The waves lapping against your deck, the thought of fish swimming under you while you sleep, and utter privacy... there’s just something magical about staying in an overwater villa. Naturally, celebrities seem to agree. (We know you saw those Justin Bieber photos in Bora Bora.)
You don’t even have to venture to the other side of the world to enjoy these lodgings anymore, now that Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica, has announced that it will open its all-new overwater villas in November. Those aquatic wonders will have glass floors, teak beds, private infinity pools, and two outdoor showers each. No wonder rates start at $4,321 per night.
That said, if you’re willing to travel a bit farther, there are plenty of amazing options to choose from. Here are nine of the best around the world.
1. Four Seasons Bora Bora, French Polynesia
It’s been reported that Jennifer Aniston and new husband Justin Theroux spent their honeymoon in an enormous three-bedroom beachfront villa at the Four Seasons’ landmark Bora Bora property. However, most of their celebrity honeymoon guests (that’s right, they invited people not only to their wedding, but to come along on the honeymoon as well!) stayed in the resort’s signature overwater bungalows. Teak furniture, thatched roofs, private decks with direct water access (and snorkeling gear so you can play Jacques Cousteau anytime) plus postcard-worthy views of craggy Mount Otemanu in the distance… what more could you need?
2. Jumeirah Vittaveli, Maldives
The Middle Eastern luxury brand pulls out all the stops with its two Maldives properties, and while couples tend to head to the more secluded Dhevanafushi property, it would be a shame to miss out on this one, which is just a quick yacht-ride from Malé. That’s because couples truly looking to get away from it all can book one of the seven freestanding Ocean Suites at Jumeirah Vittaveli. These overwater villas are each standalone and serviced by on-call boat service that whisks guests to and from the main resort island. Something tells us that once couples check in, there’s not much reason to leave, though. That’s because these babies have nearly 3,000 square feet of space including both indoor and outdoor living rooms (the outdoor one is open to the breeze and has a partial glass floor to watch the sea creatures below), huge split-level verandas with private plunge pools facing the sunset, and a second story that houses the bedroom and second bathroom.
3. Song Saa, Cambodia
You might be surprised to learn Cambodia even has a coastline, but that’s what makes the country, and this tiny eco-resort in particular, so special. Once you get here, you’l have this whole stretch of the Gulf of Thailand to yourself. Opened back in 2012 by an Australian couple, Song Saa occupies two little islands. The name actually means “the sweethearts” since the two pieces of land connected by a footbridge appear to be kissing. If that doesn’t set the tone, we don’t know what will. While 18 of the villas line the beaches, the other nine are perched on stilts over the tranquil waters and have romance-igniting features like sunken bath tubs, outdoor showers, glass-floored lounging areas, sunny daybeds, and stairs leading right down into the water. Oh yeah, and you’ll have your own on-call butler to cater to your whims day and night. But it’s not all hedonism here: The resort has created a mini marine reserve around itself as a sanctuary for sea creatures and to protect its reef.
4. Six Senses Laamu, Maldives
Although the Laamu atoll is just a short flight from Malé, this is the only resort there and takes the idea of barefoot luxury to new (and literal) extremes. Guests are even asked to remove their shoes before getting to Six Senses Laamu, and are encouraged to keep them off during their stay. That’s okay, though, because you won’t need shoes walking the sandy paths or wooden piers to the overwater villas here. The aesthetic is driftwood chic, with lots of natural wood accents, including weathered wooden decks with shaded and sunny daybeds, and sunken outdoor dining nooks that are nearly eye level with the waves. To cool off, book one of the villas with its own plunge pool, or simply step off your deck (mind the little crabs that like to live on the ladders) and snorkel the nearby house reef, where you might find octopuses, clown fish, eagle rays, and even a black-tipped reef shark or two. Indoors, the villas have pristine white-dressed beds with mosquito netting more for a romantic ambiance than necessity. The outdoor rainfall showers are a pleasure second only to the all-glass bathtubs with a view to the waves below.
5. Pearl Resort & Spa, Moorea, French Polynesia
This Tahitian resort’s claim to fame is that it is built in the same spot as the very first hotel to offer overwater rooms in the world, the Club Bali Hai Moorea. The hotel there today, the Pearl Resort & Spa, has expanded on that legacy, with 94 rooms including 28 overwater bungalows. Backed by the dramatic bluffs of Moorea’s upcountry, this low-key boutique resort offers a more authentic Polynesian experience than many of its big-chain neighbors, with small but elegant little bungalows on a prime stretch of the island’s coast. When guests, aren’t paddling around in the enormous infinity pool, they can unwind on private decks facing the island of Tahiti, snorkel in the protected waters among the piers, or taking a paddleboard out into the open waters between the resort and the reef.
6. Angsana Velavaru, Maldives
This hospitality brand is better known in Asia than in the U.S., but get familiar with it, because you’ll want to visit Angsana Velavaru. Folks come for the opportunity to swim with whale sharks nearby, but that’s just one of the reasons book a stay. The resort is unique in that it’s split into two separate areas. One part is on an island where you’ll find beach villas, restaurants, and the spa, while the other is a pier constructed in the middle of the lagoon (the two are linked by boat service) off of which sit the hotel’s InOcean overwater villas. Some face sunrise and some the sunset, depending on if you’re a morning person or not. All, however, have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lagoon’s turquoise waters (the deep soaking tubs allow bathing with a view of the waves). They also boast massive decks with lounge and breakfast areas, a hammock slung over the water, and enormous private plunge pools. Some even have their own piers jutting out into the water, at the end of which sit salas, or little decks with another sunbed. Oh yeah, and there’s also a rooftop lounge on each, where you’ll find a shaded living room and sun-drenched lounge chairs for more private tanning sessions.
7. Laucala Island, Fiji
A 3,500-acre private island first owned by publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes and now the property of Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, Laucala has been setting the standard for off-the-map luxury since it opened back in 2008. The island playground has typical amenities like a golf course, but also rather unique toys, like a submarine that guests can use to check out the local marine life. Seriously, a submarine. There are just 25 residences… with 16 staff members to each one! But only one of them is perched on stilts over a private lagoon, so if you want it, book it early. If you do, you arrive in your own yacht departing from a private jetty. Like the other villas, this two-bedroom dwelling comes with sea-inspired décor, a granite bathtub, all the state-of-the-art electronics you could need, plus a multi-level deck with a private plunge pool carved out of the island rock.
8. Constance Le Prince Maurice, Mauritius
Lying in the azure waters of the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is a bit of a jaunt for most Americans, but quite the popular vacation destination for Europeans. That’s because they know this under-the-radar luxury resort has “villas on stilts” overlooking the hotel’s lagoon and fish preserve that measure up at a respectable 130 square meters (that’s 1,400 square feet for us non-Euros). Why so large? They include the usuals like peaked thatched bedrooms and wraparound decks with sun beds, but also separate living and dining rooms. Oh, and if sleeping over the water isn’t enough for you, Constance Le Prince Maurice also has a floating seafood restaurant called Barachois with tables on private pontoons linked by a wooden pathway.
9. Aitutaki Lagoon Resort & Spa, Cook Islands
Long a tropical getaway for New Zealanders, the Cook Islands are starting to gain a reputation as the next untouched paradise for international jet setters as well. It’s sort of a throwback to the Hawaii of days past, and Aiutaki is the flagship luxury resort here. Though simple, its overwater bungalows have a distinctly Polynesian feel, with woven reed walls, native woodcarvings, and jungly outdoor showers. They also have direct access to the pristine lagoon and its vibrant reefs, teeming with marine life. You can bet none of your friends have gotten this far off the beaten path.
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