I recently enjoyed a terrific holiday in the Maldives, one of my favorite beach destinations in the world. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from Paris to the Maldives
- Review: Transfer with Soneva’s private seaplane
- Review: Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original island hideaway (today)
- Review: Soneva In Aqua, the Maldives’ most exclusive yacht
- Review: Air France B787 Dreamliner Business Class from the Maldives to Paris
Today: Review of Soneva Fushi (Maldives).
- Location: Google Maps
- Hotel website: Soneva Fushi
- Tip: contact me to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Fushi
Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original desert island hideaway, is located in the stunning Baa Atoll, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Massive, Robinson Crusoe-style, multi-bedroom luxury villas and private residences are hidden among dense tropical foliage. In keeping with the castaway theme, many are built to resemble tree houses. All open to their own private stretch of sugar white sands, and most boast their own private seawater swimming pools. In summer 2020, Soneva Fushi also unveiled eight fabulous water retreats, which are the largest and most luxurious overwater villas in the world.
Soneva Fushi features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury resorts in the Maldives, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, the best family hotels in the world, the world’s most insanely beautiful hotel beaches, and the best resorts in the Maldives for snorkeling.
Have you ever stayed at Soneva Fushi? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- After collecting their luggage at Malé International Airport, guests are greeted by the lovely Soneva staff and whisked away in one of Soneva’s carbon-free Tesla cars to the tranquil Soneva airport lounge, which features Soneva’s signature eco-chic design. Here, guests can wait for the connecting seaplane transfer to the resort: they are offered a refreshing drink and some snacks, while a Soneva Fushi host takes care of the check-in prices. The Soneva lounge also has an onsite spa room. I reviewed the lounge more in detail here.
- The (sea)plane transfers arrangements are very well-organized as Soneva operates its own fleet of luxurious seaplanes, which means that Soneva is quite flexible with regards to the operating schedule and luggage limits. This is good news for guests, as waiting time at the airport is reduced and they can take more luggage on board. You can read my review of the Soneva seaplane here. Seaplanes only operate during daylight, but if guests arrive or depart after sunset, they are flown by jet to/from Dharavandhoo airport, which serves the Baa Atoll and is a mere ten minutes by speedboat from the resort.
- The 30 minute seaplane transfer to Soneva Fushi is a breathtaking sightseeing trip in itself. The plane flies quite low across the Indian Ocean, offering an amazing view of tiny, sugar-white island rings sparkling atop turquoise colored lagoons and the brilliant sapphire blue ocean. The seaplane lands at Soneva Fushi International Airport, which must be one of the most amazing airports in the world: a small wooden deck just off the island’s shores. From there, it’s just a five minute speedboat ride to the arrival jetty of the magnificent resort.
- Soneva Fushi is a tropical paradise unrivaled in the world. The entire island is covered by a magnificent verdant jungle and surrounded by blinding-white, palm-fringed beaches and a ridiculously clear, sparkling turquoise lagoon. From a scenic perspective, this is the most idyllic island that I have ever visited in the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Maldives, and its fabulous, soft-sand beaches easily rank amongst the best in the world.
- Besides being insanely beautiful, Soneva Fushi is also one of the largest islands in the Maldives, being just under 1.5km (0,9 mi) long and 0,5 km (0,3 mi) wide. Upon arrival, guests are provided bicycles for the duration of their stay to get around. It’s a pure delight to cycle along the many sandy paths in the jungle and to enjoy the wonderful varieties of trees and foliage, as well as the wildlife, ranging from impressive fruit bats to cute rabbits hopping around.
- Soneva Fushi’s ‘no news, no shoes’ policy encourages a casual atmosphere among all the guests. On the short speedboat ride from the seaplane dock to the resort, shoes are removed and stored by the Soneva staff for the duration of the guests’ stay.
- From the moment guests touch down (barefoot) on Soneva Fushi’s shores, a personal butler – called a Mr. or Ms. “Friday” – is appointed per travel party and villa. These Fridays are obviously handpicked for their extreme likability and their level of discrete, intuitive service – guests only have to think it, and their wish has materialized!
- The resort’s eco-chic design melts in with the Maldivian surroundings and adds to the sense of being at one with nature. All hotel pavilions, including the villa accommodations, are built using local materials, topped with a palm-leaf roof, decked out in stylish bright cushions, and decorated with simple but chic furniture. This is barefoot luxury at its best, albeit in a low-key and environmentally conscious way.
