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-posted 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.) But they’ve traditionally been limited to remote locations: Think Bali, Bora Bora, Fiji, and Thailand.
Now you can get the floating villa experience without the full-day voyage. A trio of resorts are 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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