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You don't have to fly across the globe for an overwater bungalow

Oct. 15, 2021
6 min read
Overwater bungalows in the Maldives
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An overwater bungalow represents the pinnacle of luxury travel – and those most popular with travelers worldwide can cost thousands of dollars (or thousands of hotel points) per night.

When you think of such accommodations, a picture of a perch on the crystal clear beaches of the Maldives or Bora Bora may come to mind. But would you believe you can stay in an overwater bungalow without having to take a lengthy international flight, plus often a seaplane or boat transfer to a private island? In fact, some of the swankest overwater villas or bungalows can be found within a few hours’ plane ride from the United States.

Before we dive in, it’s important to note that all of these options are for cash bookings -- and they aren’t cheap. (That’s actually an understatement, as some of these options are downright pricey.) But still, it’s perfectly all right to dream. And who knows, you might be able to score a sweet deal depending on the time of year.

Here are four of the most incredible overwater bungalows close to the U.S.

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El Dorado Maroma

(Screenshot from El Dorado Spa Resorts.)

The most luxurious overwater bungalow on the list is also one of the most expensive, starting at a whopping $1,712 per night in May. But the El Dorado Maroma, located a short distance from Cancun in Riviera Maya, has plenty to offer at its Palafitos-Overwater bungalows.

These bungalows include glass-bottom floors, a private infinity pool and direct ladder access to the beautiful ocean below. If that isn’t enough, you’ll also get your own private outdoor shower. Unlike the other resorts and hotels on the list, this one doesn’t have a minimum stay, so you can possibly save some cash if you only want to visit for a night.

Where to book: Directly through the hotel, with no minimum stay.

Traveling to Mexico during COVID-19

Mexico has been wide open during the pandemic, and no testing or COVID-19 vaccine is required.

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Aruba Ocean Villas

(Screenshot courtesy of Aruba Ocean Villas.)

One of the more economical options on the list, the adults-only Aruba Ocean Villas, is just a 15-minute drive from the main airport.

Make sure you book a private ocean villa, as several floor plans aren’t truly overwater. There are several options ranging in price and space, but the most affordable is the LouLou layout, which starts at $789 a night for two nights. What’s great about this hotel is that it's located on the island of Aruba proper, meaning you don’t have to pay for a separate plane or boat transfer to get there from Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA).

Where to book: Book directly through the hotel, with a two-night minimum stay.

Traveling to Aruba during COVID-19

Fully vaccinated visitors from the U.S. are exempt from Aruba’s COVID-19 testing requirements as long as it’s been 14 days since the final dose. Travelers need to have a Smart Health Card vaccine record or a paper or digital version of vaccination information.

Thatch Caye

(Screenshot courtesy of Thatch Caye.)

While not one of the most luxurious options, Thatch Caye is a legit private island off the coast of Belize.

The resort offers overwater bungalows and cabanas, and only 30 guests are allowed at the property at a time, which is perfect if you’re looking for a totally secluded getaway. However, if you’re looking to spend your vacation on the phone instead of taking in the beautiful white sand beaches, you’re out of luck, as Wi-Fi is only available in common areas. Rates for the overwater villas are relatively reasonable, starting at around $675 per night with a minimum two-night stay.

Note that transfers from the Belize City airport to Dangriga Airport (DGA), the closest airport to the island, are not included in the room rates. You can take a $150 van tour to Dangriga or a 15-minute commuter flight, which costs $195 round-trip per person. The 25-minute boat ride between Dangriga Airport and the resort is included in the room cost.

Where to book: Directly through the hotel, with a two-night minimum stay.

Traveling to Belize during COVID-19

All travelers, vaccinated or not, have to show proof of a negative result of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 96 hours before arrival, or 48 hours for a rapid antigen test. Travelers who arrive without a test can take one at arrival for $50 per person. Your hotel must also be a “Gold Standard accommodation,” which, luckily, Thatch Caye is.

Royalton Antigua

(Screenshot courtesy of the hotel.)

I included this property at the end because you’re going to shell out a pretty penny to stay here.

The Royalton Antigua will leave your wallet significantly lighter, at a whopping $8,000 for a minimum of three nights. But all meals and drinks are included in the price, along with a private transfer between the airport and the resort. The adults-only Chairman Overwater Bungalows Diamond Club bungalows include a swim-out infinity plunge pool, over-water hammock and glass floors.

Where to book: Directly through Royalton Resorts, with a minimum stay of three nights.

Traveling to Antigua during COVID-19

All travelers visiting Antigua must have at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within seven days of arrival (this drops to four days beginning Oct 1). Note that that at-home PCR test kits are not accepted for travel to Antigua.

You’ll also need to complete a health declaration form, and you may have to take another COVID-19 test upon arrival, which costs $100 per person.

Featured image by (Photo by Lifestyle Travel Photo / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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75,000 bonus miles
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$395

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740-850
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Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023