Beyond Bali: 3 Lesser-Known Island Paradises In Indonesia

by Dave on October 30, 2013 · 15 comments

Gili Meno

Gili Meno

Most people who go to Indonesia flock to Bali. And it’s no wonder why.

Bali is one of my favorite places with its beautifully terraced rice fields, looming volcanoes, and luxurious spa treatments.

But, quite frankly, its beaches are pretty terrible. They aren’t particularly beautiful, there is trash everywhere, and the water isn’t very clear.

It’s my job to discover the best beaches and islands in the world, so last time I went to Bali, I decided to see what the rest of Indonesia had to offer.

(After all, there are over 18,000 other islands in Indonesia to choose from.)

And I was pleasantly surprised.

Thatched hut on Gili Air

Thatched hut on Gili Air

1 . Gili Air

Gili Air is an island just off the coast of Lombok, and is reachable by a quick one hour boat ride from Bali.

There are actually three Gili Islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno, and Gili Trawangan. Gili Air is my favorite.

Gili Trawangan is too much of a party scene for me, and Gili Meno is too quiet for my taste.

Gili Air reminds me of what Gili Trawangan used to be about eight years ago. There are nice chill-out open air bars, and a few Goa style outdoor dance parties that happen along the beach.

But mainly, what you experience is a vibe of peace and quiet that’s very rare to find anywhere else in the world.

The difference in the beaches on Gili Air from Bali are quite dramatic. The aquamarine water is clear and sparkling.

It’s the kind of place that the minute you arrive all of your cares disappear as you sink deep into the powder white sand, contented, knowing you have finally found Paradise.

Kei Kecil Transportation

Kei Kecil Transportation

2. Kei Kecil, Maluku

Kei Kecil is one of the original spice islands. If you are looking for a Gilligan’s Island type of feel, this is it. There are very few restaurants or places to stay on this island.

But what you will find is gorgeous, incredible snorkeling and beaches. The sunsets are stunning, and you will have most of it to yourself. Mind you, your accommodations will probably be very rustic.

I stayed at the Coaster Cottages where the bathrooms only have mandis with which to bathe yourself. But the hotel was on one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever seen, so it was worth it!

There were no restaurants nearby, so I just ate whatever the hotel served each night. There was also no wi-fi, but I really enjoyed being disconnected in a place as beautiful and remote as Kei Kecil.

Raja Ampat Beach House

Raja Ampat Beach House

3. Raja Ampat

Any serious diver has probably heard of Raja Ampat. It is a group of islands in the Indonesian part of Papua, and it has some of the best diving in the entire world. These islands are in the most bio-diverse region on earth. (There are 1,430 species of reef fish alone).

I swam with sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, giant clams, and the most vibrant coral that I’ve ever seen. This is a place that takes conservation of its marine resources very seriously, so the marine underworld there is pristine and untouched.

Yes, Raja Ampat is about as far as you can get from Bali and still be in Indonesia, but I recommend taking the journey. Most of the beaches aren’t your typical white sand beaches, so if you are a sun worshiper, it may not be your kind of place.

In fact, usually the jungle goes right to the edge of the ocean. But, if you are diver, Raja Ampat is a spot you don’t want to miss.

I hope these islands encourage you to get out and go somewhere new and unusual besides the usual tourist spots.

It’s always good to leave the beaten path and explore somewhere that hordes of tourists haven’t discovered yet.

What about you? Do you have a favorite place in Indonesia that’s not Bali? Let us know in the comments below!


Val DawsonAbout the Author: Val is convinced that she is half mermaid and is always looking for the next great beach. She writes the travel blog, This Way To Paradise, which is a guide to some of the best islands and beaches in the world. She also writes the blog, Travel Scamming, which alerts people and helps them prevent potential travel scams. 

About the Author:

is the author of 1727 posts on Go Backpacking.

Dave is Editor and Founder of Go Backpacking and Medellin Living, and the Co-founder of Travel Blog Success. Follow him on Twitter @rtwdave or Google+

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Categories: Features, Indonesia


Christina Gmyr October 30, 2013 at 9:55 am

These all look gorgeous! I might be half-mermaid as well, because I don’t think I can survive another month without going to the beach! No longer beach weather here in Spain…


Val-This Way To Paradise November 4, 2013 at 5:35 pm

I hear you Christina!! There is nothing like the beach. I will be coming to Ibiza in May.


Tiffany October 31, 2013 at 4:05 am

I’m heading to Indonesia in December. Thanks for the great tips, I’ll definitely check out some of these beautiful islands!


Sharon @ Where's Sharon? October 31, 2013 at 10:41 pm

oh wow, those islands are gorgeous!! I really need to explore more of Indonesia


Val-This Way To Paradise November 4, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Hi Sharon! It’s definitely worth it. I have lots of helpful guides on my website. Cheers!!


Shereen November 1, 2013 at 9:41 am

Those beaches sounds and look beautiful. We get so caught up and dependent on technology it’s sometimes nice to be completely disconnected and appreciate the beauty of the place you’re in. I’m heading to that part of the world next year. I’ll have to see if I can work in one of these islands. Great post!


John November 2, 2013 at 11:07 am

These all look wonderful and a great addition to the better known islands. Thank you for sharing these.


Mary @ Green Global Travel November 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

These may prove inspiring for future travels! I love your suggestions though have to admit – it can be hard to imagine unplugging when life and work are so busy and intertwined! Thank you for the inspiration and for sharing these gorgeous images!


Stephanie - The Travel Chica November 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

I get turned off by overly-crowded destinations and know there have to be lesser-known alternatives. The trick is in finding them. Great tips!


Dave November 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I’d also add Komodo Island after visiting last year. Most people think of it for the Dragons, but there are amazing beaches (snorkeling and diving) too!


Jennifer November 10, 2013 at 11:58 am

Raja Ampat sounds like my kind of place! I love marine life and would love the opportunity to swim with the variety you did during your stay Val.


Jaslyn - Travel Top Ten November 10, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Bali is being overcrowded because of its popularity. Thanks for providing us some other options to enjoy a beach scenery as beautiful as Bali. :)


Jasper November 11, 2013 at 3:45 pm

I’ve been wanting to go to Raja Ampat for so long! I was supposed to go this year but the trip was canceled unfortunately. Definitely going next year! Any recommendations on accommodation or general tips would be much appreciated!



Rebecca November 24, 2013 at 10:31 pm

great list! I would like to make it my personal duty to try these out!


Ardine February 2, 2014 at 4:41 am

You should visit karimunjawa island. It’s beautiful, not a crowded beach, and the coral is amazing.


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