Desperately Seeking Seclusion?

Apr 9th, 2009, in Travel, by

AcehWant to get away and lie on a beach? Read on.

Would you like to insert yourself into a picture like this?

Indonesian island paradise postcard, (c) Periplus

I know I would.

The Republic of Indonesia consists of 17 or 18 000 islands, of which about half have names and 3000 are permanently inhabited. As such, it ought to be relatively easy to find a deserted island or beach. However, getting to such places can be difficult, time-consuming and/or expensive.

So here is a quick guide to some of the best deserted beaches in Indonesia that aren’t too remote, in no particular order:

Kepulauan Seribu / Thousand Islands, DKI Jakarta

Pulau Tidung Pulau Pramuka
Pulau Tidung / Tidung Island Pulau Pramuka / Pramuka Island

A ferry from Ancol in North Jakarta will take you to this group of islands, home to some very nice beaches. There is a range of accommodation available for different budgets from hostel to resort with golf course. Its proximity and convenience to Jakarta means some hotels can seem quite expensive compared to other parts of Indonesia, especially on weekends and school holidays (when prices increase significantly). As a rough guide, the further from Jakarta, the better the deserted beach; the closer islands tend to attract more day-trippers along with some of the capital’s waterborne pollution. Or, if you’re Indonesian and money is no object, you could ensure isolation by buying one of the islands; I once had a student whose parents had done this.

Accommodation and transport packages can be arranged through Grayline Tours or the Jakarta Tourism Office, or you can contact each resort directly. A selection of what’s available is listed here.

Karimunjawa, Central Java

Karimun #2
Karimunjawa, looking out from the beach

Nestled between Central Java and South Kalimantan is this island chain. Again, a range of accommodation – many including all meals – is available. Or if you really want to get away from it all, you can live 1 km offshore on a fishing platform!

Pulau Karimun #1
Karimunjawa, aerial view

You can get there by speedboat from Semarang (three hours) or less speedy boat from Jepara (seven hours). Garuda and Sriwijaya Air fly to Semarang from Jakarta, and the latter also from Surabaya. Jakarta-Surabaya (Pasar Turi) trains all stop in Semarang, too. Note that during the wet season (mostly in Dec-Mar) boats sometimes don’t sail due to high seas.

Mawan Beach (near Kuta Lombok), West Nusa Tenggara

Mawan #2
Mawan Beach

About 5 km west from Kuta on the south coast of Lombok is a spectacular horseshoe beach called Mawan (pronounced Mar-warn). The only inhabitants are a small fishing community, so most of the time you can be guaranteed the beach to yourself.

You can get to Lombok by plane from Jakarta/Bali/Surabaya then take a taxi from the airport (a flat rate), or by boat from Bali and then get a connecting bus (many conductors will be happy to arrange your onward transport at the Lombok ferry terminal). You will need to arrange/charter transport (e.g. ojek) to Mawan Beach, and on the way back you can visit the Astari Cafe with stunning views of the surrounding coastline.

Gili Meno
Gili Meno

Gili Meno – one of the three Gili Islands, off the NW coast of Lombok – runs a close second, if only because walking and lying on parts of the beach which are covered by sharp shell fragments. You can get there by ferry from the nearest mainland town of Bangsal or direct from Padangbai, Bali on Perama Tour.

However, if you have a bit more time to spare you might also want to consider:

Banda Island
Banda Island

Banda Islands, Maluku

A ferry ride from Ambon is this island chain. While they are also famous for nearby diving and snorkeling, some of the islands are themselves worth visiting for stunning, unspoilt beaches.

You can fly to Ambon directly from Jakarta (many choices) or Surabaya (Batavia Air), and an Air Asia service from Kuala Lumpur is planned. Unfortunately, it seems Merpati no longer flies from Ambon to the main town of Bandaneira, so you will have to travel by boat. According to its schedule (which may not be entirely accurate), the Pelni ferry goes in each direction every week or two, taking seven or twelve hours. Better check on or before arrival at your local Pelni office.

Pulau Derawan, East Kalimantan

Derawan Island
Derawan Island

As reported in The Jakarta Post, this is the favourite place in all of Borneo (including the Malaysian section) of the local Lonely Planet author Muhammad Cohen. Highlights and details for how to get there are contained in the link above.

