Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel contests, tips, series, or news.
Today: Sonevi Fushi or Soneva Jani, which one is best?
One of the leading hotel brands when it comes to sustainable tourism and barefoot luxury is Soneva, the hotel company that manages two of the most impressive resorts in the Maldives: Soneva Fushi (located on its own tropical island) and Soneva Jani (located in a huge lagoon with five islands, four of them deserted). Changes are that these fabulous resorts have appeared on your radar (or in your Instagram feed) when you are planning a luxury holiday in the Maldives, since they both epitomize the ultimate Maldivian dream, providing guests with an exceptional one-of-a-kind holiday.
Many travelers who want to stay at Soneva Fushi or Soneva Jani often wonder which one is best, and that’s also the single most questioned I am asked about the Soneva Resorts. IMHI, Soneva Fushi offers more of a beach & island experience, with more to do and exceptional dining experiences. Soneva Jani offers more of an overwater experience, with incredible villas featuring slides and retractable roofs, and with a focus on tranquility and holistic wellness. My personal advice would be to stay at both resorts and to combine them in one and the same itinerary (4 to 5 nights in each resort) to experience the best of both worlds. Soneva operates daily transfers between both resorts (private or shared), so it’s very easy to get from Soneva Fushi to Soneva Jani or vice versa (just one hour by boat).
No matter which resort you choose to stay at (Soneva Fushi or Soneva Jani or a combination of both), once you’ve stayed at a Soneva resort, that’s it: you’re in love. There’s no turning back. And apparently, I am not the only one who feels so passionate about Soneva: 60% of visitors to Soneva Fushi, the original luxury hotel in the Maldives, are returning guests.
Which one is your favorite: Soneva Jani or Soneva Fushi? Leave a comment.
In this article, I’ll compare the following 15 features between both resorts in detail and declare the winner in each category:
- Beauty of the island & beaches
- Beauty of the lagoon
- Snorkeling, diving & maritime wildlife
- Instagram X-factor & photography
- Vegan dining
- All-inclusive concept
- Complimentary chocolate & ice cream
- Spa & wellness
- Family friendliness
- Resort amenities & activities
1. ISLAND & BEACHES
Winner: Soneva fushi
Soneva Fushi is a tropical paradise unrivaled in the world. The entire island is covered by a magnificent verdant jungle and completely surrounded by a blinding-white, palm-fringed beach 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. It’s important to notice though that Soneva Fushi does not have a beach club; instead, all of the jungle villas have direct access to the beach (with a couple of sunbeds placed on the sand in front of each villa).
Soneva Jani’s two overwater jetties are also attached to a tropical island, called Medhufaru. The latter is one of the largest islands in the Maldives, but it offers a different type of beauty: it is not as lush and blanketed with palms as Soneva Fushi, and mangroves are the main ecosystem. Also, the island is not completely encircled by beaches, and ‘only’ two beaches are open to guests, but they do come with a beach club: there is a smaller beach club (with water sports center) on Medhufaru’s northern tip (North Beach; close to the Chapter One jetty) and a much larger beach club with some restaurants on the island’s southern tip (South Beach; close to the Chapter Two jetty).
Winner: Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani is located within a 5.6 km (3,5 mi) lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. It’s the largest and most beautiful lagoon of its kind in the Maldives. The lagoon is so huge that more than 7,000 Olympic swimming pools can fit inside it. It’s impossible to find words to describe the intensely mesmerizing blue of the lagoon’s waters. This fifty shades of blue strike the entire Maldivian archipelago and are present in the shallows of every atoll’s islands, but nowhere are they as blue and clear as at Soneva Jani (especially at the Chapter One jetty). In fact, these are the most vibrant shades of blue that I have ever seen in all my years of traveling around the globe. Four of the five islands in the lagoon remain entirely undeveloped, so there is also always somewhere a place to play castaway.
