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Beyond Beachfront

8 Hotels with Overwater Rooms
  • Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives

    Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives

  • Gili Lankanfushi

    Gili Lankanfushi

  • Huvafen Fushi

    Huvafen Fushi

  • King and Grove Williamsburg

    Viceroy Maldives

  • Hotel Palafitte

    Hotel Palafitte

  • Hotelito Desconocido

    Hotelito Desconocido

  • Gayana Eco Resort

    Gayana Eco Resort

  • Pangkor Laut Resort

    Pangkor Laut Resort

October, 2013

A room on the beach may be enough for the average island-hopper, but for a more immersive experience, nothing beats sleeping offshore, with the waves lapping practically at the foot of the bed. Two words: overwater bungalows. No surprise, fully half of the places that make our list are in the Maldives, the unofficial world capital of splashy sleeping.

1.

Cocoa Island by COMO, Maldives
Makunufushi, Maldives — Moored off a sliver of sand in the Indian Ocean, the overwater suites and villas at Cocoa Island take the form of the traditional Maldivian fishing boats known as dhonis. A staircase out the back door leads straight down into the warm, crystalline water, while the view from the bed, through large French windows, is of unbroken ocean as far as the eye can see.
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2.

Gili Lankanfushi
Lankanfushi Island, Maldives — Fanning out along jetties from a private island in North Male Atoll, Gili Lankanfushi’s overwater villas are stuffed to the rafters with high-end furnishings and high technology. Best of all is the Private Reserve, a five-building compound complete with private spa, wine cellar, full kitchen and dedicated butlers — all suspended above the water, half a kilometer out to sea.
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3.

Huvafen Fushi
North Male Atoll, Maldives — Though fairly traditional-looking from the outside, the overwater villas at Huvafen Fushi take on something of an urban loft flavor within, with furnishings by contemporary designers up to and including Frank Gehry. If hanging out in a villa above the lapping waters of the Indian Ocean is insufficiently relaxing, try the underwater treatment rooms at the spa.
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4.

Viceroy Maldives
Vagaru Island, Maldives — Two hundred and fifty tropical miles from the Indian coastline, at the hardly charted northern end of the island chain, Vagaru Island feels like the middle of nowhere’s last frontier. Just offshore is a smattering of huge (and hugely luxurious) overwater suites, each with its own plunge pool, in case the few paces from bed to sea should prove too strenuous.
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5.

Hotel Palafitte
Neuchâtel, Switzerland — Set on a lake at the foot of the Jura mountains, with stunning views of the Alps across the water, Hotel Palafitte proves that the overwater bungalow concept works every bit as well beyond the tropics. Guests can gaze down into the lake through plate-glass floors in the futuristic rooms, or swing a ladder down from the balcony and climb right in.
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6.

Hotelito Desconocido
Cruz de Loreto, Mexico — Located in a marine turtle sanctuary, along a pristine estuary on Mexico’s Pacific coast, Hotelito Desconocido’s low-impact overwater bungalows are modeled after the traditional palafitos of an indigenous Mexican fishing village. There’s no electricity, but what they lack in modern luxury is more than made up for in atmosphere. By night, they’re lit only by candles and moonlight.
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7.

Gayana Eco Resort
Gaya Island, Malaysia — The thatch-roofed overwater villas at Gayana put you pretty close to the sea to begin with — but to get even more of a feel for the place, the touch-tanks at the hotel’s marine research center get you within squishing distance of the indigenous sea life. Or if you’d prefer your sea creatures cooked, just call up the room-service raft and have them paddle something over from the kitchen.
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8.

Pangkor Laut Resort
Pangkor Laut Island, Malaysia — Fanning out from a jungle island five kilometers off the Malaysian mainland, the overwater villas at Pangkor Laut are set in the sort of unspoiled natural paradise that it’s hard to believe still exists anywhere in the world. What puts it over the top, however, is the four-acre spa, generally regarded as one of the finest in the world.
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