The overwater bungalow is considered an iconic holiday hideaway

 

History of the Bungalow

 

It might come as a surprise, but the modern bungalow was created by a trio of Californians in French Polynesia nearly 50 years ago. The trio of expatriates – referred to as the Bali Hai Boys – had abandoned their respective jobs as lawyers, stockbrokers, and salesmen in search of paradise across the Pacific Ocean. After failing to farm vanilla, they bought a run-down hotel lacking great access to a beach. The bungalows were built as a way to attract customers to their less-than-perfect location on the shore, and were modeled after native fishing huts.

The Bali Hai Boys could never have guessed that their rudimentary architectural solution would later beget some of the world’s most extravagant and romantic properties worldwide. Tahiti alone is home to more than 900 bungalow-style accommodations. In fact, the overwater bungalow is a mainstay along the South Pacific and in Southeast Asia. However, you can find equally luxurious bungalows in the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.

Jet Linx and our Elevated Lifestyle partner Huffman Travel have scoured the globe to find the best overwater bungalows available. If you’re looking for some truly jaw-dropping bungalows, you need not look any further. The expert advisers at Huffman Travel have done the legwork for you – and Jet Linx is ready to fly you there.

St. Regis Bora Bora

 

st regis bora bora bungalow overlooking ocean and mountain

Each morning, guests begin their day with a breathtaking view of Mt. Otemanu.

 

This Edenic beachfront property is exactly what you envision when you imagine a South Pacific resort: thatch-roofed bungalows, turquoise seas, lush grounds, winding paths, white-sand beach, coconut palms, and calm, clear water. This couples’ haven and honeymoon hot spot is a casual, romantic and away-from-it-all resort. Service is top-notch, whether it’s being delivered by butlers (standard at every St. Regis resort), or pool attendants, who ferry complimentary fruit smoothies to your chaise.

The St. Regis Bora Bora offers 77 overwater accommodations in varying levels of luxury. From the Superior Villa to the Royal Otemanu two-bedroom villa with private pool, there’s plenty of paradise to pick from. Whether a cozy honeymoon getaway or a family vacation, the St. Regis Bora Bora offers true Polynesian paradise.

All air-conditioned overwater villas offer separate bedroom and lounge areas, with large glass floor panels to reveal the translucent lagoon beneath, as well as spacious outdoor living. Generous bathrooms appointed in Italian marble provide both lavish sunken bathtubs and refreshing rain showers. All rooms feature earth-toned textiles that are traditionally woven as well as exotic wood furniture.

Spread over 44 acres of a calm lagoon, the inlet that makes up the resort is breathtaking, and the nearby beaches are not to be missed. The dormant volcano of Mt. Otemanu rises out beyond the turquoise waters, offering an unforgettable view from sunset to sunrise. Snorkelers will delight at the teeming population of native fish swimming beneath the bungalows in the protected lagoonarium. Guests will also enjoy the swim-up bar and the renowned Jean-Gorges Lagoon restaurant which features Franco-Asian dishes with ingredients that are indigenous to the islands.

In total, there are four on-site restaurants, two pools, a bridal boutique, a lounge, tennis courts, and fitness center. Last but not least, the Miri Miri Spa by Clarins sits in its own inlet and offers treatments in open-air cabanas.

 

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Joali

 

Joali seperates itself from other bungalow resorts with its focus on holistic wellness and its large collection or artwork.

 

Joali stands out among the crowded market for luxury bungalows in The Maldives. Almost all such properties in the area are surrounded by palm trees and beaches touched by the blistered-blue Indian Ocean. Joali has no tricks up its sleeve – it is simply a well-built and well-designed hotel with great food and even better service from the staff.

One thing that Joali does differently for guests is offer a focus on well-being and an inexplicably well-curated collection of artwork. Each of the 73 villas was inspired by individual stories designed to take guests on a sensory journey. Artisanal amenities and thoughtful design create an atmosphere of deep-rooted, solid luxury.On the property, 49 of the villas jut out over the protected reefs of the Raa Atoll. These overwater bungalows all feature infinity pools, outdoor shower gardens, and cabanas. They are outfitted with swirly Norwegian Verde Lapponia marble and locally hand-carved woods. In the dressing rooms you’ll find heron-and-palm-leaf printed kimonos by Ardmore and slippers like chubby clouds.

