May we see a show of hands for anyone ready to take a relaxing vacation?
Whether you’re planning a honeymoon, solo getaway, or a “just because” trip, we can think of a better way to kick back than finding solace in a beach bungalow. These huts on the water are perfectly positioned on top of some of the most breathtakingly beautiful turquoise blue waters you’ve ever seen — or haven’t, but have always aspired to.
If the concept of staying at an overwater bungalow is a bit overwhelming, not to worry. We’ve created a comprehensive guide to finding and staying in one of these paradise pads on stilts, so all you have to worry about is what resort wear to pack in your suitcase for your Bora Bora bungalow dream vacation.
What to Look for When Choosing an Overwater Bungalow
Determine Your Budget
As with any type of trip you’re planning, you have to set a budget before anything else. Once you’ve crunched the numbers, it will be easier to determine what type of bungalow facilities you can swing, whether that’s a one-room paradise or a posh pad complete with a retractable roof and private slide.
Of course, overwater bungalows aren’t exactly located around the block, so airfare has to be factored into the overall budget, too. One way to have your pina colada and drink it, too, is to consider dividing your holiday. This means spending the majority of time in a beach villa and one or two nights in a water bungalow.
Acknowledge Who’s Going on the Trip
An overwater bungalow vacation tends to attract couples more than families, and with good reason. The environment is ripe for romance and simply getting away from it all — other people included. This is not to say that such a picture-perfect holiday is reserved for honeymooners and lovers alone. However, when traveling with small children, there are some safety measures to consider.
- Advice for Couples: If privacy is a priority, opt for an overwater bungalow that’s farthest away from the beach where people are apt to assemble and take part in activities. If possible, spring for top-notch amenities (more on that in a bit) so that you don’t feel the need to leave your romantic respite. Consider an adults-only resort for extra peace and quiet.
- Advice for Families: Booking an overwater bungalow for a family vacation can be a bit complicated. For starters, many resorts have an age requirement, meaning kiddos 12 and below are not allowed. While you may find some retreats that offer an exception to the rule because copious safety measures are in place (think gate locks, additional railings, well-lit pathways), don’t be surprised if you have to sign a waiver. Since most bungalow resorts are more catered to couples, you’ll want to book accommodations as close to the beach and mainland as possible since kids can get restless.
Establish a Vacation Goal
While those Instagram-worthy images of an overwater bungalow retreat go hand-in-hand with private pool time, post-lunch snoozes, and sunset aperitifs, consider whether or not such an itinerary would have you feeling bored by the end of day two. Perhaps you want to engage in water sports, organized activities, spa treatments, or even touring outside the resort grounds. In short, don’t just pick the first place that catches your eye. Do some research to ensure your idyllic getaway meets — if not exceeds — your checklist.
Think About What Type of Bungalow You Want
The most desirable aspect of staying in a water bungalow is being so close to the water. However, the specific nuances of these unique accommodations vary by resort, location, and price point. Questions to ask when booking include:
- Water Access: Does the bungalow have direct access to the water? Don’t presume it does because, in some cases, huts are located near rocks or coral gardens that make it dangerous for waking and swimming.
- Swimmable: Is the water around your bungalow swimmable? While cleanliness is not going to be an issue, shallow waters may keep you from performing your best breaststroke.
- Marine Life: Are you able to view authentic marine life from your bungalow? By authentic, we mean sea creatures that the resort hasn’t planted. While you can ask this question directly, doing your own research by reading guest reviews can be a better way to get a more authentic (and truthful) response.
- View: The direction your bungalow faces can make a big difference in your experience, especially if you have particular vacation goals in mind. If the description of the bungalow you are wishing to book leaves out such details, ask the property if it has sunrise or sunset views, and whether it’s better for those who wish to get a lot of sun during the day or prefer to lounge in the shade. Of course, the overall views surrounding your water pad are important, too!
