My wife and I stayed here around Thanksgiving 2017. I had won a Hilton auction for 500,000 points for 3 nights plus activities. I then used 2 free weekend night certificates for a total of 5 nights here, which in my opinion is too long.
Getting to the hotel
My package came with a Hilton pickup and dropoff at the airport. The hotel is a good hour’s drive (with no traffic) since it’s on the opposite side of the island! I know some people rent a car, and if you do, you’ll be driving on the right. While the drive is do-able, make sure you have a GPS because there are quite a number of turns along the way.
We arrived pretty late to the hotel (around 7pm or so.) The sun had already set, so we missed the awesome sunset view from the lobby. We got offered some welcome drinks and a cold towel. After giving them our passports and a credit card, we got golf-carted to our room. You see, the hotel is extremely hilly. Unless you are really close to the restaurant or pool, you’ll most likely be calling the front desk to send you a golf cart.
Our package came with the “Oceanview Retreat Pool Villa.” I couldn’t tell what the other rooms looked like, but all have the private pool. Maybe the lowest category rooms were closer to the beach (so not as great of a view.) I’m not really sure. I did hear a reader got upgraded a few weeks before my stay to the 2 story villa, which would have been awesome, but we did NOT get that upgrade, even as Diamonds. I think it was mostly because there were days in our 5 day stay that the hotel was fully booked.
By the way, the room had 6 bottles of water that was refilled daily, which was appreciated. The A/C also ran 24/7 for us; while this is waste of energy, when you come back to your room, it’s nice to come into a cold room. Trust.
The wifi was okay except it was down when it rained really hard. Some channels on the TV had issues with the heavy rain as well. When it did work, it was fine.
Breakfast buffet was okay. Definitely not as good as the Park Hyatt Siem Reap. I thought it was pretty small for a Conrad. There is an ala-carte menu which I didn’t take a picture of. People told me to get the eggs benedict; my wife got it and we never got anything else off the ala carte menu except the Thai iced tea. The problem with the buffet is that if you’re staying there for 3-5 nights, it’ll be the SAME breakfast options, and I essentially ate the same thing every day – a plate of chicken fried rice, some noodles, some dim sum, some ham and bacon. Then I got a bowl of noodles and then some fruit. The juices weren’t all fresh squeezed – I think only the watermelon juice is. I tried the green guava the first day, and should have known it was fake since guava juice is usually white; not green. The fruit selection comprised mostly of American fruits like apples, oranges, watermelon, etc. I had to ask for passion fruit the first 2 days, which the chef did bring out for me. By the 3rd day, I felt guilty for asking so didn’t get any. On the 4th day, they did bring out a plate, which got quickly eaten and replaced with a plate of melons. Facepalm!
I did speak with the director of operations on the last night, and he’s aware of the breakfast shortcomings. He said they hired a new executive chef a few months ago (who we hung out with for a market tour.) He also said they were looking to maybe move the noodle station outside to make more space inside. My thought was – how has the new chef not done something to change the menu yet? The funny thing is that a reader had similar thoughts on the breakfast, and she was there many months ago, and it seems very little has changed.
Gold and Diamond Happy Hour
I believe on Tuesday and Friday nights, they have a gold and diamond member happy hour up at one of the bars from 6pm to 7pm or so. We got complimentary champagne/wine/beer as well as some small bites. The director of operations was there and we spent the whole hour talking to him.
Excursions – cooking class
Our package came with a cooking class, but if you did it yourself, it would have run you $66+. A mom and daughter did it at the same time as us, but they had a different chef teaching them. We had to pick 3 items we wanted to cook beforehand. The class was around 3PM and you were able to eat the items afterwards. We couldn’t finish the meal since we had just gotten done with breakfast at 10:30AM or so, and they let us pack the leftovers so we could eat it for dinner.
My gripe with the cooking class was that all of the ingredients were already cut and put into bowls. All we did was basically throw the ingredients into the pot and stir. I gave feedback to the dir of operations that I was expecting to chop up my own ingredients and maybe cook only one dish due to the added time. He said he’d give the feedback to the executive chef. Before that, I had learned the cooking class used to come with a market tour before-hand whereby you could buy and pick out the ingredients, but the market tour got scrapped due to lack of availability of cars. Our package came with it, but we did it AFTER the cooking class. I didn’t see it as an available excursion for “normal” guests.
Excursion – beach transfer
The hotel gives a complimentary speedboat transfer to another island. You can snorkel for 30 minutes, but we and the other couple didn’t want to snorkel due to the rough waters and so we went straight to the beach. Our package came with a picnic lunch, but there is a stand on the beach that’ll charge you about $5 for a bottle of beer. We spent an hour there and was taken back. If you go, I suggest you pack maybe a light snack or just water.
I gave feedback that I would have liked this to be longer since the “beach” part of the island is much nicer than at the hotel.
Dinner at Jahn
Our package came with dinner at the swanky Jahn restaurant. When we dined, only 1 other couple had a reservation that night. Apparently they’ve NEVER CHANGED THE MENU IN THE SEVEN YEARS! Can you imagine yourself as an executive chef there? I’d be going crazy! The director of ops did say people love the fact the menu hasn’t changed. I gave him the stink eye. For $167+ per person with wine pairing, while good, was definitely not worth the money. If we didn’t have this package, we wouldn’t have eaten here at all. The sunset view however was AWESOME.
The funny thing is that the normal restaurant Zest has affordable $10 dishes of Thai food at night, which was actually good. I’d recommend you just eat there every night. We never left the hotel to eat by the way.
I think we stayed too long. Five nights is a LONG TIME here. I think 3 nights would have been better. It’s definitely a YOLO hotel, but my jaw didn’t drop as much since I had a similar room back at the Hilton Seychelles. If you’re going to Bangkok or Southeast Asia, I think it’s a good stop.
You should also pack a bottle of wine or find a place to score some booze since you’ll probably be spending a lot of time in your room. The hotel did have a complimentary shuttle to the city, but we didn’t do that. You could do that to pick up necessities.
As for food, I do hope they fix the breakfast options (like the fake juices and non-native fruits.) Eat at Zest at nights for an affordable option. Oh, they also have buy 1 get 1 free happy hour at the pool from 4pm to 6pm, and then the bar next to Zest until 7pm. The mango mojito is delicious. If they run out of mango, ask them to replace it with passion fruit, which is equally as good.
The beach and pool area was practically empty the whole time I was there. Since everyone has a private pool, I guess they feel they don’t need to go to the public one.
Would I ever go back? Most likely not. Do I recommend it? Sure! Is it overhyped? I don’t think so; it was a solid stay.