Six Senses Yao Noi
Our first Six Senses stay was in Oman. I was traveling around the world with my 10-year-old daughter and we included a stop at Six Senses Zighy Bay because you could arrive at the hotel by paragliding in from a nearby mountain. We loved the resort, so I talked to the staff about which other Six Senses resorts were amazing and great for families. They recommended Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives and Six Senses Yao Noi in Thailand. We visited Laamu twice and loved it, and visited Six Senses Resorts in Vietnam and the Seychelles too, but never seemed to make it to Yao Noi.
This year my 12-year-old daughter has school breaks in February and April. She would turn 13 over her February break, so I left it up to her where she wanted to travel that week to celebrate. I showed her some places that have been on my travel wish list, and she found other destinations that looked fun and warm (she started the year in Antarctica and was done with the cold), and in the end chose Six Senses Yao Noi. We booked their last available villa for the week.
Traveling to Six Senses Yao Noi
Given the sheer distance between Southern California and Koh Yao Noi I wanted to make the travel as easy as possible. My goals were fewer connections, shorter overall travel times, more comfortable seats, and reasonable fares…which didn’t come together perfectly. It’s fastest to head west to Thailand from LA, but none of the flight schedules was perfect – either they had long layovers, or went through Hong Kong (still bouncing back from Covid, which could complicate things if we got stuck there), or they were expensive.
In the end I booked two one-way tickets – LA-Doha-Phuket on Qatar Airways, and then Phuket-Bangkok-Taipei-LA on EVA Air. We would be literally traveling around the world, west to east, for a one week break! I chose Qatar Airways because I have a lot of frequent flier points with them (Avios), and was hoping to be able to use points to upgrade our economy seats to their amazing QSuites. I chose EVA because their one-way business class tickets were priced really well, and the schedule was good – we would have two hours or so to connect in both Bangkok and Taipei. As always we parked at The Parking Spot at LAX.
Our itinerary worked well. We failed at upgrading our Qatar tickets from LA to Doha, since the flight was full, and 15 hours in economy wasn’t fun, but we were able to upgrade from Doha to Phuket (6 hours) and sleep on that flight. Coming back EVA was really nice – a solid business class with good service but slightly awkward seats. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend both airlines. All flights were on time or early, and we didn’t have any issues with our checked luggage.
Arriving at Six Senses Yao Noi
We flew into Phuket, quickly cleared immigration and customs, got our luggage and met the Six Senses Yao Noi rep in the arrivals hall. We were supposed to take a car from the airport to the Phuket marina and then a speedboat to Six Senses, but the tide was too low to go straight to the resort so we boated to the Yao Noi marina instead and then drove to the resort. I actually loved the drive since it let us get a feel for the island outside of Six Senses. We arrived at the resort at 9:45am, two hours and 15 minutes after landing at Phuket.
As I mentioned above, the resort was full when we visited, so we didn’t expect our room to be ready at 9:45am. Instead we had breakfast (it’s open until 10:30am), got a tour of the resort from our GEM (a Guest Experience Maker, kind of like a butler, assigned to every couple/family), and then based out of a day room at The Hilltop – the resort’s main pool and one of its restaurants. We changed, relaxed at the pool and ate lunch. At 2pm we were taken to our villa.
FYI, our GEM was Kiw, aka Q. If you have him as well, say hi for us!
Our Six Senses Yao Noi Hideaway Pool Villa
Six Senses Yao Noi has villas with and without ocean views, and with and without multiple bedrooms. We booked the most basic accommodation since it was the only one left – a Hideaway Pool Villa. It had a private pool and a bedroom with a main bed and a day bed, which they made up for our daughter. The bathroom was huge, with a tub, an indoor shower and an outdoor shower. We honestly didn’t need anything more, especially since you can see the ocean from most spots at the resort. If you have a limited budget, or if your room choices are limited, don’t hesitate to book a Hideaway Pool Villa. FYI, we were in Villa 32, which was roughly a five-minute walk down to breakfast and the beach and a four-minute walk up to The Hilltop. The resort initially seems intimidating, but really it’s not that large, and there are paths and shortcuts wherever you want to go.
Our Six Senses Yao Noi Beachfront Pool Villa
Having said all that, the resort upgraded us to a Beachfront Pool Villa (#5) our final two nights. It was a slight hassle to pack up everything and switch rooms mid-week, but it was worth the move, since the view (and sunrise view) were amazing, it was a shorter walk to breakfast, and we had private stairs down to the beach, which we used often to walk over to kayak and paddle board. The room, bathroom and pool were virtually identical to our Hideaway Pool Villa – just with a view and beach access.
