Hotels & Resorts

10 of the Coolest, Most Creatively Located Overwater Hotels Around the World

Dream beyond the Maldives and Bora Bora for these luxurious overwater hotels in Southeast Asia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and beyond.

Canvas & Orchids, Cambodia

Courtesy of Canvas & Orchids

By Rana Good

Sep 19, 2022

WHEN DAYDREAMING ABOUT overwater hotels and luxury bungalows, you may first conjure images of the OG destinations in this market: Maldives and Bora Bora. But what if we told you your fantasy wasn’t doing this hotel category justice? Here are 10 overwater hotels in unexpected destinations that will make you realize it’s time to dream a little bigger.

1. Hôtel Palafitte, Switzerland

Pavilion External View of Hôtel Palafitte, Switzerland overwater hotels
Pavilion External View of Hôtel Palafitte, Switzerland. Courtesy of Hôtel Palafitte

One of the last places you’d expect overwater hotels might be a landlocked country. But while Switzerland doesn’t have a coastline, it does have marvelous lakes. Flanking Lake Neuchâtel in Romandy, a town about 30 minutes from Bern and a 90-minute train from Zurich, you’ll find Hôtel Palafitte. The hotel offers guests both traditional rooms and 24 Lake Pavilions, which sit directly on the water, allowing guests to jump in from their room. The water here is exceptionally calm, which is ideal for swimming, paddleboarding, or a leisurely kayak ride. While the views outside are spectacular, it’s worth looking back at the hotel, too. The building is the result of a collaboration between architect Kurt Hofmann and students from the hotel management school l’Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, who worked together to create a display piece as part of the Swiss national exhibition Expo.02.

2. Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma, Mexico

Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma, Mexico overwater hotels
Courtesy of Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma.

Riviera Maya, just a short flight from the East Coast, is famous for having beautiful beaches. The region’s pristine coastal beauty makes it a prime place for Palafitos Overwater Bungalows at El Dorado Maroma by Karisma. Each bungalow has a glass floor providing a glimpse of the azure waters below, along with direct ladder access to the water and private infinity pools for when you’d rather soak in peace. A stay here is all-inclusive, with gourmet dining, so guests can grab a bite of Mexican, Peruvian, or Caribbean-inspired goodies whenever they wish.

3. Manshausen, Norway

Manshausen, Norway overwater hotels
Courtesy of Manshausen

Overwater hotels don’t always need to be in warm climates. Case in point: the Manshausen cabins in Norway. Check into one of its seven Sea Cabins, located on the island of Manshausen in the municipality of Steigen. Here, guests will enjoy architectural excellence thanks to the minimalistic designs that place the focus squarely on the nature outside with clean lines leading to the floor-to-ceiling windows that allow the ever-changing light to flood in. While it’s unlikely you’ll go for a swim (unless you love braving cold water), there is a hot tub on-site for a dip, and you can also enjoy water activities like kayaking and fishing. As for dining, all meals are served in the restaurant in the Main House and ingredients are as locally sourced as possible, including fish caught right off the dock.

4. Bawah Reserve, Indonesia

Overwater Suites in Turquoise Lagoon, Bawah Reserve, Indonesia overwater hotels
Overwater Suites in Turquoise Lagoon. Courtesy of Bawah Reserve

Even many folks in Asia haven’t heard of the remote Anambas archipelago yet, but if you love overwater hotels, you should put this Indonesian paradise on your travel list. Here, you’ll find Bawah Reserve, home to 11 sprawling overwater villas allowing for direct access to impossibly blue water and plentiful coral reefs. The reserve encompasses six islands and three lagoons, all secluded some 160 nautical miles from Singapore, the nearest city. Water activities are the main draw here, including snorkeling and diving, sailing and kayaking, paddleboarding, and plenty of beach games. Guests can also give back during their stay by participating in the reserve’s marine conservation efforts, including transplanting coral and helping with underwater ocean cleanups.

