Even if we are originally backpacking and camping oriented travelers, I have to admit that the idea of sleeping in an overwater bungalow in French Polynesia has been on our minds for quite some time. Having been living for more than 6 years in the territory now as I write these few lines, we’ve already been lucky enough to try this experience a couple of times.
As we have already mentioned the subject in other articles, we then also tried to answer as much as possible to all our readers. Indeed, even if a large part of French people travelling seem to rather go to guesthouses and mid-range hotels, many tourists choose to try at least once during their stay to sleep in an overwater bungalow. Of course, a lot usually do it during their honeymoon in French Polynesia.
In this article, I don’t pretend telling absolute truths, but I will just talk to you as if I were advising a friend on the choice of an overwater bungalow, here, in this end of the world setting. We’ve personally had the opportunity to live the experience three times, and I’ll tell you more below. As for the other opinions, they are from family, friends and relatives who were able to test the other places!
Here, I give you my opinion about why people want to live this experience. I also talk about our three experiences on the islands of Bora Bora, Moorea and Tahaa. Then, I present you the possibilities you have for each island offering this type of accommodation. Finally, I talk to you about budget, since it remains a rather expensive experience!
If you work for this kind of hotel and want us to come and test your establishment as part of a partnership with our blog, don’t hesitate to contact us!
This is a question I tried to think about. Why does the bungalows attract so many people coming to the tropics? They can be found all around the world, but what do you think is the common denominator? In almost all cases, the context is always similar: a tropical climate, turquoise and shallow water, fishes, rays and sharks passing under your bungalow!
And I must admit that having access to your own private terrace from which you can go down swimming in the translucent water, or simply admire a sunset is an experience you should live at least once. Once again, we are not used to luxury vacations, but the experience is still amazing to live.
I personally loved the sound of the waves all night long, banging against the pillars, and the silence surrounding you at the same time, lost in your little cocoon. Because yes, all the luxury is there in your bungalow and everything is done to make your visit unforgettable! I would clearly not recommend to only do this during your stay in French Polynesia, but if you can afford it, Polynesia is definitely a magical place to try it.
We have personally been “lucky” to be able to test three beautiful accommodations here in French Polynesia, through partnerships with hotels. Well, you may ask yourself what does that concretely mean? That’s quite simple: in exchange for a few free nights in the hotel, we tested the establishment and wrote an article dedicated to it and to our time spent there. As we specify each time, our opinion remains honest and our writings, words and experiences remain entirely our own.
Our first experience was at the Maitai Polynesia Bora Bora, on the island of the same name. It was a first for us, and I must say that we were delighted with our few days spent in the establishment, often described as “the cheapest overwater bungalows in Bora Bora”. We’ll tell you more about it below when we’ll detail all overwater bungalows in French Polynesia.
We recently, at the beginning of 2020, had the opportunity to test the magnificent Taha’a Resort & Spa, a 5-star hotel located on a motu off the island of Tahaa. What can I say? Words are lacking as the setting is so stunning. We already knew it because we came one morning for brunch but spending 2 nights in this bungalow will remain in our memory!
Finally, we slept at the Manava Resort and Spa on the island of Moorea, where we really had a great time in a very nice atmosphere for a few nights.
Moreover, more and more of you want to know our opinions on this type of high-end accommodation, and I admit that it’s hard to give a thoughtful opinion on the matter before having tested it. To have been able to test three experiences of this type allows us to give an honest opinion on this type of accommodation. We will probably not have the chance to test all the 22 accommodations listed in this article, but who knows!
You’re going to say: “an overwater bungalow…it’s an overwater bungalow, nothing more, right? “. Well, not really. Before getting into this world of beautiful hotels, I was not aware that there were quite a few ranges in the overwater accommodations. First thing to know, in all hotels offering overwater bungalows, you will also find single rooms with garden or sea view, for example. You will also find beach bungalows, allowing access to either a private beach or the hotel’s beach directly, but you are not over the water.
Regarding overwater bungalows, there are also several types. We mainly differentiate bungalows according to their size, often for two people, sometimes three, depending on the place, or even more. If you come as a couple, the classic overwater bungalows are perfect. If you are with one or more children, you will often have to pay extra or consider moving to a larger “suite” bungalow, which will obviously cost more.
Finally, you will also find price differences between the overwater bungalows, depending on which view you will have. To talk about something I know (the Taha’a Resort & Spa), you have overwater suites “Pontoon view”, “Bora Bora view”, “Sunset view”, “Taha’a view”, etc. If budget is an issue for you, don’t hesitate to take a closer look as the price differences can be significant depending on the chosen view.
