32 Cheapest Overwater Bungalow Resorts in the World in 2023

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 200+ resorts that feature overwater rooms are quite expensive, usually well over US$700 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. The cheapest water villa or overwater bungalow resorts tend to be in Malaysia and nearby, but the Maldives itself has over 80 water villa resorts and many of them make this list even though they are full luxury resorts. You’ll also find some more basic places in the Caribbean, and some modest resorts in and near Bora Bora as well.

Note: This article was last updated in December, 2022.

Updates for 2023

As you’d imagine, all of these resorts closed at least temporarily in 2020 and more than a few of the overwater bungalow resorts in the Maldives and South Pacific has still yet to reopen. As of 2023 nearly all of them are operating again and unfortunately most of the remaining ones have raised room rates significantly. Fortunately there are still some good-value water villa resorts with reasonable rates, and they are listed below.

In case you were wondering, about two-thirds of the 7,000+ aquatic rooms are water villas in the Maldives, spread around more than 110 resorts. The overwater bungalows in Bora Bora are the next biggest group, and as of this update only one is 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. Most resorts raise prices when they don’t have many water bungalows left for a given date, so you’ll often see higher room rates if you are checking on shorter notice.

  • Maldives cheapest months: June and July
  • Bora Bora, Tahiti and Moorea cheapest months: March and April
  • Caribbean cheapest months: May through November

Full board and half board resorts are included

At least a couple of the resorts on the list below include 3 meals a day with the room rate, and several of those offer all-inclusive (alcohol included) packages for not much more per night. These resorts are even better deals than they first seem because food and drinks are quite expensive at nearly all of these resorts around the world.

The 32 Cheapest overwater bungalow and water villa resorts

All rates on this page are per night for 2 people including all taxes

1AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort – Malaysia

  • Low season from US$113
  • High season from US$122

Open since 2011, the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort has 392 water villas, which until 2016 was by far the most in the world (see #2 below). The water villas range from large to enormous, with the largest having 3 bedrooms. The cheapest water villas are 4 to a structure, though they are huge and surprisingly luxurious for the price. The one main caveat is you can’t swim beneath the villas, unlike nearly all others on this list, because they are high above the ocean instead of perched just over a calm lagoon.

The resort is 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 were “mixed” for the first couple years, but are now very good, which reflects the most recent management change. Check out the overwaterbungalows.net pro review of AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort if you are seriously considering this one. It’s far nicer than you’d expect in this price range.

>>>Check rates at the AVANI Sepang Goldcoast Resort


2Berjaya Langkawi Resort – Malaysia

  • Low season from US$143
  • High season from US$308

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 Rain-forest 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. As of 2023, rates have come down for off-season stays, and increased for high season. It’s worth checking if this one looks interesting to you.

>>>Check rates at the Berjaya Langkawi Resort


3Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge – Panama

  • Low season from US$148 (half board)
  • High season from US$291 (half board)

A 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.


4Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson – Malaysia

  • Low season from US$207
  • High season from US$211


Opened in 2016, the Lexis Hibiscus Port Dickson has 522 overwater villas, each with its own private splash pool. This is obviously now the largest overwater resort in the world, and it’s located a bit south of the AVANI Sepang (#1 above), and still quite near the Kuala Lumpur Airport. Similarly, you can’t swim below the water villas here, but even the cheapest room class here are in freestanding structures.

Considering the huge and luxurious rooms with the private splash pools, the room rates here are amazingly low. Everything here is new, well built, and very well appointed with luxury amenities. The sheer size of the resort might be off-putting to some, but there is still a lot to like even if you don’t factor in the novelty value. In fact, the distance from the shore to the remote water villas requires a ride in a golf cart.

>>>Check rates at the Lexis Hibiscus – Port Dickson

More overwater resorts in Port Dickson near Kuala Lumpur Airport in the same price range:


5Sol Bungalows – Panama

  • Low season from US$284
  • High season from US$284

With only two actual overwater bungalows, Sol Bungalows is by far the cheapest such places in the Americas, but still they are much nicer than a few others in Central America. Both of them have glass floor sections (an extremely popular feature), deck hammocks, and steps down into the water below.

Interiors look very posh for the price range, and there are loads of water sports available in the area. The places are only a couple years old and they are very popular, so we expect the prices to go up before long. They are located in Bocas del Toro off the Caribbean coast of Panama, so reaching them is a bit complicated.


