Happened to all of us. We see a photo of an overwater bungalow (or a water villa, as they are called in much of the world) and we immediately daydream about spending a holiday in one ourselves. There's something both romantic and private about these hotel rooms, which is one reason that they are incredibly popular for honeymoons and anniversary trips.

One complication is that overwater bungalows are found in only a few parts of the world, almost all of which are a long way from the people who'd like to stay in them.

This site is your ultimate guide to everything having to do with overwater bungalows and water villas, and below we'll cover everywhere that they can be found. All told, there are around 5,000 overwater bungalows in the world, and new resorts are opening every year.

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Where to find overwater bungalows and water villas


The Maldives

W Retreat And Spa Maldives

This island nation located just southwest of India is home to about two-thirds of all the water villas (as they are known here) in the world, spread among over 75 resorts. Nearly all these resorts are located on their own small private island, spread through the many atolls (circular groups of lagoon islands).

 

Unlike the volcanic islands of the South Pacific, every island in the Maldives is completely flat, so the scenery will be of the beach, the resort itself, the lagoon below, and the wide-open seas. Nevertheless, the area is considered to be one of the most beautiful and pristine on earth, and there are dozens of 5-star water villa resorts in addition to some more modest complexes.

 

The Maldives are especially popular with Europeans, as it’s easy to get nonstop flights from many larger cities on the continent.

 

Maldives water villas

>More information about the W Retreat And Spa Maldives

Bora Bora

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

This small and stunningly beautiful island is a 50-minute flight northwest from Tahiti, and it’s home to more overwater bungalows than anywhere outside of the Maldives. There are 9 deluxe resorts featuring these rooms on Bora Bora, plus another one that is on nearby Taha’a Island, and reached through Bora Bora.

 

Part of the Society Islands group, Bora Bora is very popular with Americans and Canadians, but it’s also common to find Europeans here as well. All the overwater resorts here at 4-star and above, so it’s not ideal for the budget-minded traveler, but for those who can afford it, things don’t get any better.

 

Bora Bora overwater bungalow hotels

>More information about the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa

Moorea

InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

Located only 9 miles from Tahiti itself, Moorea is a slightly smaller and arguably more beautiful island that’s home to five overwater bungalow resorts. Since all flights into the South Pacific use Tahiti as a hub, it’s especially convenient since Moorea is only a 10-minute flight away, or reached by a ferry in less than an hour if you are in the Tahitian capital of Pape’ete.

 

Again, there are only 4-star and above resorts in Moorea, so none of them could be considered inexpensive, but the resorts and location are so desirable that they stay fairly full all year round. Romantic couples make up a large percentage of the guests, but a few resorts are quite family friendly as well.

 

Moorea overwater bungalow hotels

>More information about the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

Tahiti

Tahiti la Ora Beach Resort

There are exactly two overwater bungalow resorts located on Tahiti itself, and both are large international chain hotels that lack some of the privacy and exclusiveness of the others here. However, the bungalows here are among the most affordable in the region, so they remain popular with those on tighter budgets.

 

Another good reason to stay in a resort on Tahiti Island is that many of the flights from North America arrive late at night or leave very early in the morning. Since the planes and ferries to the other islands only operate during the day, it’s often necessary to stay one night in Tahiti at the beginning or end of your trip whether you want to or not. Fortunately, both overwater resorts here are near the airport, but not too near.

 

Tahiti overwater bungalow hotels

>More information about the Tahiti la Ora Beach Resort

Elsewhere in the South Pacific

Vahine Island Private Island Resort – South Pacific

There are 10 more overwater bungalow resorts scattered on other islands throughout this region, including one on Fiji and one on Samoa. Most of the others are on smaller islands, including several that are near Bora Bora and part of the Society Islands chain.

 

There are some cheaper overwater bungalow options in this group, along with some 5-star resorts that compare with any in the world. Since it’s common for honeymooners to stay at two or more resorts on one trip, it could be worth looking into one of these to increase variety.

 

South Pacific overwater bungalow hotels

>More information about the Vahine Island Private Island Resort – South Pacific

The Caribbean

Coral Lodge – San Blas Islands, Panama

Unfortunately, there are none of the dreamy resorts in the Caribbean, at least if you want a private bungalow perched on stilts above a crystal-clear lagoon. There are, however, 10 resorts that are very close to the lagoon style, and since they are within easy reach of so many people they are worth looking in to.

 

One in particular is an amazing overwater residence at a private-island resort in Belize, and another has 5-star villas placed over serene ponds near a beach in Turks and Caicos. The other three are just off Panama and Honduras, and are quite reasonably priced as long as you are okay with an eco-resort rather than a 5-star luxury hotel.

