Soneva Jani: The Hottest Hotel Destination
Nestled in the serene waters of Noonu Atoll, just a quick 30-minute seaplane ride from Male’s International Airport, lies Medhufaru island. Although it might not be known by its original name, it is more commonly recognized as Soneva Jani – a highly acclaimed resort that has captured the attention of thousands of social media influencers worldwide, renowned for its beauty, serenity, and photogenic scenery.
Soneva Jani, the youngest addition to the Soneva group, exudes a more youthful and vibrant vibe, setting itself apart from its sister resorts, Soneva Fushi and Soneva Kiri. While Soneva Fushi is often referred to as the “mother island” by Soneva staff, Soneva Jani is renowned for being the fresher and more contemporary overwater haven, catering to the affluent, famous, and eco-conscious clientele.
With fewer than 60 villas, most of which are exquisite overwater retreats that easily outshine most high-end apartments, Soneva Jani provides its guests with a luxurious and unparalleled experience. Moreover, with close to 400 staff members stationed on the island, visitors can expect exceptional service and attention to detail.
During our visit to Soneva Jani in the Maldives, we had the pleasure of staying in what was previously called Phase Two, now renamed the overwater “reserves”. These accommodations are larger than the northern villa counterparts which were part of the original phase of the resort. With a size of over 5,900 square feet, they are impressively spacious and dwarfed my London apartment six times over.
Upon arrival at the resort by seaplane, we were treated to a stunning view of the expansive property. Soneva Jani offers more privacy per guest than any other resort in the Maldives, with a large square footage per guest. Even during our visit, which coincided with 80% occupancy, we only saw a few guests apart from a management cocktail event one evening.
After the seaplane lands, guests are welcomed by barefoot staff who exchange shoes for a fresh, cold coconut and towel to refresh travelers. It’s at this point that guests begin to relax and let go of their expectations of a fast-paced, always-connected way of life. All electronics are hidden away, including TVs which are concealed in a trunk at the end of the bed.
The wooden overwater archipelago of 25 vast retreats is accessed by boat from the “International Airport” (a floating wooden jetty in the middle of the lagoon). Upon arrival, guests are whisked away in a buggy to their villa. Upon entering, the villa opens up to a breathtaking space of white-washed castaway luxury. Despite being designed for two people, the entrance hall and dining room alone are larger than most hotel rooms.
As you ascend the beautifully carved staircase, a private roof deck awaits you on the right-hand side. Equipped with a sound system, second dining table, and water slide, it provides endless hours of fun for even the tallest child-at-heart as they plunge into the crystal-clear blue lagoon below.
On the left side of the villa, a private library with a working desk, a fully equipped kitchen, and a full-sized Smeg fridge packed with welcome amenities lead to the master bedroom. The bedroom includes a small kids’ nook, two toilets, a full-sized bathroom with both indoor and outdoor showers, and two baths, one of which is your very own ring-fenced section of the Indian Ocean.
However, the most impressive feature is the electronically retractable roof, which your barefoot butler grandly unveils, allowing you to marvel at the diamond-filled constellations of the Maldivian night sky.
But the highlight of the villa is undoubtedly the vast wooden deck. It boasts a huge overwater pool, a netted relaxation area, and your own outdoor dining table, making it the perfect place to relax and dine in style. After all, what 1-bedroom villa would be complete without three dining tables?
The villa is just the beginning of the wonders awaiting you at the island. As you venture through the island’s paths lined with jungle, you will be greeted by an array of natural marvels that are sure to amaze you. From the crabs that line the paths to the sea life that inhabits the lagoons, including baby reef sharks, stingrays, colourful Maldivian fish, cranes, fruit bats, being immersed in nature is a perfect way to reset your mindset and pause your hectic day-to-day life.
To get around the island, you can choose to be lazy or super-lazy. Your villa comes with bikes, e-bikes or trikes (the e-bike is recommended). However, if you’re not feeling up to it, you can call a buggy. The island is two kilometers long, so waiting by one of your three dining tables, gazing at the beautiful view while waiting for your ride is always an option. Even the e-bikes take around 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, so you won’t miss out on anything by opting for a more relaxed mode of transport.
To the north of the island, you’ll find the Gathering, the largest overwater structure in the Maldives, which is part of the overwater complex. It houses the main restaurant, which has more outlets than you can imagine, complimentary chocolate, cold cut, salad, and ice cream rooms (great for cooling down), a spa, and a bar. The Gathering is the perfect place to spend your afternoons, as you can dip into the waters directly from the restaurant, lounge on the enormous day beds, and try out some of the most delightful cocktails.
On the island of Soneva Fushi, guests have a plethora of dining options to choose from. The Gathering is just the beginning; there are two other unique dining experiences, ‘So Starstruck’ and ‘Overseas by Mathias Dahlgren’. Guests can also enjoy grilled fish and meats at So Primitive or indulge in sushi and Japanese cuisine while overlooking Cinema Paradiso at Director’s Cut, an overwater cinema.
Other dining options on the island include So Local, which was originally a staff restaurant that became popular enough to be opened to guests, and the Crab Shack, where guests can try a variety of Sri Lankan crab recipes. The crabs at the Crab Shack are usually over a kilo in weight and are a must-try experience.
For those who want to catch the sunset with their toes in the sand, the ‘South Beach’ bar offers a picturesque Maldivian paradise. Everywhere you go on the island, you’ll find understated and polished service. Soneva Fushi is not a resort with marble floors and air-conditioned outlets; it’s a barefoot luxury experience that embraces the elements. Service is authentic and never rushed, and Soneva has perfected the art of providing excellent service with the help of technology and their dedicated staff. From unfinished bottles following you around the resort to miraculously reconnected luggage without even asking, everything here is effortless.
The island has expanded so much that a second spa has been recently built. Previously featuring Six Senses spas, Soneva has now created its own spa offering, called Soneva Soul, which offers scientific treatments such as cryotherapy to reoxygenate blood. Their signature Soneva massages can also recharge guests in their open-air pavilions with the sound of waves lapping the shore.
Soneva Unlimited is the most luxurious and best-kept secret of the Soneva experience. It is an all-inclusive add-on that is superior to any other all-inclusive in the world. Guests can indulge in fine champagnes, wines, unlimited spa treatments, diving, Michelin-starred dinners, water sports, and anything else they desire. Soneva Unlimited is now available in every Soneva property and room class, making it the ultimate luxury trip option for guests.
Soneva is growing and maturing to meet the ever-changing needs of their guests, while staying true to their eco-lined DNA and ethos. The heart and soul of Soneva will never change, regardless of whether guests stay in the most Instagram-worthy properties of the world or the more humble, yet equally impressive, Fushi.
Soneva Jani is continuing to expand, with new food and beverage outlets on the horizon, more island villas nearing completion, and foliage that may soon equal that of Fushi in just a few more years. Medhufaru is the most iconic island in the world, etched in our memories and hearts, and one that we cannot wait to return to, even if we may never remember its real name.