What We Did for a Week at Six Senses Yao Noi
We were up early every morning with lingering jet lag, so we watched sunrise every morning – the first four days from The Hilltop and the last two from the beach. In mid-February it started getting light around 6am with sunrise at 6:50 or so, with the light and colors changing the entire time. Clouds covered up the sun one day, but the other five we were able to get the full sunrise experience.
Kayaking and Stand Up Paddle Boarding
We went kayaking and/or stand up paddle boarding most mornings and several afternoons. There are maybe four kayaks and four paddle boards at Six Senses Yao Noi, free for guest use, and even though the resort was full, we never had an issue with availability.
Six Senses resorts are known for their spas. The resort provided us with a couples massage and it was excellent – probably one of my top ten massages anywhere. FYI, I had the 60-minute Oriental Massage and loved the pressure, stretching and elbows. It’s a gorgeous setting too.
We booked the half-day island hopping experience and really enjoyed it. We were picked up by a longtail boat at 9am, went around a few of the nearby islands, stopped at several beaches, and then returned to the resort around 12:30pm. It seemed like kind of a standard itinerary. We heard good things from other guests about the full-day island hopping trips, which sounded a little more tailored to exactly what the guests wanted to do, including visiting farther away islands and caves. Next time I’d probably book the full day trip.
Sunset on Koh Nok
This was my favorite experience of the week. An hour before sunset we were picked up by a longtail boat and taken roughly 15 minutes away to the small island of Koh Nok. The two crew members set up a table and cushy chairs for us on the beach and brought out appetizers that we had selected from the resort’s options. We spent an hour and a half on the island and then returned to Six Senses, making it a two-hour experience. The resort doesn’t have a view of the sunset, so this is one of your best/only sunset-viewing options, and the boat and island were fun. Highly recommended!
Trip Into Town
Over the course of our trip we discovered a few different foods that my wife wanted to be able to make at home, so we headed into town to shop. The island town is small and not touristy, and we were able to find peanuts, noodles, sauces and a few other things. We could have rented mopeds from the resort, or taken their bicycles, but we opted for a round-trip taxi that our GEM Q arranged for us.
Body Scrub Workshop
My daughter takes her skin care seriously, so we thought a body scrub workshop at the Spa’s Alchemy Bar would be fun for her. We were right! And it was also fun for us, the parents. We learned about everything that can go into body scrubs and we each made our own.
Note: we did the body scrub workshop our last day, which meant we had limited time to actually use our scrubs before heading home (they’re not packaged for travel and have a limited shelf life). I’d recommend doing this earlier in your stay.
We spent a lot of time at our villa, swimming, doing yoga, reading and relaxing. Given how few guests we would see around the resort every day, I’m guessing others spend a lot of time at their villas as well.
Meals took up a decent part of every day – at least an hour each at breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were never in a hurry. Breakfast is at The Living Room near the beach and is excellent – one of my top five breakfasts anywhere. The pastries, coffee, Thai food, fruit, dim sum and eggs are all amazing.
We had four lunches at The Living Room, one at the Hilltop pool, and one at our villa. The Living Room has the best menu if you want pizza or Thai. The Hilltop and in-room dining have more international items like burgers and fish sandwiches.
For dinner we went to the Hilltop once, The Dining Room once, and The Living Room four times. The Hilltop and The Dining Room are the resort’s nicer dining options, with fancier menus, and honestly we didn’t love them – we preferred the Thai and Indian options at The Living Room. The Yao Noi Street Market at The Living Room was our favorite dining experience. I believe it’s every Tuesday night. So many excellent options, including sushi and BBQ.
The Den is the resort’s bar. We’re not usually bar people, but this is a great setting, overlooking the frog ponds and a hornbill nest. We loved watching the frogs and hornbills all week! We headed over several evenings before dinner.
What We Didn’t Do
Even with seven days at Six Senses Yao Noi there was a lot we didn’t do. We didn’t spend much time relaxing at the beach since we were usually in the water. I didn’t even open the book in the below photo. We didn’t spend much time at the chicken or duck coops (we have chickens at home). My daughter didn’t do any of the Junior Eco Warrior Program activities, even though other kids seemed to be having fun. We didn’t take a Muay Thai boxing lesson. We didn’t go to movies on the beach – the first one (Roman Holiday) was cancelled because of rain and we thought about going to the second one (Love Actually) but the mosquitos were out in force. And we never took advantage of the resort’s bicycles for a ride around the island.
Six Senses Yao Noi Finance
Rooms at Six Senses Yao Noi start at $627/night. May through September look to be the least expensive months to visit. Rates can be closer to $1,000/night during peak months. Breakfast is included. Book far in advance to get the best pricing.
