Before we strap ourselves in on this wide armchair aboard a seaplane heading towards the Baa Atoll in the Maldives and listen to Norah Jones serenade us via the wireless headphones, be warned that this is not your regular hotel review.
Granted, no Lifestyle Asia review is ever your regular review, but there is so much about the Maldives that has already been said, that it feels almost exhausted. Sure, we will swoon for the colour of the sea which feels like a Photoshop filter no matter how many times you rub your eyes, whilst the dolphins do a 180-degree flip galore every time we look over the topaz gem-like waters against the sunset.
We’re not quite sure if that last one is biologically correct, but you get the gist.
And yet, no — this is the story of how we checked in to Soneva Fushi in the Maldives as seemingly regular city dwellers, and checked out and clocked out of so many lifestyle choices upon our return. A transformative stay at a resort that is really changing the game — even more relevantly now than ever before.
[All images courtesy of Soneva Fushi]
Soneva Fushi is located in the Baa Atoll on Kunfunadhoo Island, which at approximately 1.4 kilometres long and 400 metres wide is one of the largest islands in the Maldives. Upon landing at Male International Airport, a Tesla greeted us with open arms and flapping doors, and after checking our luggage into the seaplane terminal, took us to a private lounge where we awaited the glorious aircraft for the onward journey.
There is a lot we loved about the weekend at Soneva Fushi, but on a pedestal of Top 3 Moments, the seaplane journey ranks incredibly high. The sprawling blue beneath you and the sprinkling of islands and reefs you fly over are entirely surreal and a big wow factor, giving even the proud urbanite enough subtle seconds to think about the beauty of the planet. It’s a good prelude to what awaits at Soneva Fushi itself.
After 30 minutes on the seaplane and 30 Instagram stories later, we landed at Soneva Fushi ‘International Airport’ and were each received by our personal butlers — except they aren’t called ‘personal butlers’ here, but rather Mr or Mrs Friday. Aboard a short boat ride to the island, our Mr Friday welcomed us with a fresh juice and introduced us to Soneva’s infamous “No Shoes, No News” policy. This means you won’t be wearing Loubs, Jordans, or whatever pleases your feet during the entire duration of your stay, and you also won’t have access to the news in the form of TV channels (do not fear, there is Netflix here) or newspapers. As visitors on a press trip, this last feat was lightly terrifying, but we soon came to find it extremely relaxing.
There are 62 private villas at Soneva Fushi, each with their own stretch of pristine beach. The design ethos is one that balances privacy with a pure and honest connection to nature, with almost every villa type boasting a pool, and unusually large open-air bathrooms set within private gardens. Villas range from 1-9 bedrooms, and every single villa type includes private butler — nay, Mr/Mrs Friday — service.
We stayed in the Soneva Fushi Suite with Pool. Furnishings and decor are cosy yet not intrusive, and where interior design feels slightly lacking, the villas make up for in ample living space. Even the bathroom boasts a cosy daybed, for crying out loud.
In fact, there are multiple napping areas should you crave them, from the sunbeds and the hammock outside to the daybed by the pool, the countless pillows on the large sofa, the bed itself, and the bathroom. It’s a game-changer, really, to have that many options to take a snooze.
Beyond naps, there are small touches in the bedroom that really stood out for us at Soneva Fushi. There’s a really neat pillow and duvet menu (we went for silk, 10/10 recommend). The drinking water is sustainably sourced on the island and comes in glass bottles (there’s a general absence of plastic, too). The directory booklet has instructions for stargazing and astrological charts. And it even lists the best ways to have the best sleep while you’re here. We were particularly struck by one page which depicted the frequencies that exist in the air, with the most disruptive being that of the WiFi. Considering this, there’s even an On/Off switch for the WiFi in the villas. Simple, yet somewhat groundbreaking, and very effective. We slept like babies drunk on warm milk.
Getting around Soneva Fushi is done largely on (bare)foot, or by way of bicycle. Your Mr or Mrs Friday can also pick you up in a golf buggy, though we highly advise going with the other two options. No matter how you ride, there is a multitude of dining experiences to explore, from bespoke meals in remote locations to Michelin-starred dishes prepared by renowned visiting chefs.
