Overwater bungalows provide honeymooning couples with a private paradise. Typically located in the tropics, these cottages offer some of the world's most unique views of oceans, lagoons and sunsets. For many, the balance of luxury and nature couldn't be more romantic.
El Nido Resorts, located on the island nation of Maldives, offers three resorts for honeymooning couples: Lagen Island Resort, Miniloc Island Resort and Apulit Island Resort. The largest of El Nido's selections, Lagen Island Resort, located in Northern Palawan, has 18 water cottages built on stilts above the water. Each features full-height sliding-glass doors that open to a private veranda, which provides couples with views of the cove, cliffs, Bacuit Bay or the sunset. Natural attractions at Lagen include limestone cliffs and diverse birds and mammals.
The seven overwater cottages of Minilic Island Resort are thatch-roofed and furnished with indigenous Filipino materials. The resort has a backdrop of sheer limestone cliffs, and couples will have the opportunity to see damsel fish, fusiliers and other multi-colored tropical fish while snorkeling. Wooden floors and walls covered in woven bamboo slats, locally known as sawali, fill these suites. Furniture is handmade from natural materials, such as bamboo and rattan, and private verandas offer views of the cove and nearby tropical islands.
Set within a pristine cove and along a white-sand beach lined with coconut trees, Apulit Island Resort has 50 overwater cottages that combine traditional Filipino architectural style with contemporary design. These cottages offer views of Taytay Bay and easy access to snorkeling areas. While not air-conditioned, each cottage on Apulit is equipped with a hot and cold shower and features unobstructed views of Palawan's azure waters, surrounding tropical islands and dramatic limestone cliffs.
"Just minutes away from our resorts," Mark Navarro, of El Nido Resorts marketing and public relations department, says, "are beach clubs and several private islands with white-sand beaches for perfect romantic picnics or private dinner arrangements. El Nido's crystal-clear waters, pristine beaches and relative isolation attract and fascinate most couples."
Panama's Punta Caracol is an aqua-lodge featuring nine cabins built on stilts over the water of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Constructed using the traditional methods of the archipelago, each cabin contains a wooden frame and is covered by a palm leaf roof. Natural building materials from the region were used to construct the cabins, including different kinds of native woods and plants, clays, leafs, bamboo and wild cane. From their private terrace, couples will be able to observe sunsets and dolphins. Inside, the cabins feature colonial-style beds in the second-level master bedroom and private bathrooms. The ancient construction techniques are balanced with the modern alternative-energy systems, including solar panels present at the restaurant and in all suites and gas cooling in all refrigerators and freezers.
While staying at Punta Caracol, honeymooning couples will have the opportunity to visit the numerous islands of Bocas del Toro and many Indian villages, ford rainforest rivers and observe a variety of sea birds and creatures of the rainforests. They can also dive or snorkel in the local coral reefs or even spend time fishing.
"As per other honeymoon couples who stayed at the lodge, all of them agreed on the same things," Piluchy Bordas, operations manager of Punta Caracol, says. "We have a peaceful environment, wild nature, romantic spots with a large view of the sea and the mountains, courageous sunsets, personalized service, fresh food, amazing tours to see dolphins, starfishes, Indian communities, snorkeling and tropical beaches."
Kept inside the El Ermitano lagoon of the Mexican Riviera, Hotelito Desconocido has been listed by UNESCO as a bird paradise aquifer. Located in the heart of Costa Alegre, in Mexico's Tomatl n-Jalisco, Hotelito Desconocido features 27 rooms, which are either beachfront or over the water. The resort's rooms were made by local artisans, and each offers sizeable private areas, large terraces and views of rivers, mountains and sea. With roofs made from palm trees, the inside of the rooms feature candlelight and hand-carved bathtubs and showers, with warm water from solar energy.
All resort areas are surrounded by gardens, which are filled with palms and fruit trees and more than 150 types of birds, including pelicans, herons and frigates. On-site biologists preserve the lives of thousands of sea turtles and their offspring, allowing guests to participate in the experience.
