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Overwater Bungalows and Overwater Villas

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Overwater bungalows at sunset, Le Meridien, on Tahiti Nui

What is an Overwater Bungalow?

Overwater bungalows are, as the name implies, standalone bungalows positioned over the water. Usually, over-water bungalows are located close to shore, allowing for easy access to the main resort building, its beaches and amenities. The bungalows are linked to the mainland via long plank walkways. The bungalows themselves are hoisted above the water on sturdy pillars and sit on large platforms.

Often times, they contain a glass coffee table or floor so you can look at the water and its sea life below. At right is a the bathroom in an overwater bungalow at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui--note the glass floor and the view to the water below. As you can see, while the bungalows might look primitive from the outside, they're usually quite luxurious inside.

In many resorts, the overwater bungalows are clustered pretty closely together, partly because real estate isn't cheap in these places, and partly because if you separate the bungalows by too much, the walk back to shore from the outer bungalows becomes a bit much--remember that the restaurants, spa, pool, etc. will generally be on shore, and also for most excursions you'll be picked up at a common, central dock--not at your particular bungalow.

And before you roll your eyes, thinking " far could that be?" one of the resorts in Bora Bora, for instance, the walk from the main resort atoll to the outermost bungalow is 900 yards!

  Bathroom of an overwater bungalow at the Hilton Bora Bora Nui

What are Over Water Villas?

In the Maldives and occasionally elsewhere, overwater bungalows are referred to as "water villas" or "over water villas". They're really the same thing as overwater bungalows--it's just that the "villas" term is more commonly used in the Maldives. In some luxury resorts in French Polynesia, the resorts have started calling their larger, more luxurious overwater bungalows "overwater villas"--really this is just a branding or product differentiation move.

Where can we find Overwater Bungalows and Over Water Villas?

They're not just in French Polynesia anymore--although they're certainly quite prevalent there, and most resorts there have them. They've become quite popular in the Maldives as well (again, most resorts there have over water villas), and there are a handful of them in places like Likuliku in Fiji, the Caribbean, Vanuatu, and southeast Asia. For a full list of overwater bungalows around the world--complete with photo galleries, virtual tours, and maps--scroll to the bottom of this page.



Although the overwater bungalows may look rustic from the outside, their comforts are anything but! Luxury offerings in over water bungalows can include satellite and plasma screen TV, a CD/DVD player, air-conditioning, security safe, private balcony, minibar, and, of course, the million-dollar view!

Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa, French Polynesia   In French Polynesia (the proper name for Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, etc.), many resorts invite their overwater bungalow guests to experience canoe breakfasts - a full selection of morning delights delivered via canoe by native Polynesians in traditional dress.

Some resorts have mostly just white sand under the bungalows, which means about all you'll find are sting rays and perhaps spotted eagle rays. Looks beautiful from the photos, but if you have visions of snorkeling with the fish right from your bungalow, look for resorts like the Hilton Moorea (pictured at left), which have many coral heads right there to attract the fish.

And Hotel Bora Bora is known for the manta rays that swim right up to their dock!

History of Overwater Bungalows

Over water bungalows first appeared in French Polynesia, on the island of Moorea, during the 1960s.

Three Californian men known as the Bali Hai Boys extended their resort, Club Bali Hai Moorea, into the reef-protected lagoon and created the first over water bungalows, called Bali Hai. The idea soon spread to elsewhere in Tahiti and the South Pacific, eventually expanding to Maldives and later, the Caribbean, during the 1980s.

How safe are Overwater Bungalows?

Over water bungalows are very safe. Because they are anchored deep into the sand by sturdy pillars, they cannot float away.

As with any water sport, snorkeling from your bungalow is not without its risks. However, overwater bungalows are typically located in shallow lagoons.

Shark spottings are common in Tahiti and her islands, however, they are usually found in deeper water. Around over water bungalows, you are much more likely to see small, colorful reef fish. Small sting rays and spotted eagle rays (2 to 3 feet across) are also common in the flat sandy shallow areas.

The InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana (pictured at right) and the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island resorts are both very near an amazing coral garden, which you can swim to pretty easily from your bungalows.

We've also put together a collection of pretty amazing photos of overwater bungalows on Pinterest.

  InterContinental Bora Bora Le Moana Resort


Take a tour of an overwater bungalow at the St. Regis Bora Bora in this video from Islands Magazine:


About Michael

Founder of Visual Itineraries, Michael lives in Bend, Oregon. He's an avid traveler, scuba diver, photographer, and a private pilot.

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Overwater Bungalows by Location

The following is a list of the resorts with overwater bungalows around the world. Click on the resort name to see high-resolution photo galleries, videos, virtual tours, maps, etc. about each resort.

Fiji - Taveuni


Cook Islands - Aitutaki

French Polynesia - Bora Bora

French Polynesia - Other islands

French Polynesia - Moorea

French Polynesia - Tahiti

French Polynesia - Tuamotu Atolls


Mexico - Riviera Maya


Tanzania - Zanzibar

Mauritius - Poste de Flacq

Maldives - Ari Atoll

Maldives - South Male Atoll

Maldives - Ari Atoll

Maldives - Male

Maldives - Ari Atoll


Maldives - North Male Atoll

Maldives - North Baa Atoll

Maldives - North Male Atoll


Maldives - North Male Atoll

Maldives - Lhaviyani Atoll

Maldives - North Male Atoll

Maldives - South Male Atoll

Maldives - Lhaviyani Atoll

Maldives - South Male Atoll


Maldives - Lhaviyani Atoll

Maldives - South Male Atoll

Maldives - North Male Atoll

Maldives - Lhaviyani Atoll

Maldives - North Male Atoll

Maldives - North Baa Atoll

Maldives - North Male Atoll


New Caledonia

Fiji - Mamanucas

Fiji - Viti Levu

Fiji - Vanua Levu

How we work with you to plan the perfect trip:

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  • We'll use our first-hand knowledge of the destination to pick out a handful of resorts we think you'd like
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