24 Cheapest overwater bungalow resorts in the world in 2016
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 140 or so resorts that feature overwater rooms are quite expensive, usually well over US$600 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 2016
The list of 24 resorts below has been totally updated for 2016, 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, and a few of those resorts are affordable enough to make the list below. 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 2 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
All-inclusive, full board, and half board resorts are included
On the list below you’ll also find the cheapest half-board (breakfast and dinner included), full-board (3 meals included), and all-inclusive (3 meals and alcohol) resorts. Needless to say, these are even better deals than many of the other resorts on the list, which usually only include breakfast.
24 Cheapest overwater bungalow and water villa resorts
All rates on this page are per night for 2 people including all taxes
- Low season from US$129
- High season from US$149
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. The resort 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. Reviews for the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort had been quite average since it opened, but recently they have improved quite a bit so this one is a better bargain than before. There is no swimming in the lagoon below the water villas, unlike nearly all the others on this list. Do your research before booking this one.
- Low season from US$268
- High season from US$406
With some of the best review scores in the Maldives, the Reethi Beach Resort is an unusual bargain for water villas. You might be disappointed to learn that the 30 water villas are in 15 structures, so each shares one wall with another. But that doesn’t mean that they are not private, and each is larger than you’d expect in this price range.
The resort itself has 114 total rooms in addition to 5 restaurants and 5 bars, which offers much more choice than most other resorts of this size. If this sounds interesting to you then read the reviews and you’ll probably be ready to book.
- Low season from US$328
- High season from US$420
The Sun Island Resort & Spa has 68 semi-detached 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$330
- High season from US$450
Speaking of Maldives-style, the Pangkor Laut is another private island with around 140 total rooms, including 45 overwater villas. The reviews here are excellent so the room rates are very appealing for those who can transfer through Kuala Lumpur or Singapore for the short flight to a nearby island.
The resort features 7 restaurants and bars and a huge list of included water sports and other activities. The spa here has an excellent reputation of its own, which helps make this a very popular destination for the honeymoon crowd from all over Asia.
- Low season from US$338
- High season from US$452
With 148 total villas including 60 over the water, the Cinnamon Dhonveli Maldives is one of a very few in the Maldives with its own surfing beach. The surfing packages cost a bit more, but it’s still a great deal for enthusiasts looking to add some waves to their tropical island holiday.
The reviews here are consistently very good so the value is high. Each overwater villa has a Jacuzzi tub among many other luxury features, so this is not a cut-rate resort by any means. The two restaurants and three bars also get good marks, and the nightlife here does as well.
- Low season from US$341
- High season from US$442
The 24 water villas at the Ellaidhoo Maldives by Cinnamon 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$349
- High season from US$427
The 47 overwater chalets at the Berjaya Langkawi Resort are more tightly packed than most other resorts, but they are luxurious and quite large on the inside. This resort has 350 total rooms, including Rainforest Chalets that are similar inside except they are perched among the trees on the side of a mountain.
The complication for most people could be the location, which is on Langkawi Island in northern Malaysia. It might sound hard to reach, but it’s actually similar to the Maldives in that you have to take at least two flights to reach most resorts. Especially if you are in or near Southeast Asia, this is one to consider.
- Low season from US$359
- High season from US$383
Currently the cheapest overwater bungalow resort in the South Pacific, the Royal Huahine 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$360 (half board)
- High season from US$427 (half board)
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$383
- High season from US$474
The Gangehi Island Resort features 8 Overwater Villas that are just off the island and 8 Overwater Deluxe Villas that are a bit farther out on the pier, in addition to 29 Island rooms. While the overwater villas may not look as pretty as some others on the outside, they are quite luxurious on the inside and well appointed with amenities.
Considering there are only 45 total rooms you might be surprised to find 2 different restaurants and an additional bar. Reviews here are consistently great, which is another small surprise considering the modest overwater room rates.
- Low season from US$394 (full board)
- High season from US$598 (full board)
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. This rate includes 3 meals per day in addition to most activities.
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. They also offer all-inclusive rates, although the addition of alcohol to the package may not seem like a great deal for moderate or light drinkers.
- Low season from US$409
- High season from US$469
The InterContinental Tahiti Resort has 32 overwater rooms in an incredibly convenient location that is far enough from the Tahiti airport not to be a problem but still close enough so you can reach it in about 10 minutes. This is a larger resort that is popular with families, though the overwater bungalows tend to be booked by romantic couples.
Another advantage of a resort like this is that there are many restaurants and activities to choose from that you don’t get at the boutique places on Moorea or Bora Bora. This is also a popular resort for those who want to get oriented for a couple days before heading to another more remote island.
- 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 usually the least expensive in high season, 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.
- Low season from US$425
- High season from US$480
The 25 overwater bungalows at the L’Escapade Island Resort Noumea are among the cheaper such accommodations in the South Pacific, although most people will find this one to be quite remote. New Caledonia, by the way, is just northeast of Australia, so it’s a long way from Europe and the Americas.