Joali is the kind of place where you can walk barefoot to the on-site Mura Bar or get a little more dolled for sushi at Saoke, an architect-designed restaurant with an unforgettable view of Muravandhoo Island. A total of seven restaurants dot the resort, offering satisfaction to any number of palates.

Arriving to Joali is a treat in itself. After taking a seaplane from Male Airport, you will enjoy a 15- minute speedboat ride to reach the breathtaking welcome jetty. The jetty is a Zaha Hadid-inspired structure that looks from one side like a manta ray and, from the other, like two fish kissing.

The uber-romantic resort has a playful spirit and an endless array of activities: follow the Art Map through the palms, find the most colorful reefs with resident marine biologist Sam, or learn to cook Maldivian delicacies in the teaching kitchen. You can also opt to spend your days floating between your villa’s private pool, the pristine white beach, the colonial-chic beach bar and your bed… it’s your paradise.

 

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Four Seasons Bora Bora

 

The Four Seasons Bora Bora was recently remodeled in 2019, further designating it as a top-tier bungalow in all of the South Pacific.

 

Four Seasons Bora Bora might well be the most beautifully-located resorts in all of the South Pacific, and its facilities and staff complement the claim with impeccable standards. Set on a private motu, or small islet, are lush tropical gardens and pristine beaches. Directly across, and visible from bungalows, the spa and restaurants, are the craggy green peaks of Mount Otemanu.

Guests can lose themselves in the deep serenity of the location, immerse themselves in the customs and traditions of local culture, or set off on one of the island’s many adventures, from outrigger canoeing to deep-sea fishing to inland safaris – creating an unforgettable experience. It’s no wonder that even Captain James Cook claimed that Bora Bora was the most luxurious spot in the universe.

The entire 54-acre resort was enhanced in 2019, elevating the sky-high standards even closer to the heavens. Each of the Resort’s 108 one- and two-bedroom overwater bungalow suites measure between 1,080 – 2,228 square feet, leaving plenty of room for families. Located on branching piers that extend into the heart of Bora Bora’s inner lagoon at one of its most serene points, guests can view schools of fish below (and even swim among them from their private stairs) or gaze above into the star-filled South Pacific night. Under the direction of Executive Chef Eric Desbordes, four restaurants offer a vast selection of creative culinary experiences, from Polynesian to French to traditional favorites, all complemented by special open-air dining, from private oceanside dinners to Tahitian beach parties with musicians and firedancers.

A full-service spa offers a combination of relaxation and exhilaration that only Bora Bora’s unique location can provide. Guests looking to expend energy can access a wide range of half-day and full-day watersports excursions. Hop into an outrigger canoe and paddle out to a nearby reef, then dive and snorkel among the tropical fish, or embark on a round-the-island Sea-Doo tour. The sheltered confines of the lagoon are also the perfect place to learn to parasail, kite-surf, or scuba dive. Snorkels, masks and fins are readily available and without charge. Sport fishers can charter a vessel and head out in search of Mahi Mahi, blue marlin, skipjack and other deep-sea fish. For a close-up taste of island ecology and culture, full-day guided tours in a motorized outrigger canoe will take guests diving, as well as ray and shark feeding.

 

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Clayoquot Wilderness Resort

 

Clayoquot Wilderness attracts those who enjoy intense outdoor activities during the day, but those who also want to sleep in absolute comfort at night.

 

You might think overwater bungalows are only suited for the white sands of the South Pacific. Think again. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is a Relais & Châteaux all-inclusive eco-safari destination located near Tofino on the wild west coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

Accessible only by seaplane, helicopter or boat and situated in a UNESCO-designated protected Biosphere Reserve, the resort offers a truly remote, refined and remarkable wilderness retreat amidst one of the last remaining ancient temperate rainforests in the world.

Fashioned after turn-of-the-century great camps, Clayoquot features 25 white canvas prospector-style tents, each richly appointed with luxurious comforts including cast-iron stoves, ensuite bathrooms with heated floors, private outdoor showers, antique furnishings and opulent linens. Each bungalow tent is artfully arranged along the water, but other tents are tucked into the rainforest or on the hillside. There is no food allowed in the tents, unless you want to attract a bear. However, all meals are included, most of which feature incredibly fresh seafood, foraged herbs, berries and mushrooms. You can even help the chef forage for your meal. Nine-course tasting menus are paired with wine and sake.