 

Caribbean overwater bungalow hotels

>More information about the Coral Lodge – San Blas Islands, Panama

Elsewhere in Asia and the Indian Ocean

Pangkor Laut Resort – Malaysia

The Philippines has three water villa resorts that are all run by the small El Nido hotel chain, each set in a beautiful cove of a different island in the same area. There’s also one beautiful water villa resort just off Malaysia, which is an excellent value and similar to some of the better Maldives resorts, plus a few others elsewhere in Malaysia.

 

The island of Phuket in southern Thailand has one overwater resort, though technically the villas are set at the edge of a man-made lagoon in the center of a large resort, so it’s not quite the same thing. There are other resorts in Indonesia and elsewhere in Thailand, although they aren’t exactly like the others. Lastly, there’s one water villa resort on the island of Mauritius, which is near Madagascar off the coast of southern Africa.

 

>More information about the Pangkor Laut Resort – Malaysia
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  1. Hi Roger,

    If my budget is 500 usd / day and planning to visit Maldives in low season (August). Which would be your hands down suggestion for a over water villa? Snorkelling and Beach are priority.

    Thanks.

    1. Vignesh,

      You’ll get very good snorkeling and great beaches at pretty much every overwater villa resort in the Maldives. It’s hard to pick one place because some really great resorts will offer promotions for certain dates if they aren’t very full yet. If I were you I’d put in your travel dates and check the cheaper places to find the one that sounds best to you. It’s kind of hard to believe, but nearly every one of those resorts is fantastic. -Roger

  2. Hello! Looking for a lovely resort in the Maldives for our family of 4. One caveat is that my child has many food allergies, so the ability to make his food safely and from scratch is a must. I know many all-inclusives have the standard western holiday foods, which generally doesn’t work for us. What would you recommend? We are looking at around $1000USD per day, but happy to pay a little more if it gives us the personal level of service we require. Thank you!

    1. Shiva,

      That does sound like a tricky situation. Unfortunately I’m not aware of a single Maldives resort that allows guests to cook for themselves from scratch. On your budget you should be able to find a place with a very good kitchen and chef staff, so perhaps you could contact the resort to work with them? But I’m not aware of any resorts that have anything more than a microwave oven and a mini fridge. Sorry about that. -Roger

  3. Hi Roger,
    We are two families, each with two adults and an 11 year old child, heading to Maldives in April. We’ve been recommended to go to Smartline Eriyadu. Is it one that you have ever recommended?
    There’s too much choice!

    1. Colette,

      I agree that is seems like there is too much choice in the Maldives, and it’s made more difficult that every resort looks amazing. Smartline Eriyadu doesn’t have water villas so I know almost nothing about it since this website is all about overwater rooms. But it does look nice for a smaller resort in the lower price category. If you don’t want a water villa that place could work well. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  4. Hi Roger,
    What would you recommend for first timers in Maldives with an 18 months old toddler? We don’t necessarily need a water villa but do prefer a nice relaxing beach villa near blue waters. Budget is maybe USD600 per night.

    1. Rose,

      I wish I could help you with this one, but I’m not a parent and I don’t really know the unique things that an 18-month-old requires. Nearly all of these Maldives private-island resorts have beach villas that are quite private and don’t share walls with other villas. I’d think you’d want one like that so you’ve got plenty of great choices. The resorts on the article above are resorts that specifically cater to families, so they’d be great places to start looking. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help. -Roger

  5. Hi Roger,
    Am looking for stay suggestions for a group of 2 adults and 3 kids (ages 12-16) for November for 3-5 nights. We are keen to try out maximum activities and would like to stay in a water villa. Also, availability of Indian vegetarian food will be preferred. Budget is about USD 2000 for entire stay for all inclusive option.

    1. Anat,

      Nearly all of the Maldives water villa resorts allow 3 guests per room, and almost every villa has a fold-out bed. So just check for the resort you like best and then check their policy. You shouldn’t have any trouble. -Roger

  6. Hi Roger,
    So much choice I need your advice please!
    My husband and I have been to Maldives a few times but now thinking if taking our 3 teenage daughters with us so looking for a more teenage friendly as opposed to couply resort. They’re not into kids/teenage clubs, organised activities etc. Into water sports, snorkelling etc. Would like water bungalows although not sure how this will work possibly 2?!

    Thanks in advance

    1. Laine,

      One challenge is that most Maldives resorts only allow 3 guests per water villa, and a few allow 4 guests, but none allow more than that except for the 2-bedroom units, which start at around US$2,500 per night. So you’ll need 2 water villas, or perhaps 1 water villa and one island room.

