For many it’s the ultimate image of luxury, an overwater bungalow hovering above crystal clear blue waters, fish swimming below you as you roll straight out of bed into the sea. A favorite with celebrities and honeymooners, this luxury usually comes with a pretty hefty price tag on top of the long haul flight you need to get to the tropics. For the kind of overwater bungalow the Kardashians stay in expect to pay upwards of $4k a night but look outside luxury resorts and there are some amazing affordable options. Here’s how to get the over water vibes for a much more attractive price…
You might think of hotel’s thatched roofed bungalow accommodation as some sort of adaptation of traditional housing but it is actually a complete invention for the tourist trade. Three Americans in Tahiti in the 1960s came up with a creative solution to attract visitors to their hotel which didn’t have a beach but sat next to a beautiful coral reef. The bungalows on stilts allowed guests to snorkel directly from their rooms and go exploring.
Nowadays the South Pacific islands have the highest priced overwater bungalows in the world but there is one resort where you can still relax above an aqua marine lagoon for around $600 a night. Maitai on the main island of Bora Bora has romantic double bungalows with glass coffee tables allowing you to watch the sea life swim below you as you eat breakfast. If that price tag still makes you gasp, let's have a look elsewhere around the globe…
Nestled next to Mexico on the Caribbean coast Belize is a beautiful, friendly country with incredible coral reefs and marine wildlife. If you avoid luxury hotel resorts you can find some pretty affordable, privately owned accommodations. For $420 a night you get a private plunge pool, glass bottom floor, and a full length balcony with swings and hammocks. San Pedro itself is a laid back town of sandy streets, wooden houses, seafood restaurants and beach bars.
Try this hidden tropical eco resort on Isla San Cristobal in Panama for an off grid experience where you’ll sleep above a lagoon backed by tropical jungle. This isn’t a 5 star hotel experience but the luxury here is being immersed in incredible nature. The trees are full of sloths and howler monkeys, the warm ocean teems with tropical fish, and at night the waters around your bungalow glow with bioluminescence. With a wonderful coral reef surrounding the property and friendly staff to take you on jungle excursions it’s an incredible chance to meet all the local wildlife. And all of this will only set you back $92 a night!
Another budget friendly option is Azul Paradise where bungalows come with glass floor bottoms, lounge seating over the water and ladders that plunge into the waters below. It is also an eco-lodge and has a tiki bar, beachfront grill, bar and clubhouse.
If you really don’t want to cut back on luxury, go off season and you can score some good prices in the Maldives- the quintessential honeymoon spot. At Sun Siyam Olhuveli prices for the deluxe overwater bungalow begin at $342 in the low season between May and November and include breakfast. Perched above a clear blue lagoon your private sundeck looks out over the Indian Ocean and the sun deck leads directly into the warm waters. There are eleven bars and restaurants to choose from, snorkeling, parasailing and kayaking on offer and a secret shipwreck covered in colorful coral for diving.
Rotua in Honduras is world renowned for its scuba diving and at Coco View Resort you can sleep over the water at night and spend your days exploring its underwater secrets, all in tropical paradise. Just a few minutes snorkeling from your room you’ll already be in the resort's famous ‘backyard’ - a pristine coral reef with a 140 ft shipwreck to explore. In the low season, overwater bungalow rates are around $200 a night and include all food and two boat dives a day. When you’re not in the water you can relax on your private sundeck or join other divers in the clubhouse for drinks overlooking the water.
As you see there are a range of experiences an overwater bungalow can provide from all out luxury to jungle living and access to incredible wildlife. So don’t discount it from your bucket list just yet!
Written by Laura Sedlak