Alexandra E. Petri—So just how does the 1% go on holiday? For a lavish vacation, they forget the rock-star hotel suites and elegant beachfront villas. They go one better: overwater villas, perched on stilts above some of the clearest, most alluring waters on earth and surrounded by the purest white-sand beaches.
Though the majority of these heavenly retreats are located in the South Pacific, some are even sprouting up closer to home. In fact, Disney World has announced that the Disney Polynesian Villas & Resorts will feature of 20 Bora Bora-inspired overwater bungalows, opening on April 1. Set over the Seven Seas Lagoon — just across from the Magic Kindgom — the villas will be as magical as they come; after all, it is Disney.
In the meantime, check out the most swoon-worthy overwater villas on earth. Paradise is calling your name. We can dream, can't we?
Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru
Photo Credit: Four Seasons
Nothing says bliss like crystal-blue waters surrounding a villa right in the Indian Ocean.The Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru is a short, 45-minute seaplane flight from Malé, the Maldives’ capital city, and is one of three Four Seasons properties in this archipelago. Here, even the spa is set over water. You’ll feel like God is personally painting majestic skies for you night after night — and he should be, with prices like this. Think,$2,700 a night for a sunset water villa.
Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
Photo Credit: COMO Hotels
Arriving at Cocoa Island is a moment more magical than what J.K. Rowling could conjure up. Located on the tiny island of Makunufushi, part of the South Male Atoll in the Maldives, the tiny island of Makunufushi is a 40-minute speedboat ride from Malé. The bungalows, priced at a cool $1,600 and up, are designed to look like traditional dhoni boats and are perched over one of the most diverse reefs in the world.
Photo Credit: Ayada Maldives
As if you needed another reason to visit the Maldives. The Ayada is one of the newest resorts in the area, and you can expect decadent bungalows with a private outdoor terrace, ocean hammocks, and a plunge pool. There are more than 50 overwater villas at this property, renting for upwards of $1,000 per night.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Fiji
Photo Credit: Likuliku Lagoon Resort/ Facebook
Once upon a time across the bluest of oceans, an island was born of lava and sand — an untouched paradise whose heart was a turquoise lagoon of unimaginable beauty and tranquility. So goes the legend of Likuliku, an exceptionally beautiful island. Lodgings at Likuliku Lagoon Resort Fiji are called bures, which comes from the Fijian word for what is essentially a cabin. These thatched-roof bungalows are beyond a cabin, priced at $1,550 (and up) and floating above gin-clear waters. Just 16 miles off the coast of Nadi, the resort is reached by fast catamaran, private speedboat, seaplane, or helicopter to a private helipad.
Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia
Photo Credit: Song Saa Private Island/ Facebook
In Cambodia’s Koh Rong archipelago are the Song Saa Islands, which means “the sweethearts” in Khmer. Song Saa Private Island sits in the middle of a 100-hectare marine reserve and boasts overwater bungalows that start at a cool $1,500 a night and come complete with private pools (everything else included). The spaces channel the natural environment of the islands, with thatched roofs, stone walls, and furniture and finishings made from driftwood and recycled timber.
Intercontinental Le Moana, Bora Bora
Photo Credit: Intercontinental Bora Bora Le Moana/ Facebook
Accessible only by water taxi, Intercontinental Le Moana was one of the first properties in Bora Bora to have overwater bungalows. Each hut has its own private deck, with a ladder that leads directly into the water . One of the more remarkable features: a glass-top coffee table with a removable top, so that guests can feed the fish in the water below. There are more than 50 bungalows available, starting at a relatively modest $600 a night during the off season.
Le Meridien, Bora Bora
Photo Credit: Starwood Hotels
Pantone should create a new shade and call it Bora Bora blue, because these waters are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Bora Bora is home to some of the finest resorts in the world, and Le Meridien is part of that impressive portfolio. Not only is this property surrounded by magnificent waters, it also offers jaw-dropping views of nearby Mount Otemanu. Among the more stunning features: glass viewing panels in the floor. Overwater villas go for about $800 per night and up, depending on the time of year.
Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort, French Polynesia
Photo Credit: Tahiti.com
Located just off a pink-sand beach, the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort is about as far as you can get away in French Polynesia. There are a few different options when it comes to overwater villas, each of which has a thatched-hut roof and plenty of Polynesian panache. The seven premium options provide direct access from your private veranda to the lagoon below. A relative bargain in the world of overwater bungalows, rates average $609 a night.
Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort, French Polynesia
Photo Credit: Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort
We know: You could easily see yourself living out the rest of your days here. The Sofitel Moorea la Ora Beach Resort, located on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia, has villas positioned over a reef buzzing with all sorts of marine life. The bungalows come with glass floor panels, so you can keep an eye on the aquatic acrobatics below. Rates start at $600 a night.
Pangkor Laut Resort, Malaysia
Photo Credit: YTL Hotels
Isn’t this a sight for sore eyes? Pangkor Laut Resort in Malaysia is perhaps the country’s most idyllic property. Located on its own island just off the west coast of Malaysia, the resort is accessible by private plane from Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. Generous in size, t he sea villas are set on stilts in the Straits of Malacca. Rates start at $1,000 per night and deliver the promise of a perfect holiday.
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama
Photo Credit: Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama
Panama's Bocas del Toro is home to several resorts with overwater villas, but Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge is the best . At this jungle-coveredeco-resort set off the country’s Caribbean coast, the overwater villas are the only way to go. They are solar powered, which means serious stargazing. And the greatest part? In the off season, the overwater bungalows start at just $350 per night.