I’ve said that luxury can be expressed and experienced in many different ways, and Soneva resorts excel in defining luxury in the details of their ethos and service. We had the privilege of visiting both Soneva resorts in the Maldives this past February, starting with Soneva Fushi. Soneva Fushi is a luxury resort known as the “original desert island hideaway” and is located on one of the largest islands in the Maldives known as Kunfunadhoo. Soneva Fushi is located in the Baa Atoll Republic, which is also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. The resort is breathtakingly serene and exemplifies the definition of pick-your-own-adventure, whether you want to relax or fill your days with endless activities!
I partnered with Soneva on a hosted stay for this trip, but I would recommend booking either directly with the property or through a travel advisor, depending on what amenities each may be offering at the time of booking. If you book through a Virtuoso advisor, you would receive the following benefits:
- Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
- Daily Buffet breakfast (which is incredible!), for two guests per bedroom
- $100 USD equivalent Food & Beverage credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
- Complimentary Wi-Fi
Bookings of a 3 Bedroom Villa and above will receive resort credit (food & beverage) at $500 USD net per stay.
With a minimum 5 night stay, guests booking through a Virtuoso advisor also receive:
- Shoreline Beach dinner
- Sunset Dolphin Cruise (Communal)
- Flavorful cuisine (organic vegetables) cooking class for two
Prices for a room at Soneva Fushi in the off-peak season are as low as $1,200 per night and in peak season prices go as low as $1,950 per night. The price can vary greatly depending on the size and type of villa as well as the time of year you’ll be visiting. You can add on a half-board option for $180 adult/$90 child per day or full-board for $280 adult/$140 child per day. Soneva Fushi has a range of exclusive offers on their website including reduced rates on boat cruises and spa experiences, among others.
Note that taxes, fees, service charges and required transport to the resort are additional, though some larger villas may include return transfers. Transfer options include a seaplane for $1,100 adult/$550 child roundtrip or a wheeled plane combined with a speedboat for $315 adult/$160 child roundtrip. Taxes and fees add roughly 26% to your room total.
Since we transferred from another resort, we didn’t have the full arrival in Male experience. However, after arriving at the airport in Male, you’ll be greeted by eager Soneva Fushi staff members who will take you to the Soneva seaplane lounge. From there you’ll take a scenic thirty-minute seaplane ride or a wheeled plane on your way to the resort. The short flight is quite scenic and enjoyable and then it’s just a quick boat ride until you’ve landed in paradise.
Since we traveled while health protocols were still in place (and they may still be, depending on when you read this), we were required to test upon arrival at the resort. Soneva conducts two PCR tests per guest – one oral and one nasal. Then you quarantine in your villa until results are returned – usually only a (room service!) meal or two later.
Once you’ve tested out of quarantine, you’ll immediately sense both the warmth and elegance of this tropical island resort. It’s covered in a dense, lush, green jungle with palm trees lining the powdery, white beaches and sandy bike paths. Guests are given bicycles so they can wheel around and enjoy the scenery as well as access to a personal butler who will help facilitate bookings, activities, and anything else you want.
There is a “no news, no shoes” policy in which staff place guest shoes in a drawstring bag upon your arrival at the resort, and the shoes shouldn’t be worn again until the end of your stay. It took some getting used to on our part – we felt so naked without the ceremony of slipping on our shoes when we walked out of our villa – but we loved how it authentically created a very casual atmosphere.
Soneva Fushi was originally an all-beach villa resort until very recently! There are 63 beachfront villas which are located on two sides of the island, the sunrise or sunset side. The sunrise side has more privacy with perfect views of the ocean as the closest island is only a speck on the horizon. It’s great for people who want to enjoy unimpeded views and relax in tranquility. The sunset side is perfect for snorkelers and more adventurous visitors. This side of the island has reef access points and there’s even the chance of seeing dolphins in the channel. However, the closest island is less than half a mile away so it’s a bit less private. When we were in a beach villa, we stayed on the sunset side and enjoyed ease of access to the amazing Out of the Blue structure (more on that later!) and snorkeling, but would love to try a sunrise beach villa next time!
