I've written a longer explanation of all-inclusive overwater bungalow resorts, but this seems to be an extremely common question so I've decided to offer a short and simple explanation that should help people find exactly what they are looking for more quickly.

It's no secret that these overwater bungalow and water villa resorts are expensive, so it appears that many people are very interested in knowing almost exactly how much the holiday will cost before they choose a resort. This is understandable and wise since prices for meals and drinks range from high to outrageous and many of these places.

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How to find and choose an all-inclusive overwater bungalow resort

  • Choose the area you want to visit
  • Pick a resort in that area
  • Check for online deals that include all meals (and sometimes drinks)

 

It’s really that easy. In fact, almost every overwater bungalow or water villa resort in the world operates on an all-inclusive basis for the most part. There are now over 125 of these resorts around the world, and only a few don’t offer this as the main option, so choose a resort and research the options after that.


Activities included at virtually every one of these resorts

Since almost all of these resorts boast extremely secluded locations, they have little choice but to provide a long list of activities and recreation possibilities, and most of them are included in the room price.

 

Typically, all “non-motorized” water activities are included in the room price, which usually means anything from snorkeling equipment to sea-kayaking to sailing to wind-surfing, as long as the guest can do the activities by themselves. You’ll also get free use of the swimming pools, beaches, tennis courts, board games, and whatever else is on hand.

 

Usually all motorized activities are charged extra. This means things like Jet-skis, fishing trips, sunset cruises, and anything involving resort staff being there the whole time will incur an extra fee. This makes sense since no one should want to subsidize expensive activities for others if they aren’t planning on doing them themselves.

 

Komandoo Maldives Resort

How food options usually work at these resorts

When you go to book online at any of these resorts you’ll usually be shown a discount that includes the room, most activities, and breakfast. Most resorts will also have an option at a higher price that includes lunch and dinner as well. These options usually provide good value, even if they add, say, US$80 per day per person, because the a la carte food at the resorts tends to be quite expensive. Unless you plan on eating light at almost every meal, the full-board plan will usually save you money compared to ordering off the menu.

 

Some of these resorts, particularly those in the Maldives, actually include alcohol and other drinks in the price for the all-inclusive option. Not surprisingly, the usually means middle-shelf spirits, beer, and non-premium wines, but it can obviously be a pretty good deal for couples who like to drink more than one or two per day.

 

La Tahaa Bora Bora Resort

Food costs are an issue due to the remoteness of these resorts

It’s worth mentioning that the majority of these resorts have a captive audience. In the Maldives in particular, every single resort is on a private island, and only a few offer access to another resort, which they also own.

 

In Bora Bora and elsewhere in the South Pacific, some of the resorts have restaurants nearby, though in most cases those are also quite expensive. Really, it’s only for the two overwater bungalow resorts in Tahiti where you might hop in a taxi and for a reasonable price end up at a cheaper restaurant in Pape’ete.

 

With this in mind, it’s important to realize that you’re daily food costs will be quite high, mostly because it’s expensive for the resorts to get fresh food to these remote places. Choosing the all-inclusive meal option is a good idea to avoid sticker shock at what you might spend otherwise.

 

Finding deals on all-inclusive packages

 

It’s true that some traditional travel agents can offer special package deals, but increasingly the best deals are found online since commissions are much lower. The best thing to do is just pick the resort that interests you and check for the dates you want. In many cases you’ll find that big discounts are available online, especially for stays of 5 nights or longer.

 

If you don’t see a discount at one resort then check another. If you are visiting during high season then discounts might be harder to find, but even then you’ll usually find at least one or two places offering special deals.

 

Once you click into the resort you are interested in, you’ll usually see multiple options for each room, with one being an all-inclusive meal plan.

South Pacific

Bora Bora overwater bungalow resorts – This is where you’ll find the greatest number and perhaps the most beautiful overwater bungalows in the world.

 

Moorea overwater bungalow resorts – This island just off Tahiti has five excellent resorts with overwater bungalows.

 

Tahiti overwater bungalow resorts – There are only two such resorts on the main island of Tahiti, both of which are rather large, and quite affordable.

 

South Pacific overwater bungalow resorts – Spread through the rest of the South Pacific you’ll find about 10 more resorts that range from cheap to ultra-luxurious.