Breakfast was inarguably the highlight to our tastebuds. It is served at ‘Mihiree Mitha’, which translates to “here it is” from the local language. The culinary heart of the island, the all-day dining venue features a large selection with many live cooking stations. We particularly loved the fresh fruit selection and the salad room, home to many a sprout and spread grown on the island itself. The health elixirs are also a must-try, and make for a solid start to the day, particularly if you like shots.
Just opposite lies ‘Down to Earth’, which is the more finer dining outlet. If you only have dinner in one location though, we recommend it to be ‘Fresh in the Garden’. Surrounded by tropical banana trees, the romantic restaurant has something of a treehouse about it, rising above the resort’s very own herb and vegetable garden, with a spectacular panorama view to admire.
Our favourite hangout spot on the entire island was ‘Out of the Blue’. The two-storey overwater structure houses five unique dining outlets, many of which also feature all-day dining. There are catamaran nets and daybeds, and a slide that leads into the pristine waters. It is the kind of place you could kick back with a glass of rosé or a scoop or seven of ice cream, and spend the whole day in awe of yourself. Also, the ice cream flavours here alone are enough reason to drop by. Campari and Orange? Honey and Walnut? Yuzu Sorbet? Extremely imaginative.
Beyond the larger dining outlets, cocktails can be enjoyed at the super chill overwater ‘Bar(a)bara’ bar, with catamaran nets set at the edge of the jetty. We also want to give a shoutout to the complimentary chocolate and cheese room that is open daily, for fulfilling a fantasy we had formerly only met in our wildest dreams.
You’d get a serious jaw drop from your friends if you returned from the Maldives without at least some sort of exploration of the incredible blue out there. At Soneva Fushi, head to the Soleni Dive Centre, where you’ll get a chance to explore more than 30 spectacular dive sites nearby alongside multi-lingual PADI instructors.
In line with the persisting theme of all things dreamy, come nightfall, definitely also head to The Observatory, where you’ll get a magnificent view of the galaxies through the lens of a high-powered telescope. There are visiting astronomers from time to time, who hold talks on the wonders of the universe. We left absolutely starry-eyed.
For the little ones, the Children’s Den should be the first stop. The huge two-floor villa is a real wonderland for any child, between a pirate’s boat pool area, to cooking classes and fun activities. A playhouse in every sense of the word, where parents can leave their kids as they go for a yoga session at the Turtle Beach Champa, or explore the Vegetable Gardens.
From a romantic outdoor Cinema Paradiso to private sandbank dinners and picnics post-massage at the spa, there are plenty of activities and experiences to partake in at Soneva Fushi. Unmissable, however, is the Dolphin Cruise.
Dolphins are regular visitors in the waters near Soneva Fushi, and aboard a Maldivian boat, we sat on the deck with canapes and champagne for a two-hour excursion. It’s timed perfectly such that the sun sets while you’re on the cruise, whilst a marine biologist explains the kinds of dolphins you may spot. We weren’t quite so lucky to actually spot dolphins that day, but the experience in itself was well worth it. A fine breeze, accompanied by possibly the best chocolate cookie in all of the Maldives.
There’s a lot to do and plenty to admire at Soneva Fushi, yet there is something that sticks in the mind stronger and longer than the admittedly really gorgeous ‘grams.
Real originators of the Robinson Crusoe vibe, there is an aura of liberation here, and it makes sense — after all, Soneva Sushi lies on an island as idyllic as they could possibly come. Yet you begin to think bigger about the little things the longer you stay.
We knew the exact little patch our breakfast lettuce came from, and picked a herb from the garden pre-dinner. We were encouraged to lie back and look up at the stars, and to think about formations. Consider the impact of the radiation that beams from your iPad, and please don’t leave behind plastic on the island, for the island houses none. Do you realise how quite alright it is if you’re not constantly on your cellphone? And just how good do we all look in resortwear linens barefoot?
‘No Shoes, No News’ is a great policy to start your trip. It’s that little push that gets you to zoom out and unwind, but also zoom in and realise what’s important. It’s proof that Soneva Fushi really got it right on a modern trail for millennial luxury: purity and sustainability, communicated in a lasting, genuine manner.
On our return, we never slept with the WiFi on ever again. Nights have been smooth sailing for the most part ever since.
Soneva Fushi, Kunfunadhoo Island, Baa Atoll, Maldives, +960 660-0304.