Sorry for a long review, but I want to put in all my thoughts of this excellent resort. I was in Soneva Kiri with my wife late November early December to escape hosting a birthday party.
As a summary, the resort and people were excellent, food from good to excellent (only). Very different compared to glass and steel five star resorts. Would recommend this to everyone except people with mobility problems (there are lots of stairs) and people who are afraid of nature. Value for money ratio could have been bit better though...
Here is the biggest minus of them all (and from this you can guess the other ones are quite minor), I was SO expecting the flight from Bangkok to Soneva Kiri, so the normal charter from Bangkok to Trat and the following short helicopter ride were a disappointment. Hopefully they get their private plane back at some date! Soneva Kiri personnel were visibly present at Bangkok airport at the gate on arrival and on package claim during the departure to guide and help us through the immigration and to the proper gate for continuation or to airport hotel during the departure. One wish for next time though, please slow down a little! During the arrival there was another couple our greeter needed to guide through after us so we ended up walking pretty fast to the Bangkok airlines lounge. We didn’t enjoy that much after 10 hour flight.
Arriving to the resort by boat from the airport island was nice. We did our “check-in” at the main bar, which consisted mostly of getting rid of my shoes. (My wife’s shoes were bagged already at the jetty.) This voluntary no-shoes policy was something we really enjoyed, I really hated to put them back on when leaving!
Resort itself is really much like indicated in all the pictures. Mostly open air, wooden and spread on quite large area (from main resort buildings to the beach the distance was close to one kilometer) so golf buggies are quite needed to get around. 95% of the other 5-star resorts tend to be constructed from glass, chrome and steel, Soneva Kiri distinctly goes towards luxury Robinson Crusoe style, which was incredibly relaxing. Combination of the style and distances created unprecedented amount of privacy to almost everything you did. You could hardly hear you neighbours through the jungle, let alone see them. (Our other alternative for this vacation would have been a water villa style resort in Maldives, but the privacy wouldn’t really have been there!) Many of the resort main buildings are concentrated on the same area, but then some are spread around (especially restaurant Benz which is outside the resort).
Environment wise, the resort is in jungle. So there are mosquitoes (and cicadas as previous reviewer found out) and other animals around, and short of poisoning everything around and in the resort there really isn’t a way to get around that. And the big point in the resort is to live with the environment rather than mould it to suit city tastes… To my surprise there were quite less mosquitoes than in other areas of Thailand I’ve been (Phuket, Khao Lak, Hua Hin and Bangkok) so I didn’t even need to use the mosquito repellent during our stay. This might have been due to quite a large amount of geckoes around. :-)
Checkout was easy, fast and contained no surprises (read: no surprise charges). There was one surprise though, our flight back left from the resort quite late (17:00 or so) and we needed to vacate our villa at midday. We were expecting to lie around in the beach and in main resort when we were actually given another villa to use until our flight. Cool.
There was an advice to avoid using mobile phones in public areas, and it really made a difference. E.g. during dinners lots of people nowadays keep checking news, facebook, mail and messages (and tripadvisor), here it was completely missing and made life a bit more relaxing. Of course Soneva Kiri went even beyond that and had a full page of non-scientific stuff about radio frequency radiation hazards in the villa Wi-Fi manual, which was a bit annoying.
There was some renovation happening on villa #7, which caused some slight noise on few of the days. Not really bothersome and understandable considering that most of the areas in villas are outdoors and rainy season must put quite a stress to those.
As a side note the electric buggies were tuned to quite low power and limited in speed, which made the cresting of the hills around the resort annoyingly slow. Most likely they had to do that to keep the visitors from killing themselves with them while racing around but still…
We had a beach villa #9 (and one hill villa during the checkout day), and according to my wife it wasn’t quite like what was promised. It was more. It is huge for two people and has a huge pool! Two minibars! Piles of towels everywhere! I’ve been in some hotels and resorts where you usually get one towel per person; here there was a bunch of them. And they were fluffy and big! There were three showers, including one under open sky inside the jungle, which quickly become our favourite. And the privacy, it was absolute. It was impossible to see our neighbours, you could sometimes hear them if they were loud, but at least ours were not. (What we could see from the hill villa during our checkout day, at least that one wasn’t as private as our beach villa was. There were areas where you could see to the neighbour villa and of course vice versa.)
We had the all-inclusive package so everything in the minibars (there were two of them, filled once per day) belonged to the price.
Housekeeping was efficient and invisible during those days we went out for breakfast. During the first days we were sleeping late so we had to call them (via our Friday) to tell them to come in. Even dropped leaves were cleaned from the pool every day and the bath to the private beach was brushed as well.
Oh, the private beach. Beach villas all have a small beach in front of them which faces the gulf where the arrival jetty is. Beach is not as nice as the resorts common beach on the other side of the cape, but swimmable. There are some rocks and you need to wade out a bit before the water becomes deep enough though.