Soneva Fushi is also located in an incredibly stunning lagoon, albeit probably not as visually stunning as the one at Soneva Jani. The lagoon of Soneva Fushi is more typical of what you might find at other islands in the Maldives: clear blue, shallow waters surround the island with a sudden drop off of the lagoon into the oceanic depth a few dozen meters offshore, resulting in an abrupt change in the water color from light blue to dark blue (contrary to Soneva Jani, where light blue is all you see as far as the eye stretches). Also, about 650 m (2100 ft) off the sunset side of Soneva Fushi is the island of Eydhafushi, the capital of the Baa Atoll, which is clearly visible at the horizon (with some concrete building and antennas). This might somewhat dispel the feeling of being a castaway on an island.
3. SNORKELING, DIVING & MARITIME WILDLIFE
Winner: Soneva Fushi
Soneva Fushi is located in the heart of the Maldives’ 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, offering easy access to the world’s most breathtaking scuba diving sites. The resort has its own PADI-certified dive center, and the professional scuba diving instructors guide excursions to more than 30 sites, such as Hanifaru Bay, home to one of the world’s largest populations of manta rays. If you are not comfortable with or don’t feel like diving, you’ll be happy to know that snorkeling at Soneva Fushi’s house reef is superb. Turtles and dolphins also frequently pass close by the island (especially on the sunset side). The resort’s dive center provides diving masks with optical lenses for those guests wearing glasses.
While incredibly beautiful, the lagoon at Soneva Jani is not teeming with fish, although I noted that there is more wildlife present now than there was during my last visit three years ago (harmless sharks and stingrays daily frequented the waters around the villas). Due to the lack of fish within the lagoon, Soneva Jani offers snorkeling trips by boat to its house reef at the outer edge of the lagoon. Corals of all species are present here, as well as a great deal of fish and huge old coral colonies creating a nice shallow 3D reefscape There are also many dive sites with rich marine life around the resort, sure to tempt all marine enthusiasts. But again, if snorkeling and diving is what you are looking for, you’re better off staying at Soneva Fushi.
Winner: Soneva Fushi for beach villas and Soneva Jani for overwater villas
Soneva Jani’s focus is on an overwater experience. Within its massive lagoon are 51 overwater villas and a few beach villas, making Soneva Jani one of the lowest density resorts in the world. The scale of the villas is extraordinary, with both one bedroom (catering to couples and families with young children) and multi-bedroom villas (catering to larger travel parties) available. The overwater villas are located along two jetties that are connected to Medhufaru island and curve over the blue water like a snake. At more than 410 square meters (4413 square feet), the one bedroom villas are the largest entry-level villas in the Indian Ocean. Every water villa has a private pool (which is large enough to swim laps) and opens to its own stretch of lagoon, with most villas featuring curved slides going directly from the top deck into the lagoon below. The villas at Chapter One (labeled as ‘retreats’) and Chapter Two (labeled as ‘reserves’) are similar in layout, but the villas at Chapter Two are newer, offer more shade during the heat of the day, and they also have more indoor spaces which are airconditioned (e.g. the lounge area in the villas at Chapter Two is airconditioned while that’s not the case at the Chapter One villas).
Soneva Fushi’s focus is more on a beach experience. The resort’s 64, thatched-roof, beach villas are scattered along the coastline. While they are hidden among dense jungle vegetation (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. In 2021, Soneva Fushi saw the addition of eight massive overwater one- and two bedroom overwater villas, which are similar in layout to the overwater villas at Soneva Jani (albeit featuring a more rustic type of design). These overwater villas are located along a gently curving jetty on the island’s southern tip.
