Show a person a photo of an overwater bungalow or water villa and suddenly they have a new goal in life. Unfortunately, most of the 130 or so resorts that feature overwater rooms are quite expensive, usually well over US$500 per night, even in the off season.
Well, there is a bit of good news then as it turns out that not all of them are priced only for the super-rich. Thanks to the overwater bungalows and water villas guide, which lists every overwater resort in the world, we know that there are some affordable options out there.
Updated for 2014
The list of 19 resorts below has been totally updated for 2014, and all room rates are current for this year. Some resorts only have one rate, while most of the larger resorts offer the lowest rates only to those who book well in advance.
In case you were wondering, about two-thirds of the 5,000+ aquatic rooms are water villas in the Maldives, spread around more than 80 resorts. The overwater bungalows in Bora Bora are the next biggest group, though they are all way out of this list’s price range. There are also smaller groups in Moorea, Tahiti, elsewhere in the South Pacific, plus over water bungalows in the Caribbean, Mauritius, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
If you are mostly just interested in an affordable holiday in the tropics you should check our list of the cheapest Caribbean destinations.
All rates below are per night for two people including all taxes
When you are looking at individual resorts you’ll very often see a room rate that doesn’t include local taxes or service charges. This year we calculated all of those and included them in the rate we list, so it should reflect the bottom line at each hotel.
- Maldives cheapest months: June and July
- Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea cheapest months: March and April
- Caribbean cheapest months: May through November
19 Cheapest overwater bungalow and water villa resorts
All rates on this page are per night for two people including all taxes
- Low season from US$147
- High season from US$163
Only fully opened since late 2011, the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort (originally known as the Golden Palm Tree Resort & Spa) has 392 water villas, which is nearly four times as many as the second-most in the world. The water villas range from roomy to enormous, with the largest having 3 bedrooms. They started out as an all-inclusive resort but then changed to charging for everything separately, and not allowing outside food in at all. The resort has just completed a renovation in early 2014, after only being open 3 years, and rates are now a bit lower as well.
It’s located off the coast just south of the Kuala Lumpur Airport, so it could actually be a very cheap getaway when combined with an Air Asia flight from anywhere in the region. It’s worth noting that opening such a huge overwater resort has not been without complications, and some guests do have some minor complaints. While the rooms are new and the location is convenient, more than a few guests do find things to complain about and the review scores stay at a pretty low average. Do your research before booking this one.
- Low season from US$275
- High season from US$275
For those looking for an eco-resort with overwater bungalows in the southern Caribbean, the Eclypse de Mar Aqualodge is an affordable candidate. The emphasis here is on diving and snorkeling, so it’s not really an ideal place for people just looking to relax in the room. There are only 6 overwater bungalows here, two of which are special Suite Honeymoon Overwater Bungalows.
The location a short boat ride away from Bocas del Toro is part of its appeal, as it’s quite isolated from pretty much everything. For divers and adventure types, this one might be perfect. For honeymooners, it’s probably better to look elsewhere.
- Low season from US$311
- High season from US$529
A Maldives resort with surprisingly appealing off-season rates, the Medhufishi Island Resort has 46 water villas built out over its stunningly clear lagoon. The water villas are fairly large for this price range, and decked out in 4-star amenities as well.
Typical of nearly all Maldives resorts, there is a diving center and a long list of water sports and beach activities available. This place gets quite good reviews, especially considering the reasonable prices, so this one looks like a nice choice for those looking for value in the Maldives.
- Low season from US$328
- High season from US$456
The Angaga Island Resort has 20 new water villas to go along with its 50 existing island villas and suites. This is one of the smaller private-island resorts in the Maldives, with only one restaurant and two bars, but reviews here are very solid so they seem to exceed expectations for most.
This is a simple resort that has almost nothing to offer families or children, so it tends to draw a steady flow of couples who prefer the calm. The water villas are modern and luxurious and there are plenty of water sports and other activities available, so guests don’t feel like they are cutting corners.
- Low season from US$333
- High season from US$584
The Sun Island Resort & Spa has 68 water bungalows in addition to its 358 island rooms and bungalows, making it among the very largest private-island resorts in the Maldives. The water bungalows here are a bit on the small side, but they are nicely appointed with luxury bathrooms and appealing private terraces over the lagoon.
A larger resort like this also comes with many benefits, including a long list of water sports and other family-friendly activities. There are also 9 different restaurants and bars, so even on a longer stay guests can avoid getting bored with the food service. The huge swimming pool as well as tennis courts, beach volleyball, and fitness club should appeal to guests looking to stay busy.