Before going into detail about all the possibilities available here in French Polynesia, I wanted to give you my point of view on this subject. I have already written a complete article allowing you to know whether or not you should choose an agency for a vacation in Tahiti. Everyone will have their own vision on the subject, but for this kind of accommodation, and for a honeymoon for example, I would indeed often recommend going through an agency, preferably a local one (might as well help the local economy work too, right?).
After talking with a lot of agencies and people in the tourism industry, the opinions are all the same: agencies can have prices that you, as a private person, will find hard to get. I’m not talking about residents who can occasionally benefit from preferential rates, but the agencies actually buy and book so many rooms in these high-end accommodations that the price per room is much lower for them than it is for you.
For me this is a good enough reason. And in any case, as I have been proposing it for quite some times now, don’t hesitate to contact us if you want a recommendation for a serious local agency.
Anyway, enough spoken. Which overwater accommodation do we choose for our trip?
Let’s be clear right from the start, you will only target at least 3-star establishments, up to the classic 5-star.
For your information, some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that we will earn a small commission if you decide to come back and book your overwater bungalow through these links during your purchase (of course, it doesn’t cost you anything more). It’s a simple way to support our blog in creating free and independent content like this. Thanks in advance!
Here are all the possibilities existing at the time of writing this article (February 2021), classified by archipelagos and islands. I don’t talk about budget in every detail but give you my point of view on this aspect at the end of the article.
This is the one where you will have the most choices for your overwater bungalow. It is also the most visited archipelago, with the famous islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. As a reminder, the Society Archipelago is composed of the Windward Islands (Tahiti/Moorea/Tetiaroa) and the Leeward Islands (Bora Bora, Huahine, Raiatea, Maupiti, Tahaa). We have written a complete guide to help you choose which islands to visit among the Leeward Islands in French Polynesia.
Note that there are hotels offering overwater bungalows on Tahiti and Moorea in the Windward Islands, and on the islands of Bora Bora, Huahine and Taha’a for the Leeward Islands.
To be honest, this is not the island I would recommend for a nice overwater hotel. There are better places to stay, with turquoise water, calm and serenity. However, I have people who ask me about it and I have seen in some itineraries some advice about going to do this “little pleasure” in Tahiti. On the island, there are two possibilities (4-star) to spend an overwater night. I obviously know both places, having eaten there, had an aperitif or simply walked around, but I have never stayed in either. As far as prices are concerned, we are on something more or less similar for both, around 600/700€ per night.
I personally often go to this hotel for a drink at sunset. I find the setting is really beautiful, and having a drink with your feet in the sand just a few steps from the beach is a great experience. The hotel has a small structure of bungalows (only 12), and you are clearly not in a huge complex. The bungalows are facing the beach, slightly to the left, not necessarily too far from the bathers on site.
The place has a very good reputation and, overall, the people I know who already have tested this experience have been seduced by its large (56m2) beautiful bungalows with a view on the sunset. The sandy pool at the back will be perfect to relax! You are 10 minutes from the airport with the shuttle.
Only 5 minutes from the airport, this is the other possibility if you want to stay in an overwater bungalow on the island of Tahiti. It is also a small structure for this kind of accommodation.
They are located at the tip of the hotel, very quiet from what I could see. Positive point for this hotel: its large park where you can have a walk. The infinity pool with a view on Moorea is breathtaking too.
The hotel is very well known locally, especially for its very good breakfast (buffet) that I had the opportunity to try several times, but also for its Marquesan evening on Wednesday night.
You can’t be disappointed if you spend a few nights here!
My recommendation on overwater bungalows in Tahiti: If I had to choose between them two, my heart would still go for a few nights at the InterContinental!
As I often say, it’s the closest postcard to Tahiti and clearly, Moorea Island can be a nice alternative to the classic Bora Bora overwater bungalows – that many still prefer. At the time of writing this article, there are only three establishments offering this type of overwater bungalow. Indeed, during the Covid19 crisis, the InterContinental Resort and Spa Moorea announced its permanent closure (until further notice).
This is one of the most famous hotels on the island, and also the one you see when arriving with your ferry on Moorea Island. The resort has many more bungalows than what you will find in Tahiti, for example. The setting is much better, and it’s located on a sublime white sand beach (Temae). Moreover, there are some very nice snorkeling trips to do.
I have never heard any bad feedback about this hotel, and you surely can’t be disappointed when staying here for a few days. Big plus in my opinion: the hotel is located just a step away from the boat, which limits the transfers and saves you time on the spot.