5. INSTAGRAM X-FACTOR & PHOTOGRAPHY
Winner: Soneva Jani
While the beauty of Soneva Fushi’s tropical island and beaches are unmatched and understated, Soneva Jani offers the best photo opportunities, making the resort the holy grail of luxury travel for many Instagram fashionables. Indeed, the sight of Soneva Jani’s two jetties winding over the surreal blue waters and the fabulous architecture of the resort’s overwater villas and structures seem to come straight out of a fairytale and are famous all over world. Soneva Jani looks as though social media was at the forefront of minds of the designers, and images of the resort have been shared hundreds of millions of times on Instagram. Going down the slides at Soneva Jani will not only evoke your inner child as you slip and slide into the crystal clear Maldives water, but they will also guarantee some stunning photos, inspiring many other travelers.
Winner: Soneva Fushi
Offering the best dining experience in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi features a staggering number of dining venues (nine in total), with over-the-top settings, impeccable service, and divine food. This includes Fresh In The Garden (a dining venue suspended above the jungle canopy) and Out of the Blue (an overwater structure housing five fine dining outlets, including a terrific Teppanyaki table and world-class sushi counter). A stand out among the resort’s fine dining venues is Flying Sauces, which combines world-class gastronomy with the thrill and excitement of ziplining: after being securely strapped into safety harnesses, guests soar along a 200 m (656 ft) zipline route to reach an elevated dining platform, where a gastronomic dinner awaits them. Appealing to the international foodie scene and cementing Soneva Fushi’s reputation as an epicurean destination, the resort also regularly hosts some of the world’s most celebrated and Michelin-starred chefs.
It’s hard to find a resort anywhere in the world that offers better food than Soneva Fushi although its sister resort Soneva Jani comes close, with menus as extravagant as the resort itself. There are also nine dining outlets at Soneva Jani, offering various destinations cuisines, in addition to several private dining experiences. Highlights are the Crab Shack (voted the ‘world’s most romantic restaurant’ on CNN) and Overseas by chef Mathias Dahlgren (serving plant-based and pescatarian dishes). Soneva has also gained a worldwide reputation for its wine collection and sommeliers, and at Soneva Jani, the wine is housed in a glass tower and the list contains around 50% organic and biodynamic wine.
Winner: Soneva Fushi
Soneva Fushi offers by far the most lavish breakfast buffet that I have ever encountered in any hotel in the world. It features a dedicated ham and cheese room, with sumptuous homemade cheeses, charcuterie and own-smoked salmon, in addition to an extensive menu with delicious Western and Asian dishes. You can also take your pick of more luscious delicacies straight from the wood-fired rock oven, hot and cold smoke oven and the earthen tandoor. There’s also another cold room offering an incredible variety of salads and vegetables, next to an indoor fruit counter which offers the most amazing range of fresh fruits you’ll ever see at a hotel.
Soneva Jani has two breakfast restaurants. One venue is an indoor restaurant, housed in the The Gathering (the massive overwater structure at Chapter One), while the other venue is a beach shack on South Beach, closed to Chapter Two. Both venues offer a lavish and extensive buffet spread complemented by à la carte dishes (albeit not as impressive as the breakfast at Soneva Fushi, but as said, that one is hard to beat).
8. VEGAN DINING
Winner: Tie – Soneva Fushi & Soneva Jani
A focus on organic, plant-based dining is part of our Soneva’s philosophy, which champions holistic wellbeing and a healthier, more sustainable way of living. Red meat has been almost completely removed from all the menus at both Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi, and the use of dairy products and refined sugars and flours has been significantly reduced. Both resorts also feature a sublime vegan dining venue.
Shades of Green at Soneva Fushi is the Maldives’ first vegan restaurant. The evening begins with a tour of the garden, and guests pick, taste and smell the produce and discover hidden amuse bouches. The five menus by Danish chef Carsten Kyster are based on the vibrant colors of freshly picked produce: Purple, Yellow, Orange, Red and Green. They fuse the flavors and fragrant spices of Maldivian and South-east Asian cuisine with Chef Kyster’s Nordic heritage, prepared using traditional techniques such as smoking, salting, fermenting and pickling to let the ingredients shine. Each colorful menu features six courses – Cleansing, Crispy, Raw, Grains, Fire, Sweets – with simple yet innovative dishes that showcase the finest seasonal vegetables, salads, fruit and herbs cultivated at Soneva Fushi.
