4 Best Overwater Bungalows, Mexico (Cancun): Is It For You?

Looking to celebrate a special event (honeymoon, birthday), and you want to decide between the best overwater bungalows in Mexico?

These luxury properties are incredibly costly, and quality is sometimes not up to par. Is it worth it? Is there a better season to go there? What is the difference between the Maldives?

The only 4 options in Mexico are in Quintana Roo (Cancun), where I spent two months looking for the best experiences.

After long hours of research (reviews, recommendations from travelers), I am happy to share with you my detailed analysis.

Read on to learn more about them and helpful travel tips for your next vacation (2nd part).

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Plan your trip around Cancun

In 2 months, I’ve spent more than 10,000 USD to test the best activities in the Riviera Maya. Stay with me to quickly decide which experiences you should do and learn how to make the most of your trip.

Overwater bungalows, Mexico: The Map

Mexico overwater bungalows: Mini-reviews

This section covers important topics such as food, location, atmosphere, rooms, and services.

1# Best luxury Mexico overwater bungalows: Rosewood Mayakoba

The best of two worlds gets together at Rosewood Mayakoba, one of the most luxurious hotel in the Riviera Maya; the beautiful natural beauty and unspoiled mangrove jungle and canals on one side and the turquoise Caribbean sea on the other. The rooms offer a fully immersive natural experience, making it the perfect stay for couples or families. And the service is top-class: you even have your own private butler elite service, and every detail is personalized.

👉 Read the reviews on Expedia.

💰 Rooms & Cost & Options

The rooms and suites of this all-inclusive bungalow have different sizes. The Rosewood Mayakoba rooms offer a touch of exclusiveness in every detail: comfy bathrobes at the entrance of bathrooms, free-standing tubs, an outdoor rain shower, a heated plunge pool, and inner gardens. 

The Deluxe Lagoon Suites are very private, although some can be a mile away from the beach. Beachfront suites have the Caribbean Sea at their fingertips, but you’ll sacrifice privacy as others can get a glimpse of the interior from the beach. 

The lagoon suites offer an unparalleled experience because they all have spacious terraces overlooking the lagoon.

They have their private heated pool and harbor, and bathrooms feature large rain-head showers. The views make you feel in the middle of the jungle, without sacrificing great comfort inside.

The signature suites are for families or large groups. The presidential suites feature between 3 and 6 bedrooms. 

Prices for the least expensive room at the Rosewood are 1.825 USD per night, before taxes, for up to 3 people. 

🎲 Activities & services

Upon arrival, you’re greeted with a welcome drink, and then you’re escorted to your room on a boat, accompanied by a private butler service. 

When you enter your room in this all-inclusive hotel, pillowcases and napkins have your name embroidered, showing the place’s high level of personalization. Servers at restaurants and bars, remember your food and drink choices next time you visit. 

The Rosewood features a spa immersed in the forest. It offers services such as massages and 12 cabins for different beauty treatments, hydrotherapy, and Mayan-style purifications. 

There are several pools on the property, some for the family and groups, and others more private—such as the one for the spa customers and in Casa del Lago, with a view of the lagoon. 

The hotel offers custom sensory experiences to relax, balance, and heal your body, energy, and mind. It has an excellent health center and kids spa.

You can walk through the property, ride bikes, take boat tours, or enjoy great cooking lessons at the Rosewood. Or you can visit Playa del Carmen and Tulum (southward).

🌮 Eating And Drinking

The Rosewood is not an all-inclusive resort. On site, you’ll find eight restaurants and bars where the food has Mexican foundations and influences from other countries. 

Breakfasts, lunches, and dinners are each a sensory experience. You can have from the fanciest dinners to street food by the pool and near the beach. How about some tacos and quesadillas?

Some restaurants, like Punta Bonita, require a reservation and elegant resort clothes for dinner. The Agave Azul offers seafood with a mix of flavors from Baja California, and Asia. This restaurant’s dress code allows casual resort garments. 

