7 Off the Beaten Track Islands in Indonesia to Visit

Raja Ampat Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 17,500 islands, 800 languages and has a population of over 280,000,000 people! There are plenty of tourist hotspots but If you’re hoping to explore some of the more off-the-beaten-track islands in Indonesia, you’re in the right place. 

Having travelled to several islands in this region, I’ve discovered plenty of hidden gems that rarely make it onto these kinds of lists. And the best thing about these Indonesian islands? The kind-hearted people that live here can’t wait to share these amazing places with you!  

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7 Amazing Indonesian Islands

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1. Sumba Island (Pulau Sumba) 

Located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara, Pulau Sumba is one island in the Lesser Sunda archipelago. It is best suited for couples or solo travellers who like to get away from the tourist crowds. 

Sumba Island, Indonesia
Sumba Island is famous for its remote villages.

This place is an absolute gem that offers scenery straight out of a postcard. Travellers seeking something unique, luxurious, or extra special (did somebody say honeymoon? ?) will want to head to this dreamy location. While it has a reputation for luxury thanks to several high-end resorts opening on the island, there is plenty to do on a budget. 

Sumba is known for its surfing, waterfalls, remote villages and the native Sandalwood horses that call the island home. You might see the horses playing on the beach or swimming in the ocean. Don’t panic though, they’ll be accompanied by their Sumbani caretakers. The horses play an important role in the Sumbanese culture and feature heavily at the traditional Pasola Festival, a sporting event that takes place annually on the island. 

Sumba is not the cheapest destination so depending on what kind of budget you are on, you might not want to spend all of your time here. That being said, if your money can stretch, Sumba is undoubtedly worth it. If you are searching for budget-friendly accommodation, try checking out the Sumba Adventure Resort in Baing. 

Booking a group tour can be a good idea as the island is not a major hub for travellers. If you’re planning to visit, it’s important to remember that Sumba does not have an extensive tourism infrastructure yet. Treat it like an adventure and get ready to step back in time!

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How to Get to Sumba Island

There are daily flights from Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar (DPS) to Sumba Island’s Tambolaka Airport (TMC).

You can also fly to Umbu Mehang Kunda Airport in Waingapu Town, located in East Sumba. The best-suited airport will depend on where you plan to go as they are based on opposite sides of the island. Be sure to research before you book your ticket! 

Sumba is a remote location so be sure to plan accordingly and aim to visit in the dry season (May – October). Waikabubak, located in the west, is one of the main hubs for travellers and an excellent place to base yourself.

2. Mentawai Islands (Pulau Mentawi) 

Located 100 km off the western coast of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean, this is a group of over 70 islands. The main islands are North Pagai and South Pagai, Sipura, and Siberut. 

The Mentawai Islands are home to some of the best surf breaks in the country.

Surf camps are popular in the Mentawai Islands and with good reason. Learn to surf at some of the best breaks in Indonesia with skilled local instructors who make their living from the ocean’s waves. The professionals will direct you where to surf based on your level, as some parts of the coastline are not suitable for beginners. 

The surf breaks here are incredible but there are other reasons to visit as well. The one requirement for enjoying a visit to the Mentawai Islands is that you are somebody who loves being outdoors, surrounded by nature. On Siberut island, you’ll find a UNESCO-listed tropical rainforest, Siberut National Park. There are also beautiful coral reefs waiting to be explored nearby. 

Backpackers, beachgoers, hikers, surfers and those who love fishing will adore a visit to the Mentawai Islands. Definitely check out Kokos Hostel in Padang City when you first arrive. This is a great place to meet other travellers – especially around the beer fridge!

How to Get to the Mentawai Islands

The Mentawai Islands can only be reached from the city of Padang in West Sumatra. There are direct flights from Jakarta to Padang. From there, you can take the fast ferry from Padang to the Mentawai Islands. It leaves a few times a week. 

3. Batam Island (Pulau Batam) 

Batam Island is in the Riau province, just 20 km from Singapore and 25 km from Johor Malaysia. It is a great island destination for backpackers who love the hustle and bustle of the city, going shopping, and who are craving a unique experience close to Singapore and Malaysia

Welcome To Batam
Welcome to Batam!

Batam has many hotels and guesthouses at great prices so you can swap the backpacker dorm for a private room if you want. Check out the Harmoni One Convention Hotel in the heart of Batam City – it offers fantastic value for money.

Did you know that Batam can be seen from the coast of Singapore? It’s just a one-hour ferry journey between the two nations. I’ve taken the fast ferry to Batam from Singapore many times and let me tell you, it is surreal to leave one country and arrive so quickly in the next!

