We spend a lot of time “researching” beaches and islands. Not just in Indonesia of course — we recently bagged our 30th Thai island (and another dozen beaches), for instance — but when it comes to beaches, Indonesia is often difficult to beat. We still have a lot of ground to cover (Hello Sumatra, Sumbawa and everything east of Flores!) so this is far from a definitive list, but perhaps it will give you a few ideas. Without further ado, here are some of the Travelfish.org team’s favourites beaches and islands in Indonesia.
Batu Karas, Java
While Batu Karas is best known as a surfing locale, it’s not the surfing that captured our imagination so much as the overall laidback vibe that encourages swimming, eating, sleeping and not a whole lot else.
While we are most certainly not great fans of Pelabuhan Ratu, just five kilometres away you’ll find another surfer hangout — Cimaja. It’s a pebble beach, so a bit more work for a walk by the water than your more typical sand offering, but it delivers in the rugged beauty department.
Considerably more popular than Batu Karas, though still with some good waves, Pangandaran gets busy during the day, but come the evening there is plenty of fodder for long slow walks with a setting sun.
Ujung Genteng, Java
A sleepy seaside village located more than 100 kilometres from the nearest city, remote Ujung Genteng is the stuff dreams are made of.
Jump over to Java’s north coast and you’ve got the glorious Karimunjawa Islands. The main hassle here is the boat timetable, which means you’ll often need to stay longer than planned. Oh the horror.
When it comes to Bali, it’s hard to pick just one… we could write a post like this just for the island (hmm, there’s an idea!) but today we’re going to exercise a little self control and limit ourselves to our single overall favourite, Balangan Beach on the Bukit Peninsula.
Jungutbatu, Nusa Lembongan
Nusa Lembongan’s main beach, Jungutbatu is a working rather than a lazing beach, but in the late afternoon, with a sinking sun and a distant volcano it has has its own special beauty.
The Gili Islands have more than their fair share of delightful (and not so delightful) beaches, but this, the back beach on Gili Air, pretty much sums up our thoughts on the place.
Southern Lombok has some fabulous beaches. This is one of the better ones. No, we’re not going to tell you where it is.
Kanawa Island, Flores
Jumping over Sumbawa as we’re yet to visit there, next stop is Kanawa Island midway between Flores and Komodo. It’s rather nice, with some of the best off-the-beach snorkelling we’ve ever seen.
This mystery beach is actually a 30-minute walk south of Waecicu (which itself is a 20-minute boat ride from Labuan Bajo) followed by bushwhacking down the slope to reach the sand. Is it worth the effort? Yes.
You can’t really have a collection of Indonesian beach photos without mentioning Riung on the north coast of Flores. You agree?
While Bira does have its flaws, there is no denying that some parts of the beach and the surrounding area are beautiful. Neighbouring Liukang Loe Island is also pretty good.
We’re written about the Togean Islands at length already, so we’ll finish with this one.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
Where to go, how long to stay there, where to go next, east or west, north or south? How long have you got? How long do you need? Itinerary planning can be almost as maddening as it is fun and here are some outlines to help you get started. Remember, don't over plan!
Burma lends itself to a short fast trip with frequent flights thrown in or a longer, slower trip where you don't leave the ground. There isn't much of a middle ground. Ground transport remains relatively slow, so be wary about trying to fit too much in.
Roughly apple-shaped, you'd think Cambodia would be ideal for circular routes, but the road network isn't really laid out that way. This means you'll most likely find yourself through some towns more than once, so work them into your plans.
How long have you got? That's not long enough. Really. You'd need a few lifetimes to do this sprawling archipelago justice. Be wary of trying to cover too much ground - the going in Indonesia can be slow.
North or south or both? Laos is relatively small and transport is getting better and better. Those visiting multiple countries can pass through here a few times making for some interesting trips.
The peninsula is easy, with affordable buses, trains and planes and relatively short distances. Sabah and Sarawak are also relatively easy to get around.The vast majority of visitors stick to the peninsula but Borneo is well worth the time and money to reach.
So much to see, so much to do. Thailand boasts some of the better public transport in the region so getting around can be fast and affordable. If time is limited, stick to one part of the country.
Long and thin, Vietnam looks straightforward, but the going is slow and the distances getting from A to B can really bite into a tight trip plan. If you're not on an open-ended trip, plan carefully.
This is where itinerary planning really becomes fun. Be sure to check up on our visa, border crossing and visa sections to make sure you're not trying to do the impossible. Also, remember you're planning a holiday -- not a military expedition.