Soneva: the essence of intelligent luxury

In the most exclusive travel industry, Soneva is synonymous with smart luxury, simple sophistication, island paradises, sustainability, environmental protection and community contribution.

Soneva is the life and adventure mission of husband and wife team Sonu Shidvasani and Eva Malmström. In fact, the brand was born from combining the names of Sonu and Eva. 

Sonu Shidvasani, a descendant of Hindu parents, was born in England and studied in that country, Nigeria and Switzerland. He graduated from Oxford with a degree in English literature and it was during his time at university that he met his wife Eva, who was born in Sweden and who, during the 1970s and 1980s, worked as a model for the most prestigious magazines in the world. 

Sonu and Eva traveled the world but fell in love with the Maldives where they bought the deserted island of Kunfunadhoo in 1990 to build their home and their first resort, Soneva Fushi, which opened in 1995. Soneva Fushi was the pioneer resort in the field of sustainable and environmentally friendly luxury and its opening redefined the concept of exclusive tourism in the Maldives.

Pioneros del lujo sostenible

Sonu and Eva are convinced that a company should exist for a greater purpose than the return of shareholders. Their philosophy is based on offering the best experiences to their guests while contributing to different projects related to the rural communities of the area through the Soneva Foundation.

From the beginning, sustainability has been part of Soneva’s essence. From using sustainable building materials and maintaining the natural beauty of each resort location, to working in partnership with the various local communities. At Soneva, they believe that luxury and sustainability are interconnected concepts that do not compete with each other, but rather complement each other. 

Thus, each of Soneva’s resorts has its own organic gardens where vegetables, fruits and greens are grown for the restaurants. This makes it possible to offer guests fresh, locally produced produce while eliminating the need to transport food to the resorts, thus contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions. 

All resorts have their “Chocolate room”, a special room where only dark chocolate from fair trade companies is served and half of the wines on their restaurant menus are of bio-dynamic origin, without the presence of pesticides in the cultivation of the grapes and, therefore, much more sustainable, healthier and of better quality.

At Soneva, they make their own charcoal from the resources available on the island, while providing fuel-efficient stoves to more than 20,000 people in Darfur and Myanmar in order to reduce deforestation and household air pollution.

Since 2008, Soneva’s resorts have been filtering, mineralizing and bottling their own drinking water in reusable glass bottles, while using the proceeds to provide clean, safe water to 750,000 people worldwide. They do not import any single-use plastic into their resorts and recycle any discarded plastic, turning it into colorful and useful objects in their facility called Maker Space. In fact, Soneva Fushi already recycles 90% of its waste.

The “Slow Life” concept is synonymous with sustainable, local, organic, wellness, learning, inspiring and fun experiences.  This idea explains the Soneva philosophy and gives its name to the SLOW LIFE Symposia, which is organized with the aim of fostering environmental and social collaboration within local communities. This symposium brings together the best academic, political and business minds to discuss some of the world’s most pressing issues.

“No news, no shoes”

In 1995, Soneva Fushi set the standard for all luxury desert island resorts, combining the fantasy of a Robinson Crusoe-style experience with intelligent luxury. It is what they call “Barefoot Luxury” and, in fact, Soneva’s guests are asked upon arrival if they would like to remove their shoes, as not wearing shoes allows you to really feel and experience the terrain you are walking on.

Their philosophy, “No news, no shoes”, is about disconnecting from everyday life and truly embracing the luxury of time and nature. There is no connection to television networks at any of Soneva’s resorts and the Wi-Fi in each villa can be turned off with a simple switch, allowing guests to disconnect to reconnect with themselves.

They are true ambassadors of smart luxury, which, for them, is about understanding what true luxury is for their guests, many of whom spend most of their time in an urban environment. It’s about understanding their daily lives and offering them new, unusual and exceptional experiences that are at the same time authentic and meaningful.

Soneva’s paradises

It currently has 4 properties located on some of the most paradisiacal islands in the world.

Soneva Fushi

Located on the island of Kunfunadhoo in Baa Atoll and opened in 1995, Soneva Fushi was the pioneering hotel that inaugurated the concept of intelligent and sustainable luxury in the Maldives. It features a pristine coral reef declared a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco and consists of 65 private villas that are hidden among the dense vegetation of the island, just a few meters from the beach.

It offers exquisite cuisine prepared with organic products grown on the island and has, among its attractions, an astronomical observatory, a magnificent spa, an open-air cinema on the beach and its Den Kids, a center dedicated especially to the youngest members of the family.

Soneva Kiri

This exclusive hotel is located on Koh Kood, Thailand’s fourth largest but least populated island, just one hour by private plane from southeast Bangkok. Soneva Kiri offers an unparalleled combination of luxury, sustainability, exclusive local experiences and delicious cuisine made from organic products.

All of its villas have a swimming pool at beach, hillside or cliff level and all overlook the Gulf of Thailand.

Soneva Jani

Located on Medhufaru Island in a 5.6-kilometer lagoon in the Noonu Atoll in the Maldives, Soneva Jani offers panoramic ocean views in all directions. The lagoon is a 35-minute seaplane ride from Malé International Airport and a one-hour speedboat ride from Soneva Fushi.

Jani, which means “wisdom” in Sanskrit, is built almost entirely on water. The resort is built on a crystal clear lagoon, with five islands surrounded by white sandy beaches, covered by rich tropical vegetation.

The overwater villas are separated by the expansive lagoon, offering privacy and sweeping views over the turquoise waters of the Maldives.

Soneva was the first resort to have its own astronomical observatories for guests to explore the night skies guided by resident astronomers. Soneva Jani has the first observatory built over water in the Maldives.

Soneva in Aqua

A floating villa, Soneva on Aqua combines the ubiquitous charm of Soneva with the freedom to explore the oceans with no time limit. A tailor-made itinerary designed by the captain offers guests the opportunity to explore exceptional reefs, deserted islands and stunning locations.

Soneva in Aqua is a luxury yacht measuring 23 meters long and 6.40 meters wide with a cruising speed of 8 knots. The yacht has a maximum occupancy of four adults and two children to ensure maximum exclusivity and privacy.

The design features natural materials such as woods and organic cottons, and the engines are built to the highest fuel economy specifications.

At any of its resorts, to live the Soneva experience is to return to the essence of intelligent luxury, where exclusivity is not at odds with sustainability.  It is to reconnect with nature and with oneself through a unique, unforgettable and transformative journey.

Photos: Elefant Travel /

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