Our editors and writers scoured the globe to find the best all-inclusive resorts based on standout offerings, from top-notch dining options and cool bars to over-the-top suites and white-glove butler service. We also asked our readers to vote for their favorites in each category. We’re proud to present the winners of the 2019 Islands All-Inclusive Awards.
There are only a few places on the planet where you can sleep above the waves in a bungalow built on stilts — a concept born in French Polynesia a half a century ago and enthusiastically embraced by honeymooners. In recent years, however, all-inclusive resorts have built overwater accommodations as the ultimate sexy escape, adding bungalows to properties in the Caribbean, Mexico, Maldives and beyond. Here are the best all-inclusive overwater bungalows and why we love them.
Winner, Editors’ Choice: Club Med Finolhu Villas, Maldives
Over-the-water is a way of life in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago comprised of almost 1,200 sandy atolls. Some of the world’s most luxurious overwater accommodations can be found here, including Club Med Finolhu Villas.
Located off of a private motu and featuring a turtle-shaped thatched roof, they measure either 1,625 (Sunrise Villas) or 1,808 square feet (Sunset Villas) and offer all the luxuries of a 21st-century house — multiple TVs, DVD players, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth speakers and an espresso machine — along with some perks created especially for enjoying the surreal beauty outside, such as a private pool and an outdoor bathtub.
Folding doors open up to create a seamless oasis you never have to leave (thanks to your personal butler), except to swim and snorkel in crystalline water or enjoy a soothing couple’s massage in the spa. The only sounds you’re apt to hear: your own sighs of contentment.
Winner, Editors’ Choice: El Dorado Maroma, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Mexico’s first and only overwater bungalows — called Palafitos, which loosely translated from Spanish means “dwellings on stilts” — blend the best of the country’s design style, including textural white walls, carved wood beams and colorful textiles, with the thatched roofs and glass-bottom floors of the Tahitian originals thousands of miles away.
The newest accommodation at adults-only El Dorado Maroma in Riviera Maya debuted in 2016, measure 811 square feet and feature a large deck with a private infinity pool, an “Aguas del Amor” outdoor shower, a personal Jacuzzi and direct access to the clear, calm Caribbean. Elite Palafitos also come with butler service.
If you love the feel of pure white sand between your toes, postcard-perfect Maroma Beach is right at the end of the walkway. The resort is also home to six restaurants and five bars for you to enjoy — before you escape back to your own little paraiso (paradise) above the waves.
Winner, Editors’ Choice: Sandals Royal Caribbean, Jamaica
Why settle for an overwater bungalow when you can have an overwater villa? Sandals recently added overwater accommodations to three of its resorts on Jamaica and St. Lucia, but the Over-the-water Private Island Butler Villas with Infinity Pool at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay have a wow factor — size, location, luxurious amenities — that place them at their head of their class.
There are just five (along with 12 smaller Over-the-water Private Island Butler Honeymoon Bungalows), all located off of a sandy islet reachable by deluxe motorboat from the resort. At almost 2,000 square feet, the villas feature a plush king-size bed, glass floor panels, Tranquility Soaking Tub, private plunge pool and swinging Balinese daybed. Polished hardwood floors and fabrics that mirror the exquisite blues of the Caribbean add to the serenity — as do included perks such as expedited immigration and a private BMW transfer from the airport.
Some couples check in, hang the “do not disturb” sign and never leave (they just have their butler deliver everything), but if you’re feeling social, Sandals Royal Caribbean has eight restaurants, five bars and several pools.
Winner, Readers’ Choice: Laucala Island, Fiji
Few places in the world are as special and romantic as Laucala Island, an exclusive private-island resort in Fiji. Each of its 25 stand-alone villas is the size of a small house, with infinity plunge pools and fully stocked premium bars. (Think Champagne with a capital C.) Staying in any of these accommodations is a bucket-list item, and opting for the sole Overwater Villa on property is a truly magical experience.
Surrounded by thick foliage, descend the stairs through the jungle-like setting to arrive at the two-bedroom overwater bungalow, where you’ll feel like the only people on earth. (Unlike other overwater bungalows that tend to be built right next to one another, this villa is super private, with no neighboring accommodations.) Play some music over the villa’s sound system, pop open that Champagne, settle into one of the comfy couches and take in the surroundings.
Opt for a romantic dinner (straight from the resort’s onsite organic farm) at your outdoor dining table overlooking the sea, or take a dip in the plunge pool carved into the rocks. Ask your butler to draw a bath in the soaking tub or book a couple’s massage at the hilltop spa.
When it’s time to explore the rest of the island, your own golf cart awaits. Head to the main pool (encompassing more than 21,000 square feet), play a round of golf on the David McLay Kidd-designed course, or get out on the water — the resort offers a fleet of boats that will take you snorkeling, diving, fishing or sailing. — Rebecca Kinnear