"Hotelito Desconocido is the ideal place for couples seeking a romantic haven away from everything," Victor Lopez, sales manager for the resort, says. "Couples can spend quality time, whether taking a horseback ride along the beach, exploring the lagoon and its luxuriant vegetation on a couple's kayak, sipping a margarita at the saltwater, beachfront pool, admiring breathtaking sunsets or enjoying a romantic candle-lit dinner at the beach surrounded by torches and bonfires. At night, the room is lit with candles, the bathtub is filled with scented water and rose petals decorate the bed, creating a romantic atmosphere and unforgettable experiences. Each day and each moment creates memories that will last a lifetime."
Newly renovated in 2010, Le Méridien Tahiti's 12 thatched-roof bungalows feature local woven palm walls, canopy beds and large private terraces. "The beautiful overwater bungalows are perfect for honeymooners," Vincent Guerin, director of sales and marketing for Le Méridien, says. "The bungalows are perched right over the crystal-blue water with breathtaking views of sister island Moorea, a rich coral garden, colorful marine life and a magnificent sunset.
"Le Méridien features outstanding architecture and design, with a picturesque setting on a natural white-sand beach," Guerin says. "The resort's design puts an emphasis on natural materials and refreshing local colors, making a honeymooner's trip romantic and secluded."
While couples can enjoy solitude in their bungalows or explore the attractions on the island, the resort also features a new on-site art space, L'Atelier, that is host to the work of contemporary artists from across French Polynesia and around the world.
Four Seasons Bora Bora offers 100 overwater bungalows designed with thatched-leaf roofs and interiors decorated with indigenous artwork. Located off the mainland on Bora Bora's coral atoll, the resort is filled with coconut palms, pandanus trees and small lagoons. Views of Mount Otemanu and Mount Pahia are balanced with views of the open water. The traditional roofs are made from the leaves of pandanus trees, which are grown on local plantations and woven by local craftsmen. Pandanus leaves also overhang the buildings to provide shade from the sun.
Each bungalow has hardwood floors, stained to resemble driftwood, and small lagoon windows. Walls were created using volcanic stone from the neighboring Taha'a Island, and interior pillars were made of merbau timber. While the bungalows contain many traditional elements, such as indigenous artifacts, they also include modern features, such as flat-screen TVs. Whether honeymooners are turning in for night or relaxing during the day, spectacular views are always available – each bed provides guests with a panoramic view, and sun decks over the water feature chaise lounges. The architecture of the resort represents a collaboration of Paris-based architect Didier Lefort, San Francisco design firm BAMO and South Pacific architect Pierre-Jean Picart.
"Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora is the ideal place for romance travel," Brad Packer, director of public relations, says. "Our main market is guests on honeymoon or anniversary, and we cater to them like no other. From our beautiful overwater bungalows to our cathedral-like spa and four restaurants, this place is made for romance, and our service leaves nothing undone. For those seeking the ultimate honeymoon experience, this is the place to be."
Up-and-coming in the Caribbean
For those honeymooners who don't want to travel too far from home for the overwater bungalow experience, two properties in the Caribbean will offer this luxury in the near future.
Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort
Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort broke ground on its overwater bungalow suites in early 2011 for completion in 2012. Twenty-six new water suites will be available for honeymooners. Each 1,300-square-foot unit will feature see-through glass floors, over-the-water hammocks, and outdoor showers and Jacuzzis. In addition, each water suite will offer honeymooners an exclusive butler service. "The overwater bungalows at Sandals Grande St. Lucian are the first of their kind in the Caribbean and will enable North Americans easier access to one of the most romantic vacation experiences there is," Sandals Resorts CEO Adam Stewart says. Beginning in 2012, our guests can easily jet to the Caribbean destination of Saint Lucia to get to the experiential suites, instead of flying halfway around the world for an overwater bungalow experience."
The casual Bermuda destination 9 Beaches will break ground this spring and reopen some time in 2013. "As a wedding or honeymoon destination, 9 Beaches will be magical," general manager Robin Gilbert says. "No longer will potential guests have to consider a 17-hour plane journey to the South Pacific in order to enjoy that over-the-water experience." The renovated resort will include redesigned and upgraded cabanas over the water, a new waterside restaurant, a spa and other expanded facilities. "This is such a wonderful location," Gilbert says, "and we're very excited at the prospect of offering a first-class hotel to match."
Photos courtesy of resorts.