The Manava is also a very well reputed hotel here. Located in the northern part of the island of Moorea, it is very well known for its breakfast and its beautiful beachfront pool. The geographical setting is perfect for exploring the surrounding area, for hiking or snorkeling.
The setting is (to me) maybe a little less paradisiacal than the Sofitel and its beautiful white sand beach, but better located. Theme nights are organized on Friday and Saturday nights in the hotel. We really did appreciate this hotel during our recent visit at the end of 2020, we tell you here about our weekend at Manava Resort & SPA.
This is a 5-star hotel, which is a step up from the two previous ones. Also perfectly located in the north of Moorea island, in perfect surroundings, as if it was put on an endless turquoise blue lagoon. You are in the middle of the two main bays of the island, and the vegetation in the background leaves you dreaming.
For those who have the budget and are looking for a very nice luxury establishment to spend a few days in a splendid setting, the Hilton is one, if not the best, choice on the island of Moorea. To be tested, for sure!
Where do I choose to stay in Moorea then? Without looking at the budget, I would say that the Hilton of Moorea remains the best choice, as well for the service as for the setting. However, the Sofitel is still superb, in a breathtaking setting too.
It is with a certain evidence that the majority of tourists decide to try the experience of overwater bungalows in French Polynesia. Unless I made a mistake or forgot (but I think I checked enough), I counted 9 accommodations offering this kind of accommodations. I voluntarily excluded the Méridien Bora Bora, as it’s now closed because of the Covid19 crisis.
To explain things in a simple way concerning overwater hotels in Bora Bora, you have several choices:
– Sleeping on the main island of Bora Bora (Maitai, Intercontinental Le Moana, Sofitel Marara),
– Sleeping on a small island located in the lagoon (Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island, Conrad)
– Sleeping on a sandy motu off the main island (St Regis, Four Seasons, Intercontinental Thalasso and Bora Bora Pearl Beach)
So, you will have to choose if you want to sleep on the island or on a motu. I’d say that each one has its advantages. If you are on the island, you have direct access to everything: car rentals, hiking, etc. This is much better if you want to see something else than just your “postcard hotel” (haha). On the other hand, if you want to spend a few days away from it all, cut off from the world in a magical setting and sleeping in a dream hotel, then staying on a motu off the coast is probably the best idea. Nothing will prevent you anyway from taking the hotel shuttle to go to the island if you feel like it (which I recommend anyway).
We personally had the opportunity to test this 3-star hotel thanks to a partnership with the blog, but we remind you that our opinions and writings remain totally independent. We really enjoyed our few days in this hotel, located on the main island. The location is perfect, 10 minutes-walk from Matira beach, as well as from Avis Location, essential to stroll around the island.
We tend to say that this is the perfect hotel if you are looking for a beautiful setting, on the island, with superb overwater bungalows and all for a still acceptable price. They are reputed to be the cheapest overwater bungalows in Bora Bora.
Cannot be compared with the Maitai mentioned above as we’ve completely changed range here. The hotel is located on a rocky motu (Toopua), off Matira Point. It is one of the few hotels offering bungalows with a magnificent view over the lagoon. The hotel is secluded, in a dream setting, all with a perfect orientation to enjoy the sunset.
There is something for everyone, from the classic couple’s overwater bungalows on the lagoon, to the high mountain bungalow, to the sublime suites and villas at the end of the pontoon. You can enjoy 6 restaurants, an infinity pool, a sports center, a golf/tennis course and much more. A must that I would love to try one day!
I don’t know the hotel personally, but it is perfectly located, two steps away from Matira Point and its beautiful beach, and also from the car rental company. The setting is just magical, and the overwater bungalows are set in very shallow water, allowing you to enjoy the surroundings!
In my opinion, being directly on the island is a big advantage as you’re ready to start hiking and discovering the island as soon as you want to. The bungalows have a very good reputation, and those at the end of the pontoon, not overlooked, are truly breathtaking!
This is the big brother of the Intercontinental Le Moana, the high-end version if you will, since it is a five-star! This beautiful hotel is located on Motu Piti Aau, off the main island, perfect for people who want to be quiet in a dream setting.
I don’t know the place personally, but I had very good feedbacks about this luxury hotel, offering a direct view on the famous Mount Otemanu, a setting that will surely take your breath away. In my opinion, you can’t go wrong if you choose to spend a few dreamy nights here!
This 4-star hotel is directly located on the island of Bora Bora, which is a plus in my opinion. This is a small structure of a dozen overwater bungalows.
The hotel offers a beautiful infinity pool with a view on the rocky motu off the coast, occupied by its 5-star big brother (see below). In my opinion, it is a very good choice for people wishing to visit the island of Bora Bora while remaining in acceptable price ranges for this type of service.
