Soneva Gili by Six Senses
What We Love
- This award-winning resort was built for romance
- The lovely over-water spa
- A gracious staff
- Impressive eco credentials
- Proximity to Malé, where international flights arrive, means it’s easier to get here than you might think
What To Know
- Transfers from Male require a speedboat ride; the cost is about $165 per person round-trip
- The resort isn’t as secluded as others on the islands
If you’ve ever wondered about a hotel’s ability to change the landscape of a destination, look no further than Soneva Gili and its 45 over-water villas. These days, stilted bungalows set in the middle of turquoise waters are a fairly common sight in the Maldives (and in dreamy travel calendars everywhere). But in 2001, when Gili was built around a tiny coral island, the idea of over-water accommodations was relatively new. A true Maldivian classic, Gili remains one of the world’s best places for an exotic stay.
Most of the villas are connected to the tiny main island by a jetty; seven stand free in the water and are serviced by ferries (though more adventurous guests are welcome to use the provided rowboats). All are outfitted in Six Senses’ signature rustic-chic style: earth tones, indoor/outdoor spaces and romantic canopy beds. Suites and Residences have rooftop sundecks and chess tables,while palatial Crusoe Residences are more secluded and have kitchenettes.
The well-rounded selection of restaurants includes By the Sea, the resort’s take on Nobu with a Peruvian-Japanese menu (think soy-marinated tuna steak) and its own sushi bar. At the main restaurant, different cooking stations serve up a range of international dishes. Breakfast pairs curries from India, noodles from Japan and Chinese dim sum alongside Western dishes. Lunch at the overwater pavilion is similarly diverse, with Japanese pizzas and freshly caught fish.
Wellness is a core principle at Soneva Gili, as evidenced by the experts at the over-water spa. The rotating roster of visiting therapists includes everyone from stomach massage specialists from Thailand to yogis from India. The best bet is to stick with any of the Asian modalities, especially the ayurvedic and Thai offerings, like shiatsu and foot acupressure — a must if you’ll be taking the resort’s “No Shoes” policy to heart.
How to Get There
I stayed at Gili Lankanfushi for 3 days to celebrate my 40th birthday. After a short speedboat ride from Male, I arrived at Gili and was welcomed by Nicolas, the resort manager and Serene, my Miss Friday. After a tour of the island, I was taken to my room to complete the check-in process.
I stayed in a Villa Suite, which was even better than I had imagined it to be. Split over two floors, you have the option of sleeping under the stars or in the bedroom downstairs. I loved just sitting out on the deck, watching the sunrise and listening to the ocean. No other hotel room will ever compare to this!
The staff at Gili treat you like royalty. Nashid, Roberto, Shayan, Samu and Nakul enhanced my dining experiences with their warm and welcoming manner and attention to detail. Serene, my Miss Friday, was amazing. As I was travelling on my own, she happily obliged my numerous requests for photo shoots (Sorry, Serene!) She arranged a trip for me to see the Private Reserve and also managed to source some deodorant from Male for me, when i realised that i had left mine on the plane! But the one thing I will remember the most is the beach decoration for my birthday and the dinner that followed. I had seen pictures on Instagram of decorations on the beach and asked Serene if i could have something similar but with a star. When i arrived to dinner on the beach, i was speechless! Serene, Samu and the team had gone above and beyond to create something special for me. During my dinner some of the team came to sing happy birthday to me, including the resort manager, which made me feel special again! Then when i returned to my villa, Serene had decorated it for my birthday and i had a cake waiting for me, wishing me a happy 20, 20th birthday which made me laugh! This was a joke that i had shared with a few staff members about not wanting to be 40, but 20 20 instead. It was incredible that the staff had remembered this joke, especially when they are interacting with many guests, and used it to enhance my Gili experience.
When the time came to leave, i was holding back the tears. Just before i got on the speedboat, i had my photo taken with Serene. All guests have a photo taken with their Friday and this is framed - a lovely momento! Then i bid Gili farewell.