Regarding drinking, the hotel has different spots, like El Zapote Bar. You can taste local beers, wines, and refreshing cocktails accompanied by snacks and light meals. 

La Fondita offers food and drinks, such as the famous mezcal. This place is the typical Mexican bar you find in specific neighborhoods of Mexico City.

Mojitos, ceviche, and fresh coconuts are served at the “Aqui me quedo” bar, next to three sunken infinity pools on the beach.

🛏️ Atmosphere And Buildings

The architecture of Rosewood blends with the breathtaking surroundings: the mangroves, the forest, the white and sandy beaches, and the beautiful Caribbean sea. 

The property extends for 250 hectares (620 acres). The buildings accommodate a total of 129 rooms and suites. 

The atmosphere divides into the ones that have privacy and spots for total relaxation, yoga classes, spa treatments, and massages, and the ones that offer fun activities. These activities are not mutually exclusionary, for both can coexist within the same property. 

You can hire places for private parties and events or join the party at the bars or by the pool near the food truck. 

Since rooms are on the beach and deeper inside the mangroves, it can be an excellent experience to visit either spot. The walk between the furthest rooms in the lagoon and the beach is about a mile. During this walk, you can enjoy the trails and exuberant vegetation, see exotic birds, and even spot young crocodiles.

📍 Location & how to get there

The resort is located 35 min South of Cancun and about 45 km from the airport. 

The beaches are very white and with soft sand. Employees rake the beach very early in the morning to maintain it in optimal condition. 

You can visit nearby places of interest such as Playa del Carmen (a 15-min drive) or Tulum (1 hour). Or you can go to the Chichen Itza pyramids, but that’s a 3-hour trip. 

Transportation from and to the airport is provided by the hotel minivans. 

One of the drawbacks is that you’re a bit far away from Cancun, but who needs to go there when you have everything at this spa and resort? The other thing that’s not nice is the seaweed brought by the current between April and September.

2# Best price/quality Mexico overwater bungalows: Banyan Tree Mayakoba

The Banyan Tree Mayakoba is a more affordable and ecological option than the Rosewood Mayakoba. This hotel has a strong Asian influence, although it manages to combine some Mexican touches to remind you of what country you are in.

👉 Read the reviews on Expedia.

👉 Read the reviews on Booking.

💰 Rooms & Cost & Options

The Banyan Tree Mayakoba showcases 118 overwater villas divided into 15 styles: the Lagoon & Sunset Rooftop Pool Villa, the Beachfront Terrace Pool Suite, the Serenity Two-Bedroom Pool Villa, and the Bliss Pool Villa are just a few. The smallest villa measures more than 200 square meters.

Asian architectural styles are also present in the rooms. They feature double-height ceilings and a relatively minimalist look, with all possible comfort.

All the rooms share one thing in common: magnificent views of the forest, the waterways, or the ocean, which contribute to a wonderful experience in communion with nature.

The overwater villas offer massage porches, outdoor bathtubs, an outdoor shower, terraces, jacuzzis, a heated pool, and outstanding interior comfort.

Prices are about 840 $/night/2 people for a villa surrounded by nature in the low season.

🎲 Activities & services

The lobby is the first thing that takes your breath away when you arrive. Like the rest of the hotel, it has a strong Thai influence, where the staff greets you with hands together and a bow.

The staff is always ready to help in the most friendly and efficient fashion. For example, you may ask any employee for a dinner reservation, and they will get it done.

Some of the complimentary services of the resort include tasty snacks, such as pizza or paella.

In the rooms, you’ll get slippers, bathrobes, and a branded beach bag that you can use without cost during your stay.

As part of the toiletries, you’ll get bath oils, foam, and salts for your hot tub. If you’re planning a romantic evening in your hot tub, you have to call room service so they’ll prepare everything while you’re having dinner. Five-minute massages by the private infinity pool are also complimentary.

