They're ludicrously expensive because they're so rare
There's a certain thrill involved, but unlike trekking the globe to reach an airline status or falling over a cliff with a selfie stick, I'm peace-ing out to the world in a luxury-drenched villa raised above the sea, doing absolutely nothing at all. Overwater bungalows are synonymous with privilege, which is why honeymooners and jet-setters alike famously book them. They're extremely private (unless you're Justin Bieber). They come equipped with private pools, sun decks, glass-bottom floors, and occasionally butlers or staff delivering breakfast to you in canoes. In the morning, you can literally roll out of bed and straight into the sea.
Due to this sort of luxury, overwater bungalows are one of the most expensive room categories in the world. They're also crazy unique. You can get upgraded to a presidential suite in a hotel but, I mean, c'mon. You're still just stuck in a room inside a building.
Since overwater villas became a thing in the 1970s, when the first string of thatch-roof bungalows over crystal-clear lagoons debuted in the South Pacific, hoteliers have built relatively few of them. They’re also generally in tropical, hard-to-reach destinations like Bora Bora and the Maldives, where the sea is Xanax calm with little to no monster waves or tides. These are places that, for the most part, are exempt from hurricanes, cyclones, and other natural disasters. Almost no one can afford them, and they're typically motivated by a romantic splurge or plain ol' baller status. The few that do exist, then, are the perfect lodging in perfect parts of the world. Take, for example, the Maldives resort Jumeirah Vittaveli, where the bungalows are massive bi-level suites that float in the middle of the ocean and require a boat to reach. You can practically smell the money you're burning while you're there, but you'll never forget a moment of it.
As resorts notice how much jerks like me will pay for an overwater villa, the new entrants are only more expensive. Luxurious overwater bungalows are debuting upward of $4,000 a night, with the cheaper versions still spiraling into four figures: Anantara The Palm in Dubai runs $1,600 a night; and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy’s Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives goes $2,200 per. Sandals Royal Caribbean in Montego Bay, Jamaica will debut five over-the-water villas in February, the first of their kind in the Caribbean, with rates starting at $4,000 a night. They're reportedly booked up for the first three months. Why so expensive? American honeymooners don't have to trek halfway across the globe to stay in one. Overwater villas are even becoming available in Mexico beach towns. Karisma Hotels & Resorts' El Dorado Maroma just debuted Mexico's first proper bungalows (30 palafitos) over the sea (Rosewood Mayakoba's villas are over a lagoon). Compared to typical overwater bungalow prices, rates at El Dorado's bungalows are a bargain at only $950 a night, including meals.