- The resort’s 65, thatched-roof, multi-bedroom luxury villas are scattered along the coastline. While they are hidden among dense foliage (and hardly visible from the beach), they all overlook the Indian Ocean. The elegant and sophisticated villas are massive in scale and rank among the world’s largest hotel accommodations. They come in several categories, ranging from one-bedroom Crusoe villas to the 9-bedroom private reserve. Each villa aims to provide a sort of Robinson Crusoe experience, as it feels as it’s marooned on its own private island, with its own garden and stretch of white sand beach just steps away. In keeping with the castaway theme, many villas are built to resemble tree houses.
- During my stay, I was upgraded to the incredible three bedroom retreat, located on the sunrise side of the island. The immense reserve surrounds guests in nature while offering up caverns and terraces of luxurious space: three sumptuous bedroom pavilions, huge open-air garden bathrooms, an indoor & outdoor lounge, an in-villa wine cellar, full kitchen, library, private gym, large swimming pool, and a private stretch of soft white sand. I made a YouTube video of this villa, as well as videos of other villa types which you can watch below:
- Reached by a gently curving jetty near Dolphin Beach on the island’s southern tip are eight overwater villas. Called “water retreats”, these one- and two-bedroom accommodations are the world’s largest overwater villas and have been designed to ensure the utmost privacy for guests, as well as to make the most of the picture-perfect ocean vistas. The spacious interiors and exterior living spaces give guests more to love, as well as making them perfect for families. Each villa comes with a large private pool and water slide.
- A phenomenal overwater structure – called Out Of The Blue – is one of the resort’s highlights. Out Of The Blue offers an authentic Maldivian overwater experience for those guests staying an a beach villa. Besides housing terrific dining outlets (more on that below), Out Of The Blue also features a large sundeck with comfortable loungers, overwater netting, and a fun water slide, going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below, guaranteeing some great photo opportunities. Out of the Blue faces west and offers sublime views of the Maldivian sunsets.
- IMHO, Soneva Fushi is the best resort in the world for families with children. The children’s club, designated ‘The Den’, is nothing less than a spectacular jungle villa and a playground for the imagination, where children can explore a pirate ship, splash in two pools, and even have their own bar (for mocktails). The villa also features a lego room, dress-up area, cinema, library, learning area, music room, and a channel clad in roots, branches and hidden surprises, that leads to gardens filled with flowers, swings and nests tucked into the trees.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Soneva Fushi are stellar culinary experiences, with world-class restaurant, over-the-top settings, impeccable service, and divine food (which wouldn’t be out of place in a Michelin starred gourmet restaurant in a cosmopolitan city).
- Mihiree Mitha is the main restaurant. It means “here it is” in Maldivian, and indeed, almost any dish you crave is here. The breakfast buffet is the most generous one I have ever seen at a hotel, with ovenfresh pastries, home-made jams, egg-cooking stations, and even a dedicated ham and cheese room, featuring sumptuous homemade cheeses, ham and cold cuts. At lunch, Mihiree Mitha transforms into a grazing feast with barbecue, stir fry, and salad stations, as well as wood-fired pizzas and a fresh pasta bar. On Tuesday and Saturday, a lavish buffet is offered at Mihiree Mitha.
- Opposite Mihiree Mitha is Down To Earth, a fine dining venue which serves international and South Asian cuisine on the beach in a romantic setting.
- My favorite restaurant is Fresh In The Garden, which is located above the resort’s herb and vegetable garden with sublime panoramas stretching beyond the jungle’s canopy, and which serves mouth-watering, Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
- The overwater structure ‘Out of the Blue‘ houses five fine dining outlets. From delicious grilled meats and seafood, Teppanyaki, sushi and secret menus conjured by Michelin-starred chefs – guests are spoilt for choice in the latest edition to Soneva Fushi’s outstanding culinary offerings.
- Shades of Green is the Maldives’ first vegan restaurant. Chef Carsten Kyster celebrates the garden with five-course menus featuring colours, green umami or one ingredient prepared various ways. The evening begins with a tour of the garden, and guests pick, taste and smell the produce and discover hidden amuse bouches.
- A stand out among the resort’s fine dining venues is the exquisite Sobah’s restaurant, built on an uninhabited island, just 30 minutes by boat from Soneva Fushi. Sobah’s is lead by Chef Sobah, who won the ‘Best Chef in the Maldives’ Award, and serves traditional Maldivian cuisine with modern twists using traditional cooking methods. Getting to Sobah’s is half the fun, as guests often spot dolphins on the way.