6Tahiti la Ora Beach Resort

  • Low season from US$300
  • High season from US$321

By far the cheapest overwater bungalow resort in Tahiti, this one has become a bit of a mystery. We’ve seen these very low room rates shortly before press time, but on other searches we find the resort unavailable. It’s hard to know what is going on.

The reviews of this place have not been strong in recent years and evidently it’s showing its age. If you can find availability at a good rate it could be really nice if your expectations aren’t too high. It’s possible that this resort is under some kind of transition and we will edit this if we find out more.

>>>Check rates at the Tahiti la Ora Beach Resort


7Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu

  • Low season from US$303
  • High season from US$315

The Holiday Inn Resort on Vanuatu is another place that would be ideal for many people if not for its fairly remote location. Vanuatu is technically in the South Pacific, but it’s far closer to Australia than it is to Hawaii or even Tahiti. The resort has 10 overwater lagoon villas among its room types, along with dozens of water activities and even a casino.

Recent reviews have been excellent and the value is quite good for the amenities and features the place offers. The main problem will be getting to Vanuatu, unless you are starting in Australia.

>>>Check rates at the Holiday Inn Resort Vanuatu


8Atmosphere Kanifushi – Maldives

  • Low season from US$306
  • High season from US$1,591

This newer 5-star resort has 40 water villas that all look amazing. In fact, 28 of the 40 water villas have their own private pools. This place is normally far more expensive than anything else on this list, but we are including it because we have discovered some very low rates for off-season stays. It’s worth checking yourself, especially if they happen to have availability only a week or two out.

The resort has a vegan restaurant that claims to be the only one in the Maldives. Vegetarian dishes are popular at all resorts, especially the ones that get quite a few Indian guests, but Atmosphere takes it to another level.

>>>Check rates at the Atmosphere Kanifushi Resort


9Gayana Marine Resort Malaysia

  • Low season from US$330
  • High season from US$374

Located just off Borneo rather than Malaysia’s peninsular region, Gayana Marine Resort is an eco-hotel that opened recently with very good room rates. They’ve got 52 overwater bungalows that are over 800 square feet (75 square meters) in size, making them some of the largest in the area.

Each overwater bungalow is very luxurious with large showers and direct access to the water below. The resort has a full spa along with snorkeling, a PADI dive center, and loads of other water sports. They take the “eco” in eco-resort pretty seriously, so if that sounds interesting to you this one is great value.

>>>Check rates at the Gayana Marine Resort


10DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort

  • Low season from US$336
  • High season from US$385


With 25 overwater bungalows, the DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea is on a small island just off New Caledonia, which itself it fairly close to Australia. Since it’s currently part of the Hilton chain, you can expect things to be done professionally, which isn’t always the case of the cheaper overwater resorts in this part of the world.

The overwater bungalows are fairly large and well appointed, with plenty of great water sports and activities on offer, but the location makes it a challenge for those not starting in Australia or New Zealand.

>>>Check rates at the DoubleTree by Hilton Noumea Ilot Maitre Resort


11Angaga Island Resort and Spa – Maldives

  • Low season from US$349
  • High season from US$442

With 20 water villas connected to one of the Maldives’ smaller private resort islands, Angaga Island Resort has been a great-value option for many years. The resort doesn’t have a swimming pool or a kids club, so it’s meant for couples rather than families with kids.

Each water villa comes with a glass-bottom table, which is an extremely popular feature not found in all water villas in the Maldives. They have scuba diving, wind surfing, and even tennis, so you won’t get bored. The last-minute specials here can be amazing, so if you are looking for something on short notice, Angaga might be ideal.

>>>Check rates at the Angaga Island Resort and Spa


12Sun Island Resort And Spa – Maldives

  • Low season from US$356
  • High season from US$446

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.

>>>Check rates at the Sun Island Resort And Spa


13Sun Siyam Vilu Reef Maldives

  • Low season from US$399
  • High season from US$622

Another great-value resort, Sun Aqua Vilu Reef has some of the best low-season rates in the Maldives. They’ve got 41 water villas including 35 with private Jacuzzis, which of course cost a bit more. The resort also has 80 island villas and with the size you get features including 24-hour room service and 3 separate restaurants.