Have you been to these places? Do you agree or disagree with the places in this list? Please add your own comments and recommendations below.

26 Comments on “Desperately Seeking Seclusion?”

  1. Mike says:

    Nice post. I am about to take a trip through Indonesia so I hope to visit some of these places.

  2. Ron says:

    Been to Lombok and of course Mawan Beach. Beautiful beach, friendly people! Mawan Beach

  3. ET says:

    The Gili’s in Lombok are fine for those who want to get away for a while from the hustle and bustle of the Bali beaches, but it seems Gili Trawangan is catching up.

  4. heny says:

    Mooie stranden/secondlife4us,

    Duhh…niet netjes nich…

    Ini kan forum engelstalig..

  5. Pena Budaya says:

    Also I would like to add on how beautiful underwater life in Indonesia. I love this underwater photography collection from Edwin Kodiat. I wish to have his talent and his opportunity to dive the underwater world of Indonesia. In otherhand, I hope increasing maritime tourism won’t kill their beauty…

  6. David says:

    Mooie stranden/secondlife4us,

    Duhh…niet netjes nich…

    Ini kan forum engelstalig..

    It’s an automated trackback from his site, not a comment he wrote here 🙂

  7. hary says:

    I have been to Mawan as well. Superb! Best of all, the water is only waist high for about 200m out to see with a sandy bottom.
    Not sure about GiliT though. Being able to get sloshed in an Irish bar is not my idea of an unspoilt island. -Tir Na Nog!!!
    Karimunjawa is impressive, although a little expensive to stay on.

  8. Lairedion says:

    I went to Ambon, Haruku, Saparua and Seram once, long before the riots of the late nineties. Stunning beaches out there….

  9. Odinius says:

    Pelabuhan ratu on the south side of Java!

  10. hary says:

    Hi O,
    You can’t be serious. Pelabuhan Ratu must be one of the worst beaches around. You should get out more.

  11. Lairedion says:

    Agree with hary. Topic is about seeking seclusion. Pelabuhan Ratu is nothing of a secluded spot.

  12. Odinius says:

    Hi O,
    You can’t be serious. Pelabuhan Ratu must be one of the worst beaches around. You should get out more.

    haven’t been there since 2003, but when i went it was almost completely empty, and had quite a good time. remember it not unlike this

    not gili quality or anything, but convenient if you are sitting in Jakarta and want beach. But maybe it’s changed since then?

  13. Mike Oxblack says:

    Lonely Planet author Muhammad Cohen.

    Top name.

    Pelabuhan Ratu is great and usually very empty. Wide sandy beaches, great seafood, beautiful hills, hot springs. I say P. Ratu rocks….aside from the Ozzie surfers who do my nut in.

  14. Ric Atencia says:

    Indeed the Republilc of Indonesia, with its more than 17,000 islands, is blessed with inspiring places such as the scenic and lovely islands dotting the world’s largest archipelagic country.

    I believed that many of these places are still not yet developed for tourism but someday they will.

    My country, the Philippines, has about 7,100 islands and mind you we have many similarities. I had the opportunity of working in Indonesia and it is not only the islands that attracted me but the people who are warm, pious and law-abiding.

    Tourists need to discover Indonesia, not only the islands in Bali or Lombok. There’s plenty around!

    I believed that if not for the breakdown of peace and order in some parts of western Mindanao, the places the tourists could visit someday would be the island chains of Jolo and Tawi-Tawi, bordering the Republic of Indonesia. There are many islands here that would inspire a traveller.

    Someday, when peace is restored and it is near!

  15. Odinius says:

    Muhammed Cohen is now my hero, both for his incredible stupid-assumptions-about-jews-and-muslims-defying name and his taste in beaches.

