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North America's first over-ocean bungalows open in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Move a thatched hut out over the waves and it becomes the stuff of fantasy. It also becomes the stuff of honeymoons, as evidenced by the high profile among the betrothed of luxurious overwater lodgings in Bora Bora, Tahiti and the Maldives.

Newlyweds can now add Mexico’s Riviera Maya to the mix, with 30 new overwater “Palafitos” opening amongst the adults-only suites and villas at El Dorado Maroma resort.

Owner Karisma Hotels & Resorts initially heralded them as “Mexico’s first and only overwater bungalows,” but this was revised when it was pointed out that the nearby Rosewood Mayakoba offers “Overwater Lagoon Suites.” So the Palafitos became “the first and only over-ocean bungalows in Latin America,” with the “only” slated to expire in November when Jamaica’s Sandals Royal Caribbean opens five “Over-the-Water Villas.”

Is an overwater setting really such a romantic-getaway game-changer? On aesthetic and sybaritic levels, the Palafitos reply with an emphatic “yes!”

The palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, Playa del Carmen, Mexico. (Michael Stavaridis)

LOCATION, LOCATION

Like several other all-inclusive resorts lining the Caribbean coast between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, the top notch El Dorado Maroma is separated from Highway 307 by an imposing security gate and a winding access road that bisects dense mangrove swamp. After checking in at the surprisingly modest lobby – where luggage is whisked away and refreshing facecloths proffered in typical tropical fashion – the journey continues on a golf cart whirring past lushly landscaped grounds and an eclectic mix of pools and accommodations en route to the Palafitos lounge. Here, guests meet their fedora-wearing butlers and proceed on foot past the gorgeous white-sand beach to the T-shaped pier around which the Palafitos, a spa and a restaurant are clustered.

The palafitos are the first, and currently only, over-ocean bungalows in Latin America. (Michael Stavaridis)

DESIGN

The 600-square-foot Palafitos – meaning “stilt house” in Spanish – have clearly been built to withstand the occasional Caribbean hurricane. The sand-coloured complex is supported by scores of stout steel columns, each of which is embedded in a natural shelf shielded by whale-size sandbags and, further offshore, by the thousand-kilometre-long Mesoamerican Barrier Reef. From a structural standpoint, this is good news. Amorous guests (and their neighbours) will also appreciate the privacy and soundproofing afforded by concrete-block construction and impact-resistant mirrored windows.

A plunge pool on a palofito patio. (Michael Stavaridis)

This solidity, however, does detract from the tropical rusticity guests may expect. Yet the Palafitos’ industrial edge is softened by thatched roofs, layered window treatments, spa music emanating from outdoor speakers and abundant tropical greenery. Any lingering aesthetic misgivings are obliterated once you step into your room and notice the breathtaking glass floor panels. The shimmering emerald waters, rich in marine life, illuminate open-concept interiors that feature foyers with mini-fridges, espresso-makers and stereos; king-size beds draped in Egyptian cotton; and bathrooms with whirlpool tubs (for two, of course).

A bedroom in one of the El Dorado Maroma's palafitos. (Michael Stavaridis)

BEST AMENITY

Private swimming platforms provide instant access to the watery surroundings. From there, it’s a short swim to an irresistible sandy islet, and to the daybed-strewn beach reserved for Palafitos guests. Similarly satisfying are the freshwater plunge pools and outdoor showers adorning every private deck.

The glass floors make a quick swim especially inviting. (Michael Stavaridis)

IF I COULD CHANGE JUST ONE THING

Glass-floored overwater bungalows compel new arrivals to take a dip ASAP, which is why it was so frustrating – torturous, even – to wait nearly an hour for luggage to arrive. (Playa Maroma, it should be noted, is not a nude beach.) This could have been chalked up to an isolated oversight, but several other guests reported similar delays.

WHOM YOU’LL MEET

Blissed-out honeymooners of the hetero and same-sex varieties, along with couples celebrating anniversaries and other romantic interludes.

One of the El Dorado Maroma's many restaurants. (Michael Stavaridis)

EAT IN OR EAT OUT?

As well as having free rein over round-the-clock room service and El Dorado Maroma’s 10 restaurants and bars, Palafitos guests have exclusive access to the Overwater Grill & Wine Bar at the head of the pier. The latter’s Mexican-fusion menu eschews the groaning-buffet format that afflicts many all-inclusives, with small plates, such as octopus risotto and paprika-glazed short ribs, prepared, presented and served with flair.

Palafitos at El Dorado Maroma, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, karismahotels.com; 30 all-inclusive rooms from $950 (U.S.) a person, per night.

The writer was a guest of the resort

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