I recently enjoyed a FABULOUS holiday in Thailand, including a stay at my favorite hotel in the world, Soneva Kiri. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Lufthansa First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport
- Review: Lufthansa Airbus A380 First Class from Frankfurt to Bangkok
- Review: Soneva Kiri, my favorite hotel in the world (today)
- Review: Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai
- Review: The Naka Island, a Luxury Collection resort & spa, Phuket
- Review: Park Hyatt Hotel Bangkok
- Review: Banyan Tree Hotel Bangkok
- Review: Thai Airways Boeing B747 First Class from Bangkok to Munich
Today (April 18, 2018): Review of Soneva Kiri (Thailand), my favorite luxury hotel in the world!
- 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 (based on availability)
Remote yet accessible by a 70 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 35 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
*** Get the most out of your (luxury) trip to Thailand with my online Thailand travel guide ***
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- The transfer from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri is done by plane and smoothly coordinated: from the moment you disembark at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport, a Soneva representative assists and escorts 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 main airport according to a fixed time schedule. Click here to watch my (older) Youtube clip onboard the resort’s private plane.
- The flight from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri takes about 70 minutes and is a scenic 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 the neighboring island Koh Mai Si , and from there, it’s only another 5 minutes by speedboat to the arrival jetty, where the resort staff will welcome you to paradise, with a refreshing cold towel and a welcome drink.
- From the moment you touch down (barefoot) on Soneva Kiri’s shores, your personal butler – called a Mr or Ms Friday – is on hand with a smile and assists you throughout your stay.
- The award-winning luxury resort is located in Thailand’s fourth largest but least populated island, Koh Kood. Koh Kood is Thailand as it was years ago, with untamed jungle, pristine beaches, and fishermen going about their business. Surprisingly, Koh Kood is one of Thailand’s best kept secrets as the island remains an ‘off the radar’ destination. Soneva Kiri offers several excursions to explore the beauty of Koh Kood, which has a distinct local feel and is a real step back in time to the Thailand of old.
- Soneva Kiri’s natural landscape is stunningly beautiful. The resort is located on a massive, 41-hectare (102-acre) site in a remote corner of Koh Kood, overlooking the turquoise, calm waters of a majestic private bay. 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 simply does’t get better than this.
- Because the resort grounds are so spread out, private electric buggies are provided to guests (one per villa) for the duration of their stay. It’s so much fun to drive around with your loved one through the lush tropical foliage, although you’ll soon discover that the resort offer more jungle, beach, and more leisure activities than your buggy will be able to hit in one day. In addition to golf carts, bicycles are provided are well (one per guest) which is an even more fun (and decidedly more healthy) way to explore the resort, although the hilly character of the domain may represent a challenge for some guests.
- From the arrival jetty, a long wooden walkway leads up the hill to Soneva Kiri’s main facilities and resort center. Perched atop rocky cliffs and sheltered amidst verdant tree canopy, the resort’s heart is an amazing latticework of pathways and wood pavilions that seem to come straight out of a fairytale. Here, you find the reception, library, bar (with pool), main restaurant, jewelry gallery, boutique shop, and a fabulous chocolate & ice cream parlor. All ice creams and chocolates are complimentary (24/7). You can choose from over sixty constantly changing flavors of homemade ice creams and sorbets at the ice cream parlor, which is called ‘So Chilled’. Inside the adjoining ‘So Chocoholic’ room, 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.
- Private beaches in Asia are a rarity, but you find one at Soneva Kiri. The resort’s magnificent North Beach is accessible by a short 5 minute speedboat ride from the resort. The white, sandy beach is fringed with palm trees, and offers sunbeds and umbrellas for guests to lounge on. Light snacks and drinks are served on the beach, and a barbecue can be arranged. The ocean water is crystal clear, warm, and calm.
- 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. Located along the idyllic bay or on the sunny slopes in the rainforest, all villas have stunning infinity pools, impossibly chic furnishings, and impeccable service courtesy of Mr/Ms Friday private butlers. In Soneva’s trademark rustic-chic eco-design, the villas feature large outdoor living areas and indoor, air-conditioned bedrooms, and beautifully designed semi-outdoor, en-suite bathrooms. In all my travels, I have never been more impressed and ‘wowed’ by a hotel accommodation than here (even on my repeat visits).
- Soneva Kiri features several palatial multi-bedroom villas, which are ideal for larger travel parties or families. During my visit, I was upgrade to a phenomenal 5 bedroom villa, called the ‘Private Beach Pool Reserve’. Redefining the ‘castle in the sand’ concept, this enormous villa is loctaed on Soneva Kiri’s most desirable beachside real estate since it comes with its own private beach cove. Secluded away in an exceptionally peaceful spot, the Private Beach Pool Reserve towers over the sea, is embraced by jungle, enjoys a serene atmosphere away from the buzz of the resort, but is only a short 5-minute electric buggy ride away from all the rustic-luxe facilities. The master bedroom and three additional bedrooms all feature luxury outdoor bathrooms so you can soak in the starlight or shower by the sun’s rays with a refreshing waterfall. The fifth bedroom is the most playful of them all – a tree house with child-cheering bunk beds and a slide snaking its way down to the sprawling freeform swimming pool.
- Dining at Soneva Kiri is a stellar culinary experience, because of the extravagant restaurant settings, the amazing food, and top-quality service. There are 3 restaurants that cater to different tastes. The View restaurant takes its name from its unparalleled outlook on a cliff over the Gulf of Siam and offers international cuisine with an Asian twist. The Dining Room‘s rustic-chic design serves as a natural complement to the beauty of the views; it offers fabulous themed buffets on selected evening. And then there’s Benz, an open-air lantern-lit eatery on stilts amidst the mangroves which offers the most exquisite, spicy Thai food I’ve ever had.
