Dotting the powder-white beaches of a private island in the Maldives, boutique hotel Soneva Fushi’s eco-chic villas are the stuff of castaway fantasies. Cast off your shoes and your worries: with a superb spa, mesmerising house reef and ask-for-anything butler service, you won’t need either in this laid-back playground of desert-island indulgence.
Get this when you book through us:
One dinner at either Down to Earth or Fresh in the Garden and a cookie-making class for children
Noon, but flexible subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £1781.73 ($2,380), including tax at 25.44 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of $6.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast, otherwise it costs US$60 a person. Half-board bookings also include dinner and full-board bookings include all meals.
With clear skies and hardly any light pollution, you’ll get spectacular views of the starry night from the resort’s telescope-equipped observatory.
At the hotel
Six Senses spa, private beach with watersports facilities, bikes to borrow, observatory, open-air cinema, floodlit tennis court, badminton, snooker table, group yoga and tai chi classes, jogging trail, board games, ice-cream parlour, library, stash of CDs and DVDs, free WiFi. In rooms: your very own Barefoot Butler, flatscreen TV, DVD player, preloaded iPod and dock, binoculars, air-conditioning, minibar, tea- and coffee-making facilities. The resort can also organise scuba diving, motorised watersports, and local boat trips.
Our favourite rooms
Sunsets may be spectacular at Soneva Fushi, but villas on the sunrise side of the island are blessed with uninterrupted views of the ocean. All have an indoor-outdoor feel, with garden bathrooms, cosy outdoor seating areas, and rustic-chic interiors of wood and crisp cottons. There’s no communal pool on the island, so make sure you splash out on a villa with a private seawater pool. The one at Retreat Villa (61) extends into the shade of the second-floor open air dining area connecting the two bedroom suites of this sprawling hideaway. The master outdoor bathroom is equally impressive: with a pond, sunken bathtub, steam room and a small private gym, it may well tempt you away from the decadent spa.
There is no communal pool. Some villas have private seawater pools; all have their own secluded stretch of white-sand beach.
If it wasn't on a private island, the spoiling Six Senses Spa would be a destination in its own right. Treatments are high-touch, high-tech and hand-crafted to your needs. You can stick to the standard (but always blissful) western spa fare: detox and hot-stone massages, anti-aging facials and prettifying pedicures. Or, take it to the next level and experiment with Ayurvedic bodywork, a Marma massage to balance your chakras or a yoga class designed to detox your intestines.
It’s more about what not to pack: for a truly blissed-out castaway experience, leave the phone charger at home. And don’t bother with shoes – no one on the island wears them.
Each villa has its very own Barefoot Butler to look after guests’ every need. Craving a refill from the ice-cream parlour? Just ask.
Welcome. Extra beds can be added for US$120 a night for over-14s, $60 for 7–14 year olds and free for under-7s. Babysitting is available for US$18 per hour. Children aged seven to 11 get 50 per cent off food and drink: kids under six dine for free.
Babies and over-5s.
The Soneva Fushi Villa suite and tree house is perfect for Robinsons travelling with their family. Older children will love the seawater pool and tree house: 2.5 metres above the ground, it has a bunk bed and single bed that sleep up to three children.
There’s a chance you won’t see much of your little Smiths when they discover the Den: probably the best kids' club ever built. There are secret passageways, a clownfish-shaped wading pool for toddlers and a large pool with a slide from the main building, a pirate ship, ping-pong hut, trampolines, a children’s mocktail bar, lego room, dress-up area, cinema, library, learning area, music room filled with instruments, a zip line, and swings hanging from the trees in the botanic garden. Older children will love the beanbags to sink into, cinema room and music room with DJ corner, as well as the art, craft and cooking classes. Open from 10am to 5pm, the Den is free and supervised, and welcomes children aged 4-12; younger children need to be accompanied by an adult.
Older kids can safely explore the island: there are no dangerous animals or insects, and plenty of critters to keep them occupied (geckos, chickens and rabbits wander freely). There are smaller bicycles and tricycles for them to borrow to roam around, and they can enjoy the watersports and snorkelling, play table tennis, badminton, tennis, volleyball, or just flop down with some pizza and pop corn to watch films at the open-air cinema.
There is no communal swimming pool, and you’ll need to keep an eye on young swimmers in the villas with private pools. The lagoon is very calm and there is no need to worry about currents or tides, but little feet may need water shoes to avoid scrapes.
Children are welcome at all times. The restaurants have high chairs, as well as soft toys and drawing materials to keep little ones busy. There are children and infant menus as well as half portions available. The chefs can adapt their menus for special diets, too. The bars serve mocktails, milkshakes and smoothies, and are happy to whip something up if it’s not on the menu.
Babysitters can be organised with a day’s notice and cost US$18 per hour.
No need to pack
Nappies, baby wipes, formula milk and baby food are available at the hotel’s shop.
Don’t miss Eco Centro, the resort’s innovative recycling centre. Little Smiths can learn all about reusing and composting, and pick fresh fruit and vegetables from the organic garden.