- Low season from US$341
- High season from US$539
The 24 water villas at the Chaaya Reef Ellaidhoo Resort are in 12 structures, so each does share a common wall with another unit. Still, guests get a lot of privacy as each room has its own terrace that doesn’t overlook the others. The resort also has 88 island bungalows, and 3 restaurants and bars from which to choose.
Reviews here are good and the rate includes breakfast daily, so it’s one to consider in this lower price range. Another benefit here is that it’s close enough to the main Maldives airport to allow for speedboat transfers, which are cheaper and more flexible than the sea-plane transfers that most other Maldives resorts require along with booking.
- Low season from US$345
- High season from US$398
Among the cheapest of the overwater bungalow resorts in the southern Caribbean, the Coral Lodge Resort isn’t a typical “honeymoon hotel” but it is well suited to adventurous people. It has 6 overwater bungalows and no other rooms, plus two restaurants and a spa, so it does work for couples on romantic retreats.
The downside, for some people, is that it’s also an “eco-resort” and there is limited electricity, plus no TVs or internet available. On the other hand, there’s great diving and snorkeling in the area, plus loads of other activities and tours. Similar to the other Caribbean resorts that make this list, it’s probably a better choice for an adventure holiday than for a honeymoon, at least for most couples.
- Low season from US$346
- High season from US$474
Among the smaller Maldives private-island resorts with only 45 total rooms and villas, the Gangehi Island Resort is popular with Italians as well as English speakers. The 20 smaller Over Water Suites here are just offshore so they have beach access and a shallow portion of the lagoon out front. They also have 8 Over Water Del Luxe suites that are fully out over the lagoon in the more traditional style.
Reviews here are very good, especially for the modest rates. In spite of its small size, they manage to pack in many activity choices including yoga, a gym, and an Indian-themed spa. A most unusual feature here is that Gangehi Island offers the cheapest rates in the Maldives for solo water villa travelers. In fact, the rate for one person is only half the price of two.
- Low season from US$350
- High season from US$427
Another very interesting “eco-resort,” the Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge has 9 overwater suites in 3 different categories, and no other rooms. The best news might be that breakfast and dinner are included in the room rate, so this place probably deserves to be higher on the list of cheap overwater bungalow resorts.
Even the smallest class of overwater suites here is 2 levels with a king-size bed in an upper loft area, and a large private terrace out front. The main downside (for some people) is that this resort is quite remote, so it’s not the sort of place you can just pop by and get a room.
- Low season from US$359
- High season from US$383
Currently the cheapest overwater bungalow resort in the South Pacific, the Huahine Te Tiare Beach Resort is also one of the few to claim only 3 stars as opposed to the 4- or 5-stars that nearly all other overwater resorts offer. The 17 overwater bungalows here are all quite large, however, and they are set over a beautiful calm lagoon on a small island not far from Bora Bora.
The resort has 18 less expensive rooms on the island, so the whole place is quite modest in size. Still, there is a wide variety of water sports and other activities that you’d expect to find at a luxury hotel in the tropics. Guests here pay less than in Bora Bora or Moorea, yet as long as they don’t expect a 5-star property, this one could be a great deal.
- Low season from US$369
- High season from US$521
Another unusually affordable water villa resort in the Maldives, the Velidhu Island Resort has 20 water villas in a total of 10 structures. Importantly though, the room rates here include “half board” so guests get breakfast and dinner each day, which can be a big cost savings in a place as expensive and remote as the Maldives.
In spite of the water villas sharing one wall with another, they are quite large at 800 square feet (74 square meters), including the traditional glass floor section and a large private terrace. The snorkeling in the house reef here is excellent according to guests, and the dive center also gets very high marks.
- Low season from US$380
- High season from US$380
St. George’s Caye Resort is a tiny resort on an island not far from Belize City, and its most appealing feature might be that it’s almost an all-inclusive resort. All meals are included in the room rate, as are non-alcoholic beverages, although you do get one free rum punch each day if you like. Guests staying at least 4 nights also get the private boat transfer for free.
The hotel has 6 “over the sea cabanas” and 6 island rooms. The over the sea cabanas are configured in a semi-circle over a shallow portion of the lagoon. Unlike some of the eco-resorts, these bungalows do have air conditioning and a stocked mini-fridge, but there’s no TV or entertainment system.