Batam is mainly known for two things; shopping and seafood. Many Singaporean travellers visit at weekends and on public holidays to shop and indulge in fresh shellfish – it is much cheaper than at home!

City life can be a lot of fun and you can easily fill your time with visits to karaoke bars, shopping malls, markets, cinemas, spas and of course, street food stalls. Travellers are recommended to explore the island during the week and avoid weekends and peak times. Much like in any major city, tourism levels increase during these times. 

If you want to escape the madness, take a boat to one of the many nearby islands where you can enjoy a slower pace of life. Bring a good book for hammock lazing and pocket some cash to spend on the delicious street food. 

Don’t forget to check out the epic Barelang Bridge too. Here you will find people snapping photos, enjoying grilled corn, taking in the views and just generally having a good time. It looks beautiful at sunset so bring your camera! 

Batam City
Batam City is a favourite destination for Singaporeans seeking a budget escape.

How to Get to Batam Island

If you are in Singapore, the fast ferry from Tanah Merah Port will take you directly to the port of Batam. It is important to note that there are six ports in Batam; Sekupang, Waterfront City, Batam Center, Harbour Bay, Nongsapura, and Telaga Punggur. 

The Batam Center port is right across from the Mega Mall, a modern shopping complex with plenty of cafés, coffee shops, and nearby local transport. 

You can also fly to Batam, where you will arrive at the Hang Nadim International Airport. 

4. Banda Islands (Kepulauan Banda) 

The Banda Islands are a group of volcanic islands situated in the province of Maluku. People travel here because it’s one of the best places in Indonesia to scuba dive. It is possible to see sea turtles, schools of hammerhead sharks, almost 400 species of coral and over 700 species of fish!

Diving in Banda Islands
Diving is one of the main attractions in the Banda Islands.

Banda Neira is the main island with a selection of restaurants, dive resorts, guesthouses, hostels, and a local market. There are no cars or shopping malls, giving this island a very relaxed vibe. You’ll see kids out playing on the streets, jumping into the ocean and congregating with their families at mealtimes. It’s really wholesome to see. 

As far as tourist activities go, you can quickly fill a few days with boat trips alone. Island hopping, snorkelling and diving are all popular activities. If you prefer to stay on land, you can hike to the incredible Mount Api, explore Fort Belgica and Fort Nassau, take a tour of the nutmeg plantations or learn about the fascinating history of the Spice Islands. 

Insider Tip! If you want to become a certified diver, check out Dive Blue Motion. Not only are they Green Fin Certified but they also work with Luminocean to educate the local communities on the importance of ocean conservation, plastic recycling, and much more. 

I recommend staying at the beautiful Baba Lagoon Hotel. It boasts stunning ocean views and an on-site dive centre. I called this place home in Banda and loved everything about it. 

Ideal for backpackers, solo travellers, couples, and families, the Banda islands aren’t the easiest Indonesian islands to reach. Therefore, this destination will only be suited to those who don’t mind working a little harder to reach a dream location. 

Backpacking taking the local Pelni ferry to Banda Neira
Taking the ferry to Banda Neira is a long journey! ?

How to Get to the Banda Islands

To reach the Banda Islands, you must first travel to Ambon Maluku. Once you arrive, you can then decide whether to take the ferry, fast boat, or light plane over to Banda Neira. 

Travelling to Banda requires a lot of flexibility as the transport schedules depend on the weather and the time of year. An overnight ferry is the most popular way to get to Banda Neira, however, it also provides the longest journey time. The trip can take anywhere from 10-14 hours. 

5. Flores (Pulau Flores)

Flores is one of the Lesser Sunda Islands and also the gateway to Komodo National Park. It is situated east of Sumbawa and west of the Solor Islands. You’re recommended to spend at least a week exploring Flores and the surrounding islands because there is so much to do in this area.

One of Indonesia’s famous volcanic lake areas.  I did not like Moni !
One of the epic volcanic lakes in Flores.

 Adventure travellers, nature lovers and hikers are sure to love Flores. If water sports are your thing, can even book a bed on a liveaboard for 24/7 island cruising, diving, swimming and snorkelling!  

You’re able to visit two National Parks from Flores, Komodo National Park and Kelimutu National Park. Komodo National Park is located between the islands of Flores and Sumbawa and is home to the endangered Komodo Dragon. 

Seeing the dragons in their natural habitat is a bucket list experience for many, however, overtourism on the island threatens the welfare of the animals and the surrounding environment. Large parts of the island have been heavily sanitised by tourism. Some travellers leave feeling like they’ve been to a zoo or sanctuary, rather than a wild landscape. Always do your research before visiting so that you know what to expect. 

