A Guide to Indonesia’s Most Beautiful Islands

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Vacationing on the impressive Spice Islands in Indonesia or on the unforgettable Bali can be the experience of a lifetime. There are so many different cultures to experience and multiple activities to do while you’re there. Whether you want to see some one-of-a-kind wildlife or explore ancient temples, Indonesia and its stunning islands will offer everything, plus there’s something new waiting for you on every corner.  However, knowing there are more than 17,000 islands, it can be challenging to find which is the best one to visit. But, no worries: we made a list of the most beautiful Indonesian islands that are worth every dollar!

indonesia island mountains
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Komodo Island

Komodo Island is the ideal place to explore untouched jungles, swim with dolphins, dive in the ocean, and see unique underwater life. This island is described as one of the most isolated places on earth. A small part of Indonesia, it’s located in the northeast tip of the country and has a population of just over 20,000 people.

It’s also home to some very interesting creatures, including dragons! The island is home to around 2,500 Komodo Dragons (the largest living lizard), and is one of the only places in the world where tourists can safely view these terrifying predators in the wild.

I was lucky enough to visit Komodo Island in 2015 and it really is a once in a lifetime wildlife experience.

Sumatra 

This breathtaking island in the South Pacific Ocean is known for its natural beauty and biodiversity. With over 1,000 species of orchid, Sumatra’s lush rainforest has been called the “Amazonian Rainforest of Asia” due to its abundant flora and fauna. The island’s diverse landscape ranges from beaches to volcanoes and offers numerous opportunities for recreation and adventure.

Sumatra is also praised for its rich culture with two languages spoken by many on the island, i.e. Bahasa Indonesia and Malay. There are also five religions practiced there: Islam, Christianity (Roman Catholic), Buddhism, Hinduism, and traditional Animism. Despite religious differences, the people there live peacefully together in unity, proud of their traditions.

This being said, you won’t regret booking a stay at one of their many luxurious resorts or hotels. You’ll swim and dive at pristine, white sand beaches, drinking cocktails and soaking up the sunrays. If you’re looking for something more adventurous than laying around all day on the beach, you have interesting choices like exploring Mount Kerinci, the home to some spectacular waterfalls, go orangutan trekking in Bukit Lawang, or go scuba diving in the world class waters of Pulau Weh.

indonesia sumatra lake toba ferry
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Sulawesi

This lovely island is a diverse land with many different cultures and languages. The Sulawesi people are an indigenous group who have been living on the islands for centuries. You’ll find many interesting museums to visit such as the Museum of Palaeontology in Makassar where you can see fossils that date back millions of years!

There’s also the Mangrove Forest museum which features over 600 species of plants and animals! For those interested in history, there is a WWII war museum that has artifacts from World War II including Japanese-made rifles, bayonets, helmets and ammunition clips.  But, it’s not short on breathtaking beaches and jungles either! They’re ideal for passionate nature lovers.

A few things you might not want to miss out on Sulawesi Island are seeing their breathtaking jungles on hikes or biking tours, a boat tour around the coastlines and visiting some of the many fishing villages, scuba diving at Bunaken National Marine Park (located off Manado), and watch traditional dances at Toraja Festival celebration. On this island, boredom is never an option!

Java

This island is the perfect travel destination for people eager to see and learn about Indonesia’s impressive culture and history. Java boasts spectacular architecture and impressive nature and wildlife. You can do so many different things on your vacation there, including visiting temples, going for hikes in the jungle, experiencing local customs through cooking classes, and getting a taste of their delicious cuisine.

It’s also a dream-come-true for beach lovers-the island has everything from pristine beaches with white sand and crystal warm waters to traditional charming villages rich in culture. It’s also great for surfers since it’s been said to have some of the best surfing waves in the world. But it’s not just for surfers, there are many other activities you can do like scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming or simply relaxing on your beach chair.

