|by Sean O'Neill||Islands, Romance, Australia & South Pacific, Dream Trips, Helpful Websites, Hotels||9|
Overwater bungalows are an escape fantasy made real, with water lapping under a hut poised on stilts in a serene, aquamarine lagoon. A new site, Overwater Bungalows, makes it easy to comparison shop for a resort where you can walk in your bare feet and admire romantic sunsets out the open door. The site lists every single overwater bungalow in Bora Bora and beyond.
French Polynesia offers the most romantic of overwater getaways, but $800 is the typical starting price. Thankfully, Overwater Bungalows has found resorts that are both better priced than Tahiti and still within a belly flop of the ocean. Here are a few for under $300 a night or so, now through January.
Near the San Blas Islands, about a half-hour by plane from Panama City (around $70 round trip), the Coral Lodge's six casitas all sit over the water. They boast soaring roofs and creature comforts like Jacuzzis and air-conditioning. The tiny, remote resorts do a marvelous job of re-creating the magical thatched-roof South Pacific look and vibe. 011-507/317-6754, corallodge.com, from $240 a night per couple (including tax of about 15 percent) through October (the off season), and then $263 a night for dates in November through Christmas.
French Polynesia, Raiatea
" target="_blank">Raiatea Hawaikik Nui Hotel, whose lodgings are 120 miles northwest of Tahiti by speedboat. The lodgings have high ceilings and oversize verandas. Trade winds make up for the lack of A/C. 800/657-3275, pearlresorts.com/hawaiki, overwater bungalows at $291 a night, including tax, for stays during October.
French Polynesia, Moorea
Popular Moorea (within easy reach of Tahiti by ferry or plane) is home to Club Bali Hai, which arguably invented the overwater bungalow in the 1960s. Says Overwater Bungalows, based on an inspection: "Being perfectly honest, the Club Bali Hai is only a good choice for those who want an affordable and novel accommodation with a stunning view. The facilities are quite dated and will disappoint those who come with high expectations. On the other hand, the location near many other restaurants and bars makes it an extremely easy and cheap place to stay on an island with very few choices in this price category. The location is deep within Cook’s Bay with amazing views of Moorea’s mountains." 877-426-7262, clubbalihai.com, from around $250 a night (including taxes) if you book for a week or so.
More gorgeous overwater bungalows can be found at OverwaterBungalows.net. That said, the site's operator, Roger Wade, cautions that "$300 is just a bit below the sweet spot for some really nice places. Those who can go up to $400/night have loads of great options, and even $350/night gets some good choices."
Budget Travel Tip: Once you're at these resorts, you're truly at these resorts: They're remote, and dining on-site is usually the only option. So include a budget for food costs as you comparison shop. Another tip: Ask for the most secluded hut because sound carries far over water and you don't want to be hearing your neighbor's sounds.
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