Close your eyes and imagine paradise: Perhaps you see a deserted tropical island or even a snowy peak, but what about an overwater 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 10 of the best in the world.
#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.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Cambodia Guide
#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.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Maldives Guide
#3 Pangkor Laut Resort
Located off the coast of Malaysia in the Straits of Malacca, Pangkor Laut Resort offers a mix of overwater and garden bungalows. The Sea Villas are built on stilts above the water, which has an unusual green hue thanks to the abundance of surrounding vegetation, and feature large balconies and bathtubs with seaside views. You’ll feel like you’ve escaped to the middle of nowhere, as about 80% of the island is undeveloped jungle.
Insider Tip: Spend an afternoon exploring the surrounding area. Pangkor Laut arranges excursions to a restored Dutch fort and the Fu Lin Kong Temple, a Chinese Taoist temple built into the hillside.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Malaysia Guide
#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.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Bora Bora with Maupiti Guide
#5 Ayada Maldives
One of the newest places to stay in the Maldives is the Ayada. The resort has a streamlined modern design, and bungalows come with private verandas, plunge pools, and overwater hammocks. Unwind with a visit to the AySpa, which features a Turkish hammam, or choose from six different restaurants that offer everything from Japanese to Indian food.
Insider Tip: Sign up for lessons in long-line fishing—if you’re lucky, the chef will cook the day’s catch.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Maldives Guide
#6 Misool Eco Resort
The new, private island Misool Eco Resort is difficult to reach but well worth the journey. It’s located in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago, nestled among uninhabited islands. The resort has plenty of green credentials, including reclaimed tropical hardwood that was used to build the resort. The overwater cottages have hammocks built into the cabanas and steps leading down to the sea, so guests can snorkel right off their decks.
Insider Tip: Even the resort’s dive center is built on stilts. Misool Eco Resort offers three guided dives every day, including underwater excursions at dusk or at night.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor’s Indonesia Guide