Located near the village of Moni, Kelimutu National Park is famous because of its active volcano and lakes of different colours. There are three of these amazing lakes inside the national park; Tiwu Ata Mbupu, Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai, and Tiwu Ata Polo. Take in the incredible views from the top of the volcano, see the local way of life in the village and capture an unforgettable sunrise – all in one day! 

The best time to travel to Flores, like most remote islands, is in the dry season. Calmer seas, clear skies, warm water and less chance of a cancelled boat trip make for a smooth and satisfying trip. Flores can be as expensive as you want to make it but there are budget-friendly options about. I recommend La Boheme Bajo hostel which is a great place to meet other travellers. 

Fun fact: Komodo Dragons can consume 80% of their body weight in one go!

How to Get to Flores

To reach Flores, you can take a direct flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo (west) or from Bali to Maumere (east), depending on your itinerary. If you’re travelling from Lombok and are searching for a real Indonesian adventure, there is also a boat trip to the island is a favourite with backpackers

6. Karimunjawa Islands (Kepulauan Karimunjawa) 

The Karimunjawa islands are located off the coast of Central Java. Anyone who is searching for a slice of paradise is sure to find it here! 

Sunset in Karimunjawa islands
Not a bad sunset, eh?

White sandy beaches, unique dive spots and clear water are not usually associated with Java, which makes these islands so surprising. For travellers who don’t have the time or budget to venture to some of the more far-flung islands in Indonesia, the Karimun Java archipelago is a great choice. 

The communities who live on these islands follow the Islamic faith so travellers are encouraged to follow local customs and dress respectfully. You will be welcomed with warm hospitality and plenty of freshly cooked seafood!

For a hip and trendy budget accommodation option, be sure to check out The Bodhi Tree. This hostel benefits from a convenient location close to Pancuran Beach. 

The Karimunjawa islands are perfect for exploring if you are backpacking central Java. Bear in mind that travelling to Karimunjawa depends on the weather, the ocean conditions and the tide. Check the forecast and consider booking your transfers with a local tour agent who can make the process easier and keep you updated with the schedule.

How to Get to the Karimunjawa Islands

To reach the Karimunjawa islands, you first need to travel to Semarang by train or plane. Semarang is the capital city of Central Java, so you can easily travel here from all other major cities. Next, travel to Jepara by bus or car and make your way to the Kartini Harbor. You can take the express ferry from the harbour, which takes about two hours. 

7. Wakatobi Islands (Kepulauan Wakatobi) 

Last but not least is a collection of roughly 150 islands located in southwest Sulawesi. There are four main islands; Wangi-Wangi, Kaledupa, Binongko and Tomia. This destination is best suited to ocean lovers, scuba divers and those seeking to experience island life away from the crowds. 

Wakatobi Islands
Not one for the shoestring backpacker but incredible if you can afford it!

Honestly, there are so many reasons why a trip to the Wakatobi Islands is worth doing but if you feel at home underwater then the Wakatobi Marine National Park will blow your mind. With clear water, 750+ coral reef species and more fish than you have time to count, scuba divers hail this as one of the best dive spots in the world. 

More fish have been recorded here than anywhere else on earth and the park is a haven for tropical marine life. Not a certified scuba diver? You can still enjoy the reefs by taking a snorkelling trip with a local guide. And, if you are lucky, you might even see dolphins in the marine park!

Be sure to go and see the Bajo Villages and meet the locals. The Bajo Tribe live predominately on the water, in homes built on stilts. Seeing how they live firsthand is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  

Let me be upfront, Wakatobi is not a budget-friendly destination. If you can afford to travel to this very special place, we suggest staying at the famous Wakatobi Luxury Dive Resort on Tomia Island, which offers villas, ocean bungalows and palm bungalows. 

How to Get to the Wakatobi Islands

You can get to Wakatobi by flying to Makassar in south Sulawesi. From Makassar, you can fly to Wangi Wangi island. Wangi Wangi is the busiest island and the gateway to the other islands by ferry.  

Indonesia is incredibly diverse and as you can see, Bali is not your only option when it comes to island escapes. If you want to have a real adventure, get out of the tourist spots pronto and set off in search of the real Indonesia. 

While these Indonesian island destinations require a little more planning than the obvious choices, they are sure to offer an unforgettable experience. If you’re willing to leave your rigid travel itinerary behind and go with the flow, you’ll have the best time getting lost in paradise. 

What island in Indonesia will you be visiting first? 

Cherie Julie | Travel For Change Collective

Cherie founded a responsible tourism blog, Travel For Change, in 2016 with the desire to encourage other travellers to wander with purpose. Today the blog has transformed into a copywriting business for mindful brands where Cherie writes on a variety of topics such as the environment, human rights, animal welfare and sustainable travel.

Find her on: Instagram

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