Once again, the Sofitel offers here an excellent choice if you want to go upmarket and sleep in a beautiful 5-star hotel, on a small private island in the lagoon itself. You are only two minutes away from the main island by boat, which you can even reach by kayak.
I know the place (even if I didn’t sleep there) since I went snorkeling right next to it. Indeed, a famous snorkeling spot exists at the rear of this hotel. If you are looking for luxury, a unique private setting, and close to the island of Bora Bora, this is an excellent choice!
This is a hotel I know very well, even if I haven’t had the chance to sleep there yet. I came alone once to have breakfast and spend the day in this breathtaking setting. The hotel is located on Motu Tevairoa, northwest of the main island of Bora Bora, about 15 minutes by boat.
In 2020, the hotel got a facelift, so I can’t wait to get back to this dream setting anyway! The white sandy beach littered with coconut trees with such particular shapes offers one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen in Bora Bora on Mount Otemanu.
We enter the world of the very, very high end with this magnificent 5-star resort, whose reputation is well established in Bora Bora. The hotel, located on a motu off the main island, has all the facilities of a luxury hotel: infinity pool, spa, tennis court, etc.
I haven’t had the chance to go there yet, but the feedback I’ve had is that the place is just sublime and the bungalows exceptional. Let me know if you test it!
I end this ranking of hotels offering overwater bungalows in Bora Bora with this one. Just as the Four Seasons, this resort has an excellent reputation and offers a very high standard, worthy of the best 5-star.
If you are looking for a luxurious setting, away from it all, the St Regis is an excellent choice!
So, which overwater hotel to choose in Bora Bora? If you are on a budget, the Maitai Bora Bora remains an excellent value for money. For those who are looking for a higher range, I would particularly recommend the Bora Bora Pearl Beach Resort & Spa and the Sofitel Bora Bora Private Island, two hotels that I do know and whose settings are more than dreamy, all with a still acceptable budget. For those who have a larger budget, the St Regis and the Four Seasons remain the two references on the island.
This is an island I know very well, but I never had the opportunity to stay at the only hotel on the island that offers overwater bungalows, the Royal Huahine.
This 3-star hotel, only accessible by boat, increasingly arouses my curiosity. Why? Because, recently, I didn’t have only good echoes of this hotel, which is however famous for being placed in a marvelous frame, in full nature, in a green setting! I cannot really give an informed opinion. Many travelers report that the setting is magical, but the hotel itself deserves a makeover. On the other hand, prices of the overwater bungalows are quite reasonable! For those who are looking for an experience of this kind at a lower cost, I think it is surely a good choice.
I wanted to add a clarification. While the hotel itself does not have overwater bungalows per se, Maitai Lapita Village does have bungalows overlooking an inland lake. I haven’t been there yet, but I had heard that the setting is beautiful. I think I would really like having access to the terrace with a direct view on these beautiful green shades, don’t you?
I must say that I really appreciate this island, and I was lucky enough to be able to discover it several times, both for work and privately. To my knowledge, there are two beautiful resorts, not exactly on the main island of Taha’a, but on motus off the coast.
We had the chance to test this 5-star hotel for a few nights, and I must say that I do recommend the experience with my eyes closed and without any doubt actually. The setting is simply majestic: beautiful infinity pool overlooking the lagoon, coral garden at the beach, turquoise water, excellent food and superb overwater bungalows.
In my opinion, it is a very nice alternative to some hotels offering overwater bungalows in Bora Bora. Of course, you won’t have the famous name of “Bora Bora”, but I think it’s really worth it for 2 nights, for example to end a trip on a high note. Don’t hesitate to come and see our detailed review of this hotel.
Here is another breathtaking resort. Located on a 10-hectare private motu in the northeast of Tahaa Island, this resort has an excellent reputation – and I must say that I have heard nothing but good things about the place. The hotel only offers 9 bungalows, 3 of which are overwater. As such, it is known for its intimate setting in an enchanting environment.
From what I have heard, the establishment is particularly renowned for its excellent gourmet restaurant. It is clearly a place I want to see and try. The attractive prices make it a great alternative on the island.
As mentioned at the beginning, the islands of Raiatea and Maupiti do not offer, at the time of writing this article, any accommodation with overwater bungalows.
This remains a very personal opinion, but I would really advise to try the “overwater experience” in this archipelago. Why? All the islands of the archipelago are atolls, i.e., a coral reef on which only the sandy motus remain, as if they were placed on the barrier reef outside. The setting is paradisiacal, and you will find yourself actually on a sandbank with coconut trees about a hundred meters wide, with on one side the lagoon and its breathtaking turquoise waters, and on the other side the ocean and the swell hitting the coast. In my opinion, this is the place in French Polynesia where you will discover the most beautiful postcard settings, lagoon blues and moments of solitude and remoteness. In short, a feeling of paradise and happiness, in my eyes.
