Cayo Espanto overwater bungalow in Belize
Photo: Julien Capmeil

These sublime stays in the Caribbean and Mexico will give you a Fiji fix without a trip halfway around the world.

By Tracey Minkin

When we think of overwater bungalows perched over turquoise waters, with think of Tahiti. And we should: The liquid realms of French Polynesia are where these divinely romantic accommodations first got their start. But now, a growing collection of equally captivating options exist in our own backyard--the Caribbean and Mexico, to be precise. So, with no offense to the South Pacific intended, consider your next fantasy vacation at one of these divine overwater stays.

El Dorado Maroma
Photo: Courtesy of Karisma Hotels & Resorts

Mexico

The Riviera Maya's white sands might now play second fiddle to the new Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma (above). The airy, thatch-roof bungalows have glass floors and private infinity pools. Rates start at $950 per person (all-inclusive). Also on the Riviera Maya, Rosewood Mayakoba's Deluxe Overwater Lagoon Suites are whitewashed hideaways with a thoroughly modern aesthetic. Rates start at $895.

Courtesy of Sandals Resorts

Jamaica

Sandals Royal Caribbean resort's new Over-the-Water Villas in Montego Bay have put overwater stays in the luxury Caribbean spotlight. A bit Bali Hai, a bit Doctor No (sections of glass floor add a je ne sais Bond element), the five villas and 12 bungalows have outdoor soaking tubs and overwater hammocks, plus luxuries like walk-in rain showers and private butler service. Rates start at $1,078 per person (based on double occupancy).

Thatch Caye in Belize
Photo: Courtesy of Thatch Caye

Belize

Cayo Espanto (top photo), a private island off Ambergris Caye, has six beach villas; the gorgeous Casa Ventanas cottage sits over the sea at the end of a 150-foot dock, surrounded by electric blue. Rates start at $1,595. Farther south, the five thatch-roof bungalows on stilts at private island resort Thatch Caye (above) have 180-degree water views and air-conditioning, just in case. Rates start at $399.

Related: 3 Tips on How to Make Money while on Vacation:

Azul Paradise in Panama
Photo: Courtesy of Azul Paradise/Morgan Oliver-Allen

Panama

On the quiet, leeward side of Isla Bastimentos in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Azul Paradise harbors a rustically charming group of 10 overwater bungalows with varying price points and configurations; the Deluxe Bungalows, as end units, feel the most removed and have wraparound decks and over-the-water hammocks. Rates start at $250.