I’d rate the food from good to excellent. There was naturally quite heavy emphasis on the local seafood which was very tasty, but most western foods were not on the same level. With one exception, if you get a chance to go on organized dinner activity called “The Laboratory”, do go. Idea there is that the View main chef and sommelier create a four-five course dinner for up 10-12 people, where all the foods and wines are not disclosed until the end. Menu and wines changes every time depending on what are the best ingredients they get and are in mind to try. They expect all participants to write down their impressions, and there is long discussion about them at the end. Food there was the best of our trip and we loved it, even though the other participants were wine experts while we are really not (come on, Finland is known for distilled alcohol, not wines. :-) ).
The restaurants in the resort are “The View”, which has more European style foods. One minus for them is that the lights (candles) at the tables are not bright enough to read the menu and wine list.
Restaurant “Benz” is outside the resort and has a changing set menu of 6-9 courses. Food there is more traditional Thai. Transportation there is supposed to be by boat but for some reason (low tide?) we were taken there by car.
Once a week there is a barbeque at the resort beach with huge selection of appetizers, meats and seafood for main courses (which they prepare on request) and very wide selection of desserts. By the way, this was first time I’ve seen a sommelier at BBQ. Beach bar/restaurant is also open for lunch or just for drinks every day.
Some dinners are served in the main area as well; we had this “Asian street market” there during our first evening. Lunch and breakfast are served on this restaurant every day. You can also order food from the main bar.
Most of these dining venues are open on alternate evening, i.e. when View is open the Benz isn’t, but it varies.
In addition of these there is the treepod dining, where you are hoisted up to a tree in a basket with space for 4-6 people (private reservations only) for dinner or lunch. We had dinner in there, but unfortunately the weather was bit cloudy that evening and we didn’t get a proper sunset… Food there was ok, experience being more important.
And of course you can order food to your villa as well, the menu there is huge!
These last two (treepod and in-villa dining) are not included in the all-inclusive (nor are drinks outside meals), but that is clearly stated everywhere.
Biggest minus for me was that I never managed to get my breakfast eggs over-easy, they were always over-well (once over-hard), even after specifically complaining about them.
As I said the villa beach was good enough, but the real beach on the other side of the cape was excellent. You’d want to use your buggy to get there (there seemed to be bikes available as well) since the distances from villas is close to one kilometre. There is a full restaurant and bar at the beach and loungers set quite widely apart. Nothing like throngs at the Phuket beaches! Sand is white and there are no rocks in the water. Sea was also deeper here than in front of beach villas, but not dangerously deep. In contrast to what some other reviewers have said, the beach was clean during our stay and every day we were there, there were also two guys with a cart collecting what little trash there was on the tideline.
You can also get lots of water sport equipment from the beach to use (kayaks, SUP-boards, etc.). Some people were using those; we enjoyed cold beer and good books.
Yes, there is an outdoor movie theatre at the resort. They have two screenings on about 4 days per week, for those other days you can book it for private screenings. We went there during our last evening (they were showing “The Beach”, where Leonardo DiCaprio goes mad on paradise island in Thailand :-) ) and it was nice. The movie experience outdoors was excellent, the premises only ok. (The loungers were damp due to the water condensing on them late in the evening. Towels were provided though.)
There are a lot of excursions available (up to one really expensive trip to Angkor Wat), including snorkelling trips other reviewers have mentioned in not so good terms. We only took one of them, the Koh Kood Experience, which is basically a drive around the island. Visit of a fishing village Ao Salat, back down to the main village on the western side of the island and a swim at the Klong Chao waterfall. All in all, a nice trip. At least some of the excursions belong to the all-inclusive package.
There is a Six Senses spa on the premises which we used once. We had the oriental massage for a couple and really enjoyed it. I don’t know how it compares to other spas, since I’ve only been in few, but it was very relaxing.
However, if they had been at the pier when we arrived or been offering in some other way at that time, I’d have loved to get some kind of jetlag treatment at that time. However being too lazy to contact them we settled for a short nap at that time. They could get much more business if they would offer their services during the arrival! On the other hand it was nice that they were not pushy with their sales!
They publish an A4 every week containing all the things happening during that week. Which restaurants are open, what movies are shown, what excursions are available and are there any special activities arrange. However during our later week we only got it on Wednesday when the previous one ended on Sunday.
Everything in Soneva Kiri is about service. People there are incredible! Thai people are very pleasant and polite and everyone in Soneva Kiri went even beyond that.
Chompoo (our “Friday”) very efficiently organized everything we needed and made suggestions on what to do on which days. She was very nice, friendly and capable. Our only problem was that since we were there only to relax, we didn’t have enough for her to do.
People at the main bar, where we had a drink or two every evening after dinner, very also were warm and attentive.
And last but not least Kai was very friendly and always visible. He was greeting people in every possible place and seemed to remember names of everyone after a single introduction; he more than filled Frank’s shoes during his absence. Bloody guy even congratulated me on my birthday on chance encounter on the resort.
Beach villas (at least #9) are VERY private.
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.