Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (June 17, 2015): Review of Soneva Kiri (Thailand), my best luxury hotel experience ever!
- Location: Google maps
- Address: 110 Moo 4, Ko Kood, Ko Kut District, Trat 23000, Thailand
- Hotel website: Soneva Kiri
- Tip: contact me to get a complimentary room upgrade at the time of booking
Remote yet accessible by a 90 minute flight from Bangkok on the resort’s private plane, Soneva Kiri sits on Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood, in the Gulf of Siam. One of the most exclusive beach resorts in the world, Soneva Kiri offers an unrivalled combination of luxury, environmentally friendly design and unforgettable, authentic Thai experiences. The 36 resort villas (including 11 private residences) are amongst the largest in the world. Located on the idyllic beach or sunny slopes in the rainforest, all have stunning infinity pools, impossibly chic furnishings, personal electric buggies, and impeccable service courtesy of private butlers. Highlights include the open air cinema Paradiso, Benz’ mangrove restaurant, the chocolate & ice cream parlour, the children’s den and the spectacular Treetop dining pod.
Soneva Kiri features in my top 10 lists of the most insanely beautiful hotels in Thailand, the world’s most amazing beach resorts, the world’s most outrageous hotel experiences, the best private plunge pools in the world, the world’s most beautiful hotel beaches, the world’s best luxury hotels, the world’s best family hotels, the world’s most remote hotels, the most astonishing beach retreats in Asia, and luxury hotels with private airports.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
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PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The transfer from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri is done by plane and smoothly coordinated: from the moment you disembark at one of Bangkok’s two airports, a Soneva representative will assist and escort you until you board the resort’s private plane. Yes, you read that right: a private plane! Guests are transferred from the Thai capital to Soneva Kiri in style aboard the resort’s luxurious custom-fitted eight-seater private plane (a Cessna Grand Caravan). The plane departs from Bangkok’s Don Muang Airport according to a fixed time schedule, although Soneva Kiri also operates some daily departures from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which is currently Bangkok’s main getaway. You will be chauffeured in a BMW 7 Series limousine if you need to change airports for your transfer to Soneva Kiri. Click here to watch my Youtube clip aboard the resort’s private plane.
- The flight from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri takes about 90 minutes and is a very scenic, low flying, sightseeing trip over Eastern Thailand: about half of it takes place over land, and the remaining half of over the Gulf of Thailand’s turquoise waters. The plane lands at Soneva’s Kiri private airstrip on a neighboring island, and from there, it’s another 5 minutes by speedboat to the resort, where the staff and your butler will welcome you to paradise, with a smile and a refreshing cold towel.
- Soneva Kiri’s natural landscape is stunningly beautiful. The resort is located on a massive, 41-hectare (102-acre) site in a remote corner on the northwest of Thailand’s 4th largest but least populated island, Koh Kood. With hills covered by lush tropical rainforest, and sugar-white beaches lapped by crystal clear waters, these are Thailand’s – even Asia’s – most pristine and glamorous resort grounds. It doens’t get better than this.
- Because the resort grounds are so spread out (e.g. it takes 2 km from the main facilities to the private beach club), guests are given personal electric buggies to get around for the duration of their stay.
- Within Soneva Kiri’s resort grounds, you will find Thailand’s most idyllic beach, located along a coconut grove and composed of white, powdery soft sand. The beach (with its beach club, watersports and restaurant) is only accessible to the resort’s guests. Here, you can stroll on the beach along the pristine, ridiculously clear and remarkably warm waters in all tranquillity (no sharing with throngs of tourists or hundreds of guests). In addition to being Thailand’s best beach, it is also one of the most beautiful hotel beaches in the world.
- While the resort itself is oriented towards the north and east, the beach is oriented towards the west, guaranteeing maximal sun exposure all day long and offering incredible views of the spectacular sunsets.
- Perched atop rocky cliffs and sheltered amidst verdant tree canop, the resort’s heart is an amazing latticework of pathways and wood pavilions that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. Here, you find the reception, library, bar, the Dining Room (see below), jewelry shop. and the resort’s fantastic chocolate & ice cream parlour. You can choose of over sixty constantly changing flavours of homemade ice creams and sorbets at So Chilled. Inside the adjoining So Chocoholic, you can indulge in every child’s dream of never-ending chocolate: freshly made passion fruit, honey and salted caramel infused truffles line up alongside warm pots of creamy mousse and luscious fondue.