Clayoquot feels much like an adult summer camp. The staff are laid-back but thoughtful, and cater to adventurous types. At Clayoquot there is no set check-in and check-out time, and you won’t be given a set of room keys. The tents just zip and unzip.

Clayoquot is perfect for those that want to heli-fish, ride horseback, and view wildlife during the day, and then come back to a memorable meal and warm, dry bed. It’s truly an escape to the heart of the wild, but in the lap of luxury.

 

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Song Saa Private Island

 

A rare bungalow in Cambodia, Song Saa resort wows guests with its private setting and personal service.

 

Song Saa Private Island is the jewel of Cambodia, located in the far-flung Koh Rong archipelago. As the only overwater villa private island in the region, it truly is a remote destination and an escape for the mind, body, and soul.

Song Saa Private Island is the perfect place to retreat for those seeking harmony, sustainability, and barefoot luxury. A large amount of the island remains undeveloped, allowing guests to seek tranquility in virgin rainforests, tropical oases, and protected marine reserves. Energy-efficient thatched roofing, reclaimed sandstone, recycled timber from fishing boats, and furniture crafted from driftwood adorn the island, but they don’t compromise the exceptional standards of a high-end resort.

The warm emerald waters of the Gulf of Thailand provide a perfect footing for overwater bungalows. Both one- and two-bedroom villas offer a private terrace and infinity pools so that guests can watch the sun slip into the sea from the pool. All villas have a king size bed, twin vanity bathroom, oversized sunken bath, outdoor shower, a sundeck with day bed, poolside shower, and a team of dedicated Guest Experience Ambassadors. All overwater bungalows also come with a glass floor and stair access to the ocean. The two-bedroom villas have mojito-making stations and a kitchen for indoor dining with eight guests. For a true VIP experience, the two-bedroom Royal Villa is built right on top of the water, and has a lounge area with glass portholes facing the ocean.

Dining at Song Saa is a celebration of the island and its natural gifts. The focus is on fresh, sustainable, and locally-sourced foods that are inspired by the local environment. While Southeast Asian spice is on display, guests absolutely must try the wood-fired pizza! While there is not a spa on the island, treatments can be carried out in many places. For something entirely different, guests can sign up for the night-time underwater meditation. Oxygen tanks, earbuds, and weight belts allow guests to fully submerge in a sea that glitters with a soothing bioluminescence at night!

 

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Le Taha’a

 

Guests enjoy the pristine natural setting at Le Taha’a, where much care was taken in preserving the land while building the resort.

 

The only Relais & Châteaux hotel in all of French Polynesia, Le Taha’a offers a pitch-perfect blend of relaxed island bliss and boutique luxury. To get to the resort, a private boat picks you up on Raiatea, you then circumnavigate peacock-blue waters, and finally, upon arriving at the dock on Taha’a Island, an elaborately garbed man blows a conch shell to signal your arrival while another concierge hands you a cool, vanilla-infused towel. This is the first clue that you’re in paradise. Oh, and you may also want to know that the island of Taha’a produces 70% of all vanilla from French Polynesia.

All 36 overwater bungalows (each one is 969 sq. ft.) have a unique glass panel near the bed that can slide open, allowing guests to feed the native fish swimming below. Rooms also have beautifully thatched ceilings and Marquesan wood floors. Beds are dressed in local tapa cloths, and carved wood murals echo the rich tradition of Polynesian storytelling. Coconut nape rope work adds a casual island feel to rooms, as does the bamboo furniture. The overwater bungalows also feature a private deck with shaded sitting area, and direct access to the lagoon and shower.

All overwater villas are built with local materials, and the entire resort was built around preexisting vegetation, lending a very natural feel throughout the entire island. The main restaurant looks like it was built within the treetops, concrete pathways blend in with the sand, and rows of palm trees create shady spaces along the beach. Taha’a island is very quiet, making it a great place for those in search of secluded luxury.

