Before we get started on Soneva Kiri, a quick note. We visited a resort in the Maldives some years ago that followed the “No shoes, No news” philosophy – little did we know that that particular rule was set by, not that one, but another: a Soneva resort. In fact, Soneva Fushi in the Maldives was the first to espouse this philosophy. So when we visited a remote and untouched island in ThailandKoh Kood – to find another resort setting the same rules, we were immediately taken back to that Maldives trip. And even more impressed with the Soneva brand itself as it had influenced other resorts to replicate this truly life-changing philosophy. No news? Disconnect from the stresses of the world. No shoes? Sink your feet into the sand or earth to reconnect with mother nature. This is some very powerful stuff. Such a philosophy gives our reptilian minds and over-burdened bodies space to breathe, re-centre and re-awaken.

Soneva Kiri, a luxury jungle-meets-beach resort in the south of Thailand definitely has a bit of a Maldives vibe, which is cool for Bangkoians who don’t want to journey too far from home. The Robinson Crusoe-themed and rustic resort was born in 2009 and follows in the footsteps of its sisters in the Maldives – Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani – when it comes to being eco-conscious. Not only is the resort itself invested in following eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives to keep it running while also bettering its surrounding environment, but it also does a pretty good job in activating an awareness of sustainable living amongst its guests, which is so important. After all, travelling isn’t just about getting away; it’s about growing, learning more, bettering ourselves and the environment around us. Do you think a trip to Soneva Kiri could be for you? Read on to find out.

Hero, featured image and all images: Soneva Kiri

Location

Koh Kood is the fourth largest island in Thailand but with only around 2,500 inhabitants, is sparsely populated and more remote than the likes of its competitors, namely Phuket and Koh Samui. The island could be seen as a giant rainforest with beaches. To get there, we boarded Soneva Kiri’s private plane, a custom-fit Cessna Grand Caravan from Suvarnabhumi airport. The eight-seater plane was in the air for approximately 90 minutes before it landed at Soneva Kiri’s airport on an island near the resort. From there, Soneva Kiri’s luxury speedboat zoomed us 2km to Soneva Kiri’s pier, a beautiful jetty lined with coconut trees where the resort’s friendly staff, and our Ms. Friday (the best personal butler we’ve ever had by the way) was there to greet us. If you’re not up for taking the resort’s private plane, a five-hour drive to Trat and an hour long boat ride will also have you arriving at Soneva Kiri.

Villas

When you’re on vacation, and you’ve got your own private villa, it’s almost certain that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time. Especially when you’ve got an oceanfront villa with direct access to a private beach, which for us, was, de facto, the case. We stayed in villa number 2, a 1-bedroom beach pool villa suite, with its own private pool, an outdoor bathroom with 2 open-air showers (because 1 just isn’t enough) and an outdoor bathtub immersed in the glories of nature. There’s a beautiful large bed surrounded by floor to ceiling windows which open onto views of the beach; a walk-through dressing area, a dining table and relaxation areas both outside and in.

At over 403 square metres, the villa is expansive, giving you room to breathe, be at one with yourself and just revel in life’s little luxuries. From a surround sound system encompassing the entire villa, our own private pool, sun-beds decked in plush yellow cushions, endless recycled glass bottles of alkaline water*, our own coffee machine, a large bowl of the island’s fresh fruit, some homemade cookies greeting us on arrival, and of course, in-villa dining. Essentially, we had plenty to keep us at home in the villa. We were also delighted to find a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, one of our favourite books of all time that was re-consumed at lightning speed during our stay.

*Note: We’re particularly excited about Soneva Kiri’s bottled water because the resort was one of the first resort companies in the world to ban branded bottled water, a move which has prevented the production of 1,500,000 plastic bottles in 10 years. This is amazing! Also, each of the bottles are re-filled every morning with filtered, mineralised, alkalised water which is all bottled onsite.

Direct beach access was also a lovely treat – it’s quite something being able to wake up every morning and walk right onto a private beach where there is virtually not a soul in sight. Other villa options include: 2-6 bedroom reserve villas, either beachfront, or with ocean views or bay views.

Drinks & Dining

You won’t go hungry at Soneva Kiri, and you’ll be filled up in a healthy way. Soneva Kiri really does put health and wellness at the forefront of the cuisines at all its restaurants. Although, if you really are looking to pig out, rest assured, you can get a nice greasy pizza or hamburger too. Dinner and cocktails at The View were sensational, featuring modern European healthy dishes, with an Asian twist. Our favourite dish had to be the Porcini Mushroom Quinoa Risotto peppered with edamame beans – we love risotto, but we don’t love the calories, so this was a God-send. Of course, meat-lovers can indulge in a nice steak, or chicken or seafood dishes that turn up on health.

Sonu’s Salad features avocado, papaya, figs, pumpkin seeds and a squeeze of lime and is a lovely lunch option available at Dining Room. It goes great with any one of the resort’s healthy smoothies. Our preferred one? Fresh mango and soy milk smoothie.