Don’t forget to visit the ancient Buddhist temple that sits atop a hill overlooking the ocean and spotting wildlife including monkeys and elephants roaming free through the jungle landscape. This sweet little slice of heaven is ready for you to visit!

Samama

The interesting name of this impressive island comes from the Arabic word for “to protect” because the island is said to have many white sand beaches and coral reefs that offer a sense of protection from the waves.  It’s been welcoming tourists for centuries and it could be the ideal destination for you if you’re in search of relaxation, but also exploration and adventure.

Part of the East Kalimantan Province, this island glows with its peaceful ambiance. This serenity is great for endless swims and walks on the beach, but also snorkeling in the pristine waters. It’s calmer than other, more frequented Indonesian islands, so don’t expect a rush of tourists, even when it’s vacation season. Despite the calmness it offers, it doesn’t mean you’ll be stripped from activities. On the contrary, you can explore the island by foot, scuba dive, or see unique plants and trees. Its lush and shady mangroves contribute to the wild and secluded atmosphere. Here, you can take amazing photos or have an unforgettable honeymoon!

Sipura 

Sipura Island is a small, tropical island in the Indonesian province of Nusa Tenggara Timur. It has an approximate population of 500 and is one of the least populated islands in Indonesia. With only three villages on this island, it’s easy to explore all the things this beautiful place offers. The locals are very friendly and welcoming to visitors.

This island is the perfect spot for a laid-back island vacation. With white sand beaches, friendly locals, and plenty of activities to keep you busy all day long, this is one place that will make you feel like your stress has melted away. Whether it’s snorkeling with colorful fish or riding on an ATV through the jungle trails, Sipura has something for everyone! The best months to plan your trip there are October thru April because it’s less crowded and more affordable. Indeed, when you want to escape your winter blues, this island seems like the best answer!

Nusa Ceningan 

A 45-minute boat ride away from Sanur Beach is this beautiful island from the Nusa Islands. It’s ideal if you’re not a fan of overwhelming crowds. It’s a picturesque island rich in picture-perfect blue waters and all-white-sand beaches. Thanks to the lower infrastructure, it’s less visited than Bali, yet offers plenty of activities through its bars, restaurants, guesthouses, and tours. You’ll meet friendly locals who will welcome you with their smiles when they greet you. It’s a perfect vacation option for you if you want to escape your busy daily life. You can explore the pristine coral reefs or go diving with some of the best dive sites in Asia.

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also lots of scuba diving courses available there. On the boat tours, you can experience unforgettable moments like swimming with dolphins, turtles, and other marine life as well as enjoy a serene sunset cruise on a traditional Indonesian fishing boat! 

Morotai 

This breathtaking island in the Maluku Islands spreads over an area of just over 100 sq km. It has a population of around 70,000 people and is home to spectacular scenery. The best way to experience Morotai Island is by renting a bike or scooter and riding on one of its many scenic routes. There are also plenty of beaches for those who want to swim in the warm waters or explore caves that have been carved into the limestone rocks by thousands of years worth of waves crashing against them.

The best time to visit Morotai is in  autumn when there are plenty of festivals being held annually such as Pesta Kota (City Festival) which includes traditional Indonesian dance performances, street food stalls, and other festive activities happening throughout town.

The best place to stay while visiting Morotai would be at one of the resorts or hotels that overlooks beautiful beaches like Pante Macassar Beach where you can enjoy sunsets while listening to the waves crashing. 

rice terraces indonesia morotai island
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Final Thoughts

Travelers know that there are few places in the world more beautiful than Indonesia. It’s the home to hundreds of islands with thousands of traditions and customs. From lush green forests to white-sand beaches, each island has something different to offer and guarantees an unforgettable adventure. If you’re looking for an amazing vacation spot this year, look no further than Indonesia!

You can read more about my love affair with Indonesia in my Reasons to Visit Indonesia and Places to Visit in Indonesia posts.

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