Soneva Fushi Near+Far review: 10/10
Why book Soneva Fushi
As far as Maldives resorts go, few are as revered and imitated as Soneva Fushi. The resort opened in 1995 as the first propety from hotelier and wellness pioneers Sonu and Eva Shivdasani, who fell in love with the idyllic Kunfunadhoo island on their honeymoon in 1988. Fast forward to today, and Soneva Fushi has managed to retain its personal, loved, soulful feel but with a sprinkle of serious luxury thrown in.
Soneva Fushi is an island of superlative natural beauty, of rustic, quiet luxury, with an army of loyal fans around the world – including A-List celebrities who come to escape the real world and enter a world where being barefoot is actively encouraged. Clocks are set to Soneva time, in-tune with the body’s circadian rhythm, and there are no dress code expectations at all – allowing each guest to truly unwind. The island itself is covered in dense tropical greenery and home to a colony of rabbits who make an appearance as you cycle between the villas, beaches, spa, shops and dining outlets. The resort also challenges any stigma associated with Maldives, and, as this highly strung reviewer admits, she always leaves this island wanting more, with so much more to see and do. This island is loved the world over, where guests return time after time – not wanting to explore others – and, all agree, this is paradise on earth.
In the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of the Baa Atoll – an atoll known for its outstanding natural beauty, coral reefs, islands, seagrass beds and mangroves. More connectivity than a speedboat is needed from Malé International Airport, but two differently priced options mean guests are not forced to take a pricey seaplane. Guests can reach Soneva Fushi by a 30-minute Manta Air seaplane from Malé or a 30-minute domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Airport, followed by a 12-minute complimentary speedboat ride to Soneva Fushi. While waiting for a seaplane, guests can use the dedicated Soneva Lounge – an extension of the project with the same white-washed, boho aesthetic and the islands’ organic natural snacks and homemade drinks.
Soneva Fushi’s personality and warmth, of laid-back rustic yet six-star luxury, is most apparent in its 72 villas. Each is slightly different, so you can return each time and enjoy a unique stay – though many regulars request their same beloved home-away-from-home. Soneva Fushi is all about connecting with nature and the island, and the focus is on beachfront villas ensconced by jungle. There are 64 on the ocean, nestled behind the thick tropical forest, all with outdoor private pools, some with beautiful outdoor bathrooms and private gyms, all with white organic linen, canopied beds, wooden ceilings and floors and dressing rooms with reef-friendly toiletries and yoga mats.
Winding outdoor stairs make you feel like a carefree child staying in a jungle playhouse, and there’s something magical about lying back in the deep, pool-like outdoor bathtub and listening to the chirps of wildlife looking at the blue or dazzling starry sky. Being the pioneers, there are eight overwater villas jutting from a jetty complete with waterslides, outdoor bathrooms with ladders into the ocean and retractable ceilings showing the same dazzling skies. Complimentary laundry service is a truly brilliant and hospitable touch, with a donation of $10 per bag to Soneva’s charities.
Food and drink: 10/10
There are numerous restaurants and bars at Soneva Fushi, offering every foodie experience one would want from the Maldives. There are the beachside dining shacks overlooking turquoise water and mashed potato sands – one with an exclusive sushi dining room and secret menus -, the exclusive celebrity chef spot perched high in the treetops, a Southeast Asian plant-based restaurant set amongst the lush gardens, countless cooking stations across the island at its various activity areas and the hub of the resort, Down to Earth.
Set in a forest clearing by the soothing lapping waves, Down to Earth serves buffet and live cooking breakfasts, lunches and dinners, offering everything from fresh organic salads and bowls to Asian, Southeast Asian and Maldivian classics, pasta and pizza, fresh fish and everything in between. Wellness lovers will go mad for the assortment of elixirs and healing brews at breakfast. There’s nothing like the resort’s 24-hour chocolate and ice cream and cheese and charcuterie rooms, with two of each on the island offering unlimited complimentary plant-based ice cream (creamy and seriously addictive), raw chocolates, pralines and truffles, and speeds of international cheeses, bread and cold cuts.
Spa and facilities: 10/10
Soneva has long been a pioneer for wellness, an ethos passed down from founders Sonu and Eva, and this has been truly realised in Soneva Soul – the group’s mind-boggling new wellness programme and facilities in Fushi alongside sister island Jani. Fushi hides under a jungle canopy, with a thatched roof, white-washed walls and the trickle of waterfalls as a soundtrack. This is anything but a standard spa; there’s IV vitamin therapy, cryotherapy, and oxygen therapy on offer, along with classic relaxing massages and facials, and resident Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors on site to provide personalised programmes. Relax post-treatment in the fresh juice bar overlooking the treetops.
With such a large and verdant island to play with, each corner and winding path hides another exciting adventure. A dive school, tree-top zip lining, outdoor cinema, two tennis courts, non-motorised watersports, yoga pavilion are available for guests, plus a communal waterslide and overwater hammocks for the full Maldives experience. There are boutiques and jewellery stores, plus the Barefoot Bookshop – one of the most impressive and curated book shops straight out of London or New York with the latest reads and literary classics. Once a year, the island hosts its iteration of the Jaipur Literary Festival, where the colourful festival takes over the island for 10 days bringing word-leading speakers, Bollywood stars, directors and creatives for talks, seminars and exhibition displays.
The vibe: 9/10
Friendly, but not invasive, warm and relaxed, yet running like clockwork – the vibe at Soneva Fushi is unique. Barefoot butlers feel like family by the end of your stay; fellow guests are smiley and their best selves. This is another kind of luxury, where you’ll want for nothing and become the best version of yourself. This unique Soneva vibe is epitomised on the island’s sandbank cocktail evenings, where guests are boated onto the private sandbank off the resort for cocktails, wine and mingling, plus live music.
Anything to add
What makes this island feel even more wholesome and magical is its rigorous sustainability programme and love for the planet. All water is bottled on the island, and 90% of waste is either reused of recycled; plus, there’s been a conscious effort to remove beef from menus in favour of more sustainable meats (though it is available off the menu on request). Soneva’s superlative Soneva Unlimited package is also available at Soneva Fushi, offering unlimited spa treatments, activities and f&b for $920 per person per day, making it one of the most loved and luxurious resorts in the Maldives.