Zip just 15 minutes by speedboat to the offshore gem that is Six Senses Krabey Island. The 12-hectare private island resort of contemporary villas surrounded by jungle, some with ocean views, offers a DNA that embraces healthy living, natural healing and sustainability, cutting-edge technology and an endearing Cambodian sense of place. This easily accessible hideaway balances stylish luxury, quirky fun, adventure, and genuine service. Compare Retreats Expert Catharine Nicol explores the island and gives us the inside scoop on Six Senses Krabey…
Arriving at Sihanouk International Airport in south Cambodia, it’s just a 10-minute drive to Six Senses’ private lounge and mini-marina. From there it’s a 15-minute boat ride across the waves to Krabey Island, set in the beautiful Gulf of Siam.
The charming towns of Kampot and Kep-sur-Mer renowned for their French influence, pepper plantations and salt flats are a couple of hours’ drive east along the coast.
The rainy season is August to October, while November to July is high season: dry and comfortable. Temperatures undulate between the low 20s to 30°C, building up to above 30°C in April.
On a calm day, it doesn’t take much more than 30 minutes to kayak around the whole of Krabey Island, which gives you an idea of the intimate size of this luxury resort. The paddle gives you a sea view of the property, although most of the 40 contemporary villas, all with private pools, are invisible thanks to the luxuriant jungle that was carefully conserved during the building process.
On the west side of the island is Khmer House, the multi-tiered main building with reception and boutique on arrival level. Steps lead down to the Sunset Bar, then to Aha Restaurant and down again to the Double Dip Ice Cream Parlour and pool. The rooftop bar turns into Cinema Paradise as the sun sets, while on the other side of the sprawl of villas is fine dining restaurant Tree, above the Chill Lounge, a sweet spot open to the breeze and only just above the sea. A little further down is the bijou beach and the watersports centre for kayaking, SUP, snorkelling and more.
At the highest point of the island is the Six Senses Spa with its Alchemy Room and options for yoga, gym and meditation, while down at the rocky coast level is a wooden walkway that extends most of whole way from Tree to Khmer House. With private pool villas and a number of places to hang out, the resort never feels busy. When I was there my fellow guests were mostly couples who love the eco-focus of the brand and appreciate the calm seclusion and quality service.
From the start, the staff were charming, mixing easy-going Khmer hospitality with a genuine wish to help, whatever the request. During the stay, you’ll get to know the many friendly faces, whether in the restaurants, driving the buggies or up at the spa.
Absolutely contemporary, from the flat-roof design to the materials used and focus on technology, the villas feature floor-to-ceiling glass for that living-in-the-jungle feel. Beautifully spacious inside, the mix of turquoise and dusky blue furnishings reflect the proximity to the ocean and is the perfect mix with the jungle greens outside.
Whatever category you’re staying (there are six including the speciality villa) you’ll find a living area with a sophisticated mini bar and snacks, the signature Six Senses glass-bottled water, and an iPad that covers all the commands necessary.
One-bedroom Pool Villas include a bedroom with a comfortable bed looking onto the pool, and an en-suite with terrazzo tub, shower and toilet, with Six Senses’ own amenities in refillable ceramic dispensers—a big environmental tick.
Some villas are closer to the sea, while others are high up in the hilly interior of the island, but all feel secluded. The alfresco plunge pools are flanked by loungers and a canopy for shade, while there’s an outside living space with table and sofa too.
Oceanfront Pool Villas come in two-bedroom categories too, and the Beach Retreat is an ideal group or large family home with a dining room, its own pool towards the ocean and a super sexy alfresco ocean-side bath.
The resort offers a good range of dining, from contemporary healthy to authentic local dishes and Southeast Asian favourites, plus beautifully plated fine dining international cuisine all overlooked by executive chef Todd Adams. To learn a little about the local cuisine, a cooking demo is offered by Sri Lankan Chef Mark Kumar.
The pumpkin nut milk chai sets the scene at breakfast. Delicious but naturally sweet nut milk sits alongside other alternatives, freshly squeezed juices, cold brew coffee in a help-yourself fridge, and these made my day every morning. The breakfast buffet is a delicious combination of local fruit, cereals, home baked pastries, with a cool room with cold cuts, salads and cheeses, while the a la carte offered western and local dishes.