Most of our meals were around $55 for three people. Dinners at The Dining Room and Hilltop are more expensive.
Roundtrip airport transfers are roughly $108 per adult and half that for kids.
Massages would have been around $150 each if we paid for them – not as high as a lot of resorts, but far more than the $10 massages you’ll see along the road if you head out of the resort.
Six Senses Yao Noi Tipping
Tipping is always an awkward subject. Thailand doesn’t have a tipping culture, which makes things a little easier. The resort includes a 10% service charge with meals, drinks, spa visits and everything else, and I understand that’s shared by all staff. There’s no line for tips on restaurant or bar checks, which is nice.
At other Six Senses resorts tipping has been a part of check-out – especially for your GEM. That wasn’t the case at Six Senses Yao Noi, so I gave our GEM $100 and left $20 for housekeeping. That felt appropriate to me. You can do whatever you want – I’m guessing a lot of people don’t tip at all, and some probably tip far more.
I didn’t take money with me on the boat expeditions. In hindsight I probably should have tipped the crews.
The Six Senses App
Download the Six Senses App before you go. It worked well during our stay to reach GEM Q to request a buggy or dining reservation or confirm activity times. We ordered our in-villa lunch through the app, which seemed to work well except that the $15 glass of wine we ordered became a full bottle and was charged accordingly. We didn’t make an issue of it, but it seemed strange that there were any discrepancies at all with a digital order.
Packing for Six Senses Yao Noi
Six Senses Yao Noi Dress Code: While we were packing for our trip I struggled to find a good dress code anywhere for Six Senses Yao Noi. In general during the day people wore shorts and t-shirts, or swimsuits and coverups. Very casual. For dinner there was no consistency. Some couples looked nicer, some were casual. Some kids wore dresses or collared shirts, and some stayed in t-shirts. It’s very flexible so you can pretty much do whatever you want – just don’t come to dinner in your swimsuit. I brought a pair of long pants and never wore them; shorts were perfectly acceptable.
Primarily pack lightweight clothes, sunscreen, a swimsuit and a sun hat. Even if you dress up for dinners you’ll still want light clothes – it never got cold, at least in February. A daypack came in handy for the boat excursions. All electrical outlets can handle European or US plugs.
We lived in our Unbound Merino lightweight t-shirts. They’re perfect for a trip like this since they dry quickly (from the ocean, rain or sweat) and don’t need to be washed for at least a week.
We brought a kit of medicines and antibiotics from Duration Health and didn’t need it – we stayed perfectly healthy, but then all of our meals were at the resort or prepared by the resort. A friend in Thailand at the same time wasn’t so lucky and needed to use meds from her Duration Health kit.
Thailand did away with its travel health insurance requirement before our trip, so we never had to show proof of insurance. FYI, our annual family policy is through G1G Travel, which includes trip cancellation coverage – which definitely could have come in handy if anything had happened with this trip, given that we paid for the majority of our stay in advance.
Positives, Negatives and Feedback
This was a great trip. It wasn’t inexpensive, but Six Senses Yao Noi is one of the world’s great resorts, the location is magical, and the food was excellent. It actually worked well for a one-week school vacation. How many kids get to say they traveled around the world for spring break? And it was nice of the resort to celebrate my daughter’s 13th birthday with a surprise cake at dinner and room decorations.
The negatives: mosquitos and jet lag. My daughter is a magnet for mosquito bites. She did pretty good for six days, using the spray that the resort provides in villas and on every table at restaurants, but they got her the last night. Not sure if mosquitos found their way into the net over her bed, but she had over 100 bites by the time we departed, all over her face, arms and legs, and was extremely uncomfortable on the flights home. We should have taken along a serious mosquito spray.
And jet lag is a simply part of travel. It wasn’t terrible when we were at the resort – we more or less switched to Thailand time and were rarely tired during the day. It hit us on the way back though. Luckily my daughter never really felt it. FYI, my jet lag tips are here.
Six Senses Yao Noi is still bouncing back from Covid closures, so maybe it’s unfair to list any service-related negatives at all. I will anyway as feedback for the resort. I suggested to this to them already, but they should have coffee available at The Hilltop for sunrise. There were 10-15 people up there with us every morning waiting for the sun to come up. Coffee would have been welcome! And we love that Six Senses resorts provide free ice cream, but the ice cream at Yao Noi wasn’t as good as at other Six Senses. They need Six Senses Laamu’s ice cream person to fly over for a workshop! And they should figure out why the in-villa app ordering doesn’t work perfectly. Other than that, no feedback! It was an almost perfect stay.