Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (December 23, 2015): Review of the AMAZING Six Senses Yao Noi Resort in Phuket (Thailand).
- Location: Google Maps
- Address: 56 Moo 5, Koh Yao Noi, Ko Yao District, 82160, Thailand
- Hotel website: Six Senses Yao Noi
- Tip: enjoy exclusive VIP amenities when booking via Virtuoso
Six Senses Yao Noi is my favorite resort in the Phuket area and sets the highest benchmark for island resort living in Asia. The 56 pool villa accommodations provide generous personal space and present an uncompromised lifestyle. Some overlook the striking limestone monuments that rise out of the Andaman Sea, providing an idyllic backdrop for days of tranquil indulgence. Natural materials used in the modern architecture, together with a beautiful island setting and excellent personal service, support the Six Senses philosophy of creating exceptional experiences.
Six Senses Yao Noi features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Thailand and Phuket’s best ultra luxury resorts.
In this review (more info 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 Six Senses Yao Noi resort enjoys a terrific island location on Koh Yao Noi. The latter is a large island in the middle of Phang Nga Bay, equidistant to Phuket and the Krabi mainland. While the pace of development is accelerating on Koh Yao Noi, the island remains a quiet refuge that feels far removed from the crowds of Phuket.
- Despite its remote island location, it’s very easy to get to the resort by a combination of car and boat (which is organized by the resort). If you fly into Phuket, you will be met upon arrival at the airport and will be transported by private car in approximately 20 minutes to the Ao Por Grand Marina, where a speedboat will be on standby to bring you to the resort in approximately 45 minutes. If you request a transfer from Krabi Airport, then you will be driven in approximately 45 minutes to Thalane Pier, from where a speedboat will take you to the resort in approximately 20 minutes.
- The boat transfer to the hotel, whether it be from Phuket or Krabi, is in fact a spectacular sightseeing trip in itself since Phang Nga Bay is marked by dramatic scenery, with gravity-defying limestone formations jutting vertically out of the emerald-green water. The Bay was used as the backdrop for island scenes in the James Bond movie ‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ and the Hollywood blockbuster ‘The Beach’ featuring Leonardo Di Caprio.
- There is the classic way to arrive in style (by a combination of car and boat), and then there is the way to arrive with even more style. The helicopter service from Phuket Airport to the resort, operating during daylight hours only, takes 15 minutes and offers the ultimate arrival experience.
- The gorgeous, lush resort grounds occupy a large hill in a remote corner on the east shore of Yao Noi Island and are covered by tropical rainforest. There’s also a private albeit narrow beach (with beach club).
- Because the resort grounds are so spread out, electric buggies driven by the staff take you around the resort. Waiting time is less than 5 minutes.
- From the moment you touch down on Sis Senses’ private shores, a 24-hour personal butler will be assigned to your villa to assist you throughout your stay. Our butler Pam (I hope I remember her name correctly) did a terrific job!
- The resort blends in very well with its lush tropical environment because of its rustic-chic eco-design. All hotel buildings, including the villa accommodations, are built using local teak, topped with a palm-leaf roof, decked out in stylish bright cushions, and decorated with simple mango-wood accessories. This is barefoot luxury at its best!
- From an architectural point of view, I found the Den Bar (adjacent to the lobby) to be the highlight of the resort. The bar’s sunken seats are covered by lipstick pink linen and are surrounded by beautiful ponds filled with water lilies. The sexy bar overlooks Phang Nga Bay and evokes a feeling of floating on water.
- The resort has 56 villa accommodations, that are either tucked away in the rainforest, located along the shore, or set high on the hill. All villa types come with plenty of space and a private pool. During my holiday, I stayed at a Hideaway Pool Villa (#52). Although this is the lowest villa category you can book (because it does not have open views towards the ocean), the villa still offers generous personal space. From the entrance, a stair leads onto a decked area with a private infinity-edge pool, sun loungers and an outside dining area. Inside, there is a separate bedroom, a sitting room, plus a bathroom that features a bathtub (with view), double sink, and an outside shower. The villa also has a rooftop terrace with double spa sala for private treatments.
- Despite their rustic look, the villas come will all the modern amenities you can think of. Some of the creature comforts include a specialised wine fridge, IDD telephone, espresso machine, tea & coffee-making facilities, satellite TV, DVD player, Bose hifi system with docking station for a personal iPod.
- Perched atop the resort, you will find the resort’s most stunning private villa: the Hilltop Reserve. While it can be booked for private use, it is open to guests and freely accessible most of the times. In addition to being the resort’s most exclusive dining venue, the Hilltop Reserve has a stunning infinity pool that overlooks spectacular Phang Nga Bay. This is one of the most amazing pool settings and views that I ever encountered during my extensive travels around the globe.
- The brand Six Senses is know all over the world for its top-notch spas and the spa village at Yao Noi is no exception. The spa village is nestled into the lush tropical hillside and superbly designed in an authentic natural and zen style. A Long House Suite is modelled on a typical village house from northern Thailand. Treatments are of very high quality and incorporate the four elements of earth, water, fire and air, to ensure the senses are balanced. Highly recommended!
- Six Senses Yao Noi has several dining venues which all feature excellent cuisine. The Dining Room Restaurant – with a small creek at its centre – focuses on a fusion of Western and Asian food, and has its main dining area on the lower level with several private dining pavilions and the Chef’s Table above. The resort’s most exclusive dining venue is to be found at the Hilltop Reserve, where you can enjoy Thai inspired fine dining. Close to the beach, the resort’s 3rd dining venue, The Living Room, is an all-day dining restaurant offering alfresco and undercover seating. Like with all Six Senses properties, there’s an impressive wine list at each of the restaurants.