Regarding water and land activities, the Banyan Tree Mayakoba has a championship golf course, bicycles, kayaks, paddleboards, a fitness center, and a spa where you can enjoy a hydrothermal circuit. The hotel has infrastructure for people with mobility issues, including vibrating pillows for the hearing impaired.

🌮 Eating And Drinking

The resort offers four restaurants: Mayan, Thai, Italian, and Mexican. Prices of food tend to be high. A dinner per person can cost between 250 and 300 USD, whereas a pizza for one kid costs more than 30 USD.

Breakfast is not included, but the offer is extensive. You can have omelets, Asian food, such a unique sweet-sour fish, typical Mexican huevos rancheros, and an assortment of fresh fruit.

You can also have breakfast or dinner on a boat, with Mexican and Thai food, or take a tapas (snacks) cruise through the canals.

You can enjoy drinks at La Copa rooftop bar and lounge. You may also do wine tastings at La Cava and try the two national spirits: tequila and mezcal.

Like food, drinks at the hotel can be pricey (20 USD for a glass of wine). One tip is to bring a couple of bottles in your luggage so you can enjoy them in the privacy of your villa.

🛏️ Atmosphere And Buildings

The Banyan Tree shares a similar setting to the Rosewood, with the ocean in the front and the mangrove lagoon and canals at the back.

This resort was fully renovated in 2021 to give it the modern Asian-Mexican look it has now.

You won’t have to walk a mile to enjoy the beach and the lagoons because either of the two atmospheres is a few steps away.

At the property, you can also see at least 200 bird species, small crocs, and lush vegetation, which you can explore by walking on the trails or by boat.

📍 Location & how to get there

The Banyan is located north of Playa del Carmen, 45 min. from the international airport, in the same propriety as the Rosewood.

Nearby places are Playa del Carmen (a 15-minute. drive), Tulum (a 1-hour drive), and Chichen Itza (a 3-hour drive.)

You can enjoy the beach any time of the year, but remember that seaweed appears between April and September, the same as everywhere on the Riviera Maya (the lagoon doesn’t have the seaweed issue).

3# All-inclusive overwater bungalow in Mexico: El Dorado Palafitos

The Palafitos overwater bungalows are El Dorado Maroma hotel’s most expensive stay option. It is considered the only real overwater bungalow option in Mexico. It’s an experience designed for adults only, and it’s the perfect plan for a romantic getaway. The food is absolutely gourmet, and the quality exceeds any other all-inclusive hotel.

👉 Read the reviews on Expedia.

👉 Read the reviews on Booking.

💰 Rooms & Cost & Options

Staying at any of the 30 suites at El Dorado Palafitos is a life experience: Sleeping and enjoying a few meters above crystalline waters is a different level of pleasure. The glass floor panels won’t let you forget where you are. You can easily access the shallow ocean, from your private deck, by using your own ladder.

The room gives you a lot of privacy. It consists of a master bedroom with a king-size bed facing the ocean. You have an indoor and outdoor shower, plus a private pool on the deck, just outside the room. This is one of the private plunge pools with a triangular shape and is relatively (too?) small. Glass floor dining rooms are also part of the room.

The exclusiveness of the couple’s resort comes at a price, which starts at 1,900 USD per night for two guests in the low season.

🎲 Activities & services

You’ll notice the classy nature of the Palafito when even before you check-in; you’ll be greeted with a glass of real champagne. Then you’re taken to your room, along the deck, on a golf cart driven by your private butler. This assistant will be the one pampering you and making your stay at comfortable as possible.

The private butler service is not just for the welcoming or short time. It’s a permanent service that includes, for example, reserving a table at one of the fancy restaurants and escorting you from the bungalow to your seat before a scrumptious supper.

You can also get a massage in your room for an additional price.

In general, the service is excellent, with the difference that, compared with Rosewood, the staff doesn’t always anticipate your needs.

Besides relaxing, you have plenty of things to do, like kayaking, enjoying the Maroma beach, paddle boarding, cooking lessons, yoga, and mezcal tasting. For an extra price, you can do motorsports. There are also 6 swimming pools at El Dorado Maroma.