- Soneva Kiri has 24 resort villas and 11 private residences. The elegant and sophisticated villas are massive in scale and amongst the world’s largest hotel accommodations. In Soneva’s trademark rustic-chic eco-design, the villas feature large outdoor living areas and indoor, air-conditioned bedrooms, surrounded by spectacular private pools. The semi-outdoor, en-suite bathrooms are beautifully designed. In all my travels, I have never been more impressed and ‘wowed’ by a hotel accommodation than here.
- From the moment you touch down (barefoot) on Soneva’s Kiri’s shores, your personal butler – called a Mr. or Ms. “Friday” – will be on hand with a smile and assist you throughout your stay.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner at Soneva Kiri are stellar culinary experiences, because of the extravagant restaurant settings, the amazing food, and top-quality service. A highlight is Benz’ restaurant, an open-air lantern-lit eatery on stilts, that is reached by boat through the mangroves and that serves the finest Thai cuisine. The resort’s other fine dining venue, the View restaurant, offers delicious Western cuisine, accompanied by incredible vistas over the Gulf of Thailand and its sunsets. The resort’s 3rd restaurant, the Dining room, is a less formal affair and is also the decor of the amazing breakfast buffet, undoubtedly one of the best that I have ever seen (it includes a dedicated ham and cheese room, featuring sumptuous homemade cheeses, charcuterie and own-smoked salmon).
- And if the restaurants mentioned above won’t do it for you, then there’s always Soneva’s Kiri unique Treepod Dining experience, which takes fine dining to new heights. From a bamboo pod high up into the ancient rainforest, you can gaze out across the boulder-covered shoreline dancing with gentle waves, as you savour gourmet delights and your chosen wines, delivered via the zip-line acrobatics of your personal waiter.
- The resort offers an abundance of activities that cater all ages and even the most discerning of tastes: a wide selection of water sports (including catamaran sailing, sea kayaking, windsurfing, water-skiing, wake boarding and snorkelling) and a variety of excursions (including a visit to the island’s local villages, cooking classes and a sightseeing trip to Angkor Wat) are available to guests, in addition to tennis, mountain biking, astronomy and gardening classes.
- At Soneva Kiri, you can watch classic movies under the stars in a return to the old traditions of Hollywood enjoyment. The magnificent resort’s Cinema Paradiso screens movies in an open-air “theatre”, a jungle-enshrouded auditorium of cascading cushions over the waters of the reservoir lagoon.
- Soneva Kiri built a giant moulded bamboo playground for their youngest VIP guests. Shaped like a manta ray, the resort’s children club (‘the Den’) is dedicated to learning, excitement, and meaningful experiences, all under the supervision of professional child caretakers.
- Hidden among the island’s wild jungle foliage, the resort’s excellent Spa is the place to treat yourself after a day of activities, excursions or relaxing at the beach. Here, mud massages, Thai herbal baths, silk facials, warm oils of Ayurveda and a rich selection of wellness rituals await your choosing. The spa is operated by Six Senses, a brand that’s world-famous for its wellness programs & facilities.
- The resort is managed by Soneva, my absolute favorite hotel brand in the world. The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy: it aims to create unforgettable, innovating, and enlightening experiences that illuminate their guest’s lives whilst treading lightly on the earth. The ethos and values it is run by are what sets Soneva on different footing as compared to other high-end hotel brands. In addition, there’s also a lot of love and romance in the story of Soneva, which was founded in 1995 by Sonu Shivdasani, an Indian-British hotelier, and his wife Eva Malmstrom, a Swedish fashion model. I have also reviewed the fabulous Soneva property in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi (you can read my review here).
- Pre-arrival communication with the resort is excellent: all my emails were answered within 24 hours.
- The most stand-out feature of Soneva Kiri is the excellent staff. Everyone, from management to your personal butler, is superfriendly and service is impeccable.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
Soneva Kiri is one of the most exclusive resorts of the world. It doesn’t get any better than this. The travel experience is mind-blowing from start to end and will last for a lifetime. The resorts has no real cons, yet there are some thing you may want to know and a few hiccups happened during my stay (albeit none of them affected my overall satisfaction):
- While most will love the spectacular transfer in the resort’s private plane, the thought of flying (overwater) on one engine in a small plane (albeit with 2 pilots) for 90 minutes can make people – including myself – nervous. And it doesn’t help when there’s no safety briefing (where are the life jackets?) and when the pilot is reading the check list of an engine failure during the flight and in clear sight of the passengers (which was the case during my flight). Having said that, you don’t have to fly to get to Soneva Kiri as you can also get there from Bangkok by car (3 to 4 hours), followed by a 40 min boat transfer. So, your flying phobia should not be an excuse to skip this exceptional, highly recommended resort. Click here to watch my Youtube clip aboard the resort’s private plane if this helps to ease the nerves.
