Located just a stone’s throw from Singapore, Indonesia is a vast expanse of diverse tropical islands just waiting to be explored. From Robinson Crusoe like deserted isles to hedonistic party hotspots, we give you the rundown of Indonesia’s coolest islands and our favorite Indo spots for quick getaways.
If you picture what Bali would have been like 20 years ago, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect in Lombok. 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.
Jl. Pantai Sire, Lombok
Tel:+62 370 620111
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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 that they implement eco-friendly practices, including using sustainable building materials, solar power and recycled rainwater.
South Beach, Gili Trawangan
Tel: +62 370 6145301
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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.
Desa Hobawawi, Sumba
Tel: +62 361 757 149
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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 from 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 colorful reef fish at the same time, and easy access to the Lembeh Strait.
Lembeh Strait Manado, Sulawesi
Tel: +62 4383 0300
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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 once 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.
Jalan Benteng Belgica, Banda Neira, Maluku
Tel: +62 0910 21 604
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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.
Seraya Kecil, Flores
Tel: +62 0821 4647 1362
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Raja Ampat Islands
Serious scuba divers almost always have Raja Ampat at the very top of their bucket list, as this archipelago of 1,500 islands lies in the Coral Triangle, which 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 minimizes the need for air conditioning, and your stay helps to support the resort’s numerous conservation initiatives.
Misool Marine Reserve, Raja Ampat
Tel: +62 0813 5406 0519
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