Sun Siyam Resort has a 5-star spa and a long list of water sports, making it ideal for those who want to do more than just sit on the beach all day. Similar to many other Maldives resorts, they offer night fishing, sunset cruises, and island hopping excursions.

>>>Check rates at the Sun Siyam Vilu Reef Maldives


14Azul Paradise Resort – Panama

  • Low season from US$401
  • High season from US$401

As one of the newer “eco-friendly” resorts in Panama that also features some version of overwater bungalows, the Azul Paradise is also one of the best and most affordable. Some of the others stress the “eco” part so much that they are more like overwater campgrounds, but the Azul Paradise and its 10 overwater bungalows get rave reviews from honeymoon couples as well.

Located on an island in the hot Bocas del Toro area of Caribbean Panama, this resort is also fairly easy to reach compared to some of its competitors. You can swim beneath the bungalows and there are many other water sport options available as well. At this price, the Azul Paradise should get a serious look for those looking for something romantic and interesting in the Panama region.

>>>Check rates at the Azul Paradise Resort


15CoCo View Resort – Roatan, Honduras

  • Low season from US$430 (full board)
  • High season from US$498 (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.


16Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu – Maldives

  • Low season from US$416
  • High season from US$697

As one of the Maldives resorts that advertises a “No news, no shoes” style, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu is a great choice for those really wanting to unplug. They have 14 water villas that each has its own plunge pool, which is a feature that normally costs much more. Room rates here are usually more toward the high season prices mentioned above, but if you look around and get lucky you might get something like the low season rate.

If you’ve got even more money you could book one of the Sunset Water Villas on the end, which are twice as large and come with butler service. The resort offers a wide variety of diving and water sports along with tennis, a gym, and a full spa.

>>>Check rates at the Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu


17Safari Island Resort and Spa – Maldives

  • Low season from US$439
  • High season from US$570

One of the Maldives resorts that always has great rates on water villas, Safari Island Resort and Spa can be a good choice for those who want luxury on a modest budget. They have 39 water villas as well as 15 waters-edge bungalows that are even more affordable. Each one has a glass coffee table for viewing the sea life directly below the villa.

As a smaller resort (they only have 20 island villas), Safari Island doesn’t have quite as many activities on offer as some other resorts, but they do have a diving center, a water sports center, and a gym. They’ve got one restaurant, bar, and coffee shop, all located on the lagoon itself.

>>>Check rates at the Safari Island Resort and Spa


18Reethi Faru Resort – Maldives

  • Low season from US$446
  • High season from US$724

With 44 water villas and 2 water villa suites, Reethi Faru Resort is a newer private-island hotel and one of the more budget-friendly as well. Each water villa is 840 sq ft (78 m²), making them about triple the size of a typical city hotel room. And each has steps down into the lagoon from the private terrace, along with a luxurious bathroom.

The resort also has 106 island villas, so it’s one of the larger and busier islands in the Maldives. With a larger size comes more options including 5 restaurants, a Turkish bath, and an aqua gym. Room rates in high season are up there, but this is another resort that is worth checking because they do have promotional rates if they aren’t full and the dates are drawing near.

>>>Check rates at the Reethi Faru Resort


19Robinson Club Maldives

  • Low season from US$450
  • High season from US$624

A resort popular with German guests as it’s part of a chain of luxury German hotels, Robinson Club Maldives has 25 water villas and 76 island villas. Room rates are pretty competitive all year round so this could be a good option if you want to go to the Maldives in high season around Christmas.

The Lagoon Villas are all enormous, clocking in at 1,238 sq ft (115 m²). They’ve also got a 2-bedroom Lagoon Suite, which could be a great option for a multi-generation stay, although 2-bedroom suites tend to cost more than double the 1-bedroom water villas, so it won’t be cheap. Robinson Club has scuba diving and snorkeling at one of the best house reefs in the Maldives, so it’s a favorite for the water sports crowd.

>>>Check rates at the Robinson Club Maldives


20Sun Siyam Olhuveli – Maldives

  • Low season from US$464
  • High season from US$650


With 60 overwater villas, the Sun Siyam Olhuveli Resort is the most affordable of the luxurious Sun Siyam chain in the Maldives. The room rates here have always been reasonably priced considering the quality, and they stand out even more now that so many of their competitors have raised rates.