🌮 Eating And Drinking

The all-inclusive food experience is second to none. The food is delicious and varied. This adds to the 24-hour room service, although the food can take about 45 minutes to arrive.

You have to make reservations for dinner (for instance, in the mornings). The 6 restaurants also serve the other areas of the hotel. You can choose Italian, Mexican, Gourmet, Asian, Peruvian, and International. The dress code for dinner prohibits flip-flops, sports shoes, tank tops, and baseball caps.

Since these are gourmet restaurants, portions are small but exquisitely presented. The good thing is that you can order as many dishes as possible. And if you love any given dish, you can order it again.

The Palafitos offers a special restaurant only included for the overwater bungalows. There, the food is excellent and varies every single day. You can sit indoors or enjoy the marine breeze and the view. The restaurant showcases glass floor panels to see the water below if you choose to be inside.

Regarding drinks, both soft and alcoholic, are outstanding. Liquor served straight and in cocktails is premium class, not the usual average quality in most all-inclusive hotels.

If you’re refreshing in the private infinity pools, you have three swim-up bars where to order drinks. There are also two lounges and bars, one of which features live music shows and opens until 2:00 a.m.

🛏️ Atmosphere And Buildings

The setting of the hotel resembles more a village than one colossal building.

Since this hotel is mainly for romantic plans, you don’t see the craziness you experience in other Cancun hotels.

The moderate party ends at 2:00 a.m. at Rick’s bar, and that’s it for the night in terms of partying. The remaining of the night is very quiet.

There is a big difference between the architecture of the main hotel and the Palafitos overwater bungalows. The latter is the only truly overwater section of the venue.

📍 Location & how to get there

Palafitos is located 40 minutes from the Cancun airport and 25 minutes from Playa del Carmen, so you need a car or hire transportation to move around.

The hotel is located on one of the most beautiful beaches between Cancun and Playa del Carmen.

The sand is naturally white on the Maroma beach, but the staff keeps it in optimal condition, with very soft sand, no pebbles, and very easy to walk barefoot.

4# Secret Mexico overwater bungalow: Centro Holistico Akalki

Faithful to its name, the Centro Holistico Akalki offers you a “holistic” experience in terms of entertainment, relaxation, and renewal of your energies through reconnecting with nature.

This hotel (not a luxury one) is also ecological and self-sustaining, for all the food offered is produced on-site. The venue consists of only 11 huts or cabanas on the shore of a sacred, seven-color lagoon known as Bacalar.

👉 Read the reviews on Expedia.

👉 Read the reviews on Booking.

💰 Rooms & Cost & Options

All of the cabanas are powered by solar energy. Even though they’re relatively close, wood panels separate them to provide plenty of privacy.

The Lagoon Villa is built on the water. You can jump into the lagoon directly from your private deck. This room features a king-size bed, a private sundeck, two lounge chairs, wood floors, and an interior fan hanging from a palapa roof (a roof made of branches, thatch, and palm tree fibers).

The Double Manglar is a standard room with two queen-size beds, a forest view, and air conditioning, apart from a hot-water shower. The room can accommodate 4 people.

The Manglar King room is for two people, and it has a king-size bed and a single bed (for a child?). This room has an extended sun deck and direct access to the lagoon.

Remember that these rooms are designed to get a closer encounter with nature, so you shouldn’t expect many plugs and connectors or fast Internet access (intermittent connection). On the negative side, there are complaints about the cleanliness of the rooms.

🎲 Activities & services

The wilderness aspect of the hotel starts once you arrive because you have to walk a distance from the entrance to the lobby (cars do not enter). Some guests say they should have a golf cart or some kind of transport.

One of the activities at the hotel is kayaking or board paddling along the seven-color lagoon. You can also jump into the water from some of the cabanas.

