The most beautiful overwater villas you can stay in around the world

Niyama The Crescent, Maldives.
Niyama The Crescent, Maldives.Craft Travel
  • Overwater villas and bungalows are the ultimate symbol of luxury travel.

  • Originating in the 1960s in Tahiti, there are now thought to be 7,000 overwater villas worldwide.

  • Travel experts share their picks for the most beautiful overwater villas to visit in 2024.

Loud luxury is slowly taking over social media — and when it comes to travel, it seems nothing exudes this concept more than overwater villas or bungalows.

The first overwater villas were thought to have been designed in the 1960s, when a group of Americans living on the island of Tahiti built stilted bungalows inspired by traditional fishing huts, according to Architectural Digest.

There are now more than 7,000 overwater villas around the world, and each one acts as a "symbol of extreme luxury, with price tags to match," the publication said.

Business Insider asked travel experts to share the most beautiful overwater villas you can visit in 2024.

Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia.

An aerial shot of Song Saa Private Island
An aerial shot of Song Saa Private Island.ASMALLWORLD

Jan Luescher, CEO of the luxury travel network A Small World, suggests staying on Song Saa Private Island on the southern coast of Cambodia.

The island resort has 24 properties to choose from, including jungle villas, ocean-view villas, and overwater villas. According to its website, there are also two restaurants, a large infinity pool, a spa, and a private beach.

The resort is committed to sustainability, and each villa was made with up-cycled décor and repurposed furniture, the website states.

"Discarded oil drums find new life as lamps. Driftwood serves as a table or bench. Salvaged wood from old fishing boats and factory yards now forms decks and floors and beams," the website reads.

Rates for an overnight stay vary, beginning at $1,484 for a one-bedroom villa in March.

Niyama The Crescent in the Maldives.

overwater villa maldives
The interior of an overwater villa in Niyama The Crescent.Julia Carter/Craft Travel

Julia Carter, founder of Craft Travel, said some of her favorite overwater villas are in the Maldives. She recommends Niyama The Crescent, a secluded resort in the Dhaalu Atoll with five overwater villas.

Carter told BI it's one of "the most private and luxurious accommodations in the Maldives" and all five villas are surrounded by "nothing but water."

"Guests can book them all out to enjoy utmost peace and tranquility, falling asleep amongst the fishes without a stranger in sight," Carter said.

Each villa has its own team of housekeepers and butlers. Carter said that the resort offers fishing, private cruises, private surfing lessons, and scuba diving.

Prices for an overnight stay vary.

Four Seasons in Bora Bora, French Polynesia.

The Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora
The Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora.Four Seasons Press Room

Travel expert Jan Luescher previously told BI that French Polynesia is one of the best luxury travel destinations in 2024 because it is a less-crowded alternative to Hawaii.

Luescher describes the region, which has five archipelagos and 118 islands, as "completely unspoiled" and says it has a great variety of overwater villas.

Some of the most well-known overwater villas in the region are located within Four Seasons Bora Bora, named the best luxury hotel in the South Pacific by Luxury Travel Advisor's Awards of Excellence in 2023.

The resort has 115 accommodation options, 108 of which are overwater villas. In January 2024, the Four Seasons announced that it would allow guests to book the entire resort, which can accommodate 246 guests for seven nights.

Prices to book the entire resort begin at 2.5 million Euros, or around $2.7 million, according to the press release.

Little Okavango Camp in Tanzania.

Little Okavango Camp in Tanzania
Little Okavango Camp in Tanzania.Tent With A View

Little Okavango Camp in Tanzania has some of the most unique overwater bungalows you can find, according to David Guthrie, founder of Tanzania-based safari company Tent with A View.

The water-based safari camp is located near a wetland area on the shores of Lake Victoria and is a 10-minute drive to Serengeti National Park.

"As the lake's famous waters rise, the overwater walkways connecting the camp's six cabins to the restaurant and bar area suddenly become full of Tilapia fish and hippos," Guthrie told BI.

The area is known for bird-watching and wildlife. Guthrie said activities include game drives where you can usually spot elephants, lions, and hippos.

Little Okavango has six large tented rooms. Overnight stays as part of Tent With a View's Serengeti and Zanzibar Safari and Beach Package begin at $3,240.

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