The villas range in size from one to nine bedrooms and have private pools and plenty of space. The accommodations are all designed with light-colored wood, hut-style roofing, splashes of tropical colors, and lots of tans and whites to create a luxurious environment that is reminiscent of a Robinson Crusoe vibe. There is an openness to the space and ample interior and exterior room that creates a homey yet abundant ambiance.
In September 2020, Soneva Fushi added to their portfolio by opening eight new overwater villas. These overwater villas are categorized as Water Retreats and are some of the largest in the world, with the 1- and 2-bedroom Water Retreats ranking as the largest in the Maldives. The Water Retreats sit on a new, curved jetty on the cusp of the sunrise-to-sunset edge for the most picturesque views with the highest level of privacy. We moved from our beach villa to Water Retreat #81 which was perfectly positioned to witness the sunrise from the east end of the villa and the sunset from the west end of the villa. The Water Retreats are truly an iconic paradise experience with an enormous villa-length deck for lounging around and – my favorite part – the epic water slide that dumps you right into the ocean.
Thanks to Soneva’s focus on sustainability and immersion in nature, we truly felt at one with our surroundings in both types of rooms because of the eco-friendly environment that the architecture of the villas achieves. Each beach villa feels like it’s on its own private island thanks to the dense jungle that surrounds it – many of the villas even resemble tree houses. The overwater structures offer direct access into the ocean with great snorkeling and underwater views.
Activities at Soneva Fushi
I’m often asked if a trip to the Maldives for extended periods of time can be “boring,” and while I’m perfectly happy lazing about for days on end, Soneva Fushi ensures more active guests are anything but bored. There are a plethora of activities available to keep even the most adventurous guests occupied!
These activities range from fishing, stargazing through a telescope, diving, snorkeling trips, and sunset dolphin cruises. Our sunset dolphin cruise was truly magical – the staff on board were unbelievable in both finding pods of hundreds of dolphins for us to giddily admire and making sure our champagne glasses were never empty!
Other unique activities include sea bobbing, which is a powerful eco-friendly device that allows guests to swim underwater and observe sea life, or esurfing and eFoils, which are battery-powered boards that are controlled by a wireless Bluetooth handheld throttle for an exciting experience.
As part of Soneva’s sustainability initiatives, there’s a robust recycling program which helps fuel the glass center on-site, where you can take glass blowing classes and walk away with a unique, handmade souvenir from the trip. You can also tour their ecocenter, where you’ll see some of Soneva’s sustainability measures in action.
Our favorite activity, though, was spending time on Soneva Fushi’s own sandbank in the middle of the ocean, which is just a short boat ride away from the main island. The small sandbank pops just a few feet out of the azure sea, and is a pristine patch of bright white sand with nothing else on it. You can walk around the whole sandbank in just 10 minutes, and it is breathtaking. You can also plan anything you want to do on it – such as a champagne breakfast, romantic dinner, or a lazy afternoon completely alone. If you have a drone, this is the time to bring it out – the aerial footage we filmed on the sandbank was unreal!
If you’re looking for a more relaxing vacation, The Six Senses Spa has an amazing variety of treatments that will leave you feeling calm and rejuvenated. While we didn’t indulge in a spa treatment ourselves, we did tour the spa and found it to be a serene oasis in the middle of the lush jungle.
The kids club at Soneva Fushi, called The Den, is the largest kids club in the Maldives and is truly impressive, with everything from a dress-up station to a Lego room, along with a fun pool area complete with a slide. Adding to the kid-friendly activities list, there’s even an open-air movie theater on the beach and guests vote which movie will be shown that night.
The list of amenities at the Soneva Fushi resort feels endless and it seems like Soneva Fushi has truly thought of everything in accommodating your every desire.