For those in the area, this could be a gem because it’s a Maldives-style private island with only 44 land-based bungalows to go along with the overwater bungalows. Things here are laid back though, so it’s best for those who are looking primarily to relax and enjoy the weather.
- Low season from US$444
- High season from US$583
Another excellent resort for those who might otherwise be considering Bora Bora, the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa has a stunning location and all the luxury a honeymoon couple could want, at a more affordable price than you might expect. The water bungalows here are all very private, and most are perched just off a small island out in the lagoon.
If you know InterContinental Hotels, you know to expect a world-class experience, with amenities like bath robes for each guest. This resort also has a dolphin center as well as a variety of activities and excursions for those who can bring themselves to leave the bungalow for long enough.
- Low season from US$446 (full board)
- High season from US$514 (full board)
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 who pay for the Diving Package 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$468
- High season from US$515
With 19 overwater bungalows that are perched just off shore over a turquoise lagoon, the Le Maitai Bora Bora Resort is another of the more modestly priced overwater resorts on Bora Bora. This is a 3-star boutique resort so it doesn’t have a huge list of activities like at some of the others, but that suits the guests here just fine for the most part.
The resort only has 55 island rooms in addition to two restaurants and a bar. There is also no on-site spa, although the spas at other resorts are nearby and accessible.
- Low season from US$478 (half board)
- High season from US$684 (half board)
With 300 total rooms, the Kuredu Island Resort is one of the larger private-island hotels in the Maldives. They have 50 water villas in a peaceful area off one corner of the island, so guests can choose solitude or to take part in the dozens of water sports and other activities on hand.
A larger resort like this also has the advantage of being able to offer 15 different restaurants and bars. The room rates here include all three meals per day, so it’s a far better deal than you first might think. Reviews here are also very good, and they have a small 6-hole golf course just in case you weren’t already convinced.
- Low season from US$478
- High season from US$569
The 12 overwater bungalows at the Le Méridien Tahiti Resort are among the least expensive and by far easiest to reach in the Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora area. The resort is only a short drive from the main Tahiti Airport, yet not at all in the flight path. This means that you can reach these rooms from Los Angeles with only a single flight and a short taxi ride.
There are 137 island rooms at this French-run chain resort, which are even less expensive. This helps make the resort one of the better stops for those who might only be able to afford a couple nights in an overwater bungalow as part of a longer holiday. Le Méridien has a solid reputation in the luxury resort market, so this one feels like good value.
- Low season from US$483 (half board)
- High season from US$529 (half board)
The Velidhu Island Resort has 20 overwater Bungalows, including 4 Jacuzzi Water Bungalows, but they are in only 10 structures so each one shares one wall with another. Still, they get unusually good reviews, especially in this price category. The rates here are for half-board, so breakfast and dinner for both guests is included in the daily rate.
There are 80 island bungalows as well, so this is more of a mid-sized resort. As a result, they are able to offer more activities and amenities that smaller resorts in this price range can’t offer. There is a full-service spa and the food gets some of the best reviews in the Maldives, so this one stands out as good value.
- Low season from US$506 (all-inclusive)
- High season from US$649 (all-inclusive)
Another resort that now operates on a fully all-inclusive basis, the Adaaran Club Rannalhi is very good value for those who like a few drinks (or more) each day of their holiday. The 34 water bungalows are in addition to 96 island rooms, so this is a mid-sized resort with plenty of activities and water sports available.
As with most Maldives resorts, they have a dive shop and diving school here. There is also the Ayurvedic Massage Centre for guests who primarily come to relax and unwind. For an all-inclusive resort in the Maldives, this one is very good value.
- Low season from US$521
- High season from US$778
Not long ago the Sun Siyam Iru Fushi Resort was the Maldives Hilton and it seems to have only improved on its already-solid reputation. This resort has 80 water villas that are all huge by most standards, so it’s a bit surprising that their low-season rates are so competitive.
The Sun Siyam continues to get excellent reviews and it’s one of the premier large private-island resorts in the Maldives. They have 10 different restaurants and bars spread over a fairly large island, so they offer far more choice of ambience than the boutique resorts where there is usually only one main dining room. Especially in the slower months, this one stands out as excellent value.
- Low season from US$556 (Jacuzzi water villa – full board)
- High season from US$742 (Jacuzzi water villa – full board)
With some of the best guest reviews in the Maldives, the Vilamendhoo Island Resort offers 30 Jacuzzi Water Villas in addition to 154 island villas. Perhaps better still, the rates quoted are for full board, so the price is far better value than you might otherwise think. The reviews here are uniformly excellent, so this is a place that gets repeat guests coming back each year.
Only the Meeru Island Resort (mentioned above) also offers Jacuzzi Water Villas in this price range, so it’s no wonder that availability can be challenging here. And as another larger private-island resort, this one offers a huge list of activities and restaurant options, so you’ll never get bored when you decide to leave your own private on-deck Jacuzzi.
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.
Note: This article was first published in 2012 and has been fully updated and expanded each year since.