Private pools, personal sun decks, opulent interiors and endless ocean views; no accommodation inspires wanderlust like overwater villas. Sitting pretty (on wooden stilts, natch) at the top of the pile for most-desired digs in world travel, the (not so) humble overwater villa surveys its tropical kingdom as the born ruler of all room types, leaving junior suites, partial sea view rooms and beach bungalows buried in the sand. The darling of Instagram pics and Facebook updates from Malaysia to Mustique, nothing adds glam to your getaway like an overwater villa.

Now, it’s a tough job, but how else could we be expected to deliver a true verdict on these abodes without visiting them ourselves? Spare a thought for Kenwood Travel’s globetrotting holiday experts as they report back from the frontline of luxury travel with episode #2 of our World’s Best Hotel Rooms series: Top 5 Overwater Villas.

5. Zaya Nurai Private Island, Abu Dhabi

Stay, dine and enjoy spa time like an A-lister at this Conde Nast Traveller Top 22 Private Island Escape. Talk about holidays that suspend your daily routine; the Water Villa at Zaya Nurai Island Abu Dhabi is total levitation. Our four-bedroom, five-bathroom unit covers a whopping 950m2 of light-filled floorspace – the private infinity pool alone measures 120m2. Inside there’s a full gourmet kitchen, rainfall showers and 48” flatscreen but it’s the exterior features that steal the show: private sun deck patio, rooftop dining area, aforementioned pool and a rather unique backyard – the glistening Gulf of Arabia.

WHAT WE LOVED Sizzling seafood on the rooftop BBQ.

overwater villas with sea view

Imagine having the Gulf of Arabia as your back yard?

4. Anantara Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Staying in the Gulf of Arabia but venturing along the coast to Abu Dhabi’s high-rise neighbour, Dubai’s reputation for luxury was forged on room category innovations like overwater villas back in the ’90s. For a taste of today’s best examples of this iconic room type, it has to be the overwater villas at Thai-themed resort Anantara The Palm Jumeirah. There are 260 lagoon view & access rooms, and 12 beach pool villas, but we were lucky enough to get one of the 18 overwater villas. The spacious exterior decking made a great spot to tuck into some room service while we watched the sun set over the gulf. These villas sit gracefully above the calm waters and create a genuinely relaxing atmosphere. Highly recommended.

TOP TIP Book one of a select number of these villas that feature a glass
floor panel, and enjoy a unique perspective on the gulf and its marine life.

overwater villas at Anantara the Palm

Thai-themed water villas at Anantara the Palm, Dubai.

3. Ozen By Atmosphere at Maadhoo Island, Maldives

Few would argue with the Maldives as being prime territory for luxury overwater villas. They were made for each other. Necklaces of coral islands threaded with beautiful stilted villas curling into the lagoon waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s the defining feature of this holiday destination, so we wouldn’t have felt right visiting the South Male Atoll without checking out new resort Ozen By Atmosphere at Maadhoo Island’s overwater accommodation. From a bespoke luxury perspective, our Three-bedroom Water Suite truly raised the bar. 35 square metres with maid’s quarters, personal gym, kitchenette, dining pavilion and private bathrooms for each bedroom certainly bring the wow factor. The infinity-edge private pool was great for laps, but we preferred taking the private steps down from the spacious sun deck and directly into the Indian Ocean. This is the life.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL State-of-the-art fibre optic lighting creates a relaxing ambience.

Ozen Maldives overwater villas

Overwater villas curling into the lagoon.

2. Pangkor Laut Resort, Malaysia

Malaysia has long attracted holidaymakers keen to get off the beaten track, but the real draw for us was that you can take the road less travelled without compromising on luxury. Step forward Pangkor Laut Resort. This jungle-fringed beach resort has somewhat of an embarrassment of riches in that it offers not one but four different overwater villa categories, providing excellent choice to its discerning guests. The 55.5 square-metre Sea Villa seems to float above the rippling water, and uniquely features a ceiling-mounted shower that opens to the sea. The Spa Villas are effectively stilted bungalows, poised over the Straits of Malacca, and offer direct access to the Spa Village and lap pool. Wrapping up the water villa collection at Pangkor Laut Resort, both the Suria Suite and Purnama Suite have separate entrance halls, separate bedrooms & lounge and oversized bathtub with ocean views.

FUN FACT Opera supremo Pavarotti declared Pangkor Laut a paradise,
and has a suite at the resort named in his honour.

overwater villas at Pangkor Laut

The Sea Villas at Pangkor Laut viewed from the resort infinity pool at sunset.

1. Sandals Royal Caribbean, Jamaica

To Montego Bay, Jamaica now and something of a coup for Sandals Resorts. The popular all-inclusive hotel chain has debuted the first commercial overwater luxury suites in the Caribbean. No mean feat. The spectacular Over-The-Water villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean resort recall rustic Tahiti-style dwellings, taking up idyllic positions above the turquoise Caribbean Sea. It was a real treat to experience these superb accommodations, and we found all the features to be of the utmost quality. The transparent glass flooring, tranquillity soaking tub and private infinity pool each played their part in enhancing the postcard-perfect setting in a way that blends in with the natural surroundings.

WHAT WE LOVED Kicking back on the two-person hammock with the seawater gently flowing beneath.

overwater villas at Sandals Royal Caribbean

The first overwater villas in the Caribbean, designed in the Tahiti style.

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