Indonesia's Best Islands | UrbanJourney.com
Beach Vacays

Indonesia's Best Islands

One of the best things about life in Singapore is undoubtedly our close proximity to so many beautiful beaches. We recently filled you in on the best islands for vacays in Malaysia, and now it only seems fair we do the same for Indonesia (you’re welcome). Home to a vast expanse of diverse tropical islands and some of the world’s best diving and surfing spots, Indo has got it all. From laid-back deserted isles to hedonistic party hot spots, we’ve rounded up the coolest islands that are perfect for long-weekend vacays and last-minute getaways.

 

Lombok

Picture what Bali would have been like 20 years ago and you have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Lombok now. Think empty white sand beaches, lush jungles, hot springs, and Indonesia’s second highest volcano, Mount Rinjani. For obvious reasons, Lombok is quickly becoming Indonesia’s next big tourism destination, so we suggest visiting now to beat the crowds and development. Hit up Senggigi for beautiful beaches and bays, Kuta for surf breaks and seafood shacks right on the sand, and the ‘secret islands’ of the Southwest Gilis for superior snorkelling and diving.

Where to Stay:

For tropical romance, sublime scenery, and a true taste of local culture, it doesn’t get much better than Tugu Lombok. Set on the soft white sands of Sire Beach, the elegant suites and villas at Tugu Lombok are decked out in original Indonesian artworks and antiques, and the sparkling sunlit pool is the ideal spot to while away the day.

Tugu Lombok, Jl. Pantai Sire, Lombok. p. +62 370 620111

 

Gili Islands

No trip to Indonesia is complete without a trip to the famed Gili Islands, a collection of three sand fringed specks off the northern coast of Lombok. Gili Trawangan is the biggest and most lively of the Gilis with chic hotels, bars, and restaurants. This is the place to go for superb diving by day and rocking parties next to the ocean by night. Gili Air is a good mix of cute bungalows, seaside restaurants, and scenic snorkelling, and Gili Meno is an escapist’s dream with deserted white sand beaches, clear turquoise water, and plenty of peace and quiet.

Where to Stay:

We love the laid-back luxury of Scallywags on Gili Trawangan and the fact it implements eco-friendly practices, including using sustainable building materials, solar power, and recycled rainwater.

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Scallywags, South Beach, Gili Trawangan. p. +62 370 6145301

 

Sumba

Intrepid surfers in the know give Bali a skip and head instead to the sweeping coastlines of Sumba, an unspoiled island just south of Flores. Travel here may not be the easiest due to rough roads, rugged mountains, and thick jungle, but those who make the trek will be well rewarded with windswept beaches, epic surf breaks, tribal villages, and waterfalls galore.

Where to Stay:

Sleep in luxurious digs, surf to your heart’s content, and contribute to a good cause at Nihiwatu, a gorgeous retreat on a strip of golden sand fronting a stellar surf break. The suites and bungalows here were built by local Indonesian craftsmen using local materials, and each has a huge balcony overlooking the ocean. Plus, a large percentage of the proceeds of your stay goes to the Sumba Foundation to help alleviate poverty and support local communities on the island.

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Nihiwatu, Desa Hobawawi, Sumba. p. +62 361 757 149

 

Sulawesi

This oddly shaped island is the 11th biggest in the world, and it offers something for just about every type of traveller. You can soak up the sun on the pretty Togean Islands, explore vibrant underwater worlds off Pulau Bunaken, or take in the unique culture of Tana Toraja where the houses are shaped like boats, the people bury their dead in caves with wooden effigies, and lively festivals take place against the backdrop of rolling green mountains.

Where to Stay:

If diving is your bag, the Kungkungan Bay Resort is your ideal spot. Located on a private bay that features a protected coral reef, the resort boasts a full service PADI dive centre, waterfront rooms that overlook the bay and surrounding islands, a restaurant situated over the water so you can eat and watch colourful reef fish at the same time, and easy access to the Lembeh Strait.

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Kungkungan Bay Resort, Lembeh Strait Manado, Sulawesi. p. +62 4383 0300

 

Banda Islands

They may be tricky to get to, but the Banda Islands are definitely worth the trek for their edge-of-the-world vibe and intriguing history. Once called the Spice Islands, these tiny islands were much sought after by European powers for their abundance of nutmeg and other exotic spices. However, nowadays the islands are more low-key with only a handful of tourists floating through to explore the empty beaches, climb the active Gunung Api volcano, and snorkel and dive in the ridiculously clear waters.

Where to Stay:

Housed in a former nutmeg garden on the big island of Banda Neira, Cilu Bintang Estate combines colonial grandeur with local culture and modern conveniences. The rooms are bright, breezy, and decked out in antique furnishings and local textiles, and the owners (who come from a long line of spice traders) are happy to share their rich history and culture with visitors.

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Cilu Bintang Estate, Jalan Benteng Belgica, Banda Neira, Maluku. p. +62 0910 21 604

 

Flores

If you’re looking for an island that offers off-the-beaten-path adventures yet is still well connected to the traveller’s trail, then Flores is the place to go. Most visitors make their way straight to Labuan Bajo, a funky tourist town that is the jumping off point to the Komodo National Park. However, if you have the time to spare, do explore the rest of the island to see smoking volcanoes, traditional villages that have barely changed a bit in centuries, and unspoiled coastlines with spectacular diving and snorkelling opportunities offshore.

