With 29 private pool villas situated in over 100 acres of lush Thai jungle, a stunning, palm-fringed beach, an award-winning spa and restaurants that pride themselves on their use of local, sustainable ingredients, it’s clear to see why Soneva Kiri – an über-glam eco resort situated on the stunning island of Koh Kood in the far east of Thailand – is a perfect escape à deux.
But what about those of us who come with a little extra baggage in tow? Could a super-luxurious resort really be kid-friendly too? Is it possible to have the holiday of your dreams as a parent without having to leave the rugrats at home? I was on a mission to find out whether eco-chic and family-friendly can peacefully coexist in this most glam of destinations.
Never has the phrase “the journey is half the adventure” seemed more apt than on my arrival at Soneva Kiri. Typically, visitors to this island retreat are whisked direct from Bangkok airport on Kiri’s own Cessna light plane; however my visit began with a half-hour helicopter ride from Trat airport to the hotel’s private airstrip. From there, it was a 5-minute hop by speedboat (I felt very James Bond!) to the resort, where the lovely Kaew –my designated concierge – or Ms Friday – met me. The final part of the journey was by golf buggy, and each villa comes equipped with your own set of electric wheels for getting around the huge resort.
The accommodation is nothing short of spectacular. Made from all-natural, sustainably-sourced local materials, my One-Bed Hill Pool Villa was nestled in the surrounding jungle and consisted of no less than three separate structures, including the walk-through dressing room of my wildest dreams, and an outdoor shower and bathtub. Not to mention the private pool, ample loungers and daybeds and outdoor sitting room area complete with deck. The villas are crafted with great attention to detail and thoughtful little touches; from the TV hidden away in what looks like a stack of vintage trunks, to the hand-carved chess set in the bedroom, the aesthetics complement, rather than compete with, the environmentally-friendly ethic. And with this amount of space, you certainly won’t feel hemmed-in if you’re travelling with the whole gang.
Whether you’re bringing toddlers or teens, Soneva Kiri offers more family-friendly facilities than you can shake a (sustainable, bamboo) stick at. From a private cinema that rises up from the middle of a lake, to an observatory for some serious stargazing; a pristine private beach to a treetop dining pod where you can enjoy your meal winched into the air, served by a waiter on a zip wire – the care and imagination that has gone into dreaming up the services here is obvious.
Nowhere is this sense of fun more apparent than at The Den – Soneva’s stunningly surreal take on a kids’ club. Designed to look like a giant manta ray hovering above the trees, this huge timber structure boasts craft, music and art rooms and offers a huge range of supervised indoor activities for children from five to teens, including Thai lessons, puppet-making and learning about the local flora and fauna, to name but a few. Outdoor fun includes kayaking, rainforest hikes and windsurfing lessons. And now, in conjunction with luxury travel experts Scott Dunn, tots from one to five have their very own Eco Den to explore, with qualified childcare experts on hand to supervise play and learning activities for the wee ones while mama sneaks off for a massage.
Speaking of which, the beautiful Six Senses Spa is a must-visit at Kiri, and my fabulous Oriental Body Massage effectively banished all lingering knots from my neck and put me in a very Zen frame of mind. Little ones who appreciate a bit of pampering can also join in, with an extensive junior spa menu of massages, facials and nail services on offer.
And after all that pampering, what better way to finish the day than with dinner? The View restaurant offers western cuisine prepared with locally sourced produce and with a menu that changes daily, according to ingredient availability. Highlights here were the extensive selection of seafood, and the homemade cheeses. Benz’s restaurant is all about local Thai food, with chef Benz creating magic from ingredients grown on-site in her own organic garden down by Kiri’s private beach, or soured from nearby Koh Chang. No food miles to worry about here!
And little ones aren’t neglected, with a good selection of kid-friendly classics along with a little local Thai flavour, and chefs that are happy to accommodate pickier palates with custom creations. For afters? How about a scoop or two from the 62(!) flavours of homemade ice cream? Or perhaps a few picks from the handmade chocolate selection, housed in its very own chocolate room? I defy anyone not to leave Soneva Kiri without a few pounds of excess baggage of their own…
So why book at holiday at Soneva Kiri? Because family-friendly doesn’t have to equal theme parks, luxury and relaxation are possible even when the children come along for the ride, and mother nature actually has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment, even for our generation of little iAddicts.
And, of course, if exploring this fabulous environment wears a little thin, there are always those 62 flavours of ice cream to keep them busy…
Soneva Kiri offer a wide range of booking options, including the Family Experience Package that starts from US$1450 per night and includes breakfast, 6 hours of child minding, one Couples Massage at Six Senses Spa, one family barbeque at your villa and a daily family activity from a wide selection. For more information on this and other packages, click here.