So Wild by Diana Von Cranach is a fully plant-based restaurant in the midst of Soneva Jani’s organic garden. Diana’s 50 years of experience in plant-focused dining come to life in a menu that draws inspiration from Ayurveda and highlights ingredients grown at the resort. Having forged her own culinary path in Asia, the internationally renowned raw food chef and cookbook author has created a menu that revives historical recipes from around South East Asia and Indonesia. Ingredients are prepared using techniques like steaming, flash-frying, and dehydrating when they aren’t presented raw.
9. ALL INCLUSIVE CONCEPT
Winner: Soneva Jani Chapter Two
When guests book a stay in any of Soneva Jani’s Chapter Two overwater or island villas, they get to experience Soneva Unlimited, an indulgent new offering that invites guests to enjoy every facet of Soneva Jani to their heart’s desire, all included in the price of the villa. Soneva Unlimited includes: dining at all bars, restaurants and in-villa dining; alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at all bars and restaurants; visiting Michelin-starred chef dinners and experiences; wines from the Soneva Unlimited list; experiences, diving, and children’s experiences; and spa treatments. Also included under Soneva Unlimited is a dedicated Barefoot Butler, return shared seaplane transfers from Malé, daily laundry service, and daily replenishment of the in-villa minibar. The full Soneva Unlimited menu can be viewed here.
10. COMPLIMENTARY CHOCOLATE AND ICE CREAM
Winner: Tie – Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani
Soneva Fushi has two chocolate & ice cream parlors, one located near the arrival jetty and one at the overwater structure Out Of the Blue. Open from morning 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.
Soneva Jani also has two ice cream and chocolate rooms, where you can choose from over 50 flavors of ice creams and handmade chocolates (with the cocoa goodness present in blends of up to 95%, be it in the form of mousses, cookies, drinks, bon-bons or truffles). One is located inside The Gathering, the massive overwater structure at Chapter One, and one is housed in the dining complex on South Beach, close to Chapter Two. Both rooms are open from breakfast till dinner.
11. SPA & WELNESS
Winner: Soneva Jani
Soneva Jani features not one but two wellness centers, and is on its way to become one of the world’s best spa resorts. The resort’s new wellness center is called Soneva Soul (opened in 2022). Located on Medhufaru island, not far from Soneva Jani’s picturesque South Beach, Soneva Soul sets a new standard in holistic wellness. The facility has been designed to harmonize with its breath-taking setting and features two indoor therapy rooms and three open-air treatment pavilions with unmatched views of the spectacular natural surrounds. The wellness center includes a dedicated Ayurvedic Clinic as well as an indoor consultation room for visiting specialists. Alongside a cross-functional fitness area, an open-air yoga pavilion includes facilities for aerial yoga. The new complex also features a retail area, featuring sustainable apparel, wellness products and accessories. Soneva Soul complements Soneva Jani’s original overwater spa, which is located within The Gathering. The latter is a small intimate facility, which houses a couple of treatment rooms, a relaxation lounge, and sauna & steam rooms.
Soneva Fushi’s recently upgraded and expanded its wellness center – also called Soneva Soul – although it’s not as visually impressive as Soneva Soul at Soneva Jani. Encircled by the island’s lush jungle, the two-story wellness complex is inspired by its tranquil location, inviting guests to rejuvenate, restore and relax. The treatment menu at Soneva Soul unites two apparent opposites: traditional healing therapies and ancient rituals include Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine and herbalism; and innovative treatment methodologies include vitamin therapy and integrative medicine, such as cryotherapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy and ozone therapy. Each treatment, ritual or therapy is based upon outcomes that target your individual needs, from rest, recovery and regeneration to detoxification, movement and health optimization.