Where to Stay:

If you’re not keen on bunking down in a budget guesthouse in Labuan Bajo, make your way to Seraya Island Hotel & Resort, a gorgeous collection of wooden bungalows nestled between a white sand beach and rolling green hills on a small island just a short boat ride away from mainland Flores. Spend your days here sunbathing, swimming, and snacking on fresh seafood amid the natural beauty and seclusion.

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Seraya Hotel & Resort, Seraya Kecil, Flores. p. +62 0821 4647 1362

 

Raja Ampat Islands

Serious scuba divers almost always have Raja Ampat at the top of their bucket list. This archipelago of 1,500 islands lies in the Coral Triangle is home to the most biologically diverse marine life on the planet. The four biggest islands here have a mix of guesthouses and resorts to fit all budgets, but other than that you’ll find nothing but deserted jungle-cloaked isles with sugary white sand beaches, stunning lagoons, and pristine coral reefs.

Where to Stay:

It’s pretty rare to find a luxurious tropical resort on its own private island that also does its part to protect the environment, but that’s exactly what Misool Eco Resort is all about. The beautiful villas here were made with reclaimed wood and local materials, the open (yet private) design allows sea air to flow in, which minimises the need for air conditioning, and your stay helps support the resort’s many conservation initiatives.

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Misool Eco Resort, Misool Marine Reserve, Raja Ampat, p. +62 0813 5406 0519

 

 

Cempedak

Cempedak is a unique private island just off the coast of Bintan where you can embrace nature and revel in barefoot luxury. Here you’ll find gorgeous white sand beaches dotted with huge white granite boulders, a pristine rainforest housing wildlife like seabirds and the endangered pangolin, and a unique resort boasting bamboo villas with private plunge pools, huge decks, and ocean views.

Where to Stay:

Cempedak is a private island, so there is only one five-star resort here, and it’s a stunner. This seductive hideaway has spacious villas next to the beach or on the hill overlooking the sea, each of which feature soaring ceilings, plush king-size beds, and ensuite bathrooms crafted out of natural stone and teak. Luxe touches include your own private pool, iPod docks, and free Wi-Fi.

Cempedak Private Island, Air Gelubi, Bintan Pesisir, Riau Islands, Indonesia. p. +62 811 7008 040.

 

Samosir

Situated in the middle of Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake, Samosir is a truly unique island escape. The lake and island were formed over 75,000 years ago after a super-volcano erupted on Sumatra, and today Samosir is the world’s largest island within an island and home to traditional Batak houses, pine-covered slopes, and lovely lakeside resorts. Spend your days taking dips in the cool water of the lake, paddling around in a kayak or canoe, and soaking up the dramatic scenery of the caldera.

Where to Stay:

The town of Tuk Tuk is where you’ll find the majority of hotels and guesthouses on Samosir, and in our opinion, Toba Village Inn is the best. Set within lush gardens that spill to the edge of the lake, the guesthouse offers sparkling clean rooms with lake and mountain views, a turquoise swimming pool, and a laid-back restaurant where the Belgian-trained chef whips up divine local and international dishes.

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Toba Village Inn, Tuk Tuk, Samosir, Sumatra, Indonesia 22395. +62 625 451 346.

 

Nusa Lembongan

Technically part of Bali, but actually a short boat ride away, Nusa Lembongan seems like a whole other world. This small island offers beautiful bays with soft golden sand, waters that range from pale sapphire to turquoise and Prussian blue, and plenty of secluded coves to explore. The biggest draws here are the beaches, surfing, snorkelling, and diving, as well as the amazing sunsets and incredible views across the strait to the volcanic peak of Mount Agung.

Where to Stay:

If you want a memorable stay on Nusa Lembongan, book yourself into Batu Karang Resort Villas & Suites, a fabulous eco-conscious boutique resort with beautiful modern Balinese rooms and villas, breezy al fresco areas with jaw-dropping views of the beach and sea, a library, spa, steam room, gym, movie theatre, and not one, but three pools. Honeymooners will definitely want to scoop up the Wedding Villa with its own private pool.

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Batu Karang Resort Villas & Suites, Jungut Batu, Nusa Lembongan, Bali 80771. +62 366 559 6377.

 

Bunaken

The insanely clear waters surrounding Bunaken are what draw visitors from around the world to this tiny island in a protected marine park off Sulawesi’s northern tip: Bunaken and neighbouring Bunaken Timur are often listed as some of the best dive spots in Indonesia. On any given excursion into the sea, you can expect to get up close and personal with sea turtles, coral walls, giant clams, spotted seahorses, and more. On land you’ll find a variety of accommodation to suit all sorts including rustic homestays, dive resorts, and modern hotels with all the amenities you could want.

Where to Stay:

Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spot is a cut above the rest with beautiful bungalows set on immaculate lawns, a sparkling infinity pool, serene spa, and attentive staff who go out of their way to take care of your every need. Divers can book up to three or four dives a day here and expect state-of-the-art boats and equipment, plus friendly dive guides who can take you to some seriously surreal underwater worlds.

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Bunaken Oasis Dive Resort & Spot, Liang Beach, Bunaken, Sulawesi, Indonesia. p.

+44 1926 421 100.



 

 


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