Seaside in the Maldives
Seaside in the Maldives

What are the best tropical cabana resorts?

I want to stay in a cabana on stilts, with margarita in hand, in a tropical location. Got any ideas?

Seaside in the Maldives
Greg Melville

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There’s no better way to get away from it all than by spending a few nights in a hut, suspended above the warm, blue waters of paradise. (Unless you’re a sleep walker, or there’s a tropical storm, that is). You can find dozens of resorts on stilts around the world, varying in comfort from rock-star luxury to spare like a monk’s cell. These are my choices. As for that margarita, you’re on your own.

Cabanas in Bocas del Toro
Cabanas in Bocas del Toro (leivajd/Flickr)

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Panama
Located in the island town of Bocas del Toro, Punta Caracol is almost exactly the way you’d dream up a cozy overwater cabana resort. It consists of nine brightly colored two-story thatch-roofed huts, strung together by a wooden walkway. There are no TVs or internet connections, electricity comes from solar panels, and the activities on-site are limited to swimming off your porch, kayaking, or lazing on a hammock with a book. Rates start at $316.  

Cook's Bay on Moorea
Cook's Bay on Moorea (Michael R. Perry/Flickr)

Club Bali Hai, Moorea
The South Pacific is the world capital of overwater cabana resorts, and one of the most affordably appealing is Club Bali Hai on the Tahitian island of Moorea. The best feature of these huts on stilts isn’t the swimming off the deck but the view of surrounding Cook’s Bay and the mountains across the water. There’s a pool and tennis court, and the bar is one of the liveliest on the island. Though you won’t get thousand-dollar linens on your bed or a lot of pampering, there’s plenty of character and Tahitian charm. Rates start at $275 per night.

Soneva Gili Resort, Maldives
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include one high-end resort where you can pretend you’re a one-percenter for at least a few days. The choice here is Soneva Gili, owned by the Six Senses resort company. Its 45 wooden overwater villas, reachable only by boat in a shallow lagoon off Landanfushi Island, boast open-air bathrooms, rooftop sun decks, overwater decks, and roomy dining areas. There’s also a spa, two restaurants, a bar, tennis court, and dive center. Rates start at $1,300 a night. 

Best Tropical Cabana Resorts—Coral Lodge, Panama
Boat ride in the San Blas islands (Joachim Pietsch/Flickr)

Coral Lodge, Panama
You won’t find a more remote getaway than Coral Lodge. The resort, on the fringe of the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean Coast, is only reachable by a half-hour boat ride. Once there, you’ll find six overwater thatch-roofed huts, each adorned with a hammock on the front deck and stairs that lower into the water. You can snorkel among the coral in the clear shallows, laze on the beach or poolside, take a day-long dive trip, or never leave your cabana. You choose. Rates start at $105 per night.

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