Guests can choose from two bars and three restaurants: the casual La Plage, the treehouse-like Vanille, and Ohiri, reserved for special-occasion fine dining. Open for dinner just on Wednesdays through Sundays, it dishes out equal parts romance and French-influenced Pacific Rim cuisine. An undeniable highlight of Le Taha’a is the resort’s Tavai Spa, hidden in a coconut grove and flanked by a small lake and lagoon. A sacred traditional Polynesian oil called Monoi, infused from coconuts and flowers, is a reward for the senses. Le Taha’a also offers amazing tours of vanilla plantations and pearl farms, as well as snorkeling and diving excursions at dozens of nearby coral gardens.

 

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Hotel Palafitte

 

The shores of Lake Neuchâtel offer a breath of fresh air to tired South Pacific bungalow destinations. Futuristic design and the embrace of technology make these bungalows different – in a good way.

 

Situated on the waters of Switzerland’s Lake Neuchâtel in front of the Jura Mountains, Hotel Palafitte is the perfect rebut for the tropical bungalow. The inventive and inspiring hotel is just as luxurious as any Maldivian villa, but the emphasis is on futuristic design and German engineering – not your typical barefoot luxuries. Fingerprints are used as room keys, plasma screens fill every room, and gigabit Ethernet connects entertainment systems to lighting. Despite all of the technology, the focus remains on the natural environment.

Built for the National Expo in 2002, Hotel Palafitte is the only property in Europe constructed on stilts, or palafitte. This ancient architectural style has a long history in the Alps, where archaeologists have unearthed palafitte settlements that date back to 4,400 B.C. The hotel’s innovative architectural design provides a romantic setting and serene views of the Alps that’s geared towards couples, but the lake setting also offers activities that attract travelers with children. Interiors are sleek and modern, with hardwood floors and contemporary furnishings, and the bathrooms look like showrooms, with bowl-shaped sinks on wooden countertops and glass-walled showers. Designed by Kurt Hofmann as independent units, the 24 lake pavilions are the only 5-star rooms on stilts in Europe. Like bubbles floating on Lake Neuchâtel, they radiate a romantic and magical atmosphere, allowing guests to reconnect with nature.

Hotel Palafitte features two restaurants and one bar on-site. La Table de Palafitte offers menus that change weekly but always feature the freshest and most local fare: roasted bass, snacked guinea fowl filet, and deer carpaccio. From May to September, gourmets flock to the restaurant to enjoy the chef’s delicious seasonal dishes. It is advisable to book in advance to get a table on the terrace. Le Bar is a perfect place to sip morning coffee, find comfort in armchairs next to the fireplace, or if you’re feeling lively – take a sip from the absinthe fountain.

 

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Velaa Private Island

 

Custom designed villas with ocean views have guests flocking to Velaa Private Island, but the nine hole golf course is another rare attraction.

 

Velaa Private Island is an ultra-exclusive boutique hideaway in the turquoise waters and azure skies of the Noonu Atoll. While it’s smaller than most other Maldivian properties, it somehow contains a José Maria Olazabal-designed golf academy with nine tees, six greens, seven bunkers, and a lake; a grass tennis court, squash court, and water sports from wakeboarding to kite surfing. Velaa also provides the largest collection of wine and champagne in the Maldives. Other features include a snow room at the spa (for chilling out) and a mini-submarine for viewing the local sea turtles.

Each villa was painstakingly designed, combining natural materials and earthy tones with turquoise accents and Maldivian inspired design features, as well as private courtyards complete with outdoor bathtubs and rainforest showers. A total of 18 overwater villas await at Velaa, all with uninterrupted views of ocean sunsets, as well as underwater viewing windows set in the floors of the bungalows. The most exclusive accommodation here is the Romantic Pool Residence, which is so secluded it doesn’t even have a boardwalk connecting it to the island. Instead, a personal butler remains on call to transport you back and forth, and attend to your every beck and call.

The nice thing about Velaa is that you can just enjoy the comfort of a private infinity pool, or you can enjoy a host of watersports. Jet ski, flyboard, jetpack and hoverboard are among the exhilarating water sports here, with the addition of kite surfing, stand-up paddleboards, glass-bottom kayaks, catamaran sailing and big-game fishing. Diving and snorkeling are especially rewarding, with the chance to join night snorkeling excursions too. A number of dive sites teeming with marine life are dotted throughout the Noonu Atoll, including Manta Point, Raafushi Caves and Velaa Wreck where tropical fish such as fusilier, lionfish, snapper and oriental sweetlips can be seen in abundance. After an activity-filled day, make sure you fit in a sunset cruise on any one of the resort’s luxury yachts to be treated to champagne and canapés as the sun dips below the horizon.