Caribbean and Central America

Caribbean overwater bungalow resorts – While they aren’t the types set over clear-water lagoons, there are 7 resorts in the Caribbean that have overwater rooms of one type or another.


Asia

Maldives water villa resorts – This group of islands just southwest of India is home to about two-thirds of the world’s overwater bungalows (called “water villas” here) spread through over 75 resorts. It’s fast and easy to reach from Europe, but quite a long haul from North America.

 

Asia water villa resorts – There are a number of other resorts in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines that could be ideal if they are convenient to reach.


You could even work at one of these resorts

On the surface these places look glamorous so there are plenty of people who would enjoy actually working at one of them. In the Maldives the employees almost all live in sort of a compound in the middle of each island and stay a week or more at a time, and that is obviously not for everyone. If you think you might like something like this you can find jobs like these on job boards. The pay is often not great, but you get room and board included so it’s pretty easy to save up money working there.


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    1. The tips are in the article and overwater bungalows mostly start at US$300 per night in the absolute cheapest places, but US$600 per night is more realistic in the more desirable places. -Roger

    1. Pam,

      We keep a full list of all overwater bungalows in the Caribbean, and each one is describe in pretty great detail. I have no reason to think that the ones in Panama aren’t safe, although I haven’t been myself. They tend to attract scuba divers and they are very popular from what I can see. There are also overwater bungalows at the Disney Resort on a lake, so that’s another one to look into. Sorry I’m not of more help. -Roger

  1. Hi there. We’re a family of 6 (mum, dad, and four boys 16, 15, 13 and 8) who primarily surf, but also want to enjoy time snorkelling etc. We’d love to stay nearest to decent surf (doesn’t have to be massive though! Just really fun waves-especially as the 8 year old needs to be involved and me (mum) doesn’t really surf bigger than 2-3 foot either these days :)). We desperately want to stay in a water villa but are so happy to do it on the cheap (thats we how we travel-always on a massive budget, so as long as rooms are clean that’s all we care about). Can you recommend anywhere/a few cheap water villas for us? Thanks so much! We’re coming April 13th-April 20th.

    1. Samantha,

      Your main challenge will be that most overwater resorts only allow 3 guests per bungalow and a few allow 4 guests per bungalow, but none of them allow 6. You’d have to get two overwater villas for six people and that would start at around US$700 per night at even the cheapest place. A few of the Maldives water villa resorts have surfing beaches, and the cheapest way to pull that off would be to get one water villa and one island villa and take turns in the water villa. Sorry the news isn’t any better. -Roger

  2. Hi
    I wish to combine a trip to Tahiti with a trip to Easter Island next year. Do you have suggestions for somewhere in Tahiti that is an over water option? Also do you know if it is correct that Tahiti and Easter Island are only connected on a Tuesday by air? Do you have any recommendations for how to combine the two? We are flying from NZ.

  3. I am currently planning a birthday and graduation get away, two weeks, two islands, over the water and beach front looking at next April any suggestions on how to save $? I know if we do the over the water on Moorea vs Bora Bora will save some $. Anything else would be much appreciated.

    1. Rosary,

      I’d say your best strategy for (hopefully) saving some money, or rather getting a free upgrade, is to book only two nights are so in each overwater bungalow and the rest in a beach room. You will have a much better chance of a room upgrade compared to anyone who is only booked in a beach room, so you should be at the top of the list. You might end up 4 or 5 nights in an overwater bungalow that way while only paying for two and the rest in a beach room. It’s a bit risky if you REALLY want to spend most of the week overwater, but it could work.

      Honestly, the overwater experience is amazing for a few days but the novelty wears off a bit after that because you always have to walk much farther to get anywhere compared to the beach rooms. April is one of the slowest months in the South Pacific, so you should be getting pretty good rates as it is. Sorry I don’t have more advice for you. -Roger

  4. You mentioned eco-style resorts in the Caribbean that are fairly affordable. Do you have a list of these? We would love to stay in an affordable over the water bungalow but don’t want to have to fly all the way to Tahiti.

