When someone mentions a relaxing island getaway in Indonesia, most people will immediately think of Bali. The popular destination is constantly bustling with tourists from all over the world, including us Malaysians.
But over the years, the popularity of Bali has declined and one Google search on how the island looks like now will tell you why.
Maybe it’s time the Indonesian government follow the steps taken by our neighbour Thailand, who closed off the famous Maya Bay to help the beach recover from mass tourism (read: pollution and environmental damage).
Instead of planning your next tropical holiday to Bali, why don’t you head over to other underrated Indonesian islands instead that's overflowing with untapped beauty and breathtaking views?
Here are our top six islands picks other than Bali:
#1 Pulau Weh
Located in the northern region of Sumatra, this idyllic island is everything you ever wanted in what constitutes as a relaxing getaway. Surrounded by the Andaman Sea, you can stroll along three main beaches – Iboih, Gapang, and Sumur Tiga. And if you’re the adventurous type, don’t forget to bring your fins to go snorkeling, diving or even free diving!
: You can flight directly to Banda Aceh from Kuala Lumpur via AirAsia with the flight time of one and a half hours
. Other airlines would require one or two transits, so plan your flights wisely. From the airport, take a taxi to the Ulee Lheu harbour which is only 20 minutes
away. You can then opt for either a slow ferry (one hour 30 minutes)
or a fast ferry which will be pricier but takes only 45 minutes
: You can travel there anytime of the year as it rarely rains heavily but if you still want to know when’s the best time, it’s between April to November. And psst, the islanders are quite conservative so some beaches may not allow bikinis.
#2 Pulau Seribu
Who’d knew that amidst the hustle and bustle of the ever busy or macet
city of Jakarta, lies a blissful group of islands awaiting travelers who are looking for a haven to unwind. Pulau Seribu isn’t exactly home to a thousand islands, but only 150.
And out the 150, you can only visit 45
(which is more than enough, to be honest). So, get ready to be spoilt with crystal clear waters and islands lining up one after another.
: Take a direct flight to Jakarta from Kuala Lumpur via any of our local airlines (2 hours 15 minutes
journey). When in Jakarta, you may want to stay in the city overnight as the boats to island only operates early in the morning.
In the morning, make your way super early to either Ancol Marina or Muara Angke as the boats leave at either 8am or 9am
. Make sure you tell the boat operator which island you intend on getting off. The nearest island could take about 15-20 minutes while the furthest could take more than two hours.
: If you’re planning to take a day trip, make sure you study which islands you intend to visit. And taking a speedboat instead of a ferry is a smarter choice as you’ll have more time to cover more islands.
#3 Pulau Sumba
Just 400km east of Bali, you’ll find cerulean blue waters and untapped beauty like you’ve never seen before (or at least not in Bali). There’s plenty to do in Sumba apart from taking all those Insta-worthy photos, you can visit one of its many lakes, pristine beaches, waterfalls, and traditional villages. And while you’re there, be sure to cop one or two Ikat textiles, which Sumba is famously known for.
: There are no direct flights to Sumba so you’ll need to take a flight to Bali first (three hours
journey) and then take a flight to Tambolaka Airport, Sumba (one hour 30 minutes
journey). You can fly via Garuda Air, Lion Air, or Nam Air.
: There are only three flights per day to and from the Sumba, so be sure to plan your trip wisely.
#4 Raja Ampat
Get ready to be transported to one of Earth’s best ‘hidden’ secret. It’s so stunning that you’d be lost for words and you’ll definitely think that this haven must be some kind of mystical paradise. And that place is Raja Ampat. Making your way there requires a bit of an adventure and patience – but trust us, the view is totally worth the hassle.
: From Kuala Lumpur, you would need to fly to either Jakarta (two hours 15 minutes
) or Makassar (three hours 30 minutes
) first. Then, make your way to Sorong, West Papua (Domine Edward Osok Airport) via a four-hour
flight via Jakarta or a two-hour 15 minutes
flight via Makassar.
Upon arrival, take a taxi or ojek
– motorcycle taxi to Sorong harbor (10-20 minutes
) to take a two-hour
ferry to Waisai, the main city of Raja Ampat.
If you’d like to speed things up, you can also opt for a direct flight from Sorong to the Raja Ampat airport (30 minutes
) but you’d still need to make your way to the harbour. From there, you will travel between 10-45 minutes
by boat, depending on the location of your accommodation.
: Raja Ampat is two hours ahead of Jakarta, so don’t get your timing wrong or you’ll risk missing your flight/ferry.
#5 Pulau Belitung
Pulau Belitung rose to fame after it was featured in one of Indonesia’s most successful critically-acclaimed movie, ‘Laskar Pelangi’. And it’s no wonder that everyone dreams of making their way to the island one day – sandy-white beaches, unique rock formations, shimmering blue waters, scrumptious local food, and did we mention a kaolin lake?
: Take a direct flight to either Jakarta (two hours 15 minutes
) or Singapore (one hour
). Then, take another flight to Tanjung Pandan, Belitung via a one-hour 30 minutes
flight from Singapore or one-hour 10 minutes
: From the airport, use Street Taxi to get around Belitung instead of the private cabs at the airport, as they will charge you up to three times more than the former. You can also book them to go anywhere you wish.
#6 Pulau Bawah
How does an island so exclusive and exotic that it can only take in 70 visitors
at one time? Sounds like a dream but this peaceful abyss is home to dreamy pristine waters, lush green rainforests, and one of the best places to stargaze at night. This laidback island with five islands and 13 beaches
is located between Malaysia and Borneo and has only one resort – Bawah Reserve
: You can take a direct flight from Subang Airport to Batam (one hour 20 minutes
) and then take a private seaplane to Bawah (one-hour journey). Alternatively, you can take a ferry from Berjaya Waterfront Johor Bahru to Batam (two hours journey), and then take the private seaplane. Your amphibious plane will land on water and you will continue your journey via boat for three hours until you reach your resort.
: Be mindful that the island is very eco-friendly and they have a zero-waste program and using pesticides or fishing is a big no-no. And it may be quite costly to get here as it a remote island, so make sure you do some research before making any decision.