Overwater bungalows and water villas are known for being expensive, but at least they are also known for being larger than a typical hotel room, especially when you include the private decks. There are over 110 resorts in the world offering these over-the-water rooms, and almost all of them are over 500 square feet, and usually around 1,000 square feet. This makes those about 2 to 3 times larger than a typical city hotel room.

At the Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, (formerly known as Soneva Gili by Six Senses) they have 44 Villa Suites and Residences that range from 2,260 to 2,691 square feet, making them among the largest in the Maldives. But one – known as the Private Reserve – measures in at an astounding 15,069 square feet (1400 m²)!!! It's arguably the finest overwater resort in the Maldives, and the Private Reserve is BY FAR the largest overwater villa in the world.

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Like a bit of privacy? You got it

The Private Reserve is the most remote of the 8 water villas that are only accessible by boat at the
Gili Lankanfushi Resort. You can get to the island in your own private motor boat, or you can have “Mr. Friday” (one of your two 24-hour private staff) pilot you back and forth.

 

This degree of privacy is one of the reasons that many celebrities prefer to stay at the
Gili Lankanfushi Maldives when they holiday in the Maldives.

Extreme luxury or not?

One interesting aspect of all the Six Senses resorts is that they don’t actually claim to be “luxury” properties, as they are more focused on comfort. By this they appear to mean that you won’t find a solid-gold minibar or a piano made of diamonds in the rooms. In fact, the decor is what they call “rustic chic” and it looks much more like Gilligan’s Island than it does the Burj al Arab Hotel.

 

They are just being modest. In reality, this is the highest-rated of all resorts in the Maldives by TripAdvisor and by nearly any other measure. The rooms range from huge to ridiculous, and the staff get universal raves from anyone who comes near the place.

Key features of the Private Reserve

  • Area: 15,069 sq ft (1,400 m²)
  • Resident Mr & Mrs Friday (Personal Butlers) on call 24 hours
  • Luxuriously appointed living space in the middle of a turquoise blue lagoon
  • Situated 500 metres from Gili Lankanfushi and 300 metres from the closest villa, accessible only by boat
  • Uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean
  • 5 separate buildings designed in rustic chic style
  • 2 master suites, each with ceiling to floor windows on 3 sides
  • Private indoor and outdoor relaxation areas and sundecks
  • A large central open plan living area with sea garden, natural
  • coral pool, surrounding viewing/sun decks, dining area, writing desk and daybeds
  • Unique open-air 100sqm private bathroom with separate glass walled shower enclosure
  • Each master suite has a relaxing horizon style plus a 2 person bathtub built over coral gardens
  • Private spa facility with sauna, steam room, indoor and outdoor treatment pavilion and upstairs air-conditioned gymnasium
  • Entertainment/library suite with the latest in plasma and audiovisual technology
  • Individually controlled music throughout the villa, including the underwater coral pool
  • Fully equipped gourmet kitchen available for private dining, snacks, healthy drinks or coffee and tea
  • Residents will be invited to design their own cellar selection from our list of 300 wines
  • A deep water coral pool is situated next to the central living area
  • For the light hearted, a waterslide is installed from the top deck into the coral pool
  • Roof-top sun deck with daybed and two outdoor dining pavilions
  • Personal, easy to use motorised transfer boats exclusive to guests
  • Alternatively Mr Friday will captain and transport residents
  • A private 400hp, 36 foot speedboat with crew on call at all times

Price of the Private Reserve

US$8,750 per night for up to 6 guests during low season
US$15,000 per night in high season

 

The above rates are just for the “room” as it were. You can also get packages that include all meals (including soft drinks) and one massage per day for an extra fee.


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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.