The resort has a dive center and most of the standard water sports and beach activities, including a children’s pool. This is an excellent choice for those on a more modest budget because it’s reached by speed boat rather than sea plane, which also saves quite a bit of money.

>>>Check rates at the Sun Siyam Olhuveli


21VOI Maayafushi Resort All-inclusive – Maldives

  • Low season from US$490
  • High season from US$490

The cheapest of the Maldives all-inclusive water villa resorts, VOI Maayafushi Resort could be perfect for some people but not for everyone. The room rates are excellent, especially for an all-inclusive property, but it’s a 3-star resort with 8 water villas run by an Italian company. In other words, it’s popular with Italians and it’s not luxurious, and that may or may not be your cup of tea.

The all-inclusive package here includes 3 buffet meals each day along with unlimited beer and wine. For the Maldives, this is pretty basic, but that is reflected in the price. The house reef is said to be way above average so the scuba diving and snorkeling right from the resort is quite good.


22Gangehi Island Resort – Maldives

  • Low season from US$495
  • High season from US$654

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.

>>>Check rates at the Gangehi Island Resort


23Meeru Island Resort & Spa – Maldives

  • Low season from US$518 (full board, Jacuzzi Water Villa)
  • High season from US$1,062 (full board, Jacuzzi Water Villa)

With 106 water villas, the Meeru Island Resort has more overwater rooms than any resort in the world except for the two mammoth Malaysian resorts at the top of this list. 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. The cheapest category of water villas are along the waterfront at low tide, and the larger and newer Jacuzzi Water Villas are justifiably more expensive. There are more than a dozen restaurants and bars on the island, and even a small pitch & putt golf course. This place keeps rates reasonable in order to stay fully booked all year, and many guests come back over and over. The upgrade to the All-Inclusive Plus package is sometimes free during slow months and quite reasonable the rest of the year, so this is easily among the best all-inclusive deals in the Maldives. For a closer look at this justifiably popular resort, read this Meeru Island detailed pro review with videos and photos.

>>>Check rates at the Meeru Island Resort & Spa


24Reethi Beach Resort – Maldives

  • Low season from US$521
  • High season from US$536

With some of the best review scores in the Maldives (at least in the modest price category), 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.

>>>Check rates at the Reethi Beach Resort


25Coco Bodu Hithi – Maldives

  • Low season from US$529
  • High season from US$646

The larger of the two Coco Palm resorts in the Maldives, Coco Bodu Hithi has 56 water villas and each has a private plunge pool on their terrace. This is a luxury resort that is somehow offering reasonable room rates at least some of the time. With almost 100 total rooms and suites, it’s a fairly large resort with a long list of amenities and activities.

The spa here has a great reputation with treatments from Indonesia, Thailand, and India. And they have 6 restaurants and bars, including an experience where guests can prepare their own al fresco meal for the ultimate in privacy and romance. They also do an open-air cinema, which is a popular feature and the few resorts that offer it.

>>>Check rates at the Coco Bodu Hithi


26Koro Sun Resort Fiji

  • Low season from US$536
  • High season from US$536

Another overwater resort with a variety of non-traditional room types, the Koro Sun Resort is definitely worth a look if you are thinking about Fiji for a romantic getaway. The hotel has a variety of “edgewater” accommodations that aren’t way out in a lagoon like you’d find in Bora Bora, but still look pretty amazing, especially at these room rates.

Unlike many other resorts in the South Pacific region, the Koro Sun offers half-board and full-board meal plans, which helps make trip costs more predictable. They don’t offer “all-inclusive” including alcohol, however, as that seems to be almost impossible to find in the South Pacific.

>>>Check rates at the Koro Sun Resort Fiji


27Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay

  • Low season from US$576
  • High season from US$679


With 22 overwater bungalows out of 250 total rooms, the Fiji Marriott is one of the larger resorts on this list. One advantage of a larger resort is they have more activities and services for guests, so this is a great choice for families or groups traveling together.

The location in Fiji is a tricky one for many people because it’s a longer flight than Bora Bora and Tahiti, so any savings on an affordable overwater bungalow will partly go to a more expensive flight. On the other hand, Fiji is gorgeous and a new adventure for those who might be tired of Bora Bora.

