Indonesia’s less traveled beach and island destinationsBy Jo Lane Oct 11, 2013 6:39PM UTC
Indonesia is renowned for its white sands, clear turquoise waters and beautiful marine life. But many of its beach and island locations are hardly undiscovered and it can sometimes feel you’re battling the crowds in search of that elusive paradise. Here are some beach and island locations where you might find you can get the peace and quiet you seek.
Nias island, Sumatra
For those that like a quiet beach or the chance to do some big wave surfing away from the huge crowds of places like Legian and Kuta, Nias is your place. Lagundri Beach was officially “discovered” in 1975 and while there is a regular stream of surfers here it’s nothing like the competition you get for breaks elsewhere. The waves are most consistent and the highest – expect 6-10 feet SW swells — from April to October. In off season swells can still reach 3-6 feet.
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Pulau Weh, Banda Aceh, Sumatra
Pulau Weh is a bit of an insider’s secret and it requires some effort to get there. You take a night bus from Medan to Banda Aceh, then the morning ferry to Gapang Beach from where you have to get minibuses to your preferred stopping place – Sabang, Iboih, Semur Tiga and so on. But it’s worth it. This is Indonesia’s most northwestern island and it’s really good for diving. The currents and deep waters around the island are home to a variety of marine life that can be anything from the micro to the macro. There are about 20 dive sites and you may see whale sharks, Mola Mola, frog fish, star gazers or more.
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Pandangaran, West Java
Located on the southern coast of Java, this place is definitely off the tourist circuit and comes recommended from a surfer that lived in Jakarta for awhile. Pandangaran was his weekend haunt. It’s a bit of a long and bumpy drive to Pandangaran from Yogyakarta, or Jakarta, but the charming local atmosphere makes it worth the effort. Pandangaran is located on a narrow isthmus of land. On the east side of the isthmus is less commercial with fishermen working nets off the beach and their boats stacked up on the shore. The western side has a dark sand beach and pounding surf. The Pandangaran National Park occupies the headland and has deer, monkeys, porcupines, the famed Rafflesia flower and rainforest. Pandangaran has made it into Lonely Planet but the 2006 tsunami hit it and possibly effected tourism as well, although local tourism means weekends can be busier.
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Pelabuhan Ratu, West Java
Another place to visit, particularly if you’re keen to find good surf, or wish to escape Jakarta for the weekend, is Pelabuhan Ratu on the southwest coast of West Java. Approximately four hours from Bandung, this bay is horseshoe shaped with white sands and good surfing particularly off the beaches of Cimaja, Sunset, Karang Sari or Karang Aji. There are hotels, resorts and other tourism facilities but it’s all pretty low key and relaxing. There are many accommodation options right on the beach so you can check the surf conditions from right outside your window.
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Amed, north Bali
While much of the south coast of Bali is littered with resorts and beach umbrellas, Amed is lined with traditional outrigger fishing boats. The major industries up here are salt mining and fishing so there’s a whole different atmosphere to life along the sands. The coral and underwater life here also attract snorkellers and divers and there are two shipwrecks right off the beach to explore.
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This archipelago of islands numbering over 632 lies between Sulawesi and Papua and are considered the original “Spice Islands”. They aren’t frequented much by tourists, thanks to some civil conflict from 1999 to 2002 that has now quietened down, and the effort to get there – there are regular flights here from Jakarta and onwards to parts of Maluku but you may also need to negotiate ferries, buses or other transport to your final destination. But if you make the effort there are some incredible beaches to enjoy and rich underwater life. In fact, thanks to the remoteness of the islands and the lack of large settlements, huge schools of fish still abound, making it a feast of underwater life. Snorkelling and diving is particularly good on the Bandas Islands, and the beaches are remote and picture perfect. The Kei islands also have brilliant snorkelling and wonderful beaches to walk, relax on and explore.
This island located between Borneo and the Maluku Islands remains less visited than popular beachy tourist haunts like Bali or Lombok but offers superb diving, wonderful beaches and remote islands. Volcanic in origin, the island is home to six national parks and three protected marine reserves. All feature an abundance of life in and above the water. The Togean Islands are particularly rewarding if you seek diverse marine life, remote beaches, excellent island-hopping opportunities and plenty of rustic accommodation right near the water. Pulau Bunaken and the Lembeh Strait are considered the best places to dive and have more developed tourism facilities.
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