Soneva is my favorite hotel brand in the world. What I like so much about the Soneva – and how they discriminate themselves from their high-end competitors – is their pursuit for excellence, the unique design of their resorts, their commitment to inspired living, their very smart take on barefoot luxury, their breathtaking ‘remote but accessible’ natural locations, and their creation of authentic experiences (unlike any other). Soneva has four spectacular resorts so far (with more exciting properties planned to open in the near future):
- Soneva Jani, the Maldives’ most exclusive resort
- Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original hideaway
- Soneva in Aqua, the Maldives’ first floating villa
- Soneva Kiri, the most exclusive resort in Thailand (and my favorite resort in the world)
Now may be the best time ever to book a stay at one of the Soneva resorts since Soneva has launched a year-long campaign known as Soneva Stars, offering a dazzling array of guest activities and unique experiences, ranging from visiting; the full calender of activities can is found here. As part of the Soneva Stars festival, Soneva has confirmed a huge line-up of visiting experts, including chefs, authors, wine producers, world-champion free-divers, astronomers, artists, wellness practitioners, tennis coaches and more at all resorts. To give you an idea, this is what is happening this month at Soneva Fushi:
- There are several Michelin-starred chefs visiting the resort, including Syrco Bakker, head chef of the Dutch restaurant Pure C. His unique style has already awarded this young chef many prizes and titles, including #31 at The Best Chef Awards, 2 Michelin stars for Pure C**, 17,5 points in GaultMillau, and top 50 in OAD Fresh List 2015 of Europe’s best restaurants.
- Adding to the resort’s sports offerings, Chrtis Halliday – a Canadian tennis professional – will coache tennis lessons for guests across all skill levels. Chris was the Tennis Club Manager at the Elmdale Tennis Club in Canada, which has 500 members. He has a Club Pro 1 Tennis Certification, and an NCP Level 1 Tennis Certification, as well as a Bachelor of International Business.
- Freediver activities will be guided by Ken Kiriyama, a professional freediver who was the 16th best Freediver in the world in 2015 and has performed the 8th and 1 th deepest No Fins (CNF) dives in the world in 2016 and 2019 respectively.
- Bongchull Shin is a famous glass artist, who will demonstrate his art at the glass studio. By reflecting and refracting light, his glass art generates something new and unique.
“We’re really focused on crafting these beautiful, beyond bespoke experiences where discovery is a way of life. With our expert hosts as personal guides, we invite our guests to explore and delight in experiences that will last a lifetime. Soneva has never been so full of LIFE,” says Sonu Shivdasani, Founder, CEO and Joint Creative Director of Soneva. LIFE stands for Learning, Inspiring, Fun, Experiences.
Contact me if you want to book a stay at one of the Soneva resorts during the Soneva Stars compaign. Below is some extra information about the history of Soneva and the details (+ my reviews) of the group’s stunningly beautiful resorts.
SONEVA JANI, MALDIVES
Soneva Jani is the ultimate Maldives’ luxury resort (and simply outclasses all of its competitors in the archipelago). It comprises 24 water villas and one island villa, with additional island villas planned at a later stage. Inspired by a word that means wisdom in Sanskrit, Soneva Jani is located on the island of Medhufaru, which is part of an uninhabited five-island cluster in the Noonu Atoll. The highlight of the resort is its location within a 5.6 kilometer lagoon of crystal clear waters with uninterrupted 360° views of the Indian Ocean. The main island is fringed by pristine beaches and blanketed with lush tropical greenery. Every water 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.
- Hotel website: Soneva Jani
- Top 10 accolades: Soneva Jani features in my top 10 lists of the most insanely beautiful resorts in the Maldives, the most fabulous overwater villas in the Maldives, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and my favorite hotels in the world.
- Review: read my review of Soneva Jani here.
SONEVA FUSHI, MALDIVES
Soneva Fushi, the Maldives’ original desert island hideaway, is located in the stunnnig Baa Atoll island archipelago, 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. Intuitive service is provided by Mr./Ms. Friday butlers who know what you want before you want it.
- Hotel website: Soneva Fushi
- Top 10 accolades: 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.