- The first night, my villa ran out of hot water, and that’s not what you want to happen when you pay more than 1500 USD per night. Since the staff could not immediately fix the issue, and since no other villa was available, I had no other option than using the bathroom of the spa, and moving to another villa the next day. I understand this can happen, and the management was very apologetic about it and offered me some extras (which was difficult given the fact that my package included so many things already). I still feel that when this kind of unexpected, unacceptable and major inconvenience occurs, the best thing a hotel management can do is simply wave the charge of that night (or seriously discount it), which did not happen.
- Most of the resort’s villa are located in the jungle, where wildlife is present. It’s just a fantastic addition to an already exceptional resort, and you should feel lucky when you get to spot one of the more elusive wildlife creatures. However, some may find the presence of wildlife uncomfortable or the noise it makes at night annoying. More troublesome are the mosquitos and sand flies which are for real in the rainy season (May to October).
- The resort has 24 one-bedroom villas, ranging from the ‘cliff pool villa suite’ (lowest room category) and the ‘bayview pool villa suite’ to the ‘ocean front pool villa suites’ (highest room category). I stayed in 2 of them: a cliff pool and ocean front pool villa suite. While I loved both villa types, I felt that the ocean front villa suites – which are the most expensive one-room villas – have a slightly misleading designation, as they are not really ocean front but are built around an inlet of the sea (more like a lagoon); in addition, they have a rather dull looking garden in front of them as well as some kind of a ‘beach’ (which is non-existing at high tide and more of a mudpool at low tide). In fact, I could only see the sea from my ocean front villa suite through a small gap in the foliage (see photos).
- All your other trips will pale in comparison to the memory of a Soneva Kiri vacation.
This is the only time I have given a resort the maximum score of 10 out of 10 (despite the hiccups mentioned above)!
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Contact me to get a complimentary room upgrade at the time of booking.
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Soneva Kiri (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: I recommend to book a stay at Soneva Kiri through a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary VIP perks (e.g. villa upgrade, breakfast, early check-in , late check-out, welcome Champagne with Thai tapas on arrival, and a 30 minute spa treatment for two).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
- When choosing a villa, you should mainly take into consideration whether you want to be in the jungle and shade (cliff or bayview pool villa suite), or in full sunshine (ocean front pool villa suite). Keep in mind that the ocean front pool villa suites are not really ocean front (see above) and are not located on Soneva Kiri’s idyllic beach. In fact, we preferred the less expensive cliff villa over the ocean front villa, mainly because of the shade (which was a welcome respite because of the heat) and tropical foliage, but that’s a matter of personal preference.
- If you travel in the rainy season, be sure to prepare for insects (the hotel does provide insect repellent though). We did not have any problems with insects during our stay in the dry season).
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The weather in Southeast Thailand is dominated by a tropical monsoon climate which means there are three main seasons: a cool, dry season between November and February (which is the best period to visit this part of Thailand); a hot, dry season from March to June, and a rainy season from July to October. Expect daytime temperatures to be in excess of 30 degrees centigrade throughout the year (with the possible exception of late December and early January). The two periods April to May and September to October are characterised by very high humidity. The southwest monsoons arrive between May and October bringing unsettled, cloudy conditions, as well as lower room rates.
HOW TO GET THERE
Soneva Kiri is reached by a 90 minute flight from Bangkok on the resort’s private plane (or, when you are suffering from flying phobia, a 3 to 4 hours car trip followed by a 40 min boat transfer). Bangkok itself is served by 2 airports:
- Suvarnabhumi International Airport is located 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of downtown Bangkok and is a major hub in Asia. Check the Wikipedia page of Suvarnabhumi International Airport for an updated list with airlines that offer direct flights to Bangkok.
- Don Mueang Airport is Bangkok’s regional commuter flight hub and the de facto low-cost airline hub. Check the Wikipedia page of Don Mueang Airport for an updated list with airlines that offer direct flights to Bangkok.
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