As part of Soneva’s sustainability initiatives, much of the produce and herbs used in Soneva Fushi’s restaurants are grown on-site in expansive gardens and mushroom huts. Each restaurant at Soneva Fushi is an experience unto itself, with carefully curated atmospheres that complement the high-quality meals. The settings of the restaurants are intricate and allow guests to experience fresh food, world-renowned chefs, and the beautiful scenery of the Maldives.
So Cool, So Guilty, and So Delicate
Soneva Fushi really wants you to satisfy your inner child, which includes eating ice cream and chocolates anytime you want! There are two different 24-hour ice cream (So Cool) and chocolate (So Guilty) rooms on site with complimentary access at any time your craving strikes. For a more adult taste, the So Delicate rooms offer cold cuts and cheeses, including plant-based options.
Mihiree Mithaa is the central hub for dining at Soneva Fushi and is where you start your day with an extensive breakfast buffet. Lunch and dinner are also served here on a buffet basis, and this is the location for one each of the So Cool, So Guilty, and So Delicate rooms!
Fresh in the Garden
Fresh in the Garden is a visual masterpiece. It is built in the treetops above the organic gardens, and features an open kitchen cooking organic, Mediterraean-inspired meals by visiting chefs who each lend their own twist to the menu. When we visited, there was even a “best-of” part of the menu featuring four different standout dishes, one each from four previous visiting chefs, which allowed us to get a taste of how the menu has evolved over time.
Down to Earth
Down to Earth features a sharable South Asian menu that offers toes-in-the-sand waterfront dining, which we loved walking right up to after our dolphin cruise. I had an amazing soft-shell crab that I still think about to this day!
Out of the Blue
Out of the Blue is an all-day dining destination in a huge and beautiful overwater structure on the sunset side. There are various stations of the restaurant that offer Vietnamese, Japanese and Indonesian cuisines. This is an amazing place to catch the sunset!
Specialty Dining Experiences
Soneva Fushi also has a variety of more curated experiences, ranging from Once Upon a Table, which seats eight in a beautiful overwater room, to So Hands On, seating five around a sushi master, to So Bespoke, which surrounds guests around a teppanyaki table. You also have the option to arrange a meal on Soneva Fushi’s sandbank or in the middle of the jungle, or of course to order in-villa dining.
Besides the outrageously great food, the aspect of our stay at Soneva Fushi that we found most special was the incredible service. We have had the good fortune of staying at many incredible resorts, so our bar for great service is quite high. But Soneva Fushi’s staff truly exceeded our expectations in every way. From the general manager, to boat captains, to every server at the resort’s many restaurants, everyone was friendly, confident, and attentive without being overbearing. Further, our butler, Umar, was on top of everything and very responsive over WhatsApp, allowing us to truly take our mind off the details of our stay and just relax.
A very notable aspect of our stay that I haven’t experienced at other Maldives resorts was the sense of community amongst guests. Everyone was open to have conversations in passing, whether it was someone casually asking us in the ice cream room if it was our first stay or chatting with the 12-time guest on our sunset dolphin cruise. I’d venture to guess that part of this openness is bred by the fact that many guests view Soneva Fushi as a home away from home, and they keep coming back again and again. It is truly a special community to be a part of (even if only for a few days) in such a far-flung corner of the earth.
As amazing as the resort is when it comes to beautiful scenery, high-quality cuisine, great service and gorgeous villas, the true standout is how conscious and eco-friendly Soneva Fushi is. You can visit Namoona Island where Soneva Fushi has a program that is working to reduce single-use plastic in the Maldives as well as other sustainability initiatives such as water bottle planting. As previously mentioned, you can tour the island’s eco-center and also visit the organic, fresh gardens. The villas, all made with sustainable materials, are a reminder that eco-friendly and luxury can be executed together.
Soneva Fushi is absolutely worth the trip. From arrival when you are encouraged to remove your shoes and begin your relaxing vacation, to the Robinson Crusoe barefoot luxury villas and everything in between, it’s a perfect slice of paradise. This luxury resort focuses its efforts on sustainability and non-damaging practices while still providing an exemplary experience that you will remember the rest of your life.