With its vast pool villas nestled in ocean-fringed jungle, boutique hotel Soneva Kiri on Koh Kood offers ultra-luxe on a secluded Thai isle. Spend days sunbathing by the beach or floating in cool water during a Watsu treatment. At night, go on an after-dark snorkelling adventure, dine in the tree canopy or catch a movie at the outdoor cinema.
Get this when you book through us:
One complimentary dinner (excluding drinks), either at the View or Benz's
Noon; check-in, 2pm. Earlier check-ins or late check-outs are possible, but attract a one-night charge.
Double rooms from £734.13 ($946), including tax at 21.84 per cent.
Rates include international buffet breakfast, butler service and free chocolate and ice-cream.
Your Soneva Kiri experience begins at Bangkok Airport, where you’re met by the hotel’s representatives and escorted on to the private plane that whisks you over the city and the turquoise ocean to a neighbouring island. A five-minute trip on a speedboat and you’re delivered directly to your villa for check-in.
At the hotel
Private beach with watersports facilities, spa, swimming-pool, tennis and volleyball court, fitness room, restaurants, bars, observatory, outdoor cinema, kids' club, library, CD and DVD libraries, free WiFi throughout, concierge. In rooms: flatscreen TV and DVD player, CD player, iPod dock, minibar, full-size Soneva amenities, outdoor bathrooms, private pool, personal concierges called Fridays in a nod to Robinson Crusoe. Electric buggy for exploring the resort.
Our favourite rooms
How to choose, since they’re all divine, with billowing mosquito nets and stacks of old-school suitcases at the end of the bed hiding away the television? For couples Cliff Pool Villa Suite 53, with huge outdoor living spaces and a massive pool, is perfectly private. For easier beach access, bag one of the 12 romantic Oceanfront Pool Villa Suites with dreamy sea views.
As stunning as the main infinity pool is, it is oft ignored by Soneva Kiri’s guests, possibly because each of the villas has its own huge private pool.
Now’s the time to catch up on all those books and magazines on your ‘to read’ list – load them on to your Kindle to lighten your bags.
Both smoking and non-smoking villas are available.
Kids love Soneva Kiri. Beaches, pools and an amazing kids’ club will keep them amused. Baby cots are free and extra beds for children under the age of 11 can be added to all rooms for US$73 each a night (US$146 for over-12s).
A key philosophy of the Soneva group is the Slowlife (sustainable, local, organic, wellness, learning, inspired, fun, experiences) approach. Both environmental and social responsibility is important, so resorts will recycle waste, conserve water, preserve local environments (particularly fragile marine ecosystems), grow organic food and buy produce from local farmers and fishermen. Soneva also works with community organisations worldwide, including the Plant a Tree Today forest restoration project in Thailand.
For something a little different you can’t beat Treepod Dining. Otherwise, choose the deck at the View, which hangs over the trees and takes in the sunset. Private dining, in-villa or on a deserted beach, can also be arranged.
Soneva Kiri’s motto is ‘no news, no shoes’, so even at romantic the View casual – sundresses, shorts and sandals – is perfectly acceptable.
Helmed by respected chef Khun Benz, Benz's is a lantern-lit Thai restaurant on stilts reached via a speedboat through the mangroves. Prop yourself on the floor cushions and enjoy dishes such as deep-fried fish with spicy and sweet sauce and crispy banana blossom. Also dinner-only, the View has a daily-changing modern bistro menu, with a dreamy deck, but be sure to book for Thursday's Slowlife dinner, made solely from local fish and vegetables from the organic garden. A mighty buffet breakfast is served at casual outpost the Dining Room, which hosts a Thai buffet on Tuesday nights. Snag a table on the sand for breakfast or lunch at shoreside the Beach, which serves pizza, sushi and salads. Got a head for heights? Book Treepod Dining, a bamboo pod winched up to six metres in the air so you can gaze down on the rainforest and waves below while an acrobatic waiter serves your meal via a zip line. Pod dining is available for all meals. Budding Willy Wonkas will love So Chilled, So Chocoholic and So Deli-cious, three parlours where you can help yourself to ice-cream, chocolate, cakes and pastries, or cheese and charcuterie.
So Spiritual is a romantic spot with sunset vistas and day-beds. There’s a full menu of fruit cocktails, as well as thousands of bottles of wine from the cellar. Catch the twice-weekly wine tastings and wine degustation dinner. At poolside So Spirited you can graze on an all-day menu of sandwiches, burgers and Thai snacks, washed down with cocktails and other concoctions.
