How Are These Incredibly Sexy Hotels So Cheap?

Photo: Courtesy of Royal Huahine.
You might not be flush with cash, but that doesn't mean you have to give up on the overwater-bungalow fantasy, because who hasn’t dreamt of sleeping in a cabana over shimmering water with fish cruising below?

Though these water-world hotels often charge a sky-high nightly rate that can hit four digits or more, affordable options are out there. Our friends at combed the world and came up with five hotels where you can score that stuff-of-fantasies experience without the dream-deflating prices.
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Photo: Courtesy of Punta Caracol.
Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge, Panama
This hideaway, in the teal-blue Caribbean off Isla Colón, has just a handful of cabanas, all of which are crowned with palm fronds, painted Caribbean-bright colors, and powered by the sun. And each is a two-story affair with a four-poster bed tucked into the top floor. The laid-back vibes, the isolation, the limited electricity mean there’s nothing much to do here, and that’s exactly the point. Your go-to outfit: a swimsuit. Your go-to hairstyle: wet. Your go-to cocktail: a piña colada (the bartender makes a mean one). And your go-to mindset: totally blissed out.

Insider tip: As tempting as it may be to veg out on your patio for a full week straight, ask the hotel to boat you over to one of the nearby deserted isles so you can play Robinson Crusoe for a couple hours on an empty beach.

Room rates from $350, including most meals.
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Photo: Courtesy of 4 Rivers.
4 Rivers Floating Lodge, Cambodia
Arriving at this remote eco-luxe lodge is half the adventure: A four-hour drive from Phnom Penh, followed by a 30-minute boat ride down the misty Tatai River, thick jungle on either side, this recalls the Heart of Darkness journey in the best way possible. Once you spy the 12 handsome tented villas, inspired by African safari tentalows, you’ll realize that this is glamping — on water. Bathrooms hold wine-barrel showers, and striped umbrellas shade chic chaise longues, but you might be awoken at sunrise by a gibbon call, and the best massage around comes courtesy of a nearby waterfall.

Insider tip: For a look at local life, take the resort-offered excursion to a nearby fishing village where houses rest on stilts and boardwalks stand in for sidewalks.

Room rates from $220, including breakfast.
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Photo: Courtesy of Royal Huahine.
Royal Huahine, Huahine
So, you’re set on the islands of Tahiti. But you’re balking at the prices. Consider Huahine, which is as wildly romantic as Bora Bora (it was named Hermosa by Captain Cook), but is less known, less touristed, less talked about — and, consequently, less pricey. Which means that you can “splurge” (a relative term) on this rustic-luxe hotel, the swankiest digs on an island with one supermarket, eight small villages, and countless sugar-sand beaches. Your room — one of 11 over the water — is west-facing for prime sunsets and has a soaking tub that probably won’t see a lot of action given that you also have a private deck with direct lagoon access.

Insider tip: Stock up at the grocery store so you’re not locked into eating every meal at the hotel’s on-the-costly-side restaurant.

Room rates from $301.
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Photo: courtesy of Thatch Caye.
Thatch Caye, Belize
Step onto the deck of your bungalow, one of five overwater accommodations on this private island that’s a quick jaunt from the U.S., and you’ll quickly realize that the spot to be for the duration of this vacation is that Mayan hammock swaying in the breeze. So it’s only a matter of calling dibs before your travel partner does. Or, you can play nice and alternate the days. When you’re not on hammock duty, practice floating in that clear Belizean water like you were 5 years old in guppy class again, or persuade your companion to go adventuring. River tubing two miles through a nearby five-cave chain is one for the bucket list. However you spend your day, it’ll end much the same way: with a belly full of fresh fish and local Belikin beer.

Insider tip: To mix things up, head over to nearby Coco Plum Resort for lunch one day (the water is shallow enough to wade, or you can kayak or paddleboard).

Room rates from $295.
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Photo: courtesy of Reethi Beach.
Reethi Beach, Maldives
The Maldives. A sprinkling of palm-tufted islets across crystal waters. It’s a legendary place with legendary prices reserved for marquee life moments like honeymoons (and even then, it’s a budget-busting proposition). Or so you thought. This resort, on a petite private isle in the Baa Atoll, gives you the Maldives experience at a surprisingly reasonable rate. Drop your bags in your bungalow, throw open the sliding glass doors, take in the shimmering ocean, and give your plus-one a big high-five, because this is your home for the next week. All that’s left to do is decide which of the three beach bars you’re going to hit first.

Insider tip: Early on in your trip, take advantage of the resort’s daily free 30-minute snorkeling excursion — Reethi Beach has one of the Maldives’ best house reefs — then later in the week, graduate to a day of diving.

Room rates from $268, including breakfast.

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