7 of the most epic overwater bungalows worldwide—because you deserve nice things


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Photo: Getty Images/Wolfgang Steiner

TBH, I’ve always been skeptical of overwater bungalows. Okay, cool, I’d think. You pay a zillion-dollar markup to be atop the water as opposed to next to it. Totally makes sense, eye-roll, eye-roll. Then, I stayed in one.

It was the most magical vacation experience of my entire life, sans even a whiff of hyperbole. After six nights spent sleeping on stilts, with my bungalow’s doors ajar so I could hear the rushing water, and seven days of jumping from my bedroom directly into the crystalline ocean waters, I felt years younger. I slept like a baby, experienced exactly nil bouts of anxiety, and I didn’t have a single negative thought. But why?

Guzzling water is unquestionably good for you, but are other types of hydrotherapy similarly healing? Marine biologist and author of Blue MindWallace J. Nichols, PhD, says absolutely. “There’s a long list of positive health benefits derived from spending time near, in, on or under water, including stress and anxiety reduction, treatment of depression, and relief from the overwhelming sensory overload associated with autism,” he tells me.

“There’s a long list of positive health benefits derived from spending time near, in, on or under water.” —Wallace J. Nichols, PhD, marine biologist

In fact, he even created a term to explain these benefits: The title of his book. “Blue mind,” he says, “refers to the mildly meditative state we feel when near, in, on or under water.” This helps to contextualize research noting that those who live near coasts are happier and healthier than their ocean-deprived counterparts, and why pink noise, AKA the sound of rushing water, helps people sleep more soundly and improves their memories.

Sure, none of these studies specifically show that overwater bungalows spike the benefits of H2O to be had. But as someone who rarely sees bodies of water, I’d say the experience magnified the oceanic healing powers by infinity. (Yes, that’s my scientific conclusion.). Below, find seven overwater bungalows strewn throughout the world where you, too, can slip blissfully into maximum “blue mind.”

Keep reading for help planning (or fantasizing about) an epic overwater bungalow experience.

1. COMO Maalifushi, Maldives

If there’s a single reason overwater bungalows have become so widely coveted, it might well be the photos set in the Maldives, where the H2O is extraordinary in color. This remote Indian Ocean archipelago is comprised of more than 1,000 islands, one of which is home to COMO Maalifushi. Yes, the setting is surreal, and as your seaplane descends onto the property, you may need to pinch yourself. The resort inhabits the entire island, but Mother Nature still takes center stage (as if anything else could).

Overwater bungalows feature plunge pools, direct ocean access, extra-large tubs, and outdoor showers—in other words, all the water. Spa experiences as well as one of the property’s three restaurants are overwater as well. If you must go ashore—and there’s no “must,” as some guests rarely leave their bungalows—two additional restaurants, both boasting the resort’s uber-clean COMO Shambhala menu, await at just a quick bike ride’s distance, as do regular yoga and meditation classes.

2. Likuliku Lagoon, Fiji

Likuliku, or “calm waters,” is an adults-only resort on the small Fijian island of Malolo. Just 10 overwater bures, or bungalows—perched atop a marine-protected sanctuary at the edge of the reef, no less—are on offer here, lending the experience an exclusive feel.

Dip into the ocean directly from your room or take in the ambiance while submerged in the tub located on your personal bathing pavilion. The only time you’ll want to take a break? When the complimentary canapés are delivered to your door daily.

While on property, enjoy water-centric activities like snorkeling, diving, kayaking, sailing, and surfing. The resort also offers boat excursions to nearby islands, including to where Castaway was filmed. After a day spent on and in the ocean, relax in a spa reserved entirely for you (and your travel buddy, if you’re not on a solo mission), where you’ll be pampered with a foot scrub, couples massage, milk bath, and champagne (which offers at least some percentage of water, right?).

3. Song Saa, Cambodia

The Song Saa resort stretches across two tiny islands in Southern Cambodia and features nine overwater one- and two-bedroom bungalows. All include private infinity-edge plunge pools overlooking the ocean and, of course, direct access into the pristine waters of the Gulf of Thailand.

For an extra wellness boost outside the water, join the resort’s morning yoga classes and evening meditations or, for an extra dose of ocean, try the Marine Flora Immersion treatment at the spa.

4. Four Seasons, Bora Bora

You’d be hard-pressed to go wrong with any of Bora Bora’s myriad properties boasting overwater bungalows, but the Four Seasons in particular is pretty consistently met with rave reviews. Here, you can enjoy mountain views (of Mount Otemanu) from your temporary home-on-stilts. (Talk about an Instagram win.) Overwater suites here are available in one- or two-bedroom versions, and some in both categories offer plunge pools.

And while facedown on your treatment table at the spa, you’ll be able to peer directly into the ocean through the glass-bottom floor panels. After, try a soak in your treatment room’s outdoor tub (bungalows have ’em, too).

To further your wellness agenda, the resort offers niche water-based fitness experiences like stand-up paddleboard yoga and an aquagym. Dry-land classes, meanwhile, include the usual suspects, like HIIT and yoga.

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5. Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Inspired by the ancient Aztec civilization built over Tenochtitlan’s lake (rather than its Fijian or Maldivian counterparts), Mexico’s El Dorado offers an overwater-bungalow experience that’s much closer to the U.S.

Bungalows are outfitted with glass floors that showcase the schools of swimmers below. They also provide a welcome respite from the pace of everyday life, as everything you need is within a stone’s throw in the bungalow enclave, including a glass-bottomed restaurant and a spa boasting treatments that use local ingredients.

6. Pankor Laut, Malaysia

This resort is the only development on a 300-acre island three miles off the coast of Malaysia.  You can choose to stay in an overwater villa or a spa villa, which offers direct access to the property’s Spa Village, where an impressive collection of treatments native to Malaysia, China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali, and Indonesia. More active leisure-time options include jungle trekking, fishing, yoga, tai chi, island-hopping, and, of course, water-immersive sports such as kayaking, paddleboarding.

My personal favorite activity, though? Hanging with the monkeys that are home the jungle-esque stretch of sand.

7. Hôtel Palafitte, Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Though I’m partial to enjoying the ocean amid hot temps, this collection of bungalows in Switzerland (the only overwater resort in Europe) offers a therapeutic H20-centric experience without (necessarily) relying on either. Perched on the largest lake in the country, Hôtel Palafitte offers two distinct experiences—one is bright, sunny, and warm, while the other is cold, cozy, and hygge-forward.

Bungalows feature direct access to the lake, hot tubs, and epic sunrise and sunset vistas. Typical watersports are available for your outdoor enjoyment, though you may be hard-pressed to get exercise in winter months, since there is not a gym on property. That said, the property is unique in that it’s proximal to civilization. Nearby, you can find other hotels, restaurants, spas, and even fitness studios.

If you can’t be the first of your friends to stay on stilts, maybe you can trailblaze instead by visiting this trending island destination. Oh, and if you prefer your trips under rather than over water, check out this list of the most epic scuba spots in the world

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