Responsibility and sustainability are at the core of the resort’s philosophy. It has one of the largest solar power plants in the Maldives, and the resort has kept pockets of the island’s coastline untouched so turtles can continue nesting there. Food is grown and sourced locally where possible, and there’s even a purpose-built centre for waste management and recycling, as well as a marine conservation programme.
If dining under a star-speckled sky isn’t quite romantic enough, the hotel can also set up your very own dining nook on the island’s sandbank.
Bare feet and a dab of Nuxe oil on the collarbone – the resort’s casual-chic vibe extends to its restaurants.
With chunky wooden furniture set right on the beach, Mihiree Mitha (meaning “Here it is”) is the laid-back setting for a leisurely breakfast or lunch with your toes in the sand. The breakfast buffet is a generous affair of just-baked pastries, home-made jams, and egg-cooking stations; at lunch it transforms into a grazing feast with barbecue, stir fry, and salad stations, as well as wood-fired pizzas and a fresh pasta bar. High over the jungle canopy and open to the sea breeze, Fresh in the Garden’s daily-changing dinner menu uses only local produce and the fresh fish, prepared with Maldivian sambals and garden herbs. If you like to keep your options open, take your pick of Down To Earth's nightly buffet. Dinner at Sobah is a dining experience to remember; set on an uninhabited island 15 minutes away from the resort by boat, chef Soabh serves traditional Maldivian fare with modern flare and dinner is followed by digestifs and star-gazing with the hotel's in-house astronomer. Overwater restaurant Out of the Blue hovers above the crystal clear Indian Ocean on wooden stilts and is open daily for lunch. A rotating parade of 30 top-tier chefs guest star throughout the year, and the diverse menu includes grilled seafood, teppanyaki, wood-fired pizzas, fresh sushi and secret chef menus. Work up an appetite with a few rounds on this split-level platform’s slide, and lounge about one of the hammocks with a citrusy cocktail after your internationally inspired lunch.
While the night away at By the Bar, with its large cushions right on the sand and deep comfy wooden seats and tables with backgammon or chess boards built into the wood. The barman conjures heady concoctions using home-made spirits such as damson gin and passion fruit vodka. With its cushioned hammocks strung right over the water, Bar(a)bara is the perfect place for a sundowner: grab an organic cocktail and watch the dolphins’ frolics silhouetted against the setting sun.
10.30pm. Fresh in the Garden is closed on Tuesdays and Fridays. Sobah's is open two nights a week. The bars close when the last guest leaves.
In-villa dining can be ordered round the clock from any of the restaurant menus. Breakfast can also be served in your villa at any time of day.
Soneva Fushi is a private-island getaway on unspoilt Kunfunadhoo, in the western Maldives’ Baa Atoll.
International flights land at Male’s Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. A member of the hotel staff will meet you at the airport and take you to the seaplane, a five-minute drive away. From there it’s a 35-minute flight to Soneva Fushi International Airport (a few square metres of floating platform just off the island’s shores). Mandatory transfers aren't included in the room rate (can be booked with our Smith travel experts) and return flights cost US$900-1,100 an adult (ages 12-and-up), $550-650 a child (aged 2–11); tots under two fly for free, but they’ll need a ticket.
It may be one of the largest islands in the Maldives, but at just under 1.5km long you won’t need a car at the resort.
Worth getting out of bed for
The near-castaway seclusion of Kunfunadhoo Island is much of its appeal, so there’s little to do here but to savour Soneva Fushi’s natural charms and holistic body-pampering activities.
The island has four snorkelling access points; with manta rays and turtles regularly sighted on the house reef, entire days can easily be filled drifting gently above the marine spectacle. The hotel has masks and fins for guests, and a resident marine biologist who can organise private snorkelling trips and night swims to see octopus, sleeping parrot fish, lobster and bioluminescent plankton. There’s also a diving school for beginners and confirmed PADI divers alike.
Set around a pond and waterfall nestled in the jungle, the indulgent Six Senses spa is as much about soothing the soul as the body. Local coconut is used in body scrub and massages treatments, and there are massage workshops, meditation training and yoga classes too.
Little Smiths can run riot in the children’s den. After a day spent splashing in their own swimming pools, scrambling through secret passageways and a pirate ship, or zipping down the water slides, they’ll have the best night’s sleep parents can dream of.
The only restaurants and bars on the island are the hotel's own. Budding chefs can try their hands at Maldivian cooking classes using the hotel’s garden’s own produce.
To get to Maldivian island resort Soneva Fushi, you need to take a short hop on a seaplane from Malé airport. But first, you head to the airport lounge to be plied with amuse bouches, foreshadowing the level of attention lavished on you when you land. We're served drinks and snacks, then asked – in a seemingly random fashion – to choose our favourite smell from two oil samples, one minty and one lemony. We pick lemon.
Landing on water is pretty cool for a five and seven year old; it’s also quite thrilling for us slightly older kids. Our eldest, Tom, pipes up: ‘it’s very jungly, isn’t it Mummy?’, which my wife and I think is a succinct summary of our first impressions. The island we were on before was more picture-postcard Maldives, whereas Soneva feels a bit more natural. If I'm totally honest, I’m not sure if I like it.