Dinner is served at Benz’s from 6.30pm to 10pm (closed Tuesdays and Sundays), at the View from 7pm to 10pm (closed Tuesdays), and at the Dining Room from 7.30pm until 10pm (Tuesdays only); the two bars stay open until midnight.
Available from 7am until 2am, the in-villa dining menu offers just about anything you could desire. You might also like to try the in-villa barbecue, where a chef prepares a meal that includes your choice of seafood and meats.
Soneva Kiri is set amid palm-fringed hills around a secluded bay on the north-west coast of unspoilt Koh Kood island, near Thailand’s border with Cambodia. Located 350 kilometres south-east of Bangkok, the isle is 80 kilometres off the Thai mainland.
Fly to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, serviced by airlines from all over the world; our Smith24 team can arrange your flights. Guests are met by private airport representatives of Soneva Kiri, and transferred to the resort's waiting custom-fitted eight-seater Cessnas for the 70-minute flight to Koh Mai Si, the resort's private airport island, followed by a five-minute speedboat journey to Soneva's shores. Return shared air transfers between Bangkok and Soneva Kiri can be arranged from US$400 an adult (ages 12-and-up) and US$320 for (aged 2–11) (from US$650 an adult and US$445 a child during high, peak and Easter seasons). One-way flights between Soneva Kiri and Siem Reap airport can be arranged for US$650 an adult (ages 12-and-up) and US$445 a child (aged 2–11). Tots under two fly for free, but they’ll need a ticket. Share your international flight information with the hotel when booking; the last seaplane departs from Soneva Kiri between 4pm and 5pm.
There are no train services to Trat, the nearest mainland jumping-off point for Koh Kood.
Given Soneva Kiri’s island location, we don’t recommend hiring a car and driving from Bangkok as you’ll need to make the final hop to the hotel by boat. Buses run from Bangkok’s Ekamai eastern terminal to Trat, where you can pick up taxis to the pier to catch the boat to Koh Kood, but with a journey time of around six hours even a first-class ride won’t be much fun.
Worth getting out of bed for
Within the confines of Soneva Kiri there is plenty to keep you occupied. The Six Senses Spa, specialising in locally inspired treatments, is hidden away in the jungle. As well as offering the opportunity to relax during the Soneva Muddy Journey (a detox mud treatment) and the like, there’s a timetable of yoga, Pilates, meditation and t'ai chi classes.
At the private beach, on the south side of the island, try your hand at kayaking, water-skiing, windsurfing or wake-boarding. There’s a tennis and volleyball court for the competitive, and a fitness room if the So Choco-licious room proves far too tempting.
If you’ve got little ones, the Den – designed in the shape of a manta ray by Dutch eco-architect Olav Bruin – is possibly one of the greatest kids’ clubs you’ll ever come across. Indoor and outdoor activities encourage creativity (there are no games consoles) and activity.
There’s also snorkelling, a rainforest walk and cooking classes with chef Khun Benz that include a visit to Ao Salat fishing village.
Soneva Kiri is located at one end of Koh Kood, which remains a blissfully peaceful part of Thailand. Some of the other smaller resorts and guesthouses on the island have restaurants and there are a couple of casual, local places, such as Chiang Mai Restaurant – on the main road to Bang Bao – a shack with distant sea views and fresh seafood dishes.
We know the upcoming Smith family holiday is going to be something special when our biggest discussion around the dinner table, pre-departure, is: should we take the helicopter or speedboat transfer to our island destination? (The resort’s private charter plane is undergoing maintenance when we're visiting.) At times like this, you have to pinch yourself and realise that life isn’t all that bad.
So it is that the Smith family of four boards the speedboat after a short flight from Bangkok to Trat, and a comfortable hour’s drive to the boat jetty. A bumpy but pleasant hour later, the mirage that is Soneva Kiri materialises before us. Greeted by management and a private assistant (known on the island as a ‘Friday’) at the jetty, and encouraged immediately to implement the hotel's ‘No news, no shoes’ policy, we're splashing around our villa’s private pool in less than 10 minutes.
Now, some hotels have butlers, but to have a dedicated, delightful and discreet ‘Friday’ for the duration of our stay – contactable and within reach at almost any time of day or night – that is something special. Our ‘Friday’, who (much to the delight of the two little Smith girls) is named Pink, has an ability to read minds – she’s one step ahead the whole time. When we realise that we have left Miss 3’s floaties at home, within a blink of an eye Pink returns with a pair of fully inflated Finding Nemo floaties, and has them on Miss 3’s chubby arms before we can even offer to float across the pool to assist. (At this point, we decide to take Pink home with us.)
