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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 /
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.