- Each morning, breakfast is offered at The Living Room, and it is undoubtedly one of the most exquisitely displayed breakfast buffets that I have ever seen. In addition to several outside cooking stations, it includes a patisserie as well as a dedicated ham and cheese room (resembling a European deli shop), featuring sumptuous homemade cheeses, charcuterie, several salamis, and own-smoked salmon.
- In case you don’t want to relax in your villa and let the day go by, the resort has a range of fully planned excursion or, alternatively, can tailor design excursions and events around your own ideas and preferences. During my stay, I did some island hopping with the resort’s luxurious long tail boat, a trip that offered plenty of possibilities to explore deserted islands with fine sandy beaches or snorkel in crystal clear lagoons.
- The resort just opened a state-of-the-art gym facility, so you can stay fit during your stay.
- Bonfires and outdoor movie screenings can be enjoyed on the private beach. At least, this is when the weather is cooperating (which was not the case during our stay).
- The resort has several vantage points (lobby, The Living Room, the beach, ocean view villas, and the Hilltop Reserve) from where you can soak in the jaw-dropping views over Phang Nga Bay and the limestone islands. The view is especially spectacular at sunset, when the limestone cliffs seem to produce a blast of orange fire at the horizon.
- Sustainability is on top of the resort’s agenda with numerous practices to minimize negative and embrace positive impacts. The eco-friendly policy focuses on energy efficiency, water and waste management, social commitment, protecting natural surroundings, air quality and noise control. For example, the resort has its own organic chicken farm with 200 young laying hens that provide guests with fresh eggs daily.
- Pre-arrival communication with the resort is excellent: all my emails with the hotel reception staff were answered within 24 hours.
- The most stand-out feature of Sis Senses Yao Noi is the excellent staff. Everyone, from management to your personal butler, is superfriendly and service is impeccable. The staff is there to greet you upon arrival at the resort, and to wave goodby when you reluctantly have to leave the resort.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
This is my favorite resort in the larger Phuket area. The remote location, unique eco-design, and spectacular scenery guarantee a unforgettable holiday and a memory of a lifetime. The resorts has no real cons, yet you may want to know though the following when considering a stay at Six Senses Yao Noi:
- My stay at the Six Senses Yao Noi Resort started with “a faux pax” as the resort staff on the mainland accidentally returned our luggage to the airport (causing us to arrive at the resort without luggage). We all make mistakes, so I did not consider this to be a big deal. And the good news was that – in addition to being very apologetic about this event – the resort staff provided me with toiletries and fresh clothes (t-shirt, swimsuits) to minimize the impact of their misstep. A few hours later, my luggage safely arrived in the villa.
- Despite the stunning location of the hotel, the beach is not the best in the area. It’s quite narrow, and rocky in some places. The water is a little unpleasant to swim in. The resort created an artificial beach club behind the natural beach to offer a beach vibe to its guest. However, if you are looking to spend most days of your holiday on an idyllic, sugar white sand beach, then Six Senses Yao Noi may not be the best option for you. Having said that, the lack of a proper beach is largely compensated by the amazing scenery and jaw-dropping views that can be enjoyed from the infinity pool at the Hilltop Reserve.
- The resort faces the east: this makes for some terrific sunrises, but unfortunately, it also means that you cannot watch the sunset from the resort. However, the changing colours of the limestone formations in the setting sun make more than up for this.
- The spa is expensive as compared to other spa salons in Thailand, but it is worth the money: the facilities are top-notch and the treatments of very high quality (this is a Six Senses property after all).
- The remoteness of the island is part of its appeal and the reason why most people book a stay here. It also means that you don’t really have any other dining options (which is not really a problem given the terrific dining venues) and that you are reliant on the resort for the (sometimes expensive) excursions.
- 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 scary.
- Location: 9/10
- Design: 9/10
- Rooms: 9/10
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 10/10
- Overall experience: exceptional: 9.2/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: read my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Six Senses Yao Noi (and/or receive many free perks).
- Save money: I recommend to book a stay at Six Senses through a Virtuoso travel agent, which has the benefit of complimentary perks (e.g. free room upgrade, breakfast, spa treatment).
- 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, or enjoy open ocean views (but the views come with an extra price tag). It’s hard to choose just one villa, as they’re all rather special. But I did enjoy my Hideaway Pool Villa number #52 a lot, since it’s the only villa in that category that enjoys some ocean views in the distance.
- While all the ocean view villas have good views of the bay, they come in two categories of villas: Ocean Pool Villas offer partial ocean views, while Ocean Panorama Villas have 180 degree views of the bay and the mountains. So if an un-obstructive ocean view is what you are after, then you need to book the latter villa category.
- 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 PHUKET
The weather in Phuket 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 Phuket); 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
The Six Senses Yao Noi resort is located on Koh Yao Noi, and can be reached by boat from Phuket (45 min) and Krabi (20 min). Most visitors will transfer to the resort via Phuket or Krabi Airport:
- Check the Wikipedia page of Krabi International Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Krabi.
- Check the Wikipedia page of Phuket Airport for an updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Phuket.
From Europe, the best connection is with Finnair (via Helsinki), which offers direct flights to both Phuket and Krabi in winter.
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