The past few years we’ve become huge fans of the Soneva and Six Senses brands. We’ve previously visited Six Senses properties in Oman, the Maldives, Vietnam and the Seychelles, and Soneva Fushi in the Maldives. Why am I lumping Six Senses and Soneva together? Because they were founded by the same couple, Eva and Sonu Shivdasani, and the resorts feel the same. The villas are similar. The colors are the same. The commitment to sustainability is the same. And some of the restaurants are nearly identical (walking into The View at Soneva Kiri we thought we were back at The Leaf at Six Senses Laamu). In this case, though, it’s good that everything is similar. Eva and Sonu have very good taste! The resorts all have great atmospheres – true barefoot luxury. The service is always amazing. And I never want our stays to end.
However, whereas Six Senses has been expanding and was just sold again, to IHG, Soneva remains family-held, and they focus only on their three amazing properties – island-based Soneva Fushi in the Maldives and Soneva Kiri in Thailand and overwater Soneva Jani in the Maldives. Given that my 11-year-old son and I were planning 2.5 weeks in Asia, in South Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, it seemed like a great chance to check out Soneva Kiri. What’s another country and a few more days? It’s what summer vacation is for!
Arriving at Soneva Kiri
Soneva Kiri is on the island of Koh Kood, roughly an hour from Bangkok. From Siem Reap, Cambodia we flew an hour to Bangkok and overnighted at the Novotel, connected to the airport. I love Bangkok, but with a late arrival and then a 7:40am departure to Soneva Kiri, it didn’t make sense to stay in the city.
To reach Soneva Kiri you take Soneva’s private plane. One of the most unique hotel arrivals ever! We walked from the Novotel to counter D-24 in the BKK Departures Hall at 6:10am and checked in. We left our checked bags with the desk agent and headed through security and to a lounge. Roughly 10 minutes before our flight a Soneva representative came and escorted us (and the other Soneva passengers) to the plane.
Soneva’s landing strip is on a different island from the resort. We landed, walked off the plane, met our Ms. Friday, got into a waiting golf cart, headed down to the water, and took a boat five minutes to the resort. Other resorts, where you simply drive up and park? Boring!
At Soneva’s resorts you’re assigned a Mr. Friday or Ms. Friday – a butler-type individual to look after you during your stay, make appointments, answer questions, etc… It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. Our Ms. Friday, Kali, escorted us from the plane to our villa, checked us in, showed us around the villa and gave us our tentative schedule including dining reservations for our three-night stay.
We’ve been fortunate to stay in a lot of resorts around the world with butlers/Ms. Fridays/GEMs – they all go by different names. Some went above and beyond. Some we barely saw. Some gave us incorrect information. And some were amazing. Kali was amazing – our favorite butler assistant person ever. During our stay she was omnipresent. She escorted us to appointments and reservations. She was proactive on anything the villa needed (like a new doorbell). She called frequently so that we wouldn’t forget things we were booked at. She decorated the room for my birthday. And she smiled constantly. Either she’s the happiest person in the world or she fakes it really well.
We were in Villa 8, a Beach Pool Villa Suite, roughly halfway around the bay and near the spa. I can’t speak for other villas or locations, but we loved where we were – just a few minutes from anywhere we wanted to go. The villa and bathroom were huge, and the private pool was probably the largest we’ve had anywhere.
We had filled out a pre-arrival questionnaire and I requested a football (soccer ball), since my son loves to play, and playing cards, just for fun. Both were waiting for us when we arrived, along with our selected pillows.
What We Loved
We really enjoyed our three days at Soneva Kiri and would have happily stayed two more. We spent a lot of time relaxing at our villa – swimming, kicking the football around, playing Frisbee, playing cards and chess, and reading.
But we left the villa often as well! Here’s everything we loved:
Our Golf Cart
The resort is slightly too hilly to get around on bikes, so instead you’re issued a golf cart. So much fun carting around everywhere. And yes, despite the age limitations, I let my son sit in my lap and drive half the time. I saw other guests doing the same. Heck, some of the other adults at the resort almost ran me off the road by not getting over enough. My son was better at driving than they were!