- Low season from US$390
- High season from US$452
CoCo View Resort has 16 overwater rooms that are in a total of 5 structures over its lagoon, as well as 13 rooms on the island itself. This is basically an all-inclusive diving resort, with diving packages that are only slightly more expensive than just the room itself.
The service and diving experience are excellent, according to nearly all guest reviews, so this place is a big favorite among the Scuba set. Room rates also include 3 meals per day, 1 welcome cocktail, and airport transfers. Divers get 2 dives per day plus all equipment, so it really is a fantastic deal if that’s what you are after.
- Low season from US$392
- High season from US$480
With 106 water villas, the Meeru Island Resort has more overwater rooms than any resort in the world except for the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort mentioned on top. There are also nearly 200 beach and island villas, so this is among the largest Maldives private-island resorts overall. The low-season rates here are great bargains for anyone looking for a tremendous number of activity and dining options.
The water villas are quite nice and fairly large so the reasonable rates seem to be due to the size of the place. There are more than a dozen restaurants and bars on the island, and even a small pitch & putt golf course. This place seems to have a lot of repeat guests, which is a good sign in this price range.
- Low season from US$394
- High season from US$620
Another surprisingly affordable option near Tahiti and Bora Bora, the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort has 24 overwater bungalows in 2 different sizes, all set over a glorious turquoise lagoon. The Pearl Beach hotel group operates several other resorts in the region, so guests can expect high standards that might be surprising for a small resort with only 37 total rooms.
Each water villa here is loaded with 4-star luxury features, including a glass-bottom table that allows guests to observe the sea life below night or day. The short flight from the Tahiti Airport adds a bit to the total price, but this is still a solid bargain in this part of the world among overwater resorts.
- Low season from US$409
- High season from US$469
With some of the best prices of all the 4-star “honeymoon style” overwater bungalows in the South Pacific, the InterContinental Tahiti Resort is perfect for those who’ve dreamed of the experience but aren’t willing to pay US$800 or more per night. There are 32 overwater bungalows here, each perched just off of a small island in the lagoon.
The location just a short distance from the Tahiti Airport is another part of its appeal. Many people going on to Bora Bora or Moorea have to spend one night in Tahiti on their way in or out of the South Pacific, so this resort can come in handy. It’s a full-on luxury resort with over 200 total rooms, so there’s a lot to like here.
- Low season from US$411
- High season from US$411
While the photo might look tempting, be warned that the Raiatea Hawaiki Nui Hotel features 9 overwater bungalows that have a reputation for being among the oldest and most spartan anywhere. Located on Raiatea Island, this appears to be a 2-star hotel that was once probably much nicer.
The price could be a major temptation for some people who want to sleep in a proper overwater bungalow in the South Pacific, so this place does serve a purpose as long as expectations are in line, and you don’t mind the fact that there is no air conditioning and that the service is even more “relaxed” than most other inexpensive South Pacific hotels.
- Low season from US$414
- High season from US$732
There are four overwater bungalow resorts on Moorea in addition to the Bali Hai Resort in a different category. Of the four “honeymoon style” resorts, the Sofitel Moorea is the least expensive, but it’s still a solid 4.5-stars and run by a respected French hotel chain. During the low season months of March and April, rates dip to their yearly lows, although from November through May there isn’t much difference.
One of the more interesting things about this resort is that their Superior Overwater Bungalows are their most affordable category, but their Luxury Overwater Bungalows are usually only a bit more expensive even though they are much larger inside and out. During the high season months of June through August it can be tough to find any availability at all, but the weather is more or less the same the whole year so the low season is best.
- Low season from US$422
- High season from US$505
If you aren’t made of money and yet you still want to experience a honeymoon or romantic getaway on Bora Bora itself, then the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort is probably your best bet. The 24 overwater bungalows here offer excellent value, including such luxury features as a separate bathtub and outdoor rain shower.
The resort has 2 restaurants and 2 bars, but it’s also conveniently located on Bora Bora so guests can easily reach other independent restaurants, many of which will pick you up and drop you back off for free if you call them in advance. This resort also has a “Private Island” wing that is accessible by a free shuttle boat. The overwater bungalows out there are only a bit more expensive, and guests can use facilities from both areas for the same price.
If you are interested in going to a tropical island closer to the eastern United States or Europe you should check out our list of the cheapest Caribbean islands and destinations, which reveals where luxurious resorts go for a small fraction of the price of similar resorts on other islands.