  5. Soleena,
    for the future
    I hope you don’t mind me sharing 🙂
    It is considered rude to use capital letters when chatting. It is considered to be shouting. You did not sound like you were cross so I thought you’d like to know. Cheers Audrey

  6. FIRST AND FOREMOST, I MUST COMMEND YOU ON YOUR ATTENTIVE, RESPONSIVE DEDICATION TO ASSISTING THOSE THAT SEEK GUIDANCE AND OR SOME SENSE OF DIRECTION ON THE ENDLESS PLETHORA OF VACATION DESTINATIONS AND THE POTENTIAL DISCOUNTED RATES AND TRAVEL PACKAGES. VERY ADMIRABLE, I HAVE TO ADMIT!

    AND AS FAR AS MY CONCERNS GO, DO YOU KNOW OF A RELIABLE AND LEGIT, YET DECENTLY/AFFORDABLY- PRICED WATER BUNGALOW RESORT/HOTEL/ETC., THAT I COULD BOOK IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS FOR A POTENTIAL 4-7 NIGHTS STAY- DURING THE END OF TIS MONTH THRU THE END OF SEPTEMBER? Thanks so much sweetheart!

    1. Soleena,

      Thank you for the kind words, and sorry for the delayed response. We actually do an annual list of the cheapest overwater bungalow resorts in the world on our sister site. You’ve probably seen it, but you may not have realized that it’s the same data. There are no secret places that aren’t on the list, at least if you are looking for a "honeymoon-style" overwater bungalow. Let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll try to help, and more quickly this time. -Roger

    1. Jacki,

      There is a new resort opening next year in Panama with honeymoon-style overwater bungalows. We don’t know the rates yet, but they should be far more affordable than the new Sandals resorts in Jamaica. If you are okay with the eco-style resorts, there are many in the Caribbean that are fairly affordable. -Roger

  7. hello there
    this will be our first time traveling to the maldives ,
    my wife and me want a nice romantic place with a private pool in our overwater bungallow and a beautiful view ,,this will be our second honey moon ,,, wich island or resort do you recomend

    thank you so much .

    1. Agustin,

      Actually, we have a list of the best Maldives water villa resorts with private pools. The first one on the list is amazing and it’s also the best of the all-inclusives, though it’s quite expensive. If you are looking for one that is more modestly priced you’ll want to focus on the bottom one on the list, the Irufushi Beach and Spa Resort. The water villas there are huge and all have private pools. Have a great trip and let me know if I can help further. -Roger

  8. Is there a number to call to tell an advisor what exactly we want / expect out of our trip so they can recommend the best resort thay would fit our needs. Also which part of maldives is the best to stay as far as entertainment brar by etc.

    1. Kira,

      We are primarily an online guide to water villa resorts and we don’t do bookings or consultations, although I try to offer advice when I can. As far as which part of the Maldives, each resort there (by law) is on a private island, and each one is different. If you are looking for a place with nightlife and entertainment then you’ll want to book at one of the larger places like Meeru Island, as they have multiple bars and night time activities. Some of the smaller resorts have nothing beyond the dinner service and a small bar. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  9. I am dreaming and want to plan a trip for a ann. next year. a couple different places so I see all the beauty in Tahiti or where ever I can afford. please send me more info and updated rates. THANKS for the tips.

  10. I really want to stay in a over water bungalow at some point in time. So can you get an all-inclusive with 2 or 3 day in the bungalow and then move to an island room?

    1. Dee,

      Yes, you can definitely stay in an overwater bungalow for only part of a stay at a resort. In fact, it’s mentioned above that this is a pretty good strategy to possibly get an upgrade for additional days or perhaps your whole stay. Best of luck with this. -Roger

    1. Katherine,

      They are good deals if you enjoy drinking more than one or two alcoholic drinks each day. Generally, pretty much all the activities are included at all overwater resorts, so it’s pretty much food and drinks that are part of all-inclusive. And it’s not surprising that alcohol tends to be quite expensive (as does food) at these resorts, so all-inclusive is best for drinkers. Otherwise, you are subsidizing big drinkers if you don’t consume much alcohol.

      It’s also worth noting that nearly all the all-inclusive overwater resorts in the world are in the Maldives. There are none like that in or near Bora Bora. -Roger

    1. Alino,

      There is a link to the cheapest online booking site for each resort on each page. Just look for the link that says "Check for online specials…"