Tahiti’s first overwater bungalows were built back in the 1960s as stilted homes. Who would’ve thought that half a century later, these water huts would be synonymous with luxury. Today, French Polynesia is home to nearly 900 overwater villas scattered across 22 hotels on seven of the 118 islands. Some of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous suites are tucked away under thatched roofs styled after traditional Tahitian fishing huts, and are outfitted with swanky, state-of-the-art technology and super-sleek furnishings that bring a five-star hotel element to remote stretches of French Polynesia. Here are nine of the most beautiful overwater bungalows worth booking when you’re ready to finally take that bucket list trip to Tahiti.
The St. Regis Bora Bora Resort
Just because you’re on an island doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in the same luxuries you would find at hotels back on the mainland. Take The St. Regis Bora Bora, for instance, where you’re catered to around the clock by the brand’s signature butler service, as well as by pool attendants, who will happily whisk smoothies (or something stronger) straight to your chaise. Celeb chef Jean-Georges is behind the menu at Asian-fusion eatery The Lagoon, where you can watch a show of sharks swimming beneath the glass-paneled restaurant floor. The resort stretches across three “motus,” or islands, with jagged Mount Otemanu rising as a beacon in the distance, and the sparkling turquoise water is on full display from the transparent floors of the overwater villas—the largest in the South Pacific.
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Most of the hundred-plus bungalows at Four Seasons Bora Bora stand proudly on stilts over the lagoon (and the few that don’t make up for it in size). Modeled after a traditional Polynesian village, the design—dreamt up by a local architect, with the help of Paris- and San Francisco-based design firms—plays on the natural beauty of the lagoon with an indoor-outdoor concept. Think mother of pearl-accented light fixtures (a nod to Tahiti’s infamous black pearls), tattoo- patterned pillows, and sleek teak furnishings. Named No. 1 in French Polynesia in TripAdvisor’s 2019 Travelers’ Choice Awards, the Four Seasons Bora Bora is the quintessential vision of Tahiti: plunge pools and private ladders leading straight from water bungalows down to the tropical fish-filled lagoon—plus lavish spa treatments like 24-karat gold monoi oil massages.
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InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa
When deciding between InterContinental Bora Bora Resort & Thalasso Spa’s 84 overwater villas, the main choice you’ll have to make is the view: lagoon, beach or mountains? Traditional architectural touches (bamboo, carved mother of pearl, weavings) remind you you’re in French Polynesia, but the state-of-the-art in-room technology feels as cosmopolitan as New York. A glass-bottomed coffee table doubles as a porthole to the al fresco aquarium below, and sundecks feature outdoor freshwater showers perfect for cooling off in between sunbathing and dips in the lagoon. You can also soak up the views while soaking in your private plunge pool. Another reason to book a stay here: the thalassotherapy center, the first seawater therapy spa in the region that weaves nutrients extracted from the depths of the South Pacific into its ancient Polynesian rituals (performed in glass-bottom treatment rooms, of course). The InterContinental is also home to four new satellite suites with the largest private plunge pools in French Polynesia courtesy of Tahiti’s most exclusive resort—The Brando.
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Conrad Bora Bora Nui
The majority of the high-end resorts in Bora Bora sit on the opposite side of the lagoon, so you won’t have to worry about sharing space—or views. Set on its own private atoll, across from Bora Bora on the southwest end of Motu To’opua, the Conrad Bora Bora Nui offers the largest stretch of sand in the area (spanning nearly half a mile), plus some of Tahiti’s best coral reefs—so snorkeling here is top-notch. Lounge on the pool deck of your overwater private bungalow on a hammock suspended over the sea—or in the sauna if you’ve opted for the presidential villa. Sporting the only two-story, overwater villas in French Polynesia, rooms here feature butler service, three terraces, an infinity pool overlooking the horizon, and a bar area, so you don’t have to go too far to find refreshments for sunset.
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InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa
Nestled along the northwest coast of Moorea, just a seven-minute flight from sister island Tahiti or a 30-minutes ferry ride, the InterContinental Moorea Resort & Spa is a beautiful blend of tropical gardens and sea. Covered gazebos shield sundecks with sunbeds, showers, and direct lagoon access below. The junior suites are set up in a style so that you not only score the best views of the lagoon, you also don’t have to worry about anyone peering into the private sanctuary of your very own Tahitian water hut.
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Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island
Once you land in Tahiti, hop on a powerboat and speed off to Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island, which is just as idyllic as it sounds. A five-minute boat ride from mainland sister hotel Sofitel Marara Beach Resort, the 21-bungalow beauty wisely chose its locale right next to a coral garden teeming with angelfish—which is why it’s home to some of the best snorkeling in Tahiti. One of the only luxury boutique resorts to claim its own private island, this spot really feels like a secluded, unspoiled paradise (with plenty of haute amenities). Admire panoramic views of nearby Bora Bora and its peaks from the sundeck of your overwater bungalow, or set off and explore the surrounding waters in one of the most traditional ways possible—by outrigger canoe.
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Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
French Polynesia is home to six archipelagos, but one of the lesser known (and less crowded) is Tuamotu, 220 miles north of Tahiti. White- and pink-sand islands dot the 177-square-mile lagoon surrounding the Tikehau atoll (population 500), an hour’s flight from Tahiti’s capital. You won’t find modern luxuries at Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort (sorry, no air-conditioning). But the cool, marine breeze and views of the crystal-clear lagoons make up for it. With only 24 overwater suites and bungalows (which span over 1,000 square feet), you’ll practically have the lagoon all to yourself. If you really want privacy, go for the premium bungalows at the far end of the pontoon, which feature chaise lounges, glass floors, and easy access to the lagoon below.
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Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa
Why choose between sunrise or sunset views when you can have both? That’s the luxury of a stay in one of Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort & Spa’s overwater bungalows, which dot the two bays bordering the island of Moorea. The W-shaped string of bungalows offers picture-perfect views of both the lagoon and mountain-lined island, and while the style is still very much classic French Polynesian in design, inside is the complete opposite. Marble-clad bathrooms sport rain showers, claw-foot tubs, and flat-screen TVs loaded with films. The best show is right below your feet, though, thanks to the glass-floor viewing panel.
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Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort
Most travelers use Pape’ete—Tahiti’s capital city and the gateway to the Tahitian islands—as a stopover en route to the more fashionable isles of Moorea and Bora Bora. But save yourself an extra flight (or ferry ride) with a stay at Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort, a Sofitel-managed property located 15 minutes from downtown Papeete. Since the resort sits on Tahiti’s west coast, you’re guaranteed sunset views each evening. In addition to the contemporary complex’s 146 rooms, a pier stretches out to a string of 12 overwater bungalows that offer vistas of Moorea in the distance—plus glass floors, so if you don’t feel like taking a dip in the water, you can still admire the vibrant marine life swimming right below your bed.
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