Overwater bungalow turns 50

The overwater bungalow – that iconic pitch of a paradisiacal pleasant vacation, station in transparent blue H2O on stilt legs – turns a large five-oh this year.


The thatched huts, mostly given with such oppulance amenities as thrust pools and potion floors to improved see a fish below, are a tack on a bucket lists and Pinterest play of aspirational travelers a universe over. Yet their start lies in a surprisingly boring practice in problem-solving.

Back in a ’60s, 3 tanned, party-hearty California kids – Hugh Kelley, Don “Muk” McCallum and Jay Carlisle – left their 9-to-5s in office of their pleasant dreams in French Polynesia. Opening hotels on Moorea and Raiatea, a contingent was dubbed a Bali Hai Boys, after a visionary island in James Michener’s novel “South Pacific.”

Carlisle, now in his 70s, reminisces about those days:

“Our Hotel Bali Hai on Moorea thrived with a beachfront property, nonetheless Hotel Bora Bora on Raiatea struggled,” he says. “It didn’t have any beaches.” A critical problem, indeed.

“Inspired by a vernacular thatched-roof fishing huts,” he goes on, “Kelley subsequent a thought of building bungalows on petrify stilts out on a bay, providing approach entrance to a lagoon. We drilled down by hand; there were no electric drills or anything. We did all of a work.” That was in 1967.

The contingent positive a supervision that a pretentious bungalows wouldn’t repairs a environment. “We built tiny docks that extended out into a prosaic place in a firth and trustworthy them to pylons,” Carlisle said. “The coral grows around a pylons and attracts a fish.”

They built 3 bungalows “with Plexiglas on a vital room building so we could see a embankment below.” That underline shortly became famous as “Tahitian TV,” a must-have in any overwater bungalow.

People favourite a bungalows, so a Bali Hai Boys built 6 more. And afterwards another three. Then other hotels in a segment started duplicating them. Even nonetheless a originals were never luxe, they lighted a series in posh hotel architecture, and French Polynesia became synonymous with pleasant glamour.

Today, with a other men’s children, Carlisle oversees a Club Bali Hai Moorea Hotel, a smallest and final of their properties. The hotel stays utterly rustic, and Carlisle insists that he has no skeleton to change that.

The other strange resorts are prolonged gone, nonetheless in their place is a tellurian attention of overwater bungalows.

“By my final count, there were 165 sum resorts in a universe with tighten to 9,000 overwater bungalows,” says Roger Wade, who runs a transport website Overwater Bungalows.

The loyal overwater bungalow tends to have one thing: turquoise, swimming-pool-esque waters. They can’t be unprotected to waves and tides. At a Four Seasons Bora Bora, a South Pacific boasts what is consistently rated as a world’s best.

“We’ve taken a overwater bungalow truth introduced by a Bali Hai Boys and have introduced a subsequent spin of design, comfort and luxury,” says hotel orator Brad Packer. Each bungalow provides dual outside vital areas, one for sunning and one for dining, shower tubs built for two, and stately views of Mount Otemanu during each turn.

That said, you’ll find a majority of overwater bungalows – two-thirds – in a Maldives. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, a Philippines and Cambodia have them as well.

Resorts closer to a United States have been feverishly building overwater bungalows over a past few years, with Jamaica, St. Lucia, Belize and Mexico all charity a overwater experience. And some, according to Wade, are on standard with those in a South Pacific, including Jamaica’s new Sandals Royal Caribbean and a El Dorado Maroma in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.

Both are luxurious, charity forever pools, outside showers, two-person Jacuzzis and, of course, a glass-floored vital room to perspective a pleasant fish. The categorical difference, Wade is discerning to add, is that while these new Caribbean bungalows are set in really transparent bays, their waters don’t review with a bright lagoons of a South Pacific or a Maldives.

Other destinations have what Wade describes as “eco-resorts” that take a overwater judgment to rivers and lakes. You’ll find them in Guatemala, Panama, even Honduras.

“They’re not utterly a same,” Wade says. Meaning, they don’t have a beautiful, transparent waters that make a South Pacific bungalows so alluring. Nevertheless, they offer a sublimity of being dangling overwater.

According to Wade, a direct for overwater bungalows shows no signs of diminishing. “Resorts have popped adult in Qatar,” he says. “Even Africa has a couple, in Kenya and Mozambique.”

There aren’t any in a United States – yet. In a meantime, with a 50th anniversary in full swing, including special anniversary packages being offering by hotels around a world, Carlisle admits that a Club Bali Hai Moorea Hotel is not observant a occasion.

“I didn’t even know about a anniversary,” he says. “I theory we’re not doing anything special.”

No need. They did that 50 years ago.

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