Overwater villa holidays: How to begin planning yours
So you've decided that you want to take a vacation in an overwater bungalow or water villa, but you don't know where to begin? This is the single most common question we get at this site, and it's understandable because these amazing accommodations are only common in a few parts of the world.
Another complication for most of us is that overwater bungalows are among the most expensive hotel rooms in the world, although there is increasing variety among less expensive places lately as well. Honeymoon couples and others looking for a romantic getaway will often dream of overwater bungalows for the gorgeous setting and privacy, but there are also fantastic family resorts and even eco-resorts where scuba diving is the main activity.
Honeymoon-style water bungalows, or a scuba diving holiday?
First things first, if you are like most people you are interested in staying in one of those amazing huts on stilts out over a crystal clear lagoon in the tropics. We'll call those “honeymoon-style” overwater bungalows, and they are nearly all located in the South Pacific (Bora Bora, Moorea, Tahiti) and the Maldives (just southwest of India).
But there are also more than a dozen overwater “eco resorts” where the main attraction is daily scuba diving excursions and other local wildlife and sea life. For this type of holiday you are either going to want to check out the overwater huts in the Caribbean (mostly off Central America), or the overwater huts in Asia in Malaysia or Indonesia.
Honeymoon-style water bungalows
Okay, so you want to stay in one of those huts out over a turquoise lagoon. Where you decide to go will largely depend on where you start from. The South Pacific and the Caribbean are much closer to North America, while the Maldives is much closer to Europe and the Middle East.
There are a few other great resorts in different parts of Asia, and they might be worth a look if you are starting from Australia or somewhere within Asia, but for almost everyone their best bet is one of the main three regions.
Basic information about the main overwater resort areas
The section below should answer your first questions and help you decide in which part of the world is best for your holiday.
A destination made famous in books, movies and TV shows, the Caribbean is comprised of hundreds of islands as well as the Caribbean coast of Central America and Mexico. The islands themselves only offer a few choices and have been dominated by the Sandals brand. Though there are only a few overwater resorts to choose from, each of the 3 Sandals resorts- the Sandals Grande St. Lucian Resort, the Sandals Royal Caribbean All Inclusive Montego Bay, and the Sandals South Coast Resort Whitehouse, Jamaica– wow with large rooms, luxury amenities and fantastic dining options that deliver the taste of the sea.
With that said, Mexico also keeps up with 3 great overwater choices as well. These resorts offer overwater rooms between US$500 and US$1,500 a night, allowing for guests with different budgets to enjoy a stay in paradise.
- Jamaica overwater bungalows start off at US$2,159 per night per room
- Mexico overwater bungalows start off at US$628 per night per room
To reach the Caribbean, you'll find that there are several international airports to choose from, with the most commonly used being the John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City and the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. If flying from Europe, you'll find several options as well, with most using the London International Airport in England. Because each destination is so far from each other, some based on the Caribbean coast of Central America while others on a Caribbean island, you'll find that most of the resorts are reached via a different airport.
Far south of Hawaii, you will find Tahiti, Fiji, Moorea, and Bora Bora, plus about 7 other islands with one resort each. Bora Bora is home to about 10 of these resorts, including most of the most luxurious in the South Pacific, and among the most expensive as well. Moorea is a beautiful island just off Tahiti, and it's home to 5 of these resorts, while Tahiti itself has 2 larger international resorts with some overwater bungalows.
- Tahiti overwater bungalows start at US$435 per night per room
- Moorea overwater bungalows start at US$260 per night per room
- Bora Bora overwater bungalows start at US$429 per night per room
- Fiji overwater bungalows start at US$390 per night per room
For nearly all of these resorts you'll need to fly from Los Angeles to Tahiti as part of getting there, even if you are starting in Europe. The Tahiti resorts are fairly close to the airport. You can book an onward 5-minute flight to Moorea for only a bit more, or take a short ferry ride to get there. To reach Bora Bora you'll fly to Tahiti and then take a 50-minute flight to Bora Bora itself.
South of India, stretching all the way to below the equator, the Maldives is home to over 80 resorts with “water villas”, as they are usually called there. Each resort, by law, is on its own private island, and they range from tiny boutique resorts to large family resorts with many hundreds of rooms.
All of the islands in the Maldives chain is completely flat, so there are no mountain views like you get in the South Pacific, but each island is surrounded by its own clear lagoon with great snorkeling and diving, so it feels like paradise just the same.
The Maldives resorts range from all-inclusive package hotels that have one large buffet restaurant serving every meal for a week, all the way up to super-luxury islands where there are as many as 10 restaurants and bars for only 70 rooms.
Maldives water villas start at around US$306 per night
All-inclusive Maldives water villas start at about US$370 per night for two people
The Maldives is an island chain that is incredibly spread out, but all holidays to the country will start by flying into the Malé International Airport, just northeast of the main island of Malé. To reach this airport from Europe you'll almost certainly be taking an overnight flight, changing planes in the Middle East (Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai), arriving in Malé in the morning.
One at the Malé International Airport you'll be met by staff from your resort who with either guide you to a private speedboat that takes you directly to the island, or they'll put you on a sea-plane for a short flight to the island. When you make your hotel reservation they'll include the cost of the boat ride or flight, so it's best to save money and book it yourself online.
Overwater scuba and eco resorts
While there is good scuba diving and snorkeling at all the honeymoon-style resorts as well, there are also over a dozen specialty resorts where diving is the main activity for nearly all guests. If you are looking for this kind of trip your best bets are just off the coast of Central America, in the Caribbean, or in Malaysia or Indonesia in Asia.