Lunches at Aha Restaurant are about sitting inside keeping cool in the banquets or outside on the verandah overlooking the pool and sea. The menu ranges from light salads and raw dishes, local seafood and fresh fish to more substantial offerings like the delicious local Khmer version of a Banh Mi or curry. Any dietary issues can be discussed with the chefs: the resort mentions offering foods low in sugar, gluten- or lactose-free, or containing soy, but the feeling is that any issues can be accommodated.
In the evening, the Sunset Bar sets the pace, soaking up the rays as the sky turns into a colourful kaleidoscope, the perfect place for a glass of bubbles or a healthy mocktail. Then guests buggy over to Tree, where the square goldfish bowl style room showcases the light fading on the jungle outside. The à la carte menu balances international with local specialities: don’t miss the Khmer tasting menu, a series of little dishes offering authentic cuisine beautifully realised.
Six Senses Krabey offers wellness in the form of its in-house Alchemy Spa focused on local ingredients and therapies with plenty of international healing on offer too, complete with a yoga and meditation classes. Specific retreats at Six Senses around the world are created by wellness experts such as Dr Oz, Breus and Gundry covering Sleep and Resilience; Trim and Fit; Cleanse and Detox; and Full Potential.
My programme was a mix-and-match of various mind-body, spa and health treatments. One of the first highlights was the Alchemy Room: don’t miss the opportunity to don an apron and hand-grind your own Kampot pepper scrub mixture or salt and lime foot soak.
Start your day with yoga, either in the air-conditioned yoga room or up on the roof where instructor Dr Anand sets up hammocks for aerial classes. There’s also a gym, but with the jungle gym workout areas positioned around the resort for an early morning DIY bootcamp, or an easy jog along the coast walkways, there’s plenty of options for alfresco fitness.
The Spa’s rooms include couples and singles, beautifully designed with ceilings in rippled wood and that signature beachy turquoise-blue throughout. Pre-treatment, there’s hydrotherapy in the shape of the steam and sauna, plus pools. Once in the treatment room, it’s surprisingly gratifying to start your spa treatment with a foot soak and body scrub using the mixtures you prepped earlier, before a fantastic massage, the combination not only sloughing off the pre- and during-trip stresses but also showcasing the serious expertise of the therapists with both their hands-on healing and with warmed herbal poultices.
For in-depth wellness, this like most other Six Senses Spas, offers a health assessment that measures diet, fitness and emotional markers like BMI (Body Mass Index), physical power and mental stress, nervous system markers including the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems, vascular and blood pressure markers. For stays of around a week, it’s ideal to start and finish with this in order to see progress, but in addition it can flag some health issues that should be followed up back home: for example, I have a low blood pressure issue I had no idea about previously. Ayurvedic doctor Dr Anand takes you through the assessment and is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to functional health and lifestyle advice.
My retreat exceeded my expectations when it came to the health assessment. It’s so comprehensive, I was instantly wishing for a longer stay to see where I could have racked up some scientifically proven improvements. The spa treatments were beautifully performed by therapists who clearly knew their anatomy and physiology.
With advice to be more consistent with my fitness, more careful with my diet and to take my low blood pressure seriously, I felt I had received great recommendations, delivered sympathetically with no judgement, but plenty of information and explanation.
The combination of jungle and ocean nature, morning yoga or DIY bootcamp, spa treatments, round-island kayaking and lap-pool swimming, walking along the coastal walkways and fresh, healthy food made my stay a healing retreat without me feeling I was having to cut anything out. Early mornings also meant early nights, and I slept incredibly well, adding in a few daytime naps, which helped balance a hectic run-up to the trip.
The Alchemy Bar and DIY scrubs were divine, and the health assessment, which goes (confidentially) on file so you can compare your state of wellness next time you stay at a Six Senses property is a big plus for wellness nerds.
The Beach Retreat is ideal for a family or group of friends, with two bedrooms and an oceanside location. The alfresco bath sitting below a lattice ceiling is the coolest place to take a bath I’ve ever seen.
Some villas are closer to the island’s coast, and some connect with the pathways to the boardwalk, while the ones up in the hills feel more secluded, so make sure you specify your preference.
And, good to know for astronomy aficionados: coming soon is a super-powerful telescope for stargazing evenings.