Source: Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Sorry, Fiji: The Caribbean Is Getting Overwater Bungalows, Too

The sweetest suites in the world are spawning lookalikes in Mexico, Jamaica, and Panama.

It used to be that you had to traverse the Indian or South Pacific ocean to sleep in a thatched-roof, overwater bungalow—the epitome of luxury accommodations. With ladders that descend straight into turquoise waters, four-poster beds with gauzy mosquito netting, and private plunge pools, they’re the stuff of honeymoon dreams. (Never mind what they’ll do for your Instagram feed.) 

The Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma under construction.
The Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma under construction.
Source: Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Now you can get the floating villa experience beyond jetting to Bora Bora, Fiji, and Thailand. A trio of resorts is introducing the concept in Mexico, Jamaica, and Panama—where growing demand for luxury has made overwater bungalows a no-brainer for hoteliers.

The first to open its doors will be the Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, in the Riviera Maya, with 30 villas that hover over the Caribbean Sea. They’re still under construction, with bookings being snapped up for Sept. 1 and beyond.

The bungalows at El Dorado Maroma bear a resemblance to those at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, shown here.
The bungalows at El Dorado Maroma bear a resemblance to those at the Four Seasons Bora Bora, shown here.
Source: Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora

Interestingly, the owners say they weren’t inspired by iconic, award-winning properties such as the Four Seasons Bora Bora or Indonesia’s Misool Eco Resort; instead, they say they took a page from the ancestral Aztec community, who built their homes over Tenochtitlan’s lake. For guests, the 800-square-foot bungalows will be more reminiscent of the five-star resorts they’ve seen online: They have custom furnishings made of local Zapote wood and Mexican white granite, thatched palapa-style roofs, outdoor showers, and glass floor panels (so you can spot blue-green pompano fish and silvery sea bream without leaving your room).

Naturally, they’ll also come with butlers. At $665 per night, they’re priced on an all-inclusive basis, including premium booze and 24-hour room service.

Renderings of the overwater bungalows coming soon to the Sandals Royal Caribbean, in Montego Bay.
Renderings of the overwater bungalows coming soon to the Sandals Royal Caribbean, in Montego Bay.

But the Palafitos aren’t the only bungalows opening in the Western Hemisphere. Also coming up soon are a collection of five overwater villas at the Sandals in Montego Bay, which are slated to open in mid-November and are nearly sold out until September 2017. They’ll have floating decks that double as living rooms, his and hers vanities, and hammocks that suspend over the sea.

Inside Sandals’ new overwater bungalows.
Inside Sandals’ new overwater bungalows.
Source: Sandals Royal Caribbean

It may be Sandals, but these bungalows aren’t a value proposition. Whereas the property’s so-called Luxury Level rooms go for $188, the “Over the Water Private Island Butler Villa with Infinity Pool” category will run a cool $1,435 per night per person, which is consistent with what you’d pay at Cambodia’s Song Saa, arguably one of the best hotels in the world.

One of the overwater villas at Song Saa, in Cambodia.
One of the overwater villas at Song Saa, in Cambodia.
Source: Song Saa

For what looks to be the most upscale of the Caribbean’s overwater openings, you’ll have to wait until 2019. That’s when Viceroy will make a splash in Bocas del Toro, Panama, the backpacker haven that’s suddenly drawing in-the-know luxury hounds. Expect 186 guest rooms and 42 overwater bungalows that branch out over the Caribbean. The catch? It’ll only be accessible by boat.

Sunset from an overwater bungalow at Song Saa.
Sunset from an overwater bungalow at Song Saa.
Source: Song Saa
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