>>>Check rates at the Fiji Marriott Resort Momi Bay


28InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa

  • Low season from US$624
  • High season from US$663


Most of the overwater bungalow resorts in Bora Bora and Moorea have drastically raised their rates since the start of the pandemic, but the InterContinental Moorea Resort has kept them fairly steady. As part of the famous InterContinental chain, you can expect quality and professional service. The overwater bungalows are just off a small island, so it’s not quite the turquoise lagoon experience like some of the Bora Bora resorts, but you can still swim directly from your terrace.

If you haven’t heard of it, Moorea is a gorgeous island just off Tahiti itself, so it’s much easier to reach than Bora Bora and faster as well. There are a few amazing resorts on Moorea, although prices of those are similar to the 5-star places on Bora Bora, so they are unaffordable for most of us.

>>>Check rates at the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa


29Le Meridien Bora Bora

  • Low season from US$625
  • High season from US$868

Speaking of Bora Bora, the Le Meridien is the most affordable overwater bungalow resort on (or just off) the island, at least when they have availability. The low season room rates here are so reasonable that they can be hard to find. This is one of the older resorts in Bora Bora, but the lagoon is one of the best and it’s extremely popular with the honeymoon crowd.

They have 85 overwater bungalows at the Le Meridien, in two room classes. As a larger resort, they are able to offer more services and amenities and still offer competitive room rates. They’ve got 3 restaurants and 2 bars, and of course a full spa and wellness center. If you can lock in one of their better room rates, this one might be the best value in the South Pacific.

>>>Check rates at the Le Meridien Bora Bora


30Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort

  • Low season from US$654
  • High season from US$713


The 39 overwater bungalows at the Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort are another of the most affordable on Moorea these days, which makes them ideal for many couples. Moorea is a much more beautiful island than Tahiti itself, and it’s much closer than Bora Bora as well. You can fly into Tahiti and then take a 30-minute (cheap) ferry ride to Moorea, rather than a one-hour ($500) flight to Bora Bora.

This is a Sofitel, which is a professionally run French chain of hotels, so you can expect a higher standard of service. Once on Moorea you can take a taxi or bus to reach other resorts or restaurants, allowing you to get more of a feeling for the island than those staying at a remote resort on Bora Bora.

>>>Check rates at the Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort


31Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island Resort

  • Low season from US$668
  • High season from US$930

The off-season rates at the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island Resort make this one a popular choice for budget travelers when nearly all of the other Bora Bora resorts now start over US$1,000 per night. This “private island” is a separate hotel from the Sofitel Bora Bora Marara Beach Resort, which is just across the lagoon and has similar rates for overwater bungalows most of the time.

The 20 overwater bungalows here aren’t the largest in Bora Bora, but they are still very nice and larger than a typical city hotel room. You reach the Private Island by a free boat service run by the combined hotels, and you can use the facilities at both places if staying at either. They have a spa, a wine cellar, cigar cave, and even wedding facilities.

>>>Check rates at the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island Resort


32Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa

  • Low season from US$684
  • High season from US$718


Another amazing deal (relatively speaking), the Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa and its 48 overwater bungalows are just off Bora Bora itself, so this is a first-class resort with a top location at a reasonable price. The overwater bungalows here are enormous at over 1,100 square feet (100 square meters), so you sacrifice nothing.

This one really stands out as a bargain because the similar resorts just a short boat ride away in Bora Bora are now charging about double the rates that Le Taha’a are doing. They’ve got butler service and all of the water sports and activities, so this is no compromise at all.

>>>Check rates at the Le Taha’a Island Resort & Spa


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.

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All Comments

  1. Jerry says:

    Roger
    I really like the info about the overwater bungalows, however I think I may have been mislead or given false or bad information in the past. You seem to have a lot of knowledge on these bungalows, so maybe you can help and assist me to get the issue cleared up.
    Are there any over the ocean bungalows in Bali, Ike the ones you have listed?
    Thanks.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Jerry,

      It’s strange because many people seem to be under the impression that there are overwater bungalows or water villas in Bali, but there aren’t and never have been. There are a few overwater diving resorts on other Indonesian islands, all a long way from Bali. And there is an old resort in Moorea called the Bali Hai Resort that has a few overwater bungalows along its shore.