We’re greeted by beaming staff (in a genuine, not forced way), then our ‘man Friday’ Shamin takes us to our villa via a meandering, sandy path carved through the lush vegetation. Rather than our attendant or butler, Shamin is positioned more as a helpful friend, whom we all like. He explains that here we must relax, let him take care of everything and live by the hotel’s saying: ‘no news, no shoes’, which we do – we’re barefoot for almost the entire stay.When passing the Host Village; Shamin explains that staff are called hosts here, as they are hosting us, their guests, on the island. They live in the middle of the 1.5-kilometre-long and 0.5-kilometre-wide island – quite big by Maldives’ standards.
It’s definitely big enough to feel like an adventure for a couple of under-8s and there’s more than enough for this couple of 40-somethings, too. Our orientation tour passes by the Six Senses spa, the kitchen garden, the dive centre, the Barra Barra bar and the eco centre, which friends back home say we must visit.
We arrive at our private corner of the island and are shown around our indoor-outdoor living space. A lounge with giant orange-and-red day-beds works as the hub, with the master bedroom, kids’ room and a small kitchen just off it. Nothing from designer shops here; it’s more rustic, with an upcycled feel. It’s very comfortable and luxurious, just not in a shouty way. In fact, we learn that all furnishings are made on the island – impressive indeed. However, the real treats are at the front and back of our villa.
The rear of the property has an outdoor bathroom with stepping stones to my (current) favourite shower in the world. Open-air and easily toddled to at the bottom of our small garden, it makes you feel like anaturist. A giant bath tub and a chaise longue add a little more opulence to our retreat, and there are refillable bath products – all smelling of… ahh, lemon! With every minute spent here, Soneva makes more sense.
The kids are already in the small, shallow plunge pool at the front, where there tables and chairs sit in a sand-dusted garden, which leads onto our slice of beach with flour-soft sand. By this point, I don’t care about the other islands slightly spoiling our perfect view as the sun starts to set.Shamin rings to suggest we eat at the main island restaurant tonight where there’ll be street food-style stalls – a cool buffet, if you will.We’ve all had bikes delivered to our villa as that’s the only real mode of transport here. Mine is knackered and the chain keeps slipping, which annoys me at first, but as I start to get into therhythm of the island, I learn to manage my bike. It’s slowing me down (which Mrs Smith says is a good thing), but this lets me take everything in rather thanrush to the 'next event' – of which there are as many or as few as you wish. All the family cycling around the sometimes tricky sandy lanes, gettinglost as we haven’t got our bearings yet: it’s wonderful, very liberating. I forgot to mention: pedals are covered in fabric so your feet are comfortable – it’s an incredibly thoughtful touch.
When we get to the restaurant, Shamin is there; we're seated, then the kids shoot off to explore. They arrive back to drag us both from our seats, yelling: ‘Mummy, Daddy, you have to come and see this.’ We’re forcibly pulled to a room full of chocolate. I'm not talking bars of Cadbury’s, I'm talking a room full oftreats made by the on-island chocolatier – another unexpected surprise. There’s also an ice-cream and pastries room; a cheese-and-ham room; and a room full of freshly-grown salad. It’s mind-boggling, given that we’re on a tropical Island.
Shamin tells us that Soneva Fushi is owned by a couple, Sono and Eva (a businessman and a former model respectively); the resort has been their lives’ work for the past 20 years. They’re clearly a little bit crazy, but in oh-such-a-good way. Shamin explains the SLOW philosophy they live by: everything must beSustainable, Local, Organic and Wellness-focused. Well, we've certainly been slowed down – we adopt their mantra during our stay.
The resident Waste-to-Wealth manager escorts us around the Eco Centro. The idea is to make recycling profitable so everyone in the Maldives will do it. They invite other island owners to learn from their pioneering work, in the hope they’ll preserve this very special piece of earth. Polystyrene from daily fish deliveries is kept and used as insulation for new-build villas. Plastic is banned (even the cocktail straws are made from paper) and glass bottles are put into a 'chipping machine’ to then be used in cement.
Another highlight is a day’s snorkelling over a reef, led by a resident marine biologist. The reefs are the most incredible colours and shapes, as are the fish, but the best part is seeing a sleeping turtle take a midday nap. We round the trip off with a three-hour, Robinson Crusoe-style lunch on a neighbouring island; we’re left alone with a picnic that could have come from Harrods Food Hall.
This review could go on and on: I could mention the treetop restaurant, outdoor cinema, life-changing spa treatments and the joy of sipping a cocktail while suspended over thousands of fish at the Barra Barra bar. Or the time spotted Jupiter in the night sky, and the 100-rabbits-running-around-on-the-island story for another time…
Soneva Fushi has been created with passion. We’ll come back as often as we can afford to. I leave with a slightly bigger smile than most of our holidays have left me with, and when I’m home, I'll loosen-up my bike chain.