Overwater accommodations in the Maldives now far outnumber those in French Polynesia, where the concept originated more than 50 years ago. And at some point in their evolution here, overwater bungalows morphed into overwater villas—residences that at 1,200 to more than 5,000 square feet are as large as many American homes—although these are perched atop some of the clearest and most mesmerizing water on the planet.
Located about 400 miles to the southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the Maldives archipelago consists of almost 1,200 islands and coral atolls. That means many of its resorts are situated on their own private atolls or in areas where they are pretty much the only thing around. The result: low-key relaxation centered around sea and sand, and above all, relaxation.
All this doesn’t come cheap—expect to pay upwards of $1,000 a night—but some properties offer multiple overwater categories, so choosing the smallest option (not always the one listed here) is the best bet for affordability. One property is even all-inclusive. Here are the 10 best overwater bungalows in the Maldives.
Park Sunset Ocean Pool Villa at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa
Ideal for diving and snorkeling—it’s located on one of the largest natural atolls in the world with a 360-degree reef—the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa features sleek and modern Park Sunset Ocean Pool Villas that appeal to travelers who want to be surrounded by water and fall asleep to the lap of waves.
Looking out towards nothing but rippling water and blue sky, the 1,238-square-foot villas have a stunning glass-walled bathroom and infinity pool with contoured in-water chaises perched over the ocean, plus a shaded outdoor cabana. Constructed of striking wood and polished stone native to the island archipelago—in a contemporary aesthetic of mostly neutral tones with splashes of orange—the villas are soothing perch from which to enjoy the resort’s many amenities. These include myriad watersports, a fitness center and the Vidhun Spa featuring five couple’s treatment rooms.
Water Retreat at Soneva Jani
Cool. That’s the first word that comes to mind when one sees an image of the Water Retreats and Water Reserves at Soneva Jani from above. Unlike most other overwater accommodations, these are large and oval shaped and feature smaller roof structures to one side that resemble turrets—as if they were floating castles adrift in the aquamarine Indian Ocean. In many ways, they are.
All feature two levels of living space in configurations ranging from one bedroom (an incredible 4,477 square feet) to four bedrooms (an enormous 13,196 square feet), and each has a large deck and an infinity pool that spans its entire length; some even feature curving, two-story water slides, a fun way to enjoy a dip in the ocean. Better still, the master suite features a retractable roof for star-gazing.
Blond wood and casual furnishings give the Retreats a beach-house (or rather, beach palace) feel, especially in the open-air bathroom that’s an uninhibited yet private extension of the lagoon. It’s an understated luxury castaway experience for two—or an entire family.
Sunset Water Villa with Pool at Four Seasons Maldives Landaa Giraavaru
While on the smaller side for overwater accommodations at 925 square feet, the Sunset Water Villa with Pool at the Four Seasons Maldives Landaa Giraavaru retains the spirit of the original South Pacific “thatched-roof” concept of a bungalow—just polished to perfection by the five-star amenities Four Seasons offers. With hard-wood floors, interior décor in soothing shades of blue, and sheer white curtains that billow when sliders are left open to the dazzling lagoon, the space is indoor-outdoor luxury living simplified: a large outdoor deck with an infinity plunge pool, chaises, overwater hammock and two outdoor showers.
The villa, which also features a luxe bathroom with a glass-walled walk-in shower and soaker tub with a view, can accommodate up to three adults or two adults and and two children. The resort, located is the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, also offers a complimentary Kids Club and self-guided Yoga Energy Trail as well snorkeling, kayaking and windsurfing. (Note: Enhancements to the Water Villas are taking place through November 2019.)
The Muraka at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island
Talk about over-the-top—and under it. The Muraka at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island is a one-of-a-kind overwater residence that features two levels and three bedrooms—one of them so unique it may not be right for those who suffer from claustrophobia or extreme shyness. It’s more than 16 feet under water and encased by a curved acrylic dome offering 180-degree views of sea life as if walking through an aquarium, just one with a king-sized bed and a bathroom.
Opened in late 2018 at a cost of $15 million, The Muraka is a sleek and modern oasis done in airy whites and grays and can accommodate up to nine guests. It has two additional bedrooms (one king and one twin-bedded) and an infinity pool on its upper level, along with a living room, kitchen and dining room and comes with 24-hour butler service and access to a choice of exclusive experiences.
The Conrad Maldives, which also has an underwater restaurant, Ithaa, features several other Water Villa categories, ranging from 820 to 4,865 square feet.
