12 Hotels With Overwater Bungalows

Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Sunrise views over the Pacific and sunsets over the lagoon and Mount Otemanu make this Polynesian village resort beyond beautiful. Surrounded by coconut palms, buildings have leaf-thatched roofs and walls made of volcanic stone with mother-of-pearl accents. Rooms include overwater bungalows, allowing guests to view schools of fish below or gaze above into the sky.

Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa (Courtesy Le Taha’a)

Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa, Tahaa
Taha’a, French Polynesia

Just 10 minutes away from Bora Bora by helicopter, this beach resort is designed in Polynesian style. Located on an offshore islet filled with vanilla plantations, guests stay in overwater bungalows or beach villas built with local bamboo; the former have wraparound decks, so guests can kayak to and from their rooms, while the villas have plunge pools and hammocks under the coconut trees. Meals can be delivered to guests on the beach, and activities include swimming with sharks.

Te Tiare Beach Resort (Courtesy Te Tiare Beach Resort)

Te Tiare Beach Resort, Huahine
Huahine, French Polynesia

This traditional Polynesian beach resort is located in a small private bay accessible only by boat. Thatched-roof guest bungalows have tiled floors accented by bright island-style fabrics and sit directly above the water.

Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort  & Spa
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Facing Mount Otemanu, beachfront rooms re-create Polynesian fares with open architecture, local tapa fabrics, and Marquesan carvings. In bathrooms, glass counters positioned over glass floors allow you to gaze at fish below while brushing your teeth.

Le Meridien Bora Bora (Courtesy le Meridien)

Le Meridien Bora Bora
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

“To this day, we smile when we think of the water and the views of nirvana on earth,” including those of Mount Otemanu, said one reader of this top-rated Condé Nast Traveler Gold List resort. Beach villas have direct access to the interior lagoon for snorkeling and swimming in the resort’s turtle sanctuary. Overwater bungalows have thatched roofs, louvered windows, and Polynesian accents.

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa (Courtesy of Hilton Bora Bora Nui)

Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa
Bora Bora, French Polynesia

It was four decades ago that hotel developers in French Polynesia first hit on the revolutionary idea of placing their accommodations on concrete pylons in the lagoon. Over the years, these overwater bungalows have grown in size and sophistication. The 122-suite Bora Bora Nui represents the current state of the art. The interiors—each 1,000 to 1,500 square feet—are appropriately extravagant, with rare Indonesian hardwoods, hand-carved kahia wood, and three glass floor panels so that jet-lagged clients can unwind by watching colorful lagoon fish. A unique feature is the resort’s reception area, which is also on pylons like a giant overwater bungalow. A navette (motor launch) delivers guests from the airport directly to the hotel in high style. While the lagoon is the prime attraction, the beachside part of the resort has not been neglected: Stretching up the volcanic hillside behind the overwater installations are 36 villas and the fully equipped Mandara Spa, with treatments featuring vanilla, the major local crop.

(Courtesy of Sofitel Moorea)

Moorea La Ora Beach Resort
Maharepa, French Polynesia

If it weren’t for the fact that the water, over a bottom of hard white sand, is only about waist deep, you’d feel as if you were at sea in the bungalows at this away-from-the-tourists (but with Bora Bora still visible on the horizon) resort. The feeling is enhanced when your breakfast arrives by canoe.

(Courtesy of Moorea Pearl Resort)

Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa
Maharepa, French Polynesia

The reef isn’t as pretty here as elsewhere on Moorea, but for history buffs the overwater bungalows are not to be missed. They were the first ever in the South Pacific (the ancient islanders being sensible enough to build away from the water), created in the 1960s, back when the resort was the Hotel Bali Hai and owned by three famously fun-loving Californians known as the Bali Hai Boys.

(Courtesy of Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort)

Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
Tikehau, French Polynesia

If you feel you’re a long way from home in Tahiti, it’s nothing compared to how you’ll feel when contemplating the reef from your bungalow on this atoll in the Tuamotus, one of French Polynesia’s most far-flung island groups. Paying more to be over the water is worth it here for the fish alone; Jacques Cousteau’s researchers once called Tikehau’s lagoon the most abundant with fish in the Tuamotus.

(Courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Mauritius)

Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita
Beau Champ, Mauritius

Located on the less trampled east coast, the Four Seasons is part of the Anahita resort complex, which includes private residences and a golf course. Faultless service and eye-popping scenery—a huge lagoon and extravagant gardens weave a bright thread among the 132 villas and residences—stand out, as does the imaginative food in the four restaurants. Self-improvement seems to be the focus here, with instruction in everything from massages at the overwater spa to tennis to cooking. There are 61 Beach and Ocean Villas—more hotel-like than homey—each with a veranda, pool, and garden on Île aux Chats, the resort’s 11-acre private island. (The mainland’s Mangrove and Garden villas pale by comparison.) The man-made beach on Île aux Chats is a bit dull, but there are frequent (and free) boat transfers to the busy but beautiful Île de Cerfs.

(Courtesy of One&Only Reethi Rah)

One&Only Reethi Rah
Reethi Rah Island, Maldives
An instant favorite among honeymooners and celebrity couples, One&Only’s luxury lodging sprinkles 130 thatch-roofed villas (all with terrazzo bathtubs for two) along the 12 beaches of this 109-acre island in the North Male Atoll. The island’s paradisiacal surroundings are the resort’s focal point. Daybeds outside the Moroccan restaurant, Fanditha, are the best place to take your meals. The nonstop activities—from diving excursions to tennis tournaments—make the resort a sort of ultra-deluxe Club Med. And while some may find the friendly banter of the staff intrusive, most will appreciate their simple acts of kindness, like a beach cleaner reaching down to dig up stunning colored cowries for a seashell-seeking guest.

Laucala Island (Courtesy Laucala Island)

Laucala Island
Laucala Island, Fiji

In 1972, Malcolm Forbes bought this luscious green morsel as his private refuge; now its owner, Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, has spared no expense to create a spectacular tropical hideaway. The high price tag gets you over-the-top luxury and total privacy in one of 25 unique villas—all glamorous versions of traditional Fijian dwellings. Each opens onto its own private pool. Inside, you’ll find the expected mod cons (Bose sound systems, giant plasma TVs, a personal bar stocked with champagne), and exuberant decor—sofas evoke seashells, light shades are crafted from hundreds of butterfly cocoons, bathtubs are carved from single slabs of granite. It’s hard to leave—amuse-bouches materialize throughout the day, and any conceivable meal will be arranged instantly—but Laucala also has five restaurants, a spa, a stable, and an 18-hole golf course. Go on a mountain bike to explore the seven-mile-long island and Laucala almost feels like an independent nation, with an organic farm, armies of friendly staff, a working jetty, a hangar with mechanics to service private jets, and a James Bond–worthy dive boat for trips to fertile reefs.

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