You get a complimentary yoga class. The price of the spa is not included, but it’s worth trying. You’ll get different relaxing therapies with hot rocks, healing sounds, massages, and traditional Mayan herbal practices.

For a fee, you can take a boat trip on the Bloo sailboat or reserve a romantic dinner with unique settings and decorations.

🌮 Eating And Drinking

The food at the Akalki is nothing short of sensational. The eggs, vegetables, and most of the food are produced in the place.

La Botica is the only restaurant in the place, but it offers a wide variety of food. Mostly, they serve vegetarian and seafood, but you can also get an “arrachera” steak, a typical Mexican dish.

In terms of drinks, you don’t get alcoholic beverages here. They are replaced by flavored waters, fresh fruit juices, and other drinks.

🛏️ Atmosphere And Buildings

The building is ecological and rustic, with Mayan details. The place is built with natural materials, such as wood, thatch, and palm tree fibers.

Since it is located in the jungle and a lagoon, you should expect to have mosquitoes, so bring along plenty of bug repellent. Also, it’s not strange to find insects in the rooms.

📍 Location & how to get there

Akalki is a secluded place, far from the buzz of the city. It’s surrounded by freshwater, wild animals, jungle, and mangroves.

Bacalar is located south of Cancun, at a 4-hour drive. The hotel is 10 minutes away from the town of Bacalar.

The hotel is not on the shore, so you won’t have the seaweed issue you get on the beaches of Cancun.

The booking guide: Best Mexico overwater bungalows

Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is one of the most incredible tourist destinations in the Caribbean. Its white, sandy beaches, the surrounding turquoise sea, mangroves, and thick forest make a great combination you can enjoy during your stay. Take the following aspects into consideration before traveling.

Pick the right weather

Any time of the year is good to visit this part of Mexico. However, the weather changes a bit from December to April, when there’s more breeze, the temperatures at night are cooler, and the humidity is moderate. This is the dry season (a few showers now and then.)

The rainy season goes from May to October when the weather is hotter, and the humidity increases. That’s considered low season. Therefore, you’ll get cheaper prices.

This area experiences a hurricane season from June to November. There have only been two hurricanes in the last 35 years, so you shouldn’t worry too much about it.

However, if you travel during the hurricane season, you should get trip insurance and have cancellation flexibility.

Sargassum issue

Starting in March, seaweed begins to appear and pile up on the shores of the Cancun area.

However, hotels such as the Centro Holistico Akalki don’t have that issue because the floating cabanas are over a lagoon, not the sea.

The sargassum issue intensifies from late July to late August. The seaweed has two issues: first, it changes the color of the sea from a gorgeous turquoise to a dirty-looking brown.

The second unpleasant aspect is that seaweed accumulates on the shore. After some hours, the plant decomposes under the sun, and the smell can be very unpleasant. Also, it’s no pleasure swimming and getting tangled in seaweed. Seaweed also affects scuba diving.

The seaweed prevents enjoying the beach at Mayakoba. Fortunately, it’s not a problem with the overwater rooms over the lagoon.

How to arrive from the U.S.

Unlike the Maldives or Bora Bora, known for their overwater bungalows, American tourists don’t need to travel for two days to enjoy Mexico’s overwater bungalows.

Depending on where you are in the U.S., the flight to Cancun is between 3 and 5 hours. Then, transportation to most of the luxurious resorts takes between 30 and 40 minutes, except for the Centro Holistico Akalki, located near the town of Bacalar, which takes about 4 hours by car.

How many days

The number of days I’d recommend you stay at any of these overwater bungalow resorts is 4 or 5 days. Five days if you plan to go to Tulum, swim in a cenote, or visit the Chichen Itza pyramids.

You should dedicate the rest of your time to enjoying yourself and getting the best out of what the hotel offers. These resorts are designed to relax and take it easy, doing sports, getting massages, or doing nothing.

Are bungalows too small and on top of each other?