The resort’s main beach is just a few minutes away by boat. We went over our first day, had lunch and played for a while before returning to the resort. The tides weren’t in our favor during our visit, with low tide right in the middle of the day. That meant the beach was huge, but it was a lot harder to do water sports. If the tide had been in we would have spent more time there.
A Garden Tour
It’s always impressive going behind the scenes and seeing the gardens and sustainability initiatives at Six Senses and Soneva resorts. Nadia took me around the gardens for half an hour. Definitely do this when you visit.
I never find the time to get massages at home, but when I’m traveling, all I have is time! My massage at Soneva’s Six Senses Spa was excellent. I was still a little sunburned from our quad bike ride in Cambodia and the masseuse handled those burned areas perfectly.
A Coconut Oil Making Lesson
We loved this! Soneva makes its own coconut oil, mainly for use in the spa, and the resort’s head oil maker took us through the entire process. My son helped get the coconut out of the husk using a special stool with a built-in scraper (he swears he’s going to make an identical one in wood shop this year), and then helped strain it and cook it down until, sure enough, only oil was left.
The best kids club we’ve ever seen is at Soneva Fushi. Soneva Kiri’s Den is missing the pool and water slide, but is even more stunning architecturally.
Afternoon Tea in the Tree Pod
If Soneva Kiri has an iconic photo spot, it’s the tree pod – a bamboo pod with a table and benches that lifts you far above the ground. There’s only one pod and it fills up quickly for meals, so we booked an afternoon tea.
When it’s clear, head to the resort’s observatory to get up close with the moon and stars. We had one perfectly clear night and took full advantage!
There’s a waterfall maybe ten minutes from the resort. Two employees took three of us over to the waterfall for a morning swim, kept us safe (the current was strong) and then brought us fruit and drinks at the end. An added bonus: the swimming hole is filled with gara rufa fish that nibble the dead skin off your feet. A great excursion!
A Sunset Cruise
We had virtually no amazing sunsets during our three weeks in Asia. We didn’t see much rain, but it was cloudy most of the time. So it was perfect that the one night we picked for a sunset cruise (my birthday) was also the best sunset of the trip. We loved the cruise – great food, enjoyable conversations with other guests, and a stunning view in all directions.
A Kid’s Mixology Lesson
One of the standard kids club activities is a mixology course with Soneva Kiri’s bartender. My son joined three other kids to make two drinks. He’s done this elsewhere where the bartender did virtually all of the work. He liked that this time he got to do the work (with bartender instruction).
A Cordial Making Lesson
Separately we went back to the bar to learn how to make cordials. The bartender had all of the ingredients measured and prepared and we got right to work, scooping passion fruits, combining everything and then cooking the mixture until it was perfect. The particular cordial we made – from ginger, pineapple, cardamom, pepper, lime and more, is used in the resort’s signature cocktails. They made one for me afterward, using gin and the cordial we made, and it was good!
The Overall Feel of the Hotel
I mentioned barefoot luxury above. Soneva encourages to go barefoot at all of its resorts. You don’t need shoes during your stay, other than maybe for excursions. Six Senses does the same at several of its properties as well. It worked great at Soneva Fushi, but we found some of the walkways a little too hot at Soneva Kiri, even with periodic water stations, and opted for flip flops after our first half day. Other guests stayed true to the No Shoes, No News philosophy. Regardless, it’s a wonderful resort to simply wander around. Every detail is perfect.
Unlimited Ice Cream and Chocolate
I’m leaving the best for last. Imagine a perfect world where you can get ice cream and really good chocolate any time you want for free. That actually exists at Soneva Kiri, and it was difficult not to overindulge! Several times a day we stopped by for ice cream and, while there, sampled as many chocolates as we could.
