Soneva Gili by Six Senses
For putting your mind at ease and raising your spirits there is no resort in Maldives, and few in the world I would guess, better than Soneva Gili.
Many other resorts are superior in some key aspects of a Maldives holiday, but the lack of distractions, visually and mentally, combined with mould-breaking design and fine cuisine make this place something like a sanctuary for the senses.
In startling contrast to the norm, Soneva Gili’s waterbungalows are a series of rooms, decks, landings and rooftops that seem to emerge from each other. Some spaces are under thatch, some under open sky, some open to the water below and some can be enclosed for air conditioning. The wooden boards and pillars are unadorned, the thatch is not concealed, the wooden furniture is handmade, the cotton covers are in single earthy or sunny colours. At the same time, every luxury of an exclusive resort is incorporated. This is rustic chic: rustic takes you back to a simpler time, chic delivers the modern.
The 29 Soneva Gili Villa Suites line 3 jetties. The 8 Soneva Gili Residences at the end of the jetties are a little bigger and have better views. The 7 Soneva Gili Crusoe Residences are the same as the latter except they are cut adrift in the lagoon and enjoy completely clear views to the horizon. There is also a Soneva Gili Private Reserve, which has 5 separate buildings and is 6 times the size of the Residences. It would come alive with 2 full families (there’s a terrific waterslide).
Nearly all the residences and a few of the villa suites have uninterrupted views to the horizon, filled only with shades of blue and turquoise (and the white of drifting clouds). The ocean rumble, the breaking waves on the reef and the ripples around the room are sounds that reach deep inside. Soundtracks on the entertainment system include whale calls and birdsong. But even with a driving rock number playing, the whole place is so friendly and personal you feel you really should be naked.
The over-water spa is delightful, calm and serious. Each guest is consulted and advised on therapies, and an Indian ayurvedic doctor is present to diagnose and work on specific conditions. The complex includes a gym and a relaxation room on the first floor. 2 standout therapies are The Soul of Six Senses, with 2 therapists “synergistically performing a facial and body massage”, and the Massage Workshop, which involves 2 or 4 sessions where you learn to massage your partner.
There are no straight lines on the island. The buildings are rounded with stucco-style finishes; nature’s materials are used and left unrefined. It never feels pretentious; Soneva Gili works hard to imitate nature, right down to the details (mugs are dimpled, saucers scalloped). It all helps to lift your mind out of the straight (and narrow).
Dining experiences here were always very good, now they are often sublime. A new restaurant lifted above the shoreline vegetation has a delightful nighttime ambience and marvelous Japanese Peruvian cuisine. In the cool cellar wine tasting and wine dinners are hosted by the sommelier or, occasionally, visiting wine growers and renowned chefs. Also in the cellar is a splendid charcuterie and cheese store.
The bar and restaurant over the lagoon offers personal stir-fry lunches: you select ingredients, which are arranged as a presentation plate and served at table. Healthy food and fresh produce from the resort’s own garden are prominent. The main island restaurant serves a deluxe variety of cuisines for breakfast and dinner, with in-villa dining at no extra charge, if you wish privacy.
Little touches of playfulness appear, such as the 2 mattresses under thatch in the middle of the pool, and a hammock strung between branches in the lagoon. New in the lagoon is a fun swim-up bar. It’s a bit of a swim from the beach but easily reached by canoe or pontoon boat.
The snorkeling is not much to write home about, nor is the beach. The lagoon is shallow (the west side rooms, facing the lagoon rather than ocean, have deeper water). There are no great inhabited or uninhabited islands nearby. Yet I would rather holiday here than just about anywhere, especially on a romantic getaway. Or just to escape urban life, feel free again and be wildly pampered.
The following is probably a common occurrence but I overheard it here: a couple were booking an excursion, they turned, stared at each other and then started laughing. They had both completely forgotten what day or date it was.
Review updated 2013Join the discussion Star this resort Check availability and price
People who starred this resort also starredFour Seasons at Landaa Giraavaru
Book this Resort
Like the look of this resort? Although it is not available through online travel operators, we know local agents who can secure your holiday.
Flights to Maldives