The words ‘one-bedroom’ don’t resonate well with most families travelling with young children, and this Mr and Mrs Smith (self-confessed night owls), are anxious at the prospect of spending the holiday tucked up in bed by 7.30pm, so as not to disturb the kids. ‘One-bedroom’ at Soneva Kiri, however, doesn’t quite mean the same thing as it does anywhere else. There is indeed one bedroom, but this is housed in one of three standalone ‘huts’ that make up what is really a one-bedroom villa complex. The two additional huts house a ‘dressing room’ (think massive walk-in-wardrobe) and an enormous double bathroom. With the dressing room large enough to comfortably fit two single beds with accompanying hanging mosquito nets (naturally transforming them into ‘princess beds’), Miss 5 and Miss 3 shack up on their own – albeit only a few metres from the main bedroom – and love it.
So many decisions: to lather up in the open-air rain shower, the glass-brick-enclosed massage shower, or the poolside shower? Or to soak in the outdoor oversized sunken bath? If we should suddenly need to do a simultaneous family cleanse, we are certainly in the right place.
The difficult decisions continue outside the villa… do we drive our buggy down to the pristine white beach and watch the kids from our paddleboard, from a hanging double cabana, or swimming in the calm shallows that seem to stretch to the adjacent island? Or muster some energy and head to the tennis court or gym-with-a-view to work off the unlimited ice-cream (32 flavours, made in-house, no less) and chocolate that’s on offer, followed by some well-deserved relaxation in the exquisitely designed (and rightfully award-winning) spa?
As the end of the day nears, a family meeting is called for – two little hands up for a 7.30pm kid-friendly movie at the deluxe outdoor cinema (with obligatory popcorn and snacks); two bigger hands up for a world-class dinner buffet on the beach, accompanied by the most spectacular and breathtaking Thai sunset. The elders in this tribe pull rank and vote for the beach, but not before organising the nanny-on-a-buggy to collect the children and whisk them off to bed, once the sun has done the same. Our capable nanny is called upon the following night, when Mr and Mrs Smith decide on a romantic dinner at the resort’s Thai degustation restaurant, which is arrived at by boat just before sunset – a truly stunning and delicious experience.
Soneva Kiri is consciously super eco-friendly, almost Robinson Crusoe in style. It is designed so cleverly that all man-made structures blend seamlessly into the rugged natural surroundings, yet every modern luxury you could ever need or want is subtly installed and discreetly hidden behind or within bamboo walls or wooden panels. A TV, DVD and Bose surround sound system (with pre-loaded iPod) planted inside a pile of vintage luggage trunks at the end of the bed… it’s like something out of a James Bond movie. Don’t expect to pick up cable, though – the TV is purely for those who can’t do without a cinematic fix, maintaining the ‘no news’ theme. I must admit, this Mr Smith starts to panic, before realising that the WiFi connection is excellent, and I can still (covertly) keep up to date with the outside world (namely who is leading the golf).
The eco-aware, sustainable and superior quality approach of the resort is nowhere more evident than in the food on offer on the island. Soneva Kiri operates the only dairy in Thailand, producing its own yoghurts, cheese and milk. The hotel also smokes its own meats and seafood, and has just hung its first round of salamis, ready for consumption in a few months. The talented international and local chefs are immensely passionate about what they are achieving in such a remote location – I feel it would be an insult to them to not try everything on the breakfast buffet: chia seeds and organic nuts sprinkled over natural yogurt and fresh organic fruits with a wheatgrass and raw vegetable juice, followed by pancakes and scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, accompanied by a great latte – a perfectly balanced start to the day.
Soneva Kiri is the resort that resort-owners would head to for a break. It aims to be the best resort in the world, and it could well be. The whole feel of the island is one of calm and respect – for the environment, and for each other. Staff have their own village, where there is a restaurant, gym, bar, and very comfortable accommodation. The staff are happy – and it shows.
Luxury like this does come at a price, so if you want to stay in what may be the best resort in the world, you need to be prepared to pay for it. Though our bed and breakfast charges were taken care of long ago, the cost of all other meals and drinks (in a remote luxury location) needs to be factored in. With the price of Treepod dining as high as the forest canopy you are suspended in, it may not seem such a ‘must-do’ experience after all. Oh, and one other extra cost to bear in mind: the under-5’s kids club is charged at US$20 an hour (babysitting is charged at the same). Completely worth it, I say!
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