Sometimes we just need a little break from the touristy mayhem in Bali. Especially on long weekends when everyone flocks to Bali (i.e.this past weekend).
So where do we go when we want a little peace and quiet from the island that people come to for peace and quiet? We’ve compiled a list of five places that are just a short trip away when we are feeling a little sumpek in Bali.
1. Mt Rinjani national park
Event though visitors to Bali’s sister island are steadily increasing in numbers, Lombok is still nowhere near the mainstream Southeast Asia tourist trail.
Bali’s underrated neighbor provides an easy weekend escape with just a 30-minute flight ride away (or if you really want to take the scenic route—a few hours drive + boat ride away, depending on which part of Bali you’re leaving from).
Just like Bali, Lombok has many sight-worthy places to visit, but Mt. Rinjani National Park is definitely worth spending a weekend in, especially if you’re a trekking enthusiast.
The obvious activity for a Rinjani weekend getaway is hiking up to the famous crater Segara Anak, where a beautiful Jinn goddess named Dewi Anjani apparently resides. Trekking to the crater rim generally takes two days (spending one night in the mountain), while hiking all the way to the summit generally involves a 3-4 day trek and 2-3 nights in the mountain.
Most people opt to take part in an organized trek when doing this guide, but it is possible to go unguided, provided you sign a paper that says you are doing this at your own risk (and you have the patience to argue with the Park staff—seems they’re not so fond of unguided trekkers and will insist that you can’t go up without a guide).
For the less fit (or lazier souls) among us, you can skip the gunung hike and instead spend our weekends strolling around Sembalun Lawang or Senaru, where you can explore beautiful valleys without being out of breath, take a dip at one of the picturesque waterfalls, or visit a remote weaving village.
Where to stay: There are a number of simple accommodation options at Senaru and Sembalun Lawan, but you can also stay in the nearby Tanjung, the more tourist-frequented Senggigi region or Gili islands.
How to get there: There are daily flights from Denpasar to Lombok International Airport. Alternatively there are fast boats services available, or you can get yourself to Padang Bai Harbour and take the ferry to Lembar Harbour. When in Lombok, it’s best to go by good old Bluebird taxi to get to Senaru and Sembalung Lawan or hire a car and driver.
Before you protest—no—we’re not suggesting that the best way to escape the tourist mayhem is by getting amongst the worst of it.
We’re talking about the Kuta in Lombok, which is a sleepy fishing village with quiet, beautiful beaches that you only see in travel brochures and what most of Bali beaches probably used to look like. The beaches are known to have mean waves, so serious surfers do often pay this place a visit. Apparently a number of incidents, mostly involving drunken surfers, have occurred, but only in very small numbers and very occasionally.
Aside from surfing, Lombok’s Kuta is a good place to go if your idea of a weekend escape is to lounge around and do nothing while watching the local villagers carry out their day-to-day activities, whether that be tending to their rice paddies or directing buffalos.
Where to stay: there are a lot of accommodation options in Kuta ranging from luxury hotels, to homestays and guesthouses of with various levels of amenities.
How to get there: see no.1
Banyuwangi is a gem tucked away in East Java, separated from Bali by the Bali straits. Definitely off the beaten path, the only publicity given by the World Wide Web is as a transit point for visitors travelling to Bali via Port Ketapang. However, those transiting visitors who choose to skip exploring this region are missing out on many of the things that Banyuwangi offers.
Trekking/volcano enthusiasts can hike up to the Ijen Crater (Indonesia’s infamous blue-flame volcano). If you want to soak in the dramatic volcanic scenery but are not so keen on the climb, you can visit one of the many coffee plantations located over the Ijen caldera floor where you will also be greeted with sights of waterfalls and hot springs.
If your purpose of escaping Bali is to find beaches that are not overrun with tourists (and watch a sexy sunset), you can pay a visit to Pantai Pulau Merah (Red Island Beach) and enjoy three kilometers of white sand goodness. Apparently you can also hire a housewife to cook some local meals for you, though this was in 2013.
If you are after cruising around in the jungle and sighting bantengs and kijangs, then definitely visit the mystical Alas Purwo National Park. This 42-hectare wonderland, consisting of tropical mangrove forests, savannah, lowland tropical forests, caves and white-sand beaches remains relatively remote and unpopulated and has so far been left unscathed from deforestation.
Serious surfers should also consider visiting Alas Purwo for the waves at Pantai Plengkung (better known as G-Land), which apparently can get up to six meters high during surfing season. Jeepers.
How to get there: there are five direct flights a week from Denpasar to Banyuwangi City, about 45 minutes in duration). Alternatively you can get yourself to Gilimanuk and take the ferry to Ketapang.
Hiring a private car and a driver is recommended once you get to Banyuwangi, especially for trips to the Ijen Crater and Alas Purwo.
4. Pulau Moyo
For those seeking a luxurious retreat (and have the cash to pay for the experience) in a truly remote island, look no further than Pulau Moyo.
This island, also a national park, is surrounded by beautiful coral reefs and home to wild pigs, monitor lizards, about 21 types of bats, deers and monkeys. There are only about 1,000 inhabitants on the island, all of whom live on fishing and farming.
Ocean-enthusiasts can spend the weekend snorkeling and diving around the island, take trips to nearby Rinca and Komodo islands to see the legendary Komodo dragons or trek through the jungle before having a dip at some of the waterfalls in the island.
For those of us who don’t quite have that kind of cash to spend, try this cute guest house on airbnb that doesn’t break the bank.
Alternatively, you can stay at Sumbawa Besar and do a day trip to Pulau Moyo, either by heading to Pantai Goa and chartering a speedboat or hopping on a bemo to Air Bari and chartering a boat to the island.
Where to stay: Amanwana resort is the only resort on Pulau Moyo, but you can opt for a more laid back guest house. Alternatively there are also a number of accommodation options in Sumbawa Besar.
How to get there: If staying at Amanwana resort, you can contact the resort staff and arrange to get there by floatplane or helicopter. If staying at Sumbawa Besar, you can fly from Denpasar to Sumbawa Besar (via Lombok).
If the break you want from island life involves a little bit of city-living (though down a notch from Jakarta’s chaos) then hop on the plane to Surabaya. This is the understated city that introduced us to Rawon Setan.
We were surprised that given its size (it is Indonesia’s second largest city), Surabaya remains relatively unfrequented by travel bloggers – especially those with a love of culture and history.
Being a major city, there are many ways to spend a weekend in Surabaya. You can go on a culinary adventure and eat your way around the city for the weekend, or you can do the tourist trail and wonder around Surabaya’s Old City, Arab Quarter, and Chinatown.
The infamous House of Sampoerna (the cigarette factory now owned by tobacco giant Philip Morris) also apparently makes for a fascinating visit, whatever your opinions may be on the tobacco industry in Indonesia!
Where to stay: Surabaya boosts an array of accommodation options to suit all budgets, from backpackers to five-star luxury.
How to get there: There are daily flights between Denpasar and Surabaya. You can also take the Gilimanuk-Ketapang ferry and then take a bus/train to Surabaya, but it’s a very long travel that takes at least nine hours and might not be the best option for a weekend trip.
Being a big city, public transport is readily available by way of buses and bemos/minivans, though Bluebird taxis are probably the best (and easiest) way to get around the city.
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