If you have a good 25 minutes to spare, I invite you to read my travel story about my week-long catamaran cruise in the Tuamotu archipelago. Please note that only two atolls offer (unless I am mistaken) the possibility to stay in overwater bungalows: Tikehau and Rangiroa. I also wanted to remind you that Tikehau and Rangiroa are two atolls accessible via Air Tahiti Passes, especially the Bora Bora Tuamotu Pass.
Located on a motu more than 3km from the atoll’s airport, this beautiful establishment will delight anyone looking for a splendid setting and absolute tranquility. You’ll feel like you are almost alone in the world here. The hotel has 24 bungalows and suites over the water in a lagoon that is, I assure you since I do know it, magnificent.
I don’t know the motu personally, but I’ve had nothing but excellent feedback about the hotel from several local friends who have stayed there. Considering the prices and the setting, I really think it’s a great option!
Rangiroa atoll offers only one accommodation to stay overnight on the water.
Everyone agrees that this is the best hotel to stay in Rangiroa. This 4-star hotel, located on the main motu, has a certain charm. The feedback I’ve had is that it “feels like home there”. The staff is very attentive, the swimming pool with a view on the lagoon is magical and the beach of the hotel is superb!
Composed of only 10 overwater bungalows, you won’t be bothered by the neighbors! Just like Tikehau atoll, I think that spending 2/3 nights in this magnificent establishment can only be superb. In any case, this is a place which makes me want to come and see!
I will not go into detail here because there is simply no accommodation allowing you to stay on the water! Nevertheless, you will still find very nice places to sleep in all these archipelagos.
I would like to finish this already very long article with a few lines about budget. You have to realize that, in any case, spending one or several nights in an overwater bungalow is a luxury that is obviously expensive. But at the same time, if there is one place in the world where you can sleep over the water, it is in French Polynesia, right? Besides, did you know that overwater bungalows were invented in French Polynesia, more precisely in 1967 by three Americans?
In my opinion, there are two ways to look at it:
- Either you have a fixed budget, or at least a “limited” one and in this case, you will surely look at the different prices and go for the “not too expensive” one (I grant you, it is pretty relative for an overwater bungalow),
- Or you want to indulge yourself anyway, and you will rather choose the island and the establishment that will suit your tastes the best,
- Finally, everything will also depend on whether you wish to stay in your hotel during these few days (then, why not choose a motu in this case?) or if you rather stay on the main island.
So, what can you expect in terms of price?
- Between 300/400€: you won’t find cheaper for a night above water. This refers for example to the Royal Huahine and the Tikehau Pearl Beach Resort
- Between 500 and 800€: this is the classic price of overwater bungalows here in the territory, which will concern establishments such as the Sofitel of Moorea, the Sofitel Tahiti Ia Ora Beach Resort, the Intercontinental Moana of Bora Bora or the Hilton of Moorea,
- Over 800€: We are in the very high end and these rates concern the most luxurious of Polynesia, such as the Taha’a Island Resort and Spa, the Four Season or the St Regis in Bora Bora.
So, there is no good or bad choice here, everything depends on you, your budget, your itinerary and your wish to be on an island or on a small out-of-the-way place, like a sandbar/coconut trees away from the crowd.
For those who want to follow my advice, I would really recommend going to try the overwater experience on the Tuamotu, Rangiroa or Tikehau. Not to mention that prices of the bungalows are cheaper and the postcard/isolation/excursion experience is in my opinion much better than what you will be able to live for example in Bora Bora. But it’s a very personal idea!
Nevertheless, many of you will want to visit the island of Bora Bora, at least for the name. I can’t blame anyone, because I maintain that even if the island is very touristic, it is still superb, with very interesting possibilities both on land and in water. I advise you to refer to my conclusion on the possibilities in Bora Bora.
I think the island of Tahaa is also a very good choice and a nice alternative to Bora Bora.
I’m coming to the end of this article about overwater bungalows in French Polynesia. I hope I have enlightened you and you will now be able to make a thoughtful choice. As stated at the beginning of the article, if you want to support our blog and the writing of free quality articles like this one, do not hesitate to come back and book your hotel through the links of this article. We thank you in advance!
For those preparing a trip to Polynesia, I invite you to read the article proposing your itineraries of trip in French Polynesia.
So, see you soon for a new article,