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, breakfast, early check-in , late check-out, welcome Champagne with Maldivian tapas on arrival, one lunch for two, original handcrafted arrival and departure mementos, shoreline beach dinner, private sunset sailing by Dhoni at Baa Atoll, and a cooking class for two).
- Review: read my review of Soneva Fushi here.
SONEVA KIRI, THAILAND
Remote yet accessible by a 70 minute flight from Bangkok on the resort’s private plane, Soneva Kiri sits on Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood, in the Gulf of Siam. One of the most exclusive beach resorts in the world, Soneva Kiri offers an unrivalled combination of luxury, environmentally friendly design and unforgettable, authentic Thai experiences. The 35 resort villas (including 11 private residences) are amongst the largest in the world. Located on the idyllic beach or sunny slopes in the rainforest, all have stunning infinity pools, impossibly chic furnishings, personal electric buggies, and impeccable service courtesy of private butlers. Highlights include the open air cinema Paradiso, Benz’ mangrove restaurant, the chocolate & ice cream parlour, the children’s den, and the spectacular Treetop dining pod.
- Hotel website: Soneva Kiri
- Top 10 accolades: Soneva Kiri features in my top 10 lists of the most insanely beautiful hotels in Thailand, the world’s most amazing beach resorts, the world’s most outrageous hotel experiences, the best private plunge pools in the world, the world’s most beautiful hotel beaches, the world’s best luxury hotels, the world’s best family hotels, the world’s most remote hotels, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and luxury hotels with private airports.
- Tip: enjoy free VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. villa upgrade, breakfast, early check-in , late check-out, welcome Champagne with Thai tapas on arrival, and a 30 minute spa treatment for two).
- Review: read my review of Soneva Kiri here.
SONEVA IN AQUA, MALDIVES
Soneva in Aqua is the first floating villa in the Maldives and every honeymooner’s dream. The pioneering new boat villa concept of the ultra luxe Soneva hotel group combines all the benefits of the group’s 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, as well as a second room with 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.
- Hotel website: Soneva in Aqua
- Top 10 accolades: Soneva In Aqua features in my lists of the 40 hottest luxury hotel openings of 2015 and the top 10 best honeymoon resorts in the world.
- Review: read my review of Soneva In Aqua here.
HISTORY OF THE SONEVA HOTEL GROUP
In 1995, Sonu Shivdasani, an Indian-British hotelier, launched the now world-famous Soneva Fushi resort on the deserted Maldivian island of Kunfunadhoo. He also built his house there, together with his wife Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model, who developed the design and furnishing of the unique resort.
They had no idea that their intensely personal vision of a locally crafted villa and environmentally responsible lifestyle would form the basis of a successful collection of world-class hotels, resorts and spas. But that’s exactly what happened. Soneva Fushi was the first ‘castaway’ resort in the Maldives, pioneering a trend for back-to-nature luxury holidays. And it still tops my list of the top 10 best luxury resorts in the Maldives. In 2009, the Soneva Hotel group built a second, even more spectacular hotel – Soneva Kiri – on the unspoilt Thai island of Koh. Last year, the group launched the first floating villa in the Maldives, SonevaIn Aqua. And this autumn, it opens Soneva Jani, a spectacular resort that will set new standards in this destination that is already known for its world-class hotel standards.
The success of the Soneva brand also paved the way for Sonu and Eva’s other hotel group, the Six Senses Resorts & Spas, across South East Asia and Europe. In 2006, Soneva Fushi made a revenue of approximately US$ 20 million and by 2011, Six Senses was a $150–175 million international luxury spa and resort chain with 26 resorts and 41 spas. Under Eva’s and Sonu’s direction the Six Senses brand gained global fame before being sold in 2012.
Today, Sonu and Eva focus on their Soneva resorts with private residences, as part of the “One Owner, One Operator, One Philosophy, One Brand” strategy. And while the Sonevas may have many imitators, they have no equals. Both Soneva Resorts impress on a wide range of levels. Breathtaking ‘remote but accessible’ natural locations, effortlessly chic accommodation, incredible food, truly memorable activities, an inspiring ethos of sustainability and service that is uncannily intuitive.
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