.)
10. Viceroy Bocas Del Toro (Panama)
(Image courtesy of Viceroy Bocas Del Toro)
We’re returning to Central America for our next choice—the Viceroy Bocas Del Toro. Once a private residence, the resort now boasts one and two-bedroom villas perfect for the traveler looking to escape it all and relax on the water. (And after this past year, who isn’t?)
11. Kuramathi Maldives (Maldives)
We’re back to the Indian Ocean with our next choice, Kuramathi Maldives, which features both spectacular over-water villas and no shortage of diversions and activities to pursue on land. Kuramathi Island is 2-kilometers long, and—while that doesn’t sound like very much—in the Maldives, it’s practically enormous (and is one of the largest islands on the atoll.) Explore the flower-lined walkways through the island’s lush tropical forests, and sign up for a massage overlooking the water before ending the night with some cocktails and live music at one of the resort’s many restaurants and bars.
(Images above courtesy of Kuramathi)
(Images above courtesy of David-DiGregorio)
12. Sepang Goldcoast Resort (Malaysia)
The Sepang Goldcoast Resort in Sungai Pelek, Malaysia, is a hidden gem featuring overwater villas overlooking the Malacca Strait. The Golden Palm Tree Sea Villas are also shockingly affordable—especially if you score a last-minute deal.
(Images courtesy of Sepang, Malaysia)
13. Four Seasons Bora Bora (French Polynesia)
The Four Seasons Bora Bora is a classic luxury getaway in French Polynesia that lives up to the excellence its name suggests. We’re partial to the more off-the-beaten-path activities available, however, including an astrological expedition in which guests are boated out to sea to discuss both Polynesian history and the history of the stars. (And they never shine brighter than they do in the South Pacific.)
(Images courtesy of Four Seasons Bora Bora)
14. Constance Le Prince Maurice (Mauritius)
The Maldives may get all the attention when it comes to luxury seaside retreats, but bungalow-lovers shouldn’t overlook the nation just across the water: Mauritius. (The two destinations are only a three-and-a-half-hour flight away from each other—which may seem like a lot to landlocked readers, but, trust us—making your way across the world to the Indian Ocean is a 10-hour endeavor from the start. They’re practically neighbors.) We suggest booking one of the 11 overwater villas at the gorgeous Constance Le Prince Maurice resort to experience the Indian Ocean from a new (southeastern) perspective overlooking the Indian Ocean.
(Images courtesy of Constance Le Prince)
15. One&Only Reethi Rah (Maldives)
(Image courtesy of One&Only Reethi Rah)
Speaking of the aforementioned lengthy travel time required for visitors to arrive in the Maldives—of which every airborne (and seafaring) minute is worth it, of course—our next choice, One & Only Reethi Rah, is gloriously close to the Male International Airport (only a 15 to 20-minute journey by seaplane.) Proximity isn’t the only luxury the resort has to offer, of course—we, personally, are inclined to while away entire afternoons by the resort’s gloriously majestic infinity pool, which floats above the turquoise lagoon.
16. The Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa (French Polynesia)
(Image courtesy of Hilton)
Located on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia is the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa. We suggest booking a King Overwater Bungalow to enjoy the sunset (and sunrise) from your private terrace. The view is near-perfect, as the resort is set against a backdrop of mountains, situated between two bays on this gorgeous island in the South Pacific.
17. Six Senses Laamu (Maldives)
Speaking of near-perfect, the Lagoon Water Villa at the Six Senses Laamu offers another tropical slice of paradise for vacationers escaping to the Indian Ocean. The luxury resort in Laamu Atoll also offers an array of watersports for the aquatic adventurer, as well. We recommend signing up for some surfing lessons, as you will be hanging ten (or attempting to) on one of the most iconic breaks in the world.