Winner: Soneva Jani
The epitome of a romantic holiday destination, romance is what the Maldives is all about and it delivers on every level, especially at Soneva Jani. It’s probably every couples dream to spend their honeymoon here, as Soneva Jani offers the perfect combination of luxury, nature and romance. The property has the most stunning water villas in the world with private pools that looks out onto its own lagoon site and most villas come with water slides from the sun deck down to the lagoon. These over-the-top villas also have a retractable roof allowing couples to enjoy some romance right under the stars.
13. FAMILY FRIENDLINESS
Winner: Soneva Fushi
Soneva Fushi is an adventure playground for children and teenagers. The island’s natural surrounds provide incredible opportunities for fun, educational and inspirational activities and experiences. Soneva Fushi has the largest kids’ club of the Indian Ocean, called the Den. Here, children can explore a pirate ship, two swimming pools, a Lego and Duplo room, dress-up and makeup area, cinema, library, learning area, music room filled with instruments, and more. Child caretakers are always on hand to watch over their every move, while parents can enjoy some quiet time. Children can also discover the marine world with Soneva’s Marine Biologist.
Although it might be less appealing to families because of its reputation as a honeymoon destination, Soneva Jani is also a haven for families. There is an ever-changing weekly program of activities and experiences to keep children of all ages entertained, from ziplining through a waterfall to taking a turn at the DJ booth, amongst a range of unique experiences. Older children and teens have access to Soneva Academy, with courses in the marine life of the Maldives and more. And the resort is currently building what will become an even larger kids’ club than the one at Soneva Fushi.
14. RESORT AMENITIES
Winner: Tie – Soneva Jani & Soneva Fushi
Both resorts offer a wide range of excellent amenities.
Soneva Jani houses several of its amenities inside an overwater building at Chapter One, which they call The Gathering. This building connects to all of the water villas at Chapter One via a snake-like jetty so guests can get to the building and back with ease. It contains the restaurants, a bar, retail shop, gym, small spa, and conference room. Next to the Gathering is a bookstore, dive center, and an overwater observatory. Aside from these amenities in and around The Gathering, there are also several facilities located on Medhufaru island: a tennis court, organic garden, water sports center on North Beach, jungle gym, a theater called Cinema Paradiso, and the new wellness center, called Soneva Soul.
Soneva Fushi’s lush island is packed with unique facilities for guests to enjoy. This includes an observatory, where you can watch the stars using a high-powered telescope. For diving, there’s the Soleni Dive Center, perfect for exploring over 30 dive sites in the area alongside PADI-licensed instructors. There’s also a huge outdoor theater called Cinema Paradiso on the island’s northern tip. Guests can also make use a revamped spa center, gym, tennis court, and a water sports center that offers paddle boarding, kayaking, and surfing.
Winner: Tie – Soneva Jani & Soneva Fushi
Both Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi are carbon neutral, with their lagoons and house reefs designated as a protected area. Coral reef nursery program? Their marine biologist runs it. Saving the sea turtles? A team is ready to safeguard hatchlings. Recycling? A sophisticated onsite center recycles a whopping 90 per cent of the resort’s solid waste. There’s even an on-site glass studio at Soneva Fushi, which recycles glass for Soneva’s rooms and restaurants. The villas at Soneva Jani and Soneva Fushi are built using sustainable goods (including repurposed insulating materials), natural ventilation keeps things cool, water is heated by solar panels and LED lighting reduces energy consumption and light pollution. An onsite desalination process allows the resorts to be self-sufficient with water usage and the resort gardens flourish with rainwater alone. All of the herbs and leafy vegetables used in the restaurants are grown in the onsite organic vegetable gardens and both resort works closely with local fisherman. Soneva Fushi also developed a sustainable, insecticide-free mosquito management system, which has led to a significant reduction in the local mosquito population. Both resorts have a commitment to hiring locally and have helped three nearby islands to set up sound waste management systems.
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..I think both 🙂