Snorkelling at your door, tropical fish under the floor: Aoife O'Riordain on the top over-water bungalows

Likuliku Lagoon Resort

Likuliku translates as "calm waters" and is also the view that guests can expect from one of its 10 over-water bures (a type of hut). When the resort opened on Malolo Island in Fiji's Mamanuca archipelago, its over-water bures were a first for Fiji. This luxury hideaway looks like a traditional Fijian village, with thatched roofs and wood structures; the stilted huts continue the theme, but are just offshore and suspended over the lagoon. Snorkelling is just a drop down from the bures, while land-based activities include nature trails.

Likuliku Lagoon Resort, Malolo Island, Fiji (00 679 666 3344; Over-water bures start at FJ$1,950 (605), full board.

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

The Bocas del Toro archipelago off Panama's Caribbean coast is known for its abundance of flora and fauna poison dart frogs, sloths and howler monkeys are some of its inhabitants. Just off the main island, Isla Colon, Punta Caracol's nine cabins in ice-cream shades teeter over water that teems with tropical fish, dolphins and coral reefs. Native wood, roofs thatched with palm, clay and bamboo have been used in the construction of the two-storey cabins. Each is equipped with solar panels and bio-degradable sewage systems, so you can be lulled to sleep by the waves, safe in the knowledge that your stay is not wreaking too much havoc with the local ecosystem.

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Bocas del Toro, Panama (00 507 661 210 88; Doubles from US$321 (130), half board.

Soneva Gili
The Maldives

As soon as guests arrive at Soneva Gili, they are encouraged to shed their flip-flops and observe the hotel's "no news, no shoes" policy. When it opened in 2001, Soneva Gili was the first over-water resort in the Indian Ocean, and many would argue that it is still the best. Set on Lankanfushi Island in the North Mal Atoll, its 44 villa suites and residences are reached by three wooden jetties that thread out into the electric-blue waters of the Lankanfushi lagoon. Guests can sunbathe on the terraces with the water just inches away from their toes or, for the ultimate five-star castaway fantasy, book one of the seven Crusoe villas, which can only be reached by boat.

Soneva Gili, Lankanfushi Island, North Mal Atoll, Republic of Maldives (00 960 664 0304; Villas start at US$1,414 (707), room only.

Pangkor Laut

Of all Pangkor Laut's 142 guest rooms, its 45 sea and spa villas and suites are the ones to book. They skirt along a coastal sliver of this tiny, jungle-blanketed island off the coast of peninsular Malaysia. The rooms, built on stilts above the water, are reached by a series of wooden walkways, and all have panoramic views of the Strait of Malacca. Last month, Pangkor Laut unveiled a swish new makeover of its guestrooms, restaurants and communal areas. When guests are not gazing out over the water from their huge baths, they can lounge on Emerald Bay, an idyllic quarter-moon arch of powdery white sand on the east coast, or avail themselves of the array of treatments in the impressive spa complex.

Pangkor Laut, Lumut, Perak, Malaysia (00 605 699 1100; Sea villas start at US$460 (230), room only.

Bora Bora Lagoon Resort
French Polynesia

Settings don't come much dreamier than the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort in Tahiti's Leeward Islands. This Orient-Express property is perched on the edge of the small island of Motu Toopua, and has views of limpid aquamarine water and the craggy peaks of Mount Otemanu. The resort's bungalows echo the local style of architecture albeit with luxurious flourishes but the stars of the show are the 50 over-water bungalows. Here, you can sit and watch tropical fish dart below the glass-topped coffee tables, as you wait for breakfast to be delivered by Tahitian canoe.

Bora Bora Lagoon Resort & Spa, Motu Toopua, Vaitape, Bora Bora, French Polynesia (00 689 60 40 00; Over-water bungalows start at 695 (496), room only.