10 Resorts with Stunning Overwater Villas

Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia

Inside an overwater villa at Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia. Photo courtesy of the property.

Inside an overwater villa at Song Saa Private Island, Cambodia.

Nine of the 12 salvaged-timber villas at Cambodia’s only private-island resort are set overwater, with a barefoot-luxe ethos that encompasses everything from driftwood tables and outdoor showers made from tree trunks, to private pools and muslin-draped four-poster beds. Glass floors allow guests to catch a glimpse of the marine reserve that the resort has helped establish in this corner of the Koh Rong Archipelago; snorkeling gear is on hand for those who wish to get an even closer look (doubles from US$1,790).

The boardwalk leading to the villa

The boardwalk leading to the villa

Sandals Royal Caribbean, Jamaica

Aerial shot of the island.

Aerial shot of the island.

The five recently minted Over-the-Water Villas at the Sandals Royal resort in Montego Bay are being touted as the first all-inclusive accommodation of their kind in the Caribbean. The Tahitian-inspired digs feature glass floors, infinity pools, Jacuzzis, and overwater hammocks, giving you plenty of ways to take in the limitless Caribbean views. (Even at night there’s something to see, thanks to underwater lighting.) The breathtaking price tag includes plenty of niceties, from unlimited scuba diving and a bar stocked with top-shelf beverages to private boat transfers and, of course, the services of a butler (doubles from US$6,381). 

Jamaican Sandals Royal Caribbean now sports Tahitian-inspired overwater villas of its own, complete with private pools and 24-hour butler service. Photo courtesy of the property.

Jamaican Sandals Royal Caribbean now sports Tahitian-inspired overwater villas of its own, complete with private pools and 24-hour butler service.

El Dorado Maroma, Mexico

Aerial shot of the Maroma.

Aerial shot of El Dorado Maroma.

The owners of this adults-only property on the Riviera Maya were inspired by the ancient Aztec city-state of Tenochtitlan, where homes were built on stilts over Lake Texcoco. The resort’s 30 new Palafitos (Spanish for “stilt house”) are the first of their kind in the country, replete with local design flourishes—think zapote-wood furnishings, Mexican white granite bathrooms, and palapa-style roofs—as well as outdoor showers, private pools, and glass floor panels through which you can play Spot the Fish without getting out of bed. A butler is on call to arrange everything from picnics on nearby Maroma Beach to spa treatments created exclusively for Palafitos guests (doubles from US$1,330). 

The beach in front of the property.

The property’s in-house dining joint.

Anantara the Palm Dubai Resort, UAE

The overwater villa's bathroom

The overwater villa’s bathroom

In a city known for its lavish resorts, Anantara The Palm is surprisingly understated, its low-slung Thai temple–style buildings arranged around three lagoons and edged by a white-sand beach. It’s a welcome design respite from other ostentatious properties that call the manmade islands of Palm Jumeirah home—though these do create a dazzling backdrop for Anantara’s 18 overwater villas, which span 106 square meters and come outfitted with window-side spa baths (doubles from US$996).

The bedroom inside one of the villas.

The bedroom inside one of the villas.

El Nido Lagen Island, Philippines

Aerial shot of the island.

Aerial shot of the island.

Northern Palawan’s remote Lagen Island is not the easiest place to reach, but the journey here is fast forgotten once you check in to one of the resort’s eco-chic Water Cottages and take in the panoramic views of Bacuit Bay. Expect plenty of local character thanks to rich textiles and the thoughtful use of timber recycled from old Filipino houses. The real allure, however, is the setting: bungalows are surrounded by more than 50,000 hectares of protected forest, jagged limestone cliffs, and hidden bays and beaches (doubles from US$495). 

Lagen Island Rock

Lagen Island Rock

This article originally appeared in the June/July 2017 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Just Add Water”).

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