Close your eyes and imagine paradise. Perhaps you see a deserted tropical island or even a snowy peak, but what about an over-water bungalow?
Elevated over the ocean, these hotel rooms on stilts are most often found in the Maldives and the South Pacific, but they also crop up in unexpected places such as Switzerland, Malaysia, and Cambodia.
Some of the world’s best overwater bungalows come with huge wraparound decks, private plunge pools, glass-paneled floors, and that all-important ladder leading down to the water, ensuring you never have to move very far to get from your bedroom to the water.
Here’s our look at four of the best in the world.
4. Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora
Where: Bora Bora
Bora Bora is often described as one of the most beautiful spots on earth, but the Four Seasons Bora Bora kicks it up a notch, featuring 100 overwater bungalows perched on stilts above a private lagoon.
The largest ones have private plunge pools and ladders leading down to the water. Guests who feel motivated to leave their villas can unwind at the spa, where treatments incorporate local ingredients like vanilla.
Insider Tip: Head to the resort’s own private lagoon to snorkel, view coral grafting exhibits, watch octopus feeding sessions, and discuss the Polynesian ecosystem with a marine biologist.
3. Cayo Espanto
This four-acre private island resort has only seven villas, and those looking for total privacy can rent the entire island. One Cayo Espanto villa, the Casa Ventanas, is built over the water, located off a 150-foot-long dock, and surrounded on all sides by the Caribbean Sea.
Guests can relax on sun loungers at the end of their dock, where a private dinner can also be served.
Insider Tip: Casa Ventanas has a glass-paneled floor, which reveals fish swimming right under your bungalow.
2. Cocoa Island by COMO
Although there are plenty of beautiful overwater resorts in the Maldives, what makes Cocoa Island by COMO stand out is its design.
Instead of the traditional thatched roof bungalow, guest rooms are built to look like traditional dhoni boats. All overwater suites have private sundecks with loungers, and guests can enjoy the services of Cocoa Island’s butlers, who tackle everything from arranging romantic dinners to giving guided snorkeling tours.
Insider Tip: Cocoa Island’s surrounding waters are filled with coral reefs, manta rays, and even a shipwreck. Shark viewing is offered for experienced divers.
1. Song Saa Private Island
Where: Koh Ouen and Koh Bong, Cambodia
This resort, which opened in 2011, is spread over two islets in Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago, which are connected by a footbridge. Come here for total privacy, as Song Saa Private Island is the only resort in the archipelago.
The bungalows feature indoor and outdoor showers, private pools, and uninterrupted views of the sea. Song Saa also has impressive green credentials: Driftwood and recycled timber from old Cambodian fishing boats were incorporated into the villas’ design and furniture.
Insider Tip: Though it may be hard to tear yourself away from your villa, Song Saa offers kayaking through mangroves, hiking through the jungle, beach picnics, and visits to Prek Svay fishing village on the neighboring Koh Rong Island.