• 5 minute read
  • May 01, 2024
Soneva Fushi is the ultimate resort for barefoot luxury — here’s why

For many, the Maldives is a place to disconnect from the world – to abandon your computer screens and social media platforms in favour of relaxation and reflection. At Soneva Fushi, leaving the outside world behind gives you space to not only look inwards, but to also discover the many stories in every corner of the resort.

Soneva’s story began nearly 30 years ago with Sonu and Eva Malmström Shivdasani, who opened the Kunfunadhoo Island resort in 1995. Beyond the pair’s names forming the two halves of the Soneva brand, their influence permeates throughout, with Eva championing eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives, and Sonu nurturing its philosophy and culture.

Upon opening, Soneva Fushi became the blueprint for the barefoot luxury the Maldives is now known for. While open-air bathrooms and using bicycles to explore are practically a given in 2024, it was at Soneva Fushi that they were pioneered. Located in the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the resort is committed to only using sustainable, ethical and cruelty-free materials (and has done so since day one), with Eva involved in a number of environmental campaigns including those to stop turtle hunting and shark finning.

Flying Sauces, Zipline Dining at Soneva Fushi. Image: Supplied

Today, Soneva Fushi is the benchmark that other Maldivian hotels aspire to. After a 30-minute seaplane ride from Malé International Airport, you’ll be given the opportunity to ditch your shoes in favour of a toes-in-the-sand experience. Choose between 64 sunrise or sunset villas, the former offering unrivalled views of the sea and the latter aimed at snorkelers, who can find three house reef access points nearby. Each of the villas is surrounded by lush junglescape, offering total privacy, but you can also opt for one of eight Water Reserves connected to the island by a jetty, complete with both a private pool and a water slide for straight ocean access.

Dive into Soneva Fushi’s slow life philosophy with a visit to Eco Centro, the resort’s ‘waste-to-wealth’ centre that is responsible for recycling 93 percent of the materials from the island, transforming items such as aluminium cans into beautiful artworks. Wander over to Shades of Green, the plant-based bistro located within Soneva Fushi’s organic vegetable gardens, to try the Maldivian and Southeast Asian-inspired menu featuring just six innovative dishes.

Out of the blue at Soneva Fushi. Image: Supplied

With its vibrant coral reefs – which the resort is dedicated to supporting through its very own coral nursery, set up by the Soneva Foundation – the underwater world of Soneva Fushi offers the chance to spot dolphins, manta rays and more, but you don’t have to don your snorkelling gear to see wildlife. On-island, you’ll find a bunny clinic, which was founded in 2021 to look after the island’s burgeoning rabbit population. Unexpected, certainly, but Soneva Fushi’s furry inhabitants all trace back to island caretaker Abdulla Kudafari’s pet bunny from 32 years ago.

Looking to the skies above, you can find out more about the universe at Ever Soneva So Celestial, the resort’s observatory. A lack of light pollution and the Maldives’ location on the equator make for spectacular viewing, and the resident astronomers will guide you on a journey through the solar system using the high-powered telescope. 

Other stories await at Soneva Art & Glass, where the ever-changing roster of artists-in-residence create pieces from waste at the Maldives’ first hot-glass studio. Should you be feeling creatively inspired yourself, you can also try a glassblowing class, or make your own paperweight.

The island is filled with experiences, and that is continued with its dining offering. Aside from Shades of Green, you can try freshly caught seafood at Out of the Sea, or embark on the world’s first fine-dining zipline experience at the aptly-named Flying Sauces. Acclaimed Sri Lankan chef Dharshan Munidasa is behind Carne Diem Grill, which is centred around a charcoal grill operating at 750 degrees Celsius to pack meats, seafood and vegetables with flavour, while the intimate Once Upon A Table gives diners a chance to enjoy a culinary theatre experience. The Soneva Stars programme brings famed chefs to the restaurant, with world-renowned names such as Jane Alty, Jesse Blake and Tom Aikens all due to make appearances in coming months. 

Island aerial of Soneva Fushi. Image: Supplied

That same programme also provides a roster of first-rate wellness practitioners to Soneva Soul for those looking inward on their visit. Spanning two-storeys, treatments at the spa utilise ancient knowledge alongside the latest innovations in wellness technology, with a menu designed to combat specific concerns such as skin health or sleep disorders. For stress relief, the Shirodhara treatment, in which a medicated oil is dripped onto the forehead, is highly recommended. The likes of Alan Dolan, Kristin Kaspersen and Peter Harper will be visiting over the course of the next 12 months, but for those whose wellness journey focuses on being active, the resort will offer the chance to play tennis against former World No. 4 Jonas Björkman, or learn from football freestyler Marcel Gurk later this year.

As an all-villa retreat, Soneva Fushi is just as suited to families as it is to couples. The Den, the resort’s kids club, is the largest in the region, covering the equivalent of six tennis courts. Practically a hotel within the hotel, childminders watch over your little ones while they splash around in the two shallow swimming pools, explore the eight-metre-tall pirate ship, take part in cooking classes or head to the cinema for a movie night. A technology-free zone, The Den offers kids the chance to learn, play and have fun without screens. The opportunity to disconnect is extended to adults, too, with an on/off switch for WiFi in each of the villas, as well as a number of internet-free dining spaces across the island.

There are hundreds of stories to discover at Soneva Fushi, and dozens of opportunities to create your own, whether you’re looking to switch off completely, explore the natural beauty of the underwater world or try unique dining experiences. Both blueprint and benchmark for Maldives resorts, Soneva Fushi is the ultimate offering of barefoot luxury. 

Visit soneva.com and follow @soneva on Instagram.

Next In