- Soneva Fushi has a fantastic, subterranean wine cellar. The collection of 7,000 bottles, including rare champagnes, grand cru clarets, vintage cognacs, organic and biodynamic wines, rivals the world’s finest wine collections.
- Soneva’s ongoing Soneva Stars program offers a kaleidoscope of one-of-a-kind experiences to Soneva Fushi’s guests. The fascinating program includes a host of visiting Michelin-starred chefs, world-renowned astronomers, celebrated sports personalities, authors, therapists and practitioners and so much more. You can check the program & schedule of visiting experts & chefs on the Soneva Star website.
- The resort has two chocolate & ice cream parlors, one located near the arrival jetty and at Out Of the Blue. Open from noon till late night , they both offer complimentary ice cream and chocolates to all guest. You can choose from over sixty constantly changing flavors of homemade ice creams and sorbets at the ice cream room. Inside the adjoining chocolate room, you can indulge in every child’s dream of never-ending chocolate: you can sample cardamom chocolate truffles, passionfruit pralines, and a continually changing profusion of confections.
- One of my favorite spots at Soneva Fushi is the lovely Bar(a)bara, where you can sip on a cocktail in cushioned hammocks suspended over the Indian Ocean while enjoying the sunset or watching the fish in the water.
- Soneva Fushi is located in the heart of the remote Baa Atoll. The latter has been declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, because it supports one of the largest groups of coral reefs in the Indian Ocean. As such, it should come as no surprise that Soneva Fushi is a diver’s dream, as it offers easy access to the world’s most breathtaking sites for scuba diving. The resort has its own PADI-certified dive center, and the professional scuba diving instructors guide excursions to more than 30 sites with great visibility.
- If you are not comfortable with or don’t feel like diving, then you will be happy to know that snorkeling at Soneva Fushi’s house reef is superb. Turtles and dolphins frequently pass by the island. The dive center provides diving masks with optical lenses, which was a welcome surprise (and a first) for me for me as I wear glasses.
- As explained above, the waters surrounding Soneva Fushi hold a tremendously high biodiversity and incredible array of sea life, but the absolute highlight takes place from June to November, when you have a chance to spot (and even swim with) the graceful manta rays and elusive whale sharks in the vicinity of the resort.
- At Soneva Fushi, you can watch classic movies under the stars in a return to the old traditions of Hollywood enjoyment. The magnificent resort’s Cinema Paradiso screens classic movies in an open-air theatre, a jungle-enshrouded auditorium with cushioned loungers. Popcorn and ice cream are served complimentary.
- Hidden among the island’s wild jungle foliage is an excellent spa, which represents a haven of calm for the mind, body and soul. You can choose from a variety of body treatments, specialist traditions and wellness therapies, ranging from soothing scrubs and oils of local coconuts to Tibetan hot stones. The spa is operated by Six Senses, a brand that’s world-famous for its wellness programs & facilities. I had a massage and it was phenomenal.
- Its remote island location in the midst of the Indian Ocean means that Soneva Fushi has one of the best locations on earth for visibility and gazing at the stars. The resorts takes full advantage of this by having its own observatory, where guests can peer through the lenses of a state-of-the-art telescope into space.
- Environmental and social responsibilities are at the core of the resort’s philosophy. For example, Soneva Fushi has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, its food is grown and sourced locally where possible, it recycles waste materials, and it preserves ecosystems (Soneva Fushi has two nature reserves on site, where turtles can nest).
- A brilliant initiative in line with Soneva Fushi’s ecofriendly policy is the stunning Glass Studio, where the Maldives’ waste glass is turned into valuable works of art. Here, guests can watch world-renowned glass artists create glass art, participate in art exhibitions, learn the art of glass blowing in special courses, or even personally design your own masterpiece to take home at the Maldives’ first glass studio.
- The resort is managed by Soneva, my absolute favorite hotel brand in the world. The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy: it aims to create unforgettable, innovating, and enlightening experiences that illuminate their guest’s lives whilst treading lightly on the earth. The ethos and values it is run by are what sets Soneva on different footing as compared to other high-end hotel brands. In addition, there’s also a lot of love and romance in the story of Soneva, which was founded in 1995 by Sonu Shivdasani, an Indian-British hotelier, and his wife Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model.