(Images courtesy of Six Senses Laamu)
18. Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa (Maldives)
The Maldivian islands are not only famous for surfing, but for scuba diving as well. To pursue the latter activity, we suggest booking a dive at Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa, on Thilamaafushi Island in Lhaviyani Atoll. Of course, you can’t go wrong diving anywhere in the Maldives, but the spa at Le Meridien is the perfect place to unwind after a morning spent underwater. Trust us, you’re worth it.
(Images courtesy of Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa)
19. Banyan Tree Mayakoba Resort (Mexico)
(Image courtesy of Banyan Tree Mayakoba)
American and Canadian travelers: Rejoice. You needn’t book a flight to the South Pacific to experience overwater luxury, as demonstrated by the supremely chic (and perfectly picturesque) Banyan Tree Mayakoba Resort. Located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, the resort recently unveiled six Lagoon Sunset Pool Villas, which were built to face the setting sun—perfect for cocktails at sundown. (Though, you needn’t wait until dusk to indulge. You’re on vacation, after all.)
20. Robinson Club Noonu (Maldives)
(Image courtesy of Robinson Club)
The Maldives is famed as a honeymoon destination, and as a restorative retreat perfect for relaxing on the white-sand beach. But what if you’re a somewhat restless traveler in need of some activities (and nightlife) to enjoy your vacation? Well, this is the spot for you. Located in the Orivaru atoll, the Robinson Club Noonu is a perfect selection for travelers interested in a bit of nightlife during their trip to paradise. (The beachside sunset ceremony is not to be missed.)
21. Azul Paradise Hotel and Resort (Panama)
(Image courtesy of Azul Paradise)
Let’s head south to Central America for our next selection, the eco-friendly Azul Paradise Hotel and Resort. This is the second time that Panama has appeared on our list, and—while habitual jet-setters may already be aware of the country’s plethora of overwater accommodations—the abundance of bungalows is sure to please sun-seekers based in the U.S. and Canada, who can forego the flight to Tahiti in favor of a deluxe bungalow with a Caribbean view (our preferred room selection at Azul Paradise, of course).
22. Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort (French Polynesia)
(Image courtesy of Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea)
Located overlooking the beautiful waters on the island of Moorea, the Sofitel Kia Ora Moorea Beach Resort is less than a 10-minute flight from Tahiti (or under an hour by ferry), though it feels lightyears away. The resort offers 113 bungalow varieties, from beachfront to garden suites—though we recommend the over-water offerings, of course.
23. Cayo Espanto (Belize)
Frequent fliers may already be aware of the charms of Belize’s famed Ambergris Caye, as its popularity has exploded in recent years. But few are familiar with Cayo Espante, a private island located just off the island’s shores. The boutique property boasts seven secluded villas (and 5-Star amenities), perfect for travelers looking for a true Caribbean escape.
(Images courtesy of Cayo Espanto)
24. Lux North Male Atoll (Maldives)
And while we’re on the topic of privacy and indulgence, the solitude-seeking traveler should look no further than Lux North Male Atoll, located on the island of Olhuhali in the Maldives. The resort’s sleek architecture, gourmet cuisine, and breathtaking island vistas are sure to satisfy even the most discerning of travelers. (And if that doesn’t do the trick, then surely the outdoor movie theatre available upon request on the roof of your private villa will change your mind.)
(Images courtesy of Lux North Male Atoll)
25. Arctic Bath (Sweden)
(Image courtesy of Arctic Bath)
Finally—last but certainly not least—we’re leaving the tropics for a Scandinavian retreat at an overwater abode strong enough to withstand ice storms: Arctic Bath, in Harads, Sweden. For travelers who’ve truly seen it all—and are looking for a new adventure—we recommend booking one of the resort’s floating water cabins to commune with the elements in the off-season. (Impossible in the Caribbean, when it’s summer all year-long.) After all, who says bungalow living should be constrained to the tropics? (Plus, we guarantee you will be the first of your friends to cross this item off your revenge travel bucket list this year.) Happy travels!