Best to hit the view at sunset, so you can enjoy some sundowners. There are a list of fun cocktails to try, from Geisha Whisper (Sake, Absolute Vodka, Triple Sec, Lime Juice, Tabasco) to Blue Ninja (Sake, Malibu, Blue Curacao, Milk, Pineapple, Lime Juice) but we’re more about wine, so a sommelier was on hand to walk us through the vino highlights. Be warned: Island prices means the wine is almost double the price, which had our eyebrows raising a bit. If you are a wine fanatic, be sure to visit the resort’s very own Wine Cellar as well which is housed in a climate-controlled cave that houses over 350 labels, with organic and biodynamic wines making up more than half the collection.

If you’re into ice-cream, head to the resort’s ice-cream parlour, SO CHILLED, which features a range of healthy homemade ice-creams and sorbets. Another restaurant we’d highly recommend is BENZ’S, which is run by Soneva Kiri but is actually a short 5-minute ride from the resort; catch the boat instead if weather permits.

The food here is authentic Thai and features a lot of the island’s local produce, including seafood from the nearby fishing village. The Miang Kam game here is strong and if that’s one of your favourite Thai appetisers, we highly recommend it. Note, this is not Thai street food style, but Thai fine-dining. The restaurant is set overwater so it can get very romantic, but be sure to wear repellent as the mosquitoes will be trying to kiss you too.

Another distinctly Soneva Kiri experience to try is Treepod Dining. You’re belted into a bamboo pod with a dining table and lifted up to new heights to enjoy views of the ocean and Koh Kood’s ancient rainforest. Food is brought to you by a waiter journeying very curiously via a zipline. As the food doesn’t arrive as freshly as you might like, we recommend this experience is better for sunset cocktails. But be sure to wear some mosquito repellant, and perhaps bring your own pocket fan.

Health & Wellness

Your health and wellness is taken very passionately by the Soneva Kiri team, to the extent that guests can have a health screening upon arrival at Six Senses Spa. Using non-invasive technology (you put your palms and feet on metal detectors that are wired to a machine) you’ll receive a full reading of your body’s composition and biomarkers, which a consultant will go through with you, giving you recommendations on how to make changes through lifestyle habits to alter the results. This really should only be done if you’re willing to fully accept the readings into your state of health, as some of the information may not be welcome – in our case, we didn’t really enjoy the fat mass percentage reading! Then again, who ever really does?

However, Dr. Dinesh Singh, Soneva Kiri’s in-house Ayurvedic Doctor and Wellness Consultant was very helpful in giving insights and advice into our wellness. We were also presented with Six Senses Little Book of Wellness, which features pages filled with nutritional advice, yoga techniques, meditation guidance, an exercise log and a series of pages lined with inspiring quotes to keep you going on your wellness journey. This book is incredibly valuable and we will actually be treasuring this forever. The Six Senses brand is very well-known for its state-of-the-art approach to wellness and we are even more impressed now.

Fitness fanatics also have a tennis court to enjoy at their leisure, or you could just hit the gym!

Yoga and meditation are a way of life at Soneva Kiri, and there are classes and programmes you can take to cater to that. Or, if you’re feeling a bit lazy, you can opt for a number of treatments and massages that are based on ancient wisdom and the use of traditional herbs and essences actually made on the island. One of the highlights of our stay was, yes, a Thai massage, but more specifically, what came before it. We had a massage therapist guide us through an introduction to back massage, which allowed us to better understand the practice.

Etc

There’s plenty more to do at Soneva Kiri, we just didn’t find the time to do it all! You can explore Koh Kood by speedboat and visit nearby beaches (such as North Beach), have a picnic on one of them (just get the resort to organise ‘Sonu’s Picnic’), go diving or snorkelling (when weather permits), catch a movie under starlight at Cinema Paradiso, go trekking in rainforests or to discover waterfalls, take a Thai cooking class, go on a butterfly quest and so much more. What we did find some time to do was zip around the resort to explore it by buggy (you can opt to drive it yourself and save your Ms. Friday some time) which made us feel a bit like we were Indiana Jones, or someone just as outdoorsy (as the resort is literally shaded by a canopy of jungle). Just don’t expect any WiFi while you’re cruising on your buggy, okay?

Verdict

It’s really about the slow-life at Soneva Kiri, and right now, we can’t recommend a better place if you’re all about escaping to a secluded and remote jungle island and reconnecting with yourself. Here, wellness and nature take centre stage, all in a luxury-meets-rustic setting. No shoes, and no news goes a long way. Thank you for having us Soneva Kiri!

Villa ownership is also available at all Soneva properties. For more information or to make a booking, please visit www.soneva.com/soneva-kiri.

Catherine Napalai Faulder
Catherine is Bangkok born and bred and knows the angles of the city and its people very personally. You'll often catch her writing about the upsides of Thainess, the richness and diversity of Bangkok's third cultures and the true meaning of wellness.