      If you don’t need “family” facilities such as Kids Clubs, you should probably just search among the larger resorts for good deals on your travel dates. The larger resorts typically have many more water sports and activities. I often recommend Meeru Island, which is the largest, but it’s such a large island that it feels half empty even when it’s full. They have more facilities than any other resort, including a small golf course and several pools. Best of luck with this. -Roger

  7. Hi Roger, need a help here. Planning to go to Maldives in mid-end Dec. A family of 6, 4 kids (14, 12, 7 and 4). We really want to experience water villa and look for where 6 of us can be in 1 villa. Any suggestion and advice are greatly appreciated.Thanks

    1. Sinta,

      Sorry for the slow response, but I was on a trip. Unfortunately, the most you can fit into a standard water villa in the Maldives is 4 people, and most limit it to 3 people. Many of them don’t even allow younger children in the water villas at all because the piers don’t have hand railings and the terraces for the villas don’t either. A handful of the super-luxury water villa resorts have 2-bedroom units, but those start at around US$3,000 per night. So your best and cheapest option would be to get 2 normal water villas at a more affordable resort. With your situation with 4 children that may not be ideal, of course. Sorry the news isn’t better. -Roger

  8. How is the drinking water in the Maldives? Strange question, I know, but when we vacation in Mexico and have to be ever vigilant about avoiding ice cubes and tap water, and when I travel to India for work and worry about pathogens in water and food, it’s EXHAUSTING. I’m hatching a plan to take a big trip with my family, but I don’t have the energy to police my kids on what they eat/drink etc.

    1. Kristen,

      The tap water at most Maldives resorts gets shipped onto the island and fed into the system. From everything I’ve heard, it’s actually drinkable for the most part, unlike most other places in Asia. However, I think pretty much all resorts not only recommend that you drink bottled water, but they typically leave a couple bottles in each room each day. You can also buy more from a little store on each island, or pay a higher price if you drink additional bottles out of the minibar. Obviously it depends on the resort, but my experience is that safe bottled drinking water is always a fairly reasonable price in places where tap water isn’t perfectly potable.

      Overall you will be very impressed with the Maldives, at least once you get to one of the private-island resorts. The standards of hygiene and that sort of thing are much better than you’d typically get in Thailand, for example. Have a wonderful trip. -Roger

  9. Roger, my question is slightly different. I have a family of 5 (2 boys – college and 1 daughter – HS). We are exploring the Maldives from a trip to Dubai. So far, so good. And from your answers, I got most of my lodging questions answered. The issue is then getting to Africa. Flights out of Male appear challenging. If we were trying to get to either Narobi or Capetown from Male, are we somewhat kidding ourselves or am I missing anything?

  10. Hi Roger,
    You seem to be quite an expert so wanted to ask for your opinion!
    We (My wife, 2 year old ,9 months old and I) are planning to spend 3-4 nights in the Maldives towards end of March/April.
    1- Would the weather be OK then?
    2- Is a beach villa "safer" for our toddler – Ideally we would want a water villa.
    3- Is it better to take a full board option?
    Any recommendation from your end would be highly appreciated! (I checked the lists of Family resort AND the water villas for 4 that you published which I found very useful).
    Thank you in advance!
    Gabriel

    1. Gabriel,

      Sorry for the slow response, but I was moving.

      1. The weather in the Maldives is pretty much perfect and identical all year long, except that June can be a bit rainy. Otherwise it’s warm every day and every night, and the rain storms tend to last no more than 30 minutes at a time.

      2. Many resorts won’t even book young children in a water villa, although some will if you sign a waiver. They all have a heavy sliding glass door or other heavy door to get out to the deck, so as long as the 2-year-old isn’t able to open that on their own, you should be okay. The decks do usually have one fully open side, so you’d want to have strict supervision when the kids are out on the deck. The walkways to reach the villas are usually without rails as well, so you do need to be careful.

      3. Most resorts include breakfast in the room rate. The full-board option would include a buffet lunch and dinner, so it really depends on what the rates are with or without that. Food in the Maldives is not cheap. In an a la carte restaurant at one of these resorts you’d be paying at least US$20 or so for lunch and probably US$30 for dinner for the adults. So for a couple, those meals will add about US$100 per day to the cost. If the full-board option is cheaper than that, it’s a good deal.