5. Megza Bungalov, Turkey

Megza Bungalov, Turkey overwater hotels
Courtesy of Megza Bungalov

It doesn’t get more tranquil than a stay at Megza Bungalov, a riverside retreat in the small town of Çamlıhemşin, Turkey. The hotel features rooms overlooking the flowing Fırtına River, surrounded by a lush forest landscape. When you’re ready to adventure, the hotel is happy to assist in setting up a rafting or trekking journey through the mountains. Then, guests can head back for a serene evening in their rooms — bonus points for booking a room with a hot tub so you can unwind while watching the river meander by.

6. Banana Island Doha, Qatar

Banana Island Resort Doha overwater hotels
Banana Island Resort Doha. Courtesy of Anantara

Banana Island Resort Doha is the desert oasis you’ve been seeking. The resort’s thatched-roof overwater bungalows offer indoor-outdoor living at its finest, thanks to the accordion doors that open the entire fourth wall to the spacious patio outside, where guests can take a dip in their private dipping pool. Guests can lean further into relaxation by visiting the resort’s spa, which has both Moroccan and Turkish hammams and a lengthy menu of treatments. Just a note: as the pinnacle of family-friendly, Banana Island doesn’t serve alcohol.

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7. Canvas & Orchids, Cambodia

Canvas & Orchids, Cambodia overwater hotels
Courtesy of Canvas & Orchids

This Cambodian eco-lodge, located in the Cardamom Mountains region, offers travelers the chance to spend a few nights in safari-style tents built on floating pontoons, which bob ever so slightly in the water, lulling you to sleep at night. The entire lodge is surrounded by dense rainforest and is just a few steps away from the Tatai River, where guests can hop in for a refreshing swim or take to the complimentary kayaks for self-guided tours.

8. Sands at Chale Island, Kenya

Courtesy of Sand at Chale Island overwater hotels
Courtesy of Sand at Chale Island

Don’t overlook an ocean getaway on a trip to Kenya. Chale Island is a gorgeous speck of land located in southeastern Kenya that is surrounded by bright blue water and a mangrove forest. There’s only one overwater suite at this property, but it is absolutely worth booking, thanks to its views of nearby Bird Island and the Shimba Hills, which can be viewed right from the oversized bed, the spacious living area, or the lounger-lined private balcony that offers direct water access.

9. Arctic Bath, Sweden

Arctic Bath, Sweden overwater hotels
Arctic Bath, Sweden. Photo by Viggo Lundberg/Courtesy of Arctic Bath

If you thought the Norway overwater hotel was the frostiest option on this list, you were wrong. Head to the Swedish Arctic Circle, and you will find Arctic Bath. The bungalows, located in Harads, a quaint town in the middle of Swedish Lapland, only “float” in the summer as the water is frozen over in the winter. However, no matter the season, it’s still a spectacular stay thanks to the simple design that again places the focus on the world outside. There’s also a floating walkway from each bungalow to bring you back to shore where you can enjoy moose safaris, husky sled tours, and view the Northern Lights in winter and the Midnight Sun in summer.

10. Six Senses, Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam

The Water Reserve Pool Deck, Six Senses, Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam overwater hotels
The Water Reserve Pool Deck, Six Senses, Ninh Van Bay, Vietnam. Courtesy of Six Senese

This one is an oldie-but-goodie, well-known to luxury travelers in Southeast Asia, but perhaps unexpected to those beyond, with its hard-to-reach location offshore of Nha Trang, Vietnam, and massive overwater bungalows. Sometimes, you just need a little more space to stretch out, and that’s exactly what Six Senses, Ninh Van Bay provides. The resort’s Water Pool Villas have more than 150 square meters to roam, on the water’s edge with wooden steps leading directly to the sea. The resort’s architects made certain that the villas sit facing west to allow guests to watch the stunning sunsets from their private decks (or from their plunge pools). Those willing to leave their private paradise will find plenty of activities to take part in, including local treks, cooking classes, romantic cruises for two, and of course, myriad water-filled adventures.

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