 

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Six Senses Laamu

 

When guests dine at Six Senses, the fish they see swimming below them could very well appear on the menu in the same day. That’s how fresh the fare is, not to mention sustainable.

 

Six Senses Laamu is the epitome of a Robinson Crusoe hideaway, as it is the only resort in the Laamu Atoll. Sandy paths wind around the island, joining 97 water and beachfront villas to the restaurants, bars, spa, gym and water sports center.

What drives Six Senses Laamu is its genuine commitment to sustainability – from growing fresh produce to filtering water on-site in order to avoid importing. Guests are encouraged to go barefoot to truly immerse themselves in island life and all structures are made from sustainable materials that blend seamlessly with the island’s natural landscape.

Six Senses Laamu offers a total of 56 overwater bungalows and 41 lagoon beach villas. All overwater bungalows feature a sunken ocean-view, all-glass bathtub, private water gardens, outdoor relaxing platforms, aquarium dining decks, and day beds. If you opt for an overwater bungalow, you can jump off a jetty into the psychedelic reef below or stay put on a hammock just above the turquoise waters. All room options are spacious and make the most of natural materials: wood, hessian, leather, linen and thatch.

Six Senses Laamu is home to six bars and restaurants. Vegetables and herbs are grown on-site where possible, and the fish featured on the menu are the same ones that you’ll see swimming around the reefs. The Chill Bar is the best spot to take in the epic sunsets, Leaf offers the finest dining options, and Longitude – a great spot for catching a glimpse of dolphins and schools of manta rays – serves sprawling breakfasts.

A bottomless ice-cream stand with more than 40 flavors on offer may be the most luxurious part of the resort. The on-site spa has nine private treatment nests with award-winning therapists and a range of signature procedures and journeys, plus wellness specialties and rejuvenations signature to the region.

The resort also offers surfing, fishing, sailing, snorkeling, kayaking, windsurfing, or a unique adventure to a deserted beach for a daytime picnic. At Six Senses Laamu, you can do nothing, or a little bit of everything.

 

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Cheval Blanc Randheli

 

These bungalows are for lovers of design. The French-inspired architecture is a welcome change from the more typical rustic feel.

 

Cheval Blanc Randheli allows guests to live like royalty, as the smallest room is a palatial 2,600 square feet. The white sands and turquoise waters of the Noonu Atoll are a perfect backdrop for the 45 one- and two-bedroom villas that are outfitted with travertine and cinnamon wood, plus leather and French linens. Thoughtful touches from Ambassadors – like hand-drawn turtles in the sand and handwritten notes next to pitchers of fresh juice – are what truly make Cheval Blanc Randheli an authentic luxury resort.

It’s the meticulous details that up the ante: sleek oak panels allow guests to create cozier nooks within their expansive rooms; bathtubs are clad with his-and-hers basin areas, and seashell and driftwood accents infuse an island-inspired charm. Not to mention, each villa comes with a private 40-foot infinity pool. In total, there are 30 villas that sit over the water or over the private lagoon.

Designed by renowned architect Jean-Michel Gathy and conceived in synergy with the island’s natural surroundings, the island’s Maison is enhanced by lavish residential details, with furnishings made from traditional island materials – rattan, bamboo, mother of pearl – enhanced by a vivid palette of signature pop yellow, demure taupe and airy whites.

Cheval Blanc Randheli goes all-in on the personal approach. A team of “Experience Alchemists” provide magic with tailor-made activities and bespoke surprises for all guests. A Majordome is on hand 24/7 to prepare snorkeling gear and organize meals. Five restaurants and three bars will ensure that nobody goes hungry, and the menus are deliciously varied from French culinary to Mediterranean to Japanese.

The resort is also home to the island’s only Guerlain Spa, located on its own designated island. The Spa island offers a range of treatments, from the Sun Ritual to the After- Diving experience, creating an ideal getaway for a full day of pampering.

 

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