      I don’t have any specific recommendations for water villa resorts for families with young children. And again, many places won’t even allow them in the water villas. You might even consider an island villa for part of the stay and a water villa for only one or two nights, so you can experience it without having to worry the whole trip. Sorry I can’t be of more help on this. -Roger

  11. Hi Roger:
    I’m looking at spending about 4 days in Maldives – have been researching and viewing all the different resorts with 4 star and higher water villas. I’m a widower and this will be my first solo vacation, my planned dates are: mid December or mid January. Is one time better than the other weather wise and price wise?
    I just want a quite get away with a great spa. I’m also a strict vegetarian – will I have issues with food variety and I don’t drink alcohol?
    Is it good to take an all inclusive option, because I understand the meal are rather expensive? Can you recommend 3 places that fit what I’m looking for and my max budget is upto $700/night.
    I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.
    Jay

    1. Jay,

      December and January are the same for the weather, and as long as you avoid the Christmas and New Year’s weeks, the rates should be similar as well. I’d guess that mid December would be a bit cheaper because many people don’t go until after the holidays.

      As someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, I’d suggest a full board resort or just paying as you go. The all-inclusive resorts typically add about US$100 per room just for alcohol to their rates.

      There are two lists on this article about the cheapest Maldives all-inclusives. The first list are the best of the all-inclusive resorts, while the list below that is of the full-board places that offer all-inclusive options. I think any of the ones on that bottom list would be great, including Meeru Island and Veligandu, which I recommend often.

      The Maldives gets many vegetarian guests, from Europe and also from India. Many of the workers there are from India as well, so they are obviously very familiar with veg cooking. As long as you choose one of the larger resorts, with at least 80 or so total villas (including island villas), I’m sure you’d have many veg options at every meal. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  12. Hi Roger,
    I’m looking to plan a family trip with 6 adults and a 9 month old. We’re looking into the over water bungalos but are open to other suggestions. Do you know if there are overwater bungalos that accommodate 6 adults but also allow for a baby? Also which area would you recommend for the best budgeted spot with those accomodations? Any chance any of them are all-inclusive? Thanks

    1. Tiffany,

      Unfortunately, nearly all of these overwater villas are designed for 2 adults each. Most have one kingsize bed, almost most also have a sofa-bed in the living room area. A few of them offer twin beds instead of a kingsize. Only a few resorts actually allow up to 4 adult guests in one villa. For 6 adults you’d need to book at least 2 water villas, and maybe 3. There are a few resorts that offer 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom water villas, but those villas are literally starting at over US$3,000 per night, so getting 2 or 3 villas elsewhere is much cheaper.

      Here is an overview for where overwater bungalows are located and the kinds of resorts in each place. There are many all-inclusives in the Maldives, but not in most other areas. Let me know if you have other questions. -Roger

  13. Hi Roger, need some advice – we are a family of 4 (2 teens aged 14 and 16). Do you know of any resorts that allow for all 4 of us to stay in 1 room? Advanced thanks.

  14. Im searching for a budgetted vacay with my husband and baby girl.
    It is for our first honeymoon. Im looking for a water villa with a private pool, preferly all inclusive at 1000 US$/night or lower.
    Im located in Canada.. taking in conscidiration that US rate is pretty high right now..
    Please helpp! I appreciate it.

    1. Stephanie,

      One challenge would be that flying 3 people to the Maldives from Canada will cost about US$1,200 per person and take a bit over 24 hours each way. And then once you get to the Maldives Airport, you’ll have to pay from US$150 to US$500 per person to get to your resort. It’s an amazing place, but so is Moorea and Bora Bora, and if you don’t have a huge budget it may not be worth the long and expensive trip to get there.

      And the next challenge is that there are no overwater bungalows with pools in Bora Bora or Moorea, except for the deluxe suites that start at around US$2,000 per night. If you are okay using one of the wonderful public swimming pools at the high-end resorts in the South Pacific, you can get an overwater bungalow starting around US$600 per night. They don’t do all-inclusive in Bora Bora or Moorea, so you would have to pay for drinks and at least one or two of your meals each day.

      You’d think that someone willing to spend US$1,000 per night would be able to get almost anything they desired, but there are so few of these resorts and all of them are far from you, so it’s just not that easy yet. In a couple years they will open a new resort in Panama that seems to have what you are after. Until then, you’ll have to compromise something. Let me know if you have any other questions. -Roger

  15. Anybody been to Maldives with teenagers. I am looking for a preferably over water bungalow that can sleep entire family, 2 adults and 2 teenage girls. Anything around $1000 a night. If not over water, recommend any place for a family of 4.

  16. These places are a dream come true…so beautiful and as close to heaven as one can get. I just wish I had the dough to pay for it.. beautiful.. Thanks for sharing.