  16. David says:

    Muhammad, best I could find, shy fellow

  17. brian astaga says:

    google earth…cant believe I sit on it and look for secluded indonesian beaches, now this topic has come up, ill throw some photos up from there, wow 18000 islands WWTTFF 🙂

  18. Chris says:

    A different Indonesian beach appeared on a recent Lonely Planet weekly email: “Top 10 Best Beaches To Swing a Hammock“:

    #10 Punalu’u, USA
    #9 Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand
    #8 North Stradbroke Island, Australia
    #7 Isla Mujeres, Mexico
    #6 Kei Islands, Maluku
    #5 Pulau Perhentian, Malaysia
    #4 Kerala Coast, India
    #3 Jambiani, Tanzania
    #2 Curonian Spit, Lithuania
    #1 Dahab, Egypt

    It says about Kei Islands:

    There’s a growing chorus that says these remote white-sand beaches are the finest the world has to offer. Development has been slow around the Kai archipelago, so the beaches remain unspoilt and as nature intended. If you’re not big on pristine powdery sands, azure seas, rare and varicoloured birds, arresting fish and wondrous coral reefs, then stay away. Everyone else: enjoy. Upon arrival at Pasir Panjang or Kei Kecil, you’ll find locals ready to organise accommodation for you in a basic beach cottage; ensure that the agreed price includes the daily delivery of fresh water and meals.

    However, one commentator, markbek, was unimpressed and questioned its selectors:

    Dear LP – who writes this kind of list? Probably not the relevant authors from your books or else you’d be using the name Kei Islands (as in your Indonesia book) rather than Kai Islands (the misleadingly Wikipedia version) and you might notice that Pasir Panjang is on Kei Kecil (so the sentence “Upon arrival at Pasir Panjang or Kei Kecil…” is confusing/meaningless).

    And while I heartily agree that Pasir Panjang has powdery white sands and azure seas and is thus a brilliant place to hang a hammock (the point of this article), the Kei/Kai islands are not so well known for ‘wonderous coral reefs’.

    Anyway, what I’m wondering is this: Can anyone can tell me – having visited themselves – whether the Kei Islands are truly one of Indonesia’s best deserted beaches?

  19. Purba Negoro says:

    I personally recommend Karimun off Jawa Tengah.

    Even on Java island alone- there are plenty of isolated beaches.
    Just keep your clothes on- (no nudism allowed in Indonesa) and you will be fine.

    Also for Jakartans the Thousand Islands Pulau Seribu including historic Onroest are very nice.
    My daughter likes the diving.

    Even Bidadari off Ancol isn’t bad. 20-30 minutes away and you feel like an explorer.

    As per Kai- I would not recommend. It may be isolated but that also means lack of emergency medicine.
    There is Kalimantan Selatan- which is very isolated.
    Sulawesi has much to offer
    East Nusatengara , Sumba, Sula, Ternate (many isolated beaches). All good.

  20. stanis heatubun says:

    Please go to the white clearest beach on earth in island of kei in south east mollucas , take a charter flight from Darwin north australia only trough 800 kms, there was a best of best beach of Indonesia, no others story and many others interest island

  21. tom aerts says:

    kei is definitely one of the best in info,together with some offshore islands in the togians(off malenge )but there are others,pulau molana,pulau banyak(sumatra)….but my overall favourite is without a doubt Derawan….

  22. Fina says:

    Dont forget Weh Island in Aceh, Island around Bangka Belitung in Sumatera and Raja Ampat in Papua Indonesia. And one more island around Karakatoa mountain. Deeply in love with my own country 🙂

  23. Thomas Schuett says:

    Hello from the three-River-City Passau in Bavaria/Germany. While studying in my early years at Munich/Bavaria I became friendship to some students from Indonesia and so a lot of interest in this country. This is why I took a trip through the Island-World … unfortunately only by Google-Earth ! Nevertheless i found those pearls like Kakaban and Derewan that led me to your sites where the corresponding pictures gave me a better imagination of paradise. So many thanks for your efforts and please go on :). Thomas Schuett

  24. Ray says:

    We want to get married next year on a quiet beach. I’ve been looking around for resorts with beaches which hosts wedding but they’re way too much and we just want a quiet small ceremony.
    Does anyone know if we’re allowed to host non official wedding ceremonies at these beaches?
    Would also like to have a local catering service or restaurant to help do a dinner too.
    Any help or input will be appreciated.

  25. tom aerts says:

    and also while Dahab is a great place for diving…..beaches?hammocks?sorry there are none

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