      Not only do I do a lot of research on overwater bungalows, but I’ve also spent a lot of time in Bali, including a month there in February. I can assure you that there are none there at this point, unfortunately. And I don’t think the lagoons there are the kind that would be good for them in the future either. -Roger

  2. Parind says:

    Hello Roger! Really liked your research and every detail about these hotels. I went through each and every hotel/resort in Maldives that you have mentioned here but could not really find budget deals for over water villas. I am planning to go to Maldives in March 1st week 2017 for my honeymoon. Could you suggest any particular resort in the range of 3000£-3500£ for 7-8 nights?

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Parind,

      I think one problem might be that you are checking the Maldives room rates too early. In my experience, the resorts will show their higher prices starting 11 months out, because anyone searching that far in advance for specific dates is usually not looking for a bargain. What happens is they book very few rooms at the higher rate, and then about 7 or 8 months out they start discounting once they see how many rooms they have left for any given period. March isn’t one of the busiest months in The Maldives, so almost none of those water villas are booked now.

      My advice is to search for resort prices for this coming October or November and see what the rates are looking like. Chances are that if you wait until August or September, you’ll see those same rates for next March. And I hope you are seraching on Agoda.com, because they have all the best online rates in the Maldives.

      Personally I can recommend Meeru Island and Cinnamon Dhonveli as great choices that are also within a speedboat ride of the airport. Most resorts are only reachable by sea-plane and that adds about US$500 per person to the total, where as a speedboat will be around US$200 per person, return. Congratulations and best of luck with your honeymoon. -Roger

  3. Fiona says:

    Thank you Roger!!

    Sorry last question -do I need to carry much cash with me on the resort? From past experiences, I’ve often found that a lot of resorts allow you to charge food/drinks/activities to your room or take credit card. Plus I prefer not to carry too much cash around and a lot of the resorts in Maldives include food in accomodation depending which option you select.

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Fiona,

      The Maldives resorts typically operate in that you charge everything to your room and then pay by credit card as you leave. It’s a generally safe country, but they don’t want to deal with a lot of cash either. Also, all the prices will be in US dollars and everyone accepts USDs, so you won’t need to change money at all. Bon voyage. -Roger

  4. Fiona says:

    Hi Roger,

    Thank you so much for your informative website -you have literally cut my honeymoon planning time in half! I have literally bookmarked all your articles because they are that helpful!

    We are planning to go to the Maldives in september 2016 for our honeymoon and I’ve always dreamed of staying in one of those water bungalows!!

    Only thing is that I can’t swim -would this be a problem?

    Also we are coming from Australia via Singapore so our flight lands in maldives at 10.30pm. We are thinking of staying in a resort nearby (not a fan of seaplanes to be honest) considering Cinnamon Dhonveli. Do the speedboats operate this late? Or do you recommend staying 1 night in male/singapore and go to the resort in the morning?

    Oh and roughly how much are speedboats for a 20 min ride?

    Thanks so much in advance!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Fiona,

      Those overwater villas in the Maldives are amazing and you’ll love them. Fortunately, swimming isn’t at all necessary. The decks and piers are all very safe, so it would be easy to do a whole holiday without getting wet. And even if you did somehow fall in (extremely unlikely), you’ll be happy to know that the water is usually between .6 meters to about 1.5 meters deep, depending on tide. In other words, even shorter people can almost always just walk on the sand over to one of the many ladders or just straight up the beach. There’s nothing to worry about.

      Cinnamon Dhonveli would be a great choice for a place reachable by speedboat, and Meeru Island is another excellent choice nearby. The speedboat to Cinnamon Dhonveli is US$168 per person return, and to Meeru it’s US$220, I think. Some of the speedboats do operate late at night, but I think it’s a waste of money to spend around US$500 for a night at a resort where you wouldn’t get to your room until midnight or later. I’m actually going to write a full article soon to explain the best option for this. The short version is this: Fly into Male and book one of the hotels on the island of Hulhumale, which is connected to the airport island by road. I can personally recommend a hotel called the Maakanaa Lodge, which I stayed at a few weeks ago (and it’s the #1 rated hotel on the island on TripAdvisor). The hotel will have someone to meet you at the airport to bring you to the hotel, and they will make you breakfast in the morning before taking you back to the airport for your speedboat ride. It will cost around US$100 for the night, including pickup, dropoff, and breakfast, and you’ll get to your resort by speedboat by around noon the following day, so you can make full use of it. I’ll link my article describing this once it’s published. Feel free to ask other questions if you have them. -Roger

      1. Fiona says:

        Thank you for your response Roger! Are we able to book a speedboat once we land in Male or should we book it beforehand when booking flights and accomodation?