Water Villas at Como Maalifushi
Airy and spa-like, the soothing Water Villas at Como Maalifushi, located on the southerly Thaa Atoll, offer 1,292 square feet of relaxation amid the turquoise brilliance of a calm Maldivian lagoon. Stroll from the romantic four-poster netted king-sized bed right to an outdoor deck with an inviting infinity pool and outdoor shower. An adjacent living room (which can sleep two kids) also leads out to the deck and a shady pavilion. The bathroom is particularly spacious with a large walk-in shower and a sunken polished stone tub for two.
The brand is known for its spas and the Como Shambala Retreat here offers holistic, Asian-inspired treatments in rooms with ocean views as well as complimentary daily yoga. Other activities are centered around the water and include snorkeling, diving, non-motorized water sports, dolphin cruises and picnics to a nearby deserted island.
Water Villa at Cheval Blanc Randheli
When checking into a Water Villa at Cheval Blanc Randheli, guests are greeted by a soaring cathedral ceiling inside and 40-foot private infinity pool with panoramic views outside. They can choose to keep the 2,580-square-foot space open concept via the dramatic swinging panels that demarcate the living sleeping areas and the bathroom (which features a sculpted stand-alone tub and modern chandelier this is itself an altar to relaxation) or close them for privacy.
More pampering can be found at the Cheval Blanc Spa, which is located on its own private white-sand island and offers the only Guerlain treatment rituals in the Maldives in six spacious treatment villa with water views. Yoga, tennis, water sports and relaxation on any of several idyllic beaches are other signatures of the resort, which is located on Noonu Atoll.
Overwater Pool Villa at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
Arcing out onto a pale aquamarine lagoon from a coconut-tree-studded white-sand island, the Overwater Pool Villas at Anantara Kihevah Maldives Villas are sanctuaries of sunshine and serenity. Featuring day beds galore (including one that swings) and a trio of overwater hammocks, these 2,874-square-foot oases were designed with plenty of space for lounging, daydreaming and soaking—including a soothing blue infinity pool and a glass-bottomed bath tub that overlooks it.
Polished wood floors and wood-beamed cathedral ceilings are counterbalanced by rugs and pillows in muted soft jewel tones. Couples can enjoy the entire space on their own, but it can also sleep a third adult or two children. Like the Four Seasons Maldives Landaa Giraavaru, this resort is located on the Baa Atoll in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and offers terrific snorkeling with mantas and hawksbill turtles as well as stargazing from the islands’ only overwater observatory.
Sunset Overwater Villa at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo
Offering more of a beach house in Nantucket than Indian Ocean hideaway vibe—including sliding cappuccino-hued louvered shutters, cushy sofas in shades of blue and beige and cheerful pillows featuring stripes and coral patterns—the Sunset Overwater Villas at Raffles Maldives Meradhoo appeal to traditionalists who enjoy familiar comforts no matter how different and exciting the outside environment.
At 2,476 square feet, these villas are designed for two but are generously sized and feature a canopied king-sized bed and a bathroom with a deep soaking tub and separate walk-in shower. Outside, there’s a private deck and infinity pool. To further relax, guests can book a treatment in the overwater Raffles Spa or venture into the blue with a snorkeling or diving excursion.
Sunset Overwater One Bedroom Villa at The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort
Fans of modern architecture should check out the very cool looking Sunset Overwater One Bedroom Villas at The St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort. They have a neat mid-century geometric shape featuring outside wood planks placed at angles for both visual effect and privacy paired with indoor and décor in rich fabrics that channel the mood of the region.
In addition, the resort’s Whale Bar was inspired by the massive contours of the whale shark, while the Iridium Spa took its design cues from the lobster. The Villas, which are also available in two-bedroom and three-bedroom configurations, have a deck with an infinity pool and a spacious bathroom with a sculpted tub offering a panoramic view.
The resort offers all the typical watersports as well as a jogging/fitness trail, tennis courts and a beach washed by warm, calm lagoon water.
Over-the-Water Villa Sunrise at Club Med Finolhu Villas
Yes, there’s an all-inclusive option in the Maldives and while you’ll still pay more than $1,000 a night for two (prices are quoted per person, however) to sleep in an Over-the-Water Villa Sunrise at Club Med Finolhu Villas, all meals, drinks and most activities are included. And these turtle-shaped villas are not the basic Club Med of old—they are 1,625 square feet and feature a private terrace with a pool.
In the bedroom, the king bed sits on a polished wooden platform and folding doors open to allow direct access to the deck and pool. When all the doors are open (and the AC is turned off) the villa offers effortless indoor/outdoor living with décor accented by bright pops of orange, green and blue, for up to three people. Club Med’s usual roster of fun activities—from sailing lessons and trapeze school to yoga and beach volley—are also included.