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$400 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.
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. The list below has been totally updated in late 2013 to reflect current rates.
If you are mostly just interested in an affordable holiday in the tropics you should check our list of the cheapest Caribbean destinations.
Most prices show below are low-season rates
A few of the resorts below have literally the same prices all year round, but most charge up to twice as much during their busiest season. The quotes below are all for low season, and during most of the year they will be at least a bit higher, if not a lot higher.
- Maldives cheapest months: June and July
- Tahiti and Moorea cheapest months: March and April
19 Cheapest overwater bungalow and water villa resorts
From US$172 per night, per couple (including tax)
Only fully opened since late 2011, 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.
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.
From US$260 per night for 1 to 3 people
Sometime back in the 1960s, three friends moved from Newport Beach, California to Moorea (near Tahiti) in French Polynesia, and became the “Bali Hai Boys.” Two of them are still around, and according to their website they invented the first overwater bungalows, and still offer the cheapest such rooms in the South Pacific.
The Club Bali Hai resort is located deep within the gorgeous Cook’s Bay in Moorea, rather than out over the clear lagoon like most of the rest of them. Their overwater bungalows are also perched just off the shore, so it’s a slightly different experience, but on the other hand they are quite large and come with a full kitchenette, so they offer good value along with the stunning setting.
From US$275 per night, per bungalow
For those looking for an eco-resort with overwater bungalows in the southern Caribbean, the Eclypse de Mar Aqualodge is another 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.
From US$282 per night, per couple, half board (including tax)
The Angaga Island Resort has 20 new water villas to go along with its 50 existing island villas and suites. During June and July this resort is known to cut its prices under US$300 per night for two people including breakfast and dinner daily. Its normal rates are still quite good so this one remains one of the better bargains at any time of year.
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.
From US$287 per night, per couple (including tax)
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.
From US$292 per night, per couple (including tax)
The off-season rates at the Thulhagiri Island Resort make is one of the best deals in the Maldives. The 34 water villas are roomy and filled with 4-star amenities, including a separate rain shower and oversized bathtub, plus a large private deck with steps down into the clear-water lagoon.
The resort has scuba diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, and most of the other water sports that are popular in the Maldives, plus a spa and a bit of nightlife as well. Needless to say, there are posher water villa resorts in the Maldives, but most of them cost double or triple these rates, so this could be a good choice for those who didn’t think they could afford a water villa at all.
From US$314 per night, per couple, all-inclusive
The photo to the right lets you know that this is more “rustic” than most of the others on this list, but the place is popular with consistently good reviews so it’s a great choice for some people. It’s another eco-resort that is mostly off the grid, with diving and snorkeling again being the focal point.
The rates here for the 4 overwater bungalows are all-inclusive, at least when it comes to meals and drinks as well as snorkeling and boat tours, so it’s a better value than it might otherwise seem. The remote location off of Honduras adds to the solitude but is complicated to reach, so it’s best for stays of a week or so rather than a long weekend.
From US$315 per night, per couple (including tax)
With 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$600 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.
From US$324 per night, per couple (including tax)
Not far from the InterContinental as well as the Tahiti Airport itself, the Le Méridien Tahiti is the only other overwater bungalow resort on the main island. There are only 12 overwater bungalows here, but they are properly located out over a beautiful lagoon with good snorkeling just below the rooms.
Like many other Le Méridiens around the world, this one draws its fair share of French and French-speaking tourists. This can make it a bit intimidating or a bit more exotic for English speakers, although the staff all speak English and the food is evidently up to French standards as well.
From US$330 per night, per couple (including tax)
Another 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.
From US$337 per night, per couple (including tax)
With 106 water villas, the Meeru Island Resort has more overwater rooms than any resort in the world except for the Golden Palm Tree 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.
From US$347 per night, per couple, all-inclusive (including tax)
The Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa is a particularly good value for the Maldives because it operates on an all-inclusive basis, so this price includes 3 meals a day plus alcohol. The resort is one of the smaller of the all inclusive resorts in the Maldives, with 70 water villas and only 10 villas on the island itself.
There isn’t much in the way of family activities or babysitting, so this resort tends to be dominated by honeymooners and other couples rather than by parents and young children. The rate mentioned above is for low season (June through September), which is much cheaper than high season in spite of the weather being almost the same year round.
From US$363 per night, per couple (including tax)
Another that barely fits into the category, the KC Resort & Over Water Villa complex set on a hill overlooking Chaweng Beach on Ko Samui in Thailand has 16 “Over Water Villas” that are in pairs built on stilts over private infinity-edge pools. This appears to be the first and only resort in the world that has taken the fully “overwater” style inland.
Since it’s not practical to build the classic style water villas out in the sea in this area, these things are quite amazing in their adaptation. You can swim in a beautiful infinity pool right under your room, and thanks to a large glass section of floor in the bedroom, partners can keep an eye on each other whether swimming or in bed. And for the price, this is a very luxurious and well regarded resort. The rates during high season are much higher than this, so unless you are going during the off season, prepare to see rates over US$500 per night for these luxury villas.
From US$378 per night, per couple, half board (including tax)
Another that runs really good promotions during the slow months in June and July in particular, the Komandoo Island Resort has 14 very large water villas that each feature a Jacuzzi out on the deck. Needless to say, these are the cheapest water villas in the Maldives with this feature, and a great reason to lock in a discount if one is being offered.
There are only 31 island villas, making this one of the smallest private-island resorts in the Maldives, but it has plenty of activity options plus a luxury spa. It doesn’t have anything to help entertain children, so it’s unofficially a couples resort.
From US$380 per night, per couple, including all meals
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.
From US$394 per night, per couple (including tax)
The Beach House Iruveli in the Maldives used to be a Waldorf Astoria property, which should confirm that this is indeed a luxurious resort. During the high season their water villas start at over US$700 per night and they have no problem filling them, but during the low season (June and July) they run promotions where they go for under US$400 per night, including breakfast.
The most amazing thing about this deal is that each water villa has a private infinity plunge pool on its private deck. You’d normally expect to pay double this amount even in the off season for a private pool villa. Seriously, this one is worth a look at any time of year, and if you see a promotional rate it should be at the top of your list.
From US$399 per night, per couple (including tax)
With 60 water villas, the Olhuveli Beach Resort & Spa is one of the better values in the Maldives. This is another fairly large resort with 106 additional rooms on the island, that also specializes in all-inclusive meal and drink packages.
Those looking for a bit more luxury can upgrade to the Jacuzzi Water Villas, each featuring a Jacuzzi on its private sundeck. They also have Honeymoon Water Villas that are larger still, plus 2 Presidential Water Suites that are enormous and come with 24-hour butler service. Those last two categories don’t come cheap, however, so it’s perhaps cruel to mention them on this list.
From US$403 per night, per couple (including tax)
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.
From US$414 per night, per couple (including tax)
With rates usually in the same neighborhood as the Sofitel Moorea, the InterContinental Moorea Resort is also a great bargain outside of the high season. It has 50 overwater bungalows that are about the same size as the larger category at the Sofitel, so those would be a better comparison if you are deciding between the two.
This is a luxury resort in every way so nothing is cheap once you arrive, but the good news is that Moorea is much cheaper and easier to reach than Bora Bora, and both are more beautiful than Tahiti. Once you fly into Tahiti you can transfer to a 5-minute flight to this nearby island, or even take a ferry from the capital city of Pape’ete, which is close to the airport.
Important note: The room rates mentioned above are for low-season bookings. During high-season some resorts charge a bit more, and others charge a lot more.
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.