        1. Roger Wade says:

          Fiona,

          The speedboat booking is done along with the resort booking. In other words, when you go to book a resort (Agoda.com has the best online rates) then they will also ask you for your flight details. When they see that you are coming in late, they will contact you to give you details on when your speedboat will leave in the morning. It’s part of the process for every guest they have, and they will make it easy on you. The resorts own and operate the speedboats, so it’s just a matter of determining the best time to schedule you and the other guests arriving from the airport that morning.

          By the way, the speedboat piers are directly at the airport, maybe 100 to 200 meters from baggage claim. It sounds a bit confusing the first time, but it’s very easy once you get there. I’m doing a video about this process as well, and I’ll post it soon and put the link here. Bon voyage. -Roger

  5. ashley says:

    Hi Roger,

    Great website and list! Do you happen to know which of the resorts (in the Maldives) on this list you can get to by speed-boat transfer?
    Thanks,
    Ashley

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Ashley,

      Thank you. Yes, here is a list of Maldives water villa resorts with speed-boat transfer. Actually, they will be adding Meeru Island to that list, which is the #5 cheapest and by far the cheapest full-board or all-inclusive resort. It’s 55 minutes from Male Airport by speedboat, and I just came from there a few days ago. It’s amazing. -Roger

  6. Maui says:

    This list is great! I’m not sure what you are, a local, a savvy traveler, a writer, or a sale rep of resorts, but I’ve been looking for someone like you to pick brain 😛
    I have one thing left on my bucket list, which is a Tahiti vacation in a NICE water bungalow! After dreaming about it long enough, I made that a “plan”, no longer a “dream,” and the exclusive savings I opened about 5 yrs. ago with a goal of $10K is about to fully mature! Now it’s really time for me to finalize my travel plans. EXCITED but nervous, because I don’t want to make mistakes of choosing a wrong island, hotel, season, etc. Per my initial research back then, those “fancy” bungalows (not even suites or villas) were no less than $2000 per night. The price you listed seem far below that line. Am I missing something here, or those prices have come down over the years? I don’t need a HUGE space but a private deck and a private pool will be great. Some view out the bungalow (of the resort or the shoreline v.s. absolute darkness at night) is preferred. I’m thinking about possibly moving rooms from a lower-end unit (for 2-3 nights) to THE BUNGALOW for GRAND FINALE for 2 nights. Honestly, as amazing as the bungalow experience shall be, I think I will get ‘used to it’ after a few days. Oh, also I would like to keep this trip no longer than 5 nights. (Unfortunately I have a limited time, and just to experience the bungalow is THE main objective!! (FYI: the origin of flight is LAX.) What are your recommendations for the island(s), resort(s), and particular bungalow(s)? Mahalo!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Maui,

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m a travel writer and obsessive researcher who likes to put together lists like this, and not a travel agent. I only started researching these things about 6 years ago and I don’t think prices have changed too much since then. The room rates quoted on this list are full prices including all taxes and fees, and you can indeed get an amazing overwater bungalow in Bora Bora for around US$500 per night in low season, and only a bit higher most of the rest of the year.

      From LAX you are in a very good spot because most of these trips include a flight from LAX to Tahiti. From Tahiti you can take a very short flight to Moorea or a one-hour ferry ride, or a one-hour flight to Bora Bora. Those are the two best islands with the best choices, and both are stunning. Tahiti itself is a bit of a dud in that regard, but it’s nice enough for a short stay.

      And I think your plan to book an island room for part of your stay is a good way to save some money. Actually, you stand a decent chance of getting upgraded to an overwater bungalow for some of those days as well, because those booked in the overwater rooms for part of their trip are the first to be considered if any of them are empty.