I'd like to thank everyone at Gili who made my Gili story so memorable. I will definitely return when the resort re-opens and hopefully throw my passport into the ocean this time, so i wont have to leave!
Our visit to Gili Lankanfushi had to be cancelled due to a fire the hotel suffered in January 2019. Despite the extremely difficult circumstances the hotel staff must have found themselves in, they truly excelled themselves by finding us alternative accommodation of a comparable standard. Not only that but the hotel funded on our behalf a room upgrade and transfer flights. I cannot praise the hotel and staff too highly, they have made every effort to ensure our holiday was not affected. This is service above and beyond what I would expect and if they are this good when we have never actually attended the hotel, I can only imagine what the service must be like at the hotel. We will be sure to book when they re-open.
My husband and I spent Christmas week here and we are now forever ruined for any other resort in the world! We have been to several 5 star resorts and have never received such personalized service as at Gili Lankanfushi. It was attention to every tiny detail from the very beginning. From the moment we arrived at the airport to the very last moment of departure at the airport we were treated like royalty. They went as far as taking all of our luggage until the very last minute by going through the check in process with us at the airport for our departing flight and did not leave us until our bags were taken by the airlines and we had our tickets in hand. Scuba diving was another thing that has spoiled us of diving with anyone else. From the moment we got on the boat, we didn’t have to do a thing. They took care of preparing all of our gear. They lead us to the top deck of the boat to relax, giving us drinks and fruit. When it was time to get in the water, our gear was ready and they helped us put it on and assisted us until we were in the water. In the water, our guide didn’t stop the top notch service. I was so amazed with the coral and sea life that I was consumed with taking pictures. Our guide was so helpful with this that he went as far as pulling me along the reef so that I could get the best pictures. Talk about service! Ha when we got out of the water the staff immediately removed and cleaned off all of our gear. We were lead back up to the top deck to relax with more drinks and fruit. Both days we went diving the staff even made sure to take us to see dolphins on our way back to the resort. Rishma, our “Ms Friday” went above and beyond to make sure our vacation was perfect. Everyone at the resort somehow knew our names and room number before we had even been introduced. It was so personalized it felt like family. We will definitely be returning soon!
Stayed here on our honeymoon and was blown away. The hotel rooms are incredible, the food is delicious, the staff is top notch, great spa, and scenery is awe inspiring. Definitely do the whiskey tasting paired with dinner if it’s offered in the room downstairs, was so much fun! I hope one day we will make it back.
From the moment you arrive, the shoulders relax, the mind de-clutters, and a smile never leaves your face. Their motto "No Shoes, No News" is for real. My family did not wear shoes (except in the gym) for our entire stay. We rode bikes through the lush forest to make our way to meals, to workout, or to get spa treatments, we swam every morning in crystalline seas by stepping down the ladder off of our own deck, we played tennis, pool, snorkeled, water skied, swam with sharks, manta rays, and turtles, ate like royalty. All this, yet we felt at ease, un-rushed. The pool area had plenty of shade under palms or umbrellas, or sun if you so desired. The food was excellent and varied. We took advantage of a private beach barbecue dinner for Christmas and it exceeded our expectations - from the Champagne and appetizers at sunset, to the lantern lit beach around our table, to the fresh and expertly prepared food, every detail was perfect. This is just one example out of many of how personal the service is, how special they make you feel. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a nicer room from our travels (and we've traveled extensively). Designed to blend in with the landscape, the space is comfortable, spacious, and frames nature like the masterpiece it is. Very clean and well maintained, as well. Comfortable beds, air conditioned bedrooms. We ordered two meals in our room - highly recommend! Every single staff person, from our Ms. Friday, to the GM, to the people running excursions, was professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. At meals, they remembered what you liked to drink, what the kids liked to eat for breakfast, and so on. We felt like family. I had 5 massages - the spa is exceptionally well run. We had a nice time talking with other guests, yet we never felt like we were crowded. Many of the people we spoke to were on their second or third trip to the resort. We will be back as well!