Though it’s undeniably sexy, it may be time to rethink the overwater villa. Debuting over half a century ago, it is now a mainstay of luxury resorts everywhere, from Tahiti to Mexico and even Dubai.
And while the accommodation style is clearly not going anywhere anytime soon, properties are stepping up their game, debuting villas complete with sauna-clad wellness rooms and bathtubs with serious views. One of the brands at the forefront of this reimagining is Conrad, updating its overwater accommodations by building up (the hospitality group debuted the first two-story overwater villas in Bora Bora last year) and, much more surprisingly, by building down.
The world’s first underwater villa will debut at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island resort by the end of the year—marking the completion of a $15 million research investment that will quite literally let guests sleep with the fishes. The new undersea residence, named Muraka (“coral” in Dhivehi), has been designed by MJ Murphy, a New Zealand–based aquarium technology firm, and will sit nestled into the sand and coral some 16 feet under the turquoise-blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The villa features a sweeping curved dome—a similar design to the property’s underwater restaurant, Ithaa, which was another world first when it debuted in 2005—that allows guests to watch the marine life swim by from the comfort of their plush king bed. A living area and bathroom are also located underwater, where guests will be able to catch whale sharks, stingrays, and lionfish swim and play while lounging with a cocktail in hand or brushing their teeth.
If they start to feel a little weary of being under the sea, guests can head upstairs to the above-water portion of the residence. Though certainly more traditional, this area boasts all of the luxuries of the best overwater villas—think sweeping Indian Ocean views, sunset-facing decks, and a glimmering infinity pool. In all, Muraka can sleep up to nine guests across its above- and below-water bedrooms—and guests will have plenty of room to spread out, as the villa also features a private gym, kitchen, bar, and dining and living rooms.
Guests of Muraka will also have full access to the property’s two spas, 12 restaurants and bars, and long lineup of ocean activities—if they can tear themselves away from the mesmerizing scene below water or from their private sun loungers above, that is.