      Here are the overwater resorts in Moorea, and the overwater resorts in Bora Bora. The overall quality is very high and I’m sure you’ll find one that suits you. Since money is a consideration you might want to focus on Moorea because the round-trip flight from Tahiti to Bora Bora is quite expensive in itself. Have a great trip. -Roger

  7. Greg says:

    I’m pretty sure this one is cheaper than any on this list: nalusuanislandresort.com

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Greg,

      You may be right about that, but a few years ago I decided to stop including the basic shacks on stilts and I only list the proper “honeymoon-style” overwater bungalows, because that’s what people reading this article are looking for. I’m aware of several other places in Thailand and nearby that are part of floating villages where “overwater” rooms start at around US$20 per night. Either way, I appreciate the comment. -Roger

      1. Greg Bloom says:

        Thanks for the response, Roger. Yeah you have a point, I actually know some $5 overwater cottages in the Philippines, but they are extremely basic, bamboo-shack-over-mangrove affairs. Nalusuan may not be quite up to the level of the ones you list, but one could argue that it should make the cut – private island, great snorkeling,and reasonably luxurious cottages, all for about US$100. Worth putting on your radar at least. Btw I have no affiliation with the resort, just reviewed it for Lonely Planet and recognize it as a uniquely good deal. .

  8. Martina says:

    Hi Roger,

    thanks for this list, helps a lot! If you keep updating it people like me will be forever grateful 🙂

    What really bugs me with most of these resorts is how conveniently they charge you hugeee amounts of money for transfers and how you are not allowed to come to the island by any other means otherwise they will not let you check in (?!). I mean for the price of a 15-min obligatory seaplane ride I get halfway around the world! ughh

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Martina,

      I appreciate the kind words and that this research is helpful. And I agree that the price of the mandatory sea-plane flight in the Maldives seems high, although on the other hand, most people rave about them as one of the best experiences of their entire trip. So those Maldives sea-plane flights are like a wonderful thrill ride, that will cost you about US$900 per person. About 20 Maldives resorts are close enough for speed-boat transfers, which are only about US$150 per person. And some offer both.

      The Maldives tourism industry is heavily regulated and each of those resorts HAS to be on a private island. There are no general passenger ferry services that just go island to island, except for some used by workers to go from nearby islands to the resorts. So unfortunately, the only way to get to most of the islands is by sea-plane or private yacht. There are some great resorts close enough to the airport for speed boats, so maybe one of those will work for you? -Roger

  9. Sanne - Spend Life Traveling says:

    Nice list.
    And as much as I am a fan of traveling on a budget, I think at times spending a little more can increase your experience by a lot, especially for a luxury vacation like this.
    For example Sun Island and the Chaaya resorts in the Maldives are really not that great. Spending a little bit more, when possible, will give you a so much better experience, at least from my experience with resorts in the Maldives.

  10. Mel says:

    Hi Roger,
    Great list of over-water bungalows. Thanks for putting this all together.
    Hubby’s 50th is coming up in November ’16 and I want to take him somewhere special (the shorter the flight times from Australia the better but open to South Pacific, Maldives or Caribbean.
    We want privacy when in the bungalow/private pool, a town close by where we can go for strolls, shopping, massages and/or dinner but most importantly it should be a place where one is made feel welcome by locals. We’ve been to Bali and the Philippines and would never go there again to offer some comparison. Not sure how to put it but basically in both places we couldn’t wait to be under Western people back home again.
    Do you have any suggestions, keeping weather in November in mind?
    Thanks in advance!

    1. Roger Wade says:

      Mel,

      Thank you for the nice words. If you are looking for what I like to call “honeymoon-style” overwater bungalows, then you’ll want to go to either the South Pacific or Maldives.

      And if you prefer a town nearby, you are going to want to focus on the South Pacific. The Maldives has about 80 overwater resorts, but by law, each is on its own private island so you have to take a boat ride to get to an island where people live and work, which can be far away from many resorts. On the other hand, this also solves the non-welcoming locals problem because the only people you see are other guests and employees, so you are always treated very well and never hassled.

      And I know what you mean about places like Bali and the Philippines. I’m actually in Negril, Jamaica at the moment, and as lovely as it is, the big negative is that visitors are hounded mercilessly by nearly everyone they encounter.

      On the islands of Bora Bora and Moorea, the locals are small in number and generally very respectful, so those might be your best options if you can afford them. Each island also has several little villages and off-resort restaurants and shops, so you can actually walk around in a pleasant environment.

      The November weather is quite good in both of those areas, and it’s almost the same all year round. Both places have rainy seasons, but the rain comes and goes quickly (often overnight) and it can make for amazing sunsets. And rainy seasons are cheaper as well, so many savvy travelers prefer them.

      Best of luck on the birthday trip next year, and let me know if you have other questions. -Roger