Photo by

Top 5 hidden gem islands in Indonesia

Indonesia, known for its stunning archipelago comprising over 17,000 islands, has numerous hidden gems beyond the famous Bali and Java. Here are our top 5 hidden gem islands in Indonesia that are relatively lesser-known but offer breathtaking beauty and unique experiences.

Wakatobi Islands

Situated at the southeastern tip of Sulawesi, Wakatobi is an idyllic tropical sanctuary. The name 'Wakatobi' derives from the first two letters of its four main islands: Wa from Wangi-Wangi, Ka from Kaledupa, To from Tomia, and Bi from Binongko. These islands collectively constitute a National Marine Park in the Banda Sea, positioned within the "Coral Triangle"—an area that boasts the healthiest and most biodiverse coral reefs on the planet.

In this secluded realm, one can discover pristine pearly beaches with sand as delicate as powder, vast untouched coral reefs, enigmatic mangrove forests, and translucent waters frequented by majestic turtles.

Picture by

Yet Wakatobi's allure extends beyond its aquatic wonders. On land, you'll encounter breathtaking natural scenery, traditional villages like Liya Togo with their stilted wooden homes, ancient fortresses, remnants of bygone empires, and the rich cultural heritage of the welcoming locals.

Tourism is virtually unheard of here, offering a good chance of solitude. These islands, remote and sparsely inhabited, require some effort to reach. However, the reward is unparalleled: unspoiled sands, select accommodations, and arguably Indonesia's finest diving locations.

Banda Islands

The Banda Islands, situated within the Moluccas, are another hidden gem, far removed from Indonesia's mainstream attractions. Of all the Indonesian locales we've traversed, Banda Neira stands out with its raw beauty, hospitable people, captivating history, and a sublime underwater spectacle. The cuisine is exceptional, and the atmosphere, delightfully serene, offers a refreshing contrast to Bali, Java, or Lombok. It's an excellent spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.

Picture by

The Banda archipelago's remoteness means it remains untouched by mass tourism, preserving its natural integrity. Although the islands are becoming increasingly known, accessibility remains a challenge. Alongside Sulawesi and Raja Ampat, it's a premier diving destination in Indonesia.

Non-divers, fear not—there's plenty to enjoy. The laid-back lifestyle and friendly vibe are perfect for unwinding for a week.

Karimunjawa Islands

Several hundred kilometers north of Central Java, you'll find Karimunjawa—a stunning and seldom-visited tropical haven. Reaching this off-the-beaten-path destination takes dedication, as it's removed from Indonesia's conventional tourist routes. But for those seeking 'something different,' Karimunjawa is a definitive must-see. The archipelago features exquisite white beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a tranquil atmosphere.

While it's not a hotspot for Western tourists, Indonesian holidaymakers frequent these shores. It's worth noting that from December to February, the weather can be inhospitable, often interrupting boat services to and from the islands.

Pulau Karimunjawa, the largest in the group, offers the most amenities and activities. While island life naturally involves relaxation on the beach, there are also engaging activities available. The ideal way to discover the island is on a scooter or bicycle.

Enjoy visiting the island's amazing beaches, such as Batu Topeng Beach, with its segmented shores; the scenic Tanjung Gelam Beach; or Ujung Gelam, an optimal location for sunset viewing. Another prime sunset spot is Love Hill, a brief walk from the town center and a short climb rewards you with a panoramic view of the island and sea. You can also visit the local fish market for freshly prepared seafood. Of course, exploring the underwater realm is a popular pastime here as well.

Sumba Island

Sumba, an unspoiled gem in the Lesser Sunda Islands, introduces a raw slice of Indonesia. Here, you can truly experience an adventurer's domain, with tourism still in its infancy.

Sumbanese horses- Each morning, NIHI the resort releases the horses from Sandalwood stables to gallop freely along the 2.5km-long white-sand beaches and then swim in the sea. It is an extraordinary sight to watch.

Gorgeous beaches abound on Sumba, thankfully still off the radar for many tourists. The south coast also offers several stunning spots, with Nihiwatu Beach standing out as an idyllic destination for honeymooners. Two luxury resorts cater to those seeking indulgence, but the beach is also accessible by scooter or taxi.

Surfing in Sumba may not match the famous waves of Bali and Lombok, but it offers its own charms. Kaalsla in the east is hailed as a surfing hub. Pantai Kerewei, a popular southern surf spot, offers schools for lessons and board rentals.

Waingapu and Waikabubak are Sumba's primary towns and serve as gateways to the island's beauty. Yet, it's the traditional villages that truly captivate, with their authentic charm and wooden huts. A respectful approach to the locals is advised, and bringing betel nut as a gift is customary.

Togian Islands

The Togian Islands in Tomini Bay, amidst Sulawesi, are a tranquil retreat. Here, you can find pristine beaches, hammock-adorned palms, and an underwater haven just waiting to be explored.

Picture by

While the islands are small, each offers a few hostels for a serene getaway. This is where you come to escape the hustle—no parties, peddlers, or vehicular noise, just peace.

Remember to bring enough cash—there are no ATM's.

The Togians comprise several islets, with Batu Daka, Togian, and Talata Koh being the largest. Accommodations are mostly "Island Resorts," with villages being a mere collection of hostels. The absence of roads or vehicles adds to the archipelago's charm, ensuring a tranquil, timeless experience.

The closest you'll get to nightlife is on Kadidiri, where beach campfires and casual drinks set the evening's tone. Unlike the Gili Islands, the Togians offer minimal distractions, encouraging guests to dine and socialize at their resorts. Only a couple of establishments offer a small selection of snacks and essentials.

This article was last updated on January 25, 2024.