You don’t need to take an expensive trip to Bora Bora or the Maldives to enjoy staying in an overwater bungalow—these days, there are many fabulous new overwater bungalows you can sleep in that are a bit closer to home. From a jungle lagoon in South America to a Swiss lake with a view of the Alps, the locations alone make these unique overwater bungalows a truly one-of-a-kind experience.
Overwater Bungalows in Europe, South America, Africa, and the Caribbean
Guatemalan Jungle Lagoon Bungalows
Monkeys howl, exotic birds call to each other, and reptiles laze in the sun within the lush rainforest of Guatemala’s Jungle of Peten. Guests at Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel can take it all in from bungalow suites stilted over the jungle’s Quexil Lagoon on 200 protected acres.
Constructed out of pine, the 19 bungalows feature waterfall showers and Jacuzzis on private decks. Jungle tours give you the chance to spot ocelots, deer, and boars. The ancient city of Tikal, a major bucket-list site of Mayan civilization, is also near the hotel.
Several other Mayan ruins are close by, including one that housed an astrological observatory and another with the largest pyramid base in the Mayan world.
Overwater Bungalows in Switzerland with Alps Views
These sleek water pavilions sit over Lake Neuchatel, a 24-mile long Swiss alpine lake rimmed with sprawling vineyards, charming medieval towns, and Switzerland’s largest marshland bird paradise.
Hotel Palafitte’s overwater bungalows offer guests dramatic Alps and lake views, from shimmering sunrises to thunderstorms over the water. A small ladder on each suite’s private terrace allows guests direct access to the water.
Originally built ago as part of the National Expo 2002, Hotel Palafitte was designed with a nod to the region’s stilt-house history and the prehistoric remains that archaeologists have discovered nearby. The 56 sites in Switzerland and hundreds of others in lakeshore communities around the Alps were named UNESCO heritage sites in 2011.
African River Overwater Bungalows
In a region with one of Namibia’s highest concentrations of game, the thatched-roof Chobe Water Villas opened in 2016 over the mighty Chobe River. The 16 luxury suites on stilts overlook Chobe National Park and Kasikili/Sedudu Island, both renowned for large herds of elephant and buffalo. The plentiful riverside vegetation also satisfies hippos, lions, antelopes and giraffes.
Watch wildlife from the overwater villas’ large verandas, or get a closer look through one of the high-powered telescopes in each villa. Smell the fire smoke from the adjacent villages. And listen for the clear, shrill cry of the African fish eagle, often called “the voice of Africa.” The best months for spotting wildlife are July through October.
Indian Ocean Fish Reserve Lagoon Bungalows
Balmy breezes swirl over a perfectly still lagoon on Mauritius just off Africa’s east coast. Above the coastal lagoon’s protected fish reserve are the overwater bungalows of Constance Le Prince Maurice. They’re part of the resort’s 148-acre tract of unspoiled land marked with secluded white-sand beaches, verdant gardens, and natural vegetation.
It’s a quiet, peaceful setting in what could easily be characterized as the middle of nowhere. On the bungalows’ private verandas, you can soak in an outdoor bath or recline on loungers, settling in for afternoon sunbathing or an evening of stargazing—the Southern Hemisphere constellations are brighter and more numerous than in the north.
Overwater Bungalows in Panama’s Caribbean Reef
A 30-minute boat taxi transports you to this eco lodge in Panama’s Bocas Del Toro archipelago. The string of nine palm-thatched cabanas over clear Caribbean waters at Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge immerse guests in a simple, natural environment. The overwater bungalows were constructed using the archipelago’s traditional building methods, incorporating native wood, leaves, bamboo, and clay.
Solar panels on the roof supply 12-volt electric power. Each cabana comes with snorkeling gear and a ladder that reaches to the water and the coral reef below. From the terrace you can see leaping dolphins or catch a tropical island sunset. The hypnotic sound of gentle waves floats in through the windows, and the salty scent of the ocean is ever present in suites that have hosted international ambassadors, film directors, actors, rock stars and Nobel Prize winners.
Chilean Island Shoreline Bungalows
Before the Panama Canal opened in 1914, European ships bound for America’s West Coast would stop in Castro, a port town on the Chilean island of Chiloe known for its waterfront stilt houses. When the canal opened, the ships rerouted and many of Castro’s wooden stilt houses, called palafitos, were abandoned and fell into the Pacific. Today, several of the 130 remaining palafitos have been restored and converted into colorful hotels, coffee shops, and artisan co-ops.
Book an overnight stay via the tourist board or RealWorld Holidays and wake to the sound of seagulls or the hum of local fishing boats heading out to sea. The boutique hotels and vacation rentals have a Nordic feel with stripped pine and furry rugs. Huge picture windows offer uninterrupted views over the bay.
Mexican Beach Overwater Bungalows Along the Mayan Riviera
The adults-only El Dorado Maroma, a 40-minute drive south of Cancun, opened its upscale overwater suites in 2016. The palafitos sit directly out from Maroma Beach, one of Mexico’s top-rated beaches studded with exclusive resorts and lapped by clear waters ideal for snorkeling.
From the thatched-roof suites, you’re lulled by the sound of waves rolling onto shore. Inspired by stilt dwellings the Aztecs built over Mexico’s Texcoco Lake, these overwater bungalows take things up a notch. They’re outfitted with glitzy amenities inside and out: glass-bottom bedroom floors, indoor Jacuzzis, outdoor showers, and private infinity pools on the decks.
After mornings spent lounging on furniture crafted from local Zapote wood, you can climb down your bungalow ladder into the warm ocean for a swim.
Overwater Bungalows at a Honduras Island Scuba Mecca
These bungalows sit on the docks in an epicenter of scuba diving sites: Roatan Island in Honduras. It’s a Western Caribbean dream destination for scuba divers who covet the bragging rights of finning alongside whale sharks, exploring underwater caves, or posing on the decks of sunken ships.
Every morning without fail at Anthony’s Key Resort, this PADI 5-star dive resort’s charter boats head out past the wooden overwater bungalows that rim the tranquil lagoon. Casual and breezy, the suites sit on the docks, offering views of rays swimming below and dolphins leaping farther out in the lagoon. Inside the bungalows you’ll find hardwood floors and custom Honduran mahogany furniture. Outside on the bungalow deck, reading in the hammocks has become a favorite pastime among guests.
Overwater Bungalows on an All-Inclusive Private Island in Belize
Those seeking privacy and exclusivity will find it in the overwater bungalows at Thatch Caye, an all-inclusive private island resort in Belize. Located along the Belize Barrier Reef, nine miles offshore, Thatch Caye is near epic dive sites home to stingrays and manatees. It’s also a quick trip by boat to some of the world’s best saltwater fishing flats where you can stand in clear, shallow waters and sight-fish for bonefish, permit, and tarpon.
From the five overwater bungalows on Thatch Caye you’ll see fish teeming in the turquoise water below and enjoy sweeping views of distant islands. Each bungalow has its own private walkway from the shore, a rare luxury for this type of accommodation. Settle into a hammock on the private patio and watch the setting sun or the rising moon without another soul in sight.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Beaches That Should Be on Your Bucket List
- 10 Secret Places at the Edge of the World
- 10 Trips for Under $1000
Jamie Moore is a regular contributor to Smarter Travel. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Yahoo Travel, Huffington Post, WestJet magazine, BBC Travel, and others. Follow her on Twitter @jmemoore.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.