Breakfast every day is at The Dining Room. They have virtually anything you could possibly want. I was always happy with fresh mango (cut as soon as you request it), coffee, dim sum and a chocolate croissant. I ordered an omelette one day as well. I can’t imagine anyone not being happy with the selection.
We had lunch our first day at North Beach, and then at the cafe by the ice cream twice. The fish at North Beach is great, and I loved the chicken tikka pizza at the cafe.
Soneva has three major dinner restaurants. We tried each over our three nights.
Our first night was at Benz’s. Chef Benz has been with Soneva forever, and opened up a home-cooking restaurant for hotel guests roughly a 10-minute drive from the resort. I was blown away by the gorgeous setting, right on the water with perfect reflections, and by the food – one of my top-five meals of all time. There’s no ordering; you simply get whatever she’s cooked up for the day. Every single dish was exquisite. If I had to name just one reason to visit Soneva Kiri, it would be to experience a meal at Benz’s. For reference, I’m including our menu below.
Dinner our second night was at the Dining Room. Excellent Thai and sushi and, well, pretty much anything else you want.
Our third night we ate at The View. This was following our Afternoon Tea in the tree pod and our sunset cruise and we weren’t hungry at all, so we didn’t fully appreciate it. We got the risotto and then they surprised me with a birthday cake. The view was gorgeous though!
Our flight from Soneva Kiri was at 9:30am, so we left the resort just a little before that, boated over to the landing strip and got on the plane. It was a gorgeous flight. In Bangkok we checked in for our onward Emirates flight, then waited forever in the immigration line, went through security and still had plenty of time before the 2:05pm departure.
Summary and Finance
We loved Soneva Kiri. Our villa was perfect, the food was excellent (especially Benz’s), and there was a lot to keep us busy every day. Three days weren’t enough – I’d recommend five if it fits into your budget. And we loved our Ms. Friday. Will be tough for our next resort butler person to compare!
I’d love for Soneva Kiri to reduce the driving age for the golf carts/buggies, or have a place somewhere at the resort where kids are allowed to drive. I grew up going golfing with my dad and drove the cart from an early age, and it was great practice for driving a car. I think it’s unrealistic to tell parents that their kids can’t drive. I’ll guarantee you that if my son had been allowed to drive on a small track or something at the resort, he’d be begging to return!
We received a media rate without any expectation of positive coverage. Looking at the reservation calendar, rates start at $665/night for the remainder of 2019 and $872 in 2020. During periods of lower expected occupancy expect that to come down a little. Round-trip flights are $400 for adults and $200 for kids. Full Board (three meals) is $275/day for adults and $140/day for kids. Or you could live on ice cream and chocolate every day for free! The tree pod dining and sunset cruise are extra.
Tash M says
This looks such a once in a lifetime form of accomodation! I love the Tree Pod and I think all of the activities included would make for a perfect stay! Cheers for this Article!
Very tempted to come here with our 2 boys (ages 8 & 10). They love snorkeling and beach time. Only time we can visit is July during summer holiday, is that a bad time to visit?
Eric Stoen says
We visited in July. It was great – only a little rain one night. The resort was full when we were there, but July is usually less crowded and a little less expensive. Go for it!
Karin Conroy says
Thank you for this incredibly detailed review! We’re considering a stay here because of your review but are torn between this property and the Six Senses Koh Ya Noi, mainly because I’d love to introduce my kids to that side of Thailand with the gorgeous views and rock formations. It seems as though that property might not have a kids den or be as family-focused, though. Do you have any thoughts or insights? Thanks in advance!
Eric Stoen says
We’ve almost stayed at Six Senses Yao Noi twice but we’ve made other plans, so I can’t compare it to Soneva Kiri yet. Soneva tends to have more elaborate kids clubs than Six Senses. Not sure about Yao Noi specifically. Otherwise I’ve only heard good things about Six Senses Yao Noi. And yes, the view from there looks gorgeous!