Determine What Amenities Are Important to You
Believe it or not, being over the water isn’t necessarily the only perk you can have at your disposal. Depending on your budget, determine what type of amenities are most important to you. We’re talking about spa-like bathrooms, private butler service, luxe toiletries, a mini-fridge, room service, a private pool, laundry service, equipment for water sports, a state-of-the-art fitness center, and transportation. Basically, anything that compliments your dream trip.
The Top Four Overwater Bungalow Destinations in the World
Budget, logistics, personal preference, and amenities all come into play when choosing which destination you’re booking your two (or more) tickets to paradise. Don’t forget to bring the appropriate travel documents with you and consider whether or not trip insurance is necessary.
- Location: Nestled southwest of Sri Lanka and India, the Maldives is an archipelagic nation located in the Indian Ocean and also the smallest country in Asia.
- Weather: With a pleasant climate throughout most of the year, the Maldives is always an excellent choice for an idyllic beach getaway.
- Why Go: Home to two-thirds of the world’s most stunning water villas, there’s no question that the Maldives’ private island resorts are indisputably some of the most exotic (and romantic) accommodations in the world. Here, you can enjoy an unparalleled combination of nature, luxury, and privacy. The Maldives boasts exceptional marine life and coral reefs that are perfect for exploring via a scuba or snorkeling excursion — if not from your bungalow while taking your breakfast in the morning. Another reason to consider choosing the Maldives is that its future is threatened. At just 1.3 meters above sea level, the Maldives is the world’s lowest-lying nation. If the sea level rises by just another meter, the island nation could become uninhabitable. With climate change and other environmental factors as a threat, this paradise could disappear.
The South Pacific
- Location: French Polynesia is located in Oceania. It is a group of five archipelagos (Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Society, and Tuamotu) in the South Pacific Ocean, about halfway between South America and Australia. There are 118 islands in French Polynesia and many more islets.
- Weather: Love the heat and sun? It’s always hot and balmy in the South Pacific, even more so the closer you get to the equator. Keep in mind that the wet season runs November through April (it’s extra humid and sticky), while the dry season is considered May through to October. It’s a desirable period due to milder temperatures and clearer skies.
- Why Go:The entire South Pacific is known for its coral-fringed lagoons, white- and black-sand beaches, commanding mountains, rugged backcountry, and cascading waterfalls. It’s the most popular overwater bungalow destination in the world, and there are plenty of luxurious options to choose from. The most desirable locations include Bora Bora huts or accommodations in Taha’a, Moorea, Tahiti, and Fiji.
- Location: The Caribbean is a stunning region that consists of the Caribbean Sea, several islands (there are 13 countries here), and the surrounding coasts. It’s located southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.
- Weather: The best time to visit the Caribbean is generally considered December to April, when it's slightly cooler (especially in the northern Caribbean), drier, and less humid. The rainy season falls between June and November, which could definitely put a damper on a beach bungalow holiday.
- Why Go:The Caribbean is one of the best options for Americans wishing to stay in a beach bungalow because it’s closer to home than the Maldives or French Polynesia, meaning you save a lot on airfare. The most popular overwater bungalow destinations in the Caribbean include Mexico, Jamaica, Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Barbados, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each island brings its own cultural influences, heritage, cuisine, and scenery — but you can expect crystal clear waters and endless blue skies no matter which one you choose.
Packing After PlanningOnce you’ve planned the perfect overwater bungalow vacation, it’s time to think about what you’ll be taking along with you! Considering the temps are hot, and you’re likely to be spending most of your time in a bathing suit, there’s no need to go overboard with your packing. Make things easier by simplifying things with a carry-on or rolling duffle bag paired with a personal item such as a travel backpack. No matter what your needs are, Briggs & Riley has a bag to match.
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Maxine Young Asmah
August 16, 2021
Thank you very much for this Guide! There’s just enough information to keep it current, accurate, and inspirational. While my travel plans are on hold for a while, I will keep your Guide as my go-to reference for initial planning and purchase.