The overwater rooms at Palafitos and Akalki are close to each other, but their design favors privacy between neighbors. At Akalki, you find wood divisions that prevent guests from seeing each other. The bungalows at the Mayakoba are isolated and offer good levels of privacy.

Also, noise is not a problem, for the spirit of these resorts is relaxation, rather than heavy partying or playing loud music.

Is it worth the hype?

The price/quality isn’t always ideal as you pay for the location, and you might have to sacrifice space and comfort to have the water at your doorstep.

It’s an experience worth living, but the price you pay for it can be excessive. The only “affordable” option is the Centro Holistico Akalki, but it is the least fancy and comfortable of the four options reviewed here.

If your budget is a bit higher, don’t hesitate to book Banyan Tree.

Mexico overwater bungalows vs. bungalows elsewhere

Mexico has several advantages over places such as the Maldives or Bora Bora. For example, Mexico’s Riviera Maya has a lot of things and places of interest in the surroundings to see, such as the pyramids, the cenotes, and other towns.

In contrast, Bora Bora and the Maldives are located on islands with little activity, so you are bound to get bored after three days.

Even though the overwater bungalow resorts in Mexico are expensive, they’re more affordable than going to Bora Bora or the Maldives.

In terms of the color of the ocean, it’s bluer in Bora Bora and the Maldives. Plus, the seaweed season on the Mexican Peninsula shore can ruin the color of the water.

Kids

Generally speaking, these Mexico overwater bungalows are designed for relaxation. El Dorado Palafitos is an adult-only all-inclusive resort, ideal for romantic trips, as you won’t have children running and shouting everywhere.

The Rosewood Mayakoba has a section only for adults. The Centro Holistico Akalki is where people go to relax and heal, so it’s quiet. And the same goes for the Banyan Tree Mayakoba.

Foods

El Dorado Palafitos is one of the inclusive overwater bungalows, but the food is gourmet and well presented. The Rosewood Mayakoba also stands for the level of the food, but it’s costly (dinner can be 300 USD per person).

The Centro Holistico Akalki offers great organic food produced on-site and a variety of seafood.

Luxury Mexico alternatives

There are other options apart from the ones mentioned in this review. One is One&Only Mandarina, near Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s Pacific coast. The hotel consists of treehouses and clifftop villas in the middle of lush vegetation.

Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal, in Los Cabos, Baja California, is a 5-star hotel between the cliffside and the Pacific Ocean. It features rooms, suites, and villas as accommodation options.

Also, in Baja California, there is Rosewood’s Las Ventanas al Paraiso hotel, which resembles an oasis in the middle of the desert. The venue was restored to its original appearance after hurricane Odile hit in 2014.

More Caribbean overwater bungalows

Even though Mexicans consider their inclusive overwater bungalows the only ones in the Caribbean, there are other options in nearby countries, such as Panama (Bocas del Toro)), Belize, Honduras, Santa Lucia, and Jamaica.

Jamaica has two all-inclusive overwater resorts, Montego Bay and Whitehouse.

Cayo Espanto Island Resort and Thatch Caye Resort are two of Belize’s most widely known water bungalows.

Bottom line: Overwater bungalows in Mexico

All the overwater bungalows in Mexico are reachable from Cancun airport.

The environment is not as incredible as the Maldives, but it is a small detail compared to the many advantages present on the spot. In addition to its easy accessibility (4 hours from the US), you will find better prices and more activities to occupy your days.

Choose Rosewood to live one of the most luxurious experiences in Mexico or Dorado Palafitos if you dream of turquoise water. However, be careful not to go during the sargassum season.

INFORMATION: PLEASE NOTE THAT SOME LINKS ARE AFFILIATE S AND AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU, I EARN A SMALL COMMISSION IF YOU MAKE A BOOKING. IT’S A NICE GESTURE TO THANK US FOR THE MANY HOURS WE DEDICATE TO TOMPLANMYTRIP 🙂
Best overwater bungalows in Mexico

I have been traveling around Colombia and Mexico since 2015 to discover new experiences and help travelers make the right choices.

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