There’s no doubt about it – Thailand is a favorite among Black travelers. How could it not be? The capital city of Bangkok alone has something for every kind of jet-setter, from stunning riverside hotels like the Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River and vibrant rooftops like Tichuca to contemporary art at MOCA Bangkok and Michelin star-worthy street food at Jay Fai. Thailand’s islands are no different. Phuket, Ko Samui, Ko Phi Phi, and more offer the same experiences as Bangkok with the added perk of picturesque beach views.
But if you’re anything like me, every now and then, you want to indulge in travel beyond the typical go-to spots, which is why I recently decided to venture beyond Phuket to a private island home to one of Thailand’s most viral resorts, Soneva Kiri. Located on the northern tip of the unspoiled island of Koh Kood, Soneva Kiri is a unique escape that combines luxury and sustainability for an experience you must have at least once.
Your adventure begins with a 90-minute flight from Bangkok on Soneva’s private plane. Reps for the hotel get you checked in and seated in the Thai Airways lounge while they handle your luggage and prepare for departure. Once you land on the resort’s private airstrip, you meet your Barefoot Guardian, aka butler (mine was named Meenie), who whisks you away to Soneva’s private speed boat for a quick 5-minute ride to the resort. Upon arrival, you’re greeted by staff and encouraged to immediately embrace the brand’s “No news, no shoes” ethos.
Despite having thirty-three villas, Soneva Kiri feels you have everything to yourself. Meenie gave me a quick tour of the resort via personalized electric buggy before taking me to my Beach Pool Villa Suite. The 4,338 square-foot suite is so expansive that it feels more like a private home than your room. There’s an outdoor living area with direct beach access and a wrap-around pool. Inside you’ll find a plush king-size bed with nearly 360 views, and tucked inside Soneva’s signature suitcase décor, you’ll find a television with no channels (no news, no shoes remember?), but fear not, you can connect your streaming devices. Beyond your bedroom, a dressing area leads to an open-air bathroom so green and luxurious that you’ll feel like you’re in your own Garden of Eden. Trust me, with two showers, a large soaking tub, and comfy loungers, you won’t want to leave.
By nature, being on a private island limits your food options, but thankfully Soneva Kiri comes through with enough culinary options and experiences to make you forget that fact. I spent my first-night dining at The View, appropriately named after the gorgeous views of the Gulf of Thailand. The food is the perfect blend of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. Looking for more traditional Thai cuisine? Then you’ll love Kruua Mae Tuk (Tuk’s Kitchen), which features a ‘no-menu’ dining style (a hospitality trend I’m loving lately) with dishes inspired by organic ingredients grown in the resort’s garden and seafood caught by local fishermen. Craving Indian? Visit Down to Earth to discover dishes that give you a taste of India’s flavors. Sweet treats can be found at So Chilled, Soneva’s ice cream parlor with over 60 flavors of homemade ice cream and sorbet, and So Guilty, the homemade chocolate room. But if you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind foodie moment, you must make reservations for the viral Treepod Dining experience. This signature adventure takes you to new heights as you dine in a bamboo pod above the rainforest.
There’s also no shortage of things to do at Soneva Kiri. You can explore local life on the island by visiting the Ao Salat fishing village, go Hornbill watching in the rainforest, hike the Yai Ki waterfall, step your tennis game up with the in-house coach, go stargazing in the observatory, snorkel hidden coves or enjoy another viral moment at Cinema Paradiso, Soneva Kiri’s overwater movie theater. Not interested in doing too much? Then drive your electric buggy to South Beach to enjoy a relaxing day watching the waves and enjoying a memorable sunset.
From beginning to end, my stay at Soneva Kiri was unforgettable and the perfect alternative to the country’s typical island escape for those who want to experience Thailand’s more luxurious and exclusive side.