- The resort’s most memorable dining experience is the Treepod, which is inspired by the childhood’s desire to climb into a leafy canopy and find shelter amidst a simple wooden construction. Taking fine dining literally to new heights, you can gaze out across the boulder-covered shoreline dancing with gentle waves from a bamboo pod high up into the ancient rainforest, as you savor gourmet delights and your chosen wines, delivered via the zip-line acrobatics of your personal waiter.
- All Soneva resorts feature by far the most lavish breakfast buffets of any hotel in the world, but my absolute favorite is the breakfast at Soneva Kiri, served at the Dining Room. It features a dedicated ham and cheese room, with sumptuous homemade cheeses, charcuterie and own-smoked salmon, in addition to a menu of creative Thai and Mediterranean fare from the Cooking Hut. You can also take your pick of more luscious delicacies straight from the wood-fired rock oven, hot and cold smoke oven and the earthen tandoor.
- 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 marries three passions close to the founder’s – Sonu Shivdasani and Eva Malstrom – heart: classical beauty and elegance, immersion in nature and relaxed indulgence … a luxury that lets its hair down and kicks off its shoes. Film screenings are scheduled on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday & Friday in the resort’s open-air theatre, a jungle-enshrouded auditorium of cascading cushions over the waters of the reservoir lagoon. While watching the movie, you can nibble on a playful menu of gourmet comfort foods, accompanied with your personal fancy of creative cocktails.
- On the remote island of Koh Kood, you stare into its open sky, far from the obscuring lights of civilization. That’s why Soneva Kiri built a state-of-the-art observatory, located next to the DIning Room. With the infectious passion of visiting astronomers, you can identify constellations, count the moons of Jupiter and peer at the graceful halo of Saturn’s translucent ring.
- A giant moulded bamboo playground shaped like a manta ray, The Den – the resort’s version of a child’s club – is dedicated to learning, to excitement, to meaningful experiences. Professional child minders pique your children’s imaginations, teaching them to play Thai instruments, unleashing their creative talents with painting and the visual arts, and carefully watching them at play in the wonderous world of moulded bamboo spaces up, down and around. Soneva Kiri also offer a special program aimed specifically at one to five year-olds, and is the only resort that offers such comprehensive, age-specific facilities. Here, the children get to play with toys and take part in activities, that meet Soneva’s stringent standards of social and environmental responsibility.
- Hidden among the island’s wild jungle foliage, the resort’s Six Senses spa provides lasting wellness and rejuvenation therapies. From soothing scrubs and oils of local coconuts to Tibetan hot stones, the spa will invite you to embark on sensory journeys of authentic treatments from near and far, including mud massages, Thai herbal baths, silk facials, and a rich selection of wellness rituals. The spa is operated by Six Senses, a brand that’s world-famous for its wellness programs & facilities. Sonu Shivdasani – the CEO of Soneva – is also the founder and former CEO of the Six Senses Resorts & Spas, across South East Asia and Europe, which he sold in 2012.
- 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. Soneva’s 3 other properties are located in the Maldives, Soneva Fushi, Soneva In Aqua, and Soneva Jani.
- 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. IMHO, 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 incredible resort has no real cons, yet there are some thing you may want to know when considering a stay here:
- 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 70 minutes can make people – including myself – nervous. However, you don’t have to fly to get to Soneva Kiri as you can also get there from Bangkok by car (4 to 5 hours, depending upon traffic), followed by a 40 min boat transfer. So, your flying phobia should not be an excuse to skip this exceptional, highly recommended resort.
- 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 ‘beach pool villa suite’ (lowest room category) and the ‘bayview pool villa suite’ to the ‘sunset ocean view pool villa suites’ (highest room category). I stayed in all 3 villa types during my previous visits to Soneva Kiri and they are all terrific. Just keep in mind that the beach pool villa suites are not really ocean front but are built around an inlet of the sea (more like a lagoon) with a tidal beach (which is almost non-existing at high tide). The resort’s main beach – North Beach – does not feature any villas.
- Soneva Kiri’s repeat guests may notice that the resort is now using a different beach – North Beach (only accessible by boat) – instead of the one they used a few years ago (South Beach). While North Beach is stunningly beautiful and one of the best in Thailand, it’s not as exceptional as South Beach which ranked among my favorite beaches in the world with the clearest water and the softest sand I had ever seen (with the exception of the Maldives). However, the good news is that there’s a real chance that South Beach will be joining the resort grounds again (in addition to North Beach) in the near future.
- All your other trips will pale in comparison to the memory of a Soneva Kiri vacation.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 10/10
- Pool: 10/10
- Rooms: 10/10
- Food: 10/10
- Breakfast: 10/10
- Spa: 10/10
- Service: 10/10
- Value for money: 10/10
- Overall experience: very good: 10/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Contact me for a complimentary room upgrade (based upon availability).
- 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: get free VIP amenities at Soneva Kiri when booking via Virtuoso (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; with stays of 4 nights or more: one beach dinner, a private island picnic with snorkeling at Koh Rang, and a 30 min spa treatment for two).
- Room tip: When choosing a villa, you should mainly take into consideration whether you want to be in the jungle and shade (bayview pool villa suite or sunset ocean view pool villa suites), or in full sunshine (beach pool villa suite). Keep in mind that the beach pool villa suites are not really ocean front (see above) and are not located on Soneva Kiri’s idyllic beach. In fact, I prefer the bayview pool villa suite over the beach pool villa suite, mainly because of the shade (which can be a welcome respite from 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). I did not encounter any problem with insects during my stay in the dry season.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
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 70 minute flight from Bangkok’s main international airport on the resort’s private plane (or, when you are suffering from flying phobia, a 4 hours car trip followed by a 50 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.