By Michael Gross
I needed a clear blue break, and it looked as if cabana No. 55 at 9 Beaches, a new resort on Bermuda, might be it. Occupying what is arguably the best position of any hotel room on the island—at the very far end of a wooden pier that feeds six cabanas—it stood almost by itself, facing due west over a narrow, quiet channel between Daniel's Head, a crab-shaped peninsula at Bermuda's westernmost point, and tiny, uninhabited Daniel's Island. From its terrace, I had to crane my neck to see the neighboring cabanas. Fish darted in the shallows below. I felt like a ship at sea, anchored in my own private paradise of water.
My pulse has always quickened when I see photos of resorts in Tahiti and the Maldives, where rooms sitting on stilts over blue lagoons promise Robinson Crusoe style solitude and five-star solicitude. When I heard that 9 Beaches was offering such cabanas much closer to home—Bermuda is only a two-hour flight from New York—I figured it was my time for a similar experience. No. 55 wasn't the sybaritic teak-and-mahogany haven of my fantasies, but it was close enough: not just near the water but suspended right over it, a tent-cabin hybrid, vinyl and canvas on an aluminum frame, with a Plexiglas fish-viewing panel set into the floor.
Credit for the first overwater hotel rooms goes to French Polynesia's legendary Bali Hai Boys, who, in the 1960's, turned a vanilla plantation on reef-encircled Moorea into a tourist village called Bali Hai. They "saw the calm water and realized it [would be] perfect to extend the hotel into the lagoon," says Monty Brown, now area manager for Amanresorts Indonesia. Brown was part of the team that was about to build what is now Aman's Hotel Bora Bora, which, inspired by Bali Hai, offered overwater rooms on that island: 15 pandanus leaf roofed bungalows. They were soon booked solid virtually year-round.
Although the concept of overwater rooms did spread to other Polynesian islands, they remained a local phenomenon until the late 1980's, when the idea traveled halfway around the world to the 1,190 low-lying islands of the Maldives, an archipelago that is similarly protected by reefs. More than a decade later, both Polynesia and the Maldives have become their own floating fantasy worlds. The appeal is obvious. "It's the wow factor of living over water," Brown says. "Waves lapping against the pilings. You can swim anytime you want or hand-feed the fish. Dangle your feet and they nibble on your toes. Watch a manta ray ballet off your deck. We very rarely saw our guests after they checked in." Continue reading this ''overwater bungalow'' article here.
Stay right on the ocean
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