- The resort offers an abundance of activities that cater to all ages and even the most discerning of tastes: a wide selection of water sports (including catamaran sailing, sea kayaking, and windsurfing) and a variety of excursions (including a visit to local villages, cooking classes, private picnic on a desert island, sunset cruise by sailing dhoni, and private sandbank overnight experience) are available to guests, in addition to tennis, mountain biking, and astronomy classes.
- The wonderful service at Soneva Fushi is an art form. For example, room cleaning and turn-down service always take place when you are in the restaurants having breakfast or dinner. The staff is the happiest and kindest I have encountered in the Maldives, and they make you feel at home. Many of the staff members have worked for Soneva Fushi since day one (more than 20 years ago) – that is testament to how they are treated and in return how they treat you as guests and friends. I can understand why Soneva Fushi has the highest number of repeat guests of all the resorts in the Maldives.
- In 2016, Soneva Fushi launched the first floating villa in the Maldives, Soneva In Aqua. This pioneering concept combines all the benefits of the iconic resort’s services and amenities with the freedom and exclusivity associated with a private boat charter. The two-cabin boat features a spacious main cabin with a glass bottom spa and shower facilities. The second cabin offers a king-sized bed and en-suite facilities. Other features include an external raised sun and dining deck, a lower level bar and dining area plus daybeds, lounge seating and a jacuzzi. You can read my review of Soneva In Aqua here.
- Soneva Fushi is the sister resort of Soneva Jani, which is without any doubt the most fabulous and spectacular resort in the island. Soneva Jani‘s spectacular overwater villas are located in a 5.6 km (3,4 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. Each villa has a private pool and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with some villas featuring slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The highlight of the villas is the retractable roof in the master bedroom, which slides back at the touch of a button so that guests can lie in bed and stargaze. Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi are connected by a one hour boat trip, so you can combine the best of the world in one itinerary (beach villas at Soneva Fushi and overwater villas at Soneva Jani).
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Soneva Fushi is hand’s down one of the best resorts in the Maldives, and one of my absolute favorite ones in this island nation (and that means something since this paradise country is known for harboring several of the world’s most luxurious hotels). There is very little to say against Soneva Fushi as its beauty, accommodations, food, service, and amenities will sweep you off your feet and leave you speechless, but there are a few things it’s worthwhile noting to ensure you have the perfect stay:
- Sunsets may be spectacular at Soneva Fushi, but about 500 meters (1600 feet) off the sunset side of the island is the populated island of Eydhafushi, the capital of the Baa Atoll, which is clearly visible at the horizon (with some concrete building and high antennas). This somewhat dispels the feeling of being a castaway on an island. However, don’t be put off by this, since the sunset side is still my preferred part of the island with wide beaches and superb snorkeling. And of course, there are always numerous villas on the sunrise side of the island, which are blessed with uninterrupted views of the ocean (but the beach here is narrower).
- Soneva Fushi is ultra-luxurious but this is not the place to visit if you like glitz and bling. The resort identifies itself with understated barefoot luxury. It is a laid-back lifestyle, a world of bamboos and bicycles and slow living, where everyone goes shoeless 24 hours a day.
- There’s no communal pool on the island, so make sure you splash out on a villa with a private seawater pool.
- Be warned: all your other trips will pale in comparison to the memory of a Soneva Fushi vacation.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: contact me to get complimentary VIP perks at Soneva Fushi.
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking Soneva Fushi via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, breakfast, early check-in , late check-out, and $100 USD resort credit).
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Soneva Fushi (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: all villas at Soneva Fushi are phenomenal. But if unobstructed ocean views are what you are looking for, be sure to book or request a villa on the sunrise side of the island.
- Room tip: book a villa with a pool, since the resort has no communal pool (although the the island is surrounded by the world’s largest swimming pool).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best weather in the Maldives is between January and April, which also means high season (and high hotel rates). The monsoon runs from May to October, peaking in June. It is worth paying higher prices and sticking to the dry season as there is nothing to do on a rainy day except drink, eat, work out or scuba dive. Especially November and December, which are often labelled as dry season months, have been very unsettled in recent years.
HOW TO GET THERE
Soneva Fushi is located a 30-minute waterplane trip from Male International Airport (MLE). Check the Wikipedia page of Male International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Male International Airport.
BUFFET DINING AT MIHIREE MITHAA