Have you dreamed of inserting yourself into one of those classic magazine cover shots of a swoon-worthy overwater bungalow, straddling a turquoise sea? Us too! That’s why we’ve dreamily rounded up this list of the world’s five very best overwater bungalows in Bora Bora to Belize and beyond; because if you’re going to splurge on the ultimate in dream vacations (unfortunately, these luxe lodgings cost a pretty penny), you’ll want to be sure and do it right.
Tip: Be on the lookout, too, to for some closer-to-home overwater bungalow newcomers cropping up soon, like Sandals Royal Caribbean Resort & Private Island in Jamaica and El Dorado Maroma, a Beachfront Resort by Karisma in Mexico (they’ll join Disney Polynesian Villas & Bungalows, which debuted in Florida last year).
Offering up a South Pacific slice-of-paradise, this private-island Four Seasons resort (pictured above) unfolds in French Polynesia’s Bora Bora — where sun, sand, a turquoise lagoon, and views of the verdant Mount Otemanu meet. A string of a hundred overwater bungalows come perched atop stilts on the resort’s private lagoon, where units tout Tahitian-inspired design via teakwood furnishings, French Polynesian artwork, and high ceilings capped by thatched roofs, as well as private plunge pools and ladders leading into the water. When not lapping up the luxury of your prime waterfront accommodations, make way to the tennis courts, twin pools, or the overwater spa villa, where ritual treatments and herbal-scented saunas ensure the ultimate in R&R. Dining highlights local ingredients like fish caught right offshore and a selection of tropical island fruits While there are a handful of restaurants on site for lunch and dinner, breakfast can be delivered fresh to your bungalow each morning via canoe.
Lining the sapphire seas of the Gulf of Thailand, this upscale Cambodian resort, found within the country’s Koh Rong archipelago, delivers a dreamscape setting that spans a duo of two pristine private islets (they’re connected by a footbridge), marked by old-growth rainforest, powdery sand beaches, and reefs teeming with tropical fish. Bunk down in one of nine overwater villas, built with natural and upcycled materials (like beach-found driftwood and recycled timber from old fishing boats), as well as furnishings handcrafted by local artisans, oversized baths and indoor-outdoor showers, private decks, and pools. Beyond the bungalows, there’s a restaurant, lounge, infinity-edge swimming pool, spa sanctuary, yoga and meditation center, and watersports on offer like scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, and boating.
The Maldives is a mecca for magnificent overwater-bungalow retreats, but COMO Cocoa Island (a 40-minute speedboat ride away from Malé) stands out from the posh pack thanks to its eye-popping design. While most resorts stick to the traditional thatched-roof bungalow aesthetic, here, the overwater, on-stilts suites are built to recall dhoni boats (the wooden boats employed by local fishermen). Each of the 33 overwater suites is equipped with lots of space to spread out, including private decks with loungers overlooking the Indian Ocean. Plus, all guests on Cocoa Island get butler service, can dine on South Indian-influenced cuisine, and can opt to partake in plenty of onsite activities, including snorkeling and diving, spa-and-wellness treatments, and swimming in an infinity-edge pool.
Tucked within an ancient rainforest on a private 300-acre tropical isle along Malaysia’s Straits of Malacca, the idyllic Pangkor Laut Resort is the setting for 43 posh overwater villas. When not luxuriating in your villa oasis — complete with an outdoor balcony and oversized bathtub that overlooks the emerald seas below — a restaurant serving regional and Western cuisine (sourced from local ingredients), a rejuvenating spa village, and the undeveloped jungle island invite exploration.
A wow-factor overwater bungalow retreat that’s a bit closer to home, Belize’s Cayo Espanto pairs four acres of private island seclusion with 5-star service and digs. With Caribbean seas just outside your door, enjoy accommodations in one of just six butler-serviced beachfront bungalows — as well as one (the 1,000-square-foot “Casa Ventanas”) that perches above the sea, with a glass-paneled floor and twin lounge chairs at the end of your very own 150-foot-long dock. Should you find reason to venture away, opt for a treatment at the plush spa, tuck into chef-prepared fare that comes customized to your tastes, or duck into the plunge pool or set out into the sea — the world’s second-largest barrier-reef system is accessible via scuba diving or snorkeling excursions from here.