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.