What’s the story? The resort’s mantra of ‘no news, no shoes’ does much to summarise its philosophy. Once guests are ferried from seaplane to shore in a speedboat, footwear is removed and shipped to villas, only to be reapplied on departure from the island – just as it should be at the winner of the Lost Explorer Best Beach Hotel Award 2023. Every element of Soneva Fushi is focussed on pure relaxation and detachment to create an environment that feels worlds apart from day-to-day life.
Talk to me about the resort: Set on one of the Maldives’ northerly atolls, Soneva Fushi is only accessible by 40-minute seaplane. There are 72 villas set among the foliage of the island with such discretion that you almost forget there are other residents present. On check-in, guests are given a bicycle for the duration of their stay, which is the singular mode of transport to access the facilities. Cycle between a Balinese-inspired spa, pool complex, tennis courts, library and a gym which is a cut above general five-star hotel standard.
What about those outdoor bathrooms? Soneva Fushi pioneered the outdoor bathroom experience, which is now a hallmark of quality Maldivian resorts. Showers cascade from rocks and bathtubs are built into stone in an open-air environment that feels liberating, private and free. The rooms continue the theme by bringing the outdoors in, with retractable roofs, expansive bifold doors and airy bedroom spaces.
Eating and drinking: It is notoriously difficult for Maldivian properties to ensure a steady supply of world-class produce, so Soneva Fushi grows much of its own. It has an expansive cultivation area for organic fruit, vegetables and herbs, which supply exquisite restaurants dotted around the island; So Hands On by Akira is a nine-cover omakase sushi spot that rivals the best in the world. It also operates a regularly rotating guest chef series featuring 50 Best luminaries such as Tim Raue from Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin (No.40 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023) and Nick Bril from The Jane, Antwerp (No.39).
Eco credentials: Soneva is widely considered a trailblazer in luxury resort sustainability. It is a pioneer in marine conservation and coral rehabilitation, waste minimisation, community outreach and staff training.
Who’s behind it? Soneva Fushi is the brainchild of legendary hoteliers Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malmström Shivdasani (hence Son-Eva… ) They opened Soneva Fushi in 1995 and that year also launched the Six Senses Resorts & Spas brand. The Soneva group also includes Soneva Jani in the Maldives and Soneva Kiri in Thailand. Such is Sonu’s legendary status in the hotel community, he has been voted by the 560-strong 50 Best Academy as the winner of the SevenRooms Icon Award. For this award, all panellists are asked to give the name of one person who has done more for the hotels sector than any other. It is the only award in the 50 Best programme given to an individual and not a property.
The Best Beach Hotel Award is given to the hotel placed highest in the ranking that is located within 20 metres of a beach.