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Beyond Bali: 3 Lesser-Known Island Paradises In Indonesia

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

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

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

Beyond Bali, Gili Meno is a less-visited island paradise in Indonesia.
Gili Meno

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, a tiny island compared to Bali.
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 is 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 white powder sand, contented, knowing you have finally found Paradise.

Kei Kecil boat
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 enjoyed being disconnected in a place as beautiful and remote as Kei Kecil.

Related: Best Places to Visit Cruising Indonesia

Raja Ampat beach house on stilts.
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 the conservation of its marine resources very seriously, so the aquatic 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 beaches aren't your typical white sand beaches, so if you are a sun worshiper, it may not be your kind of place.

Usually, the jungle goes right to the edge of the ocean. But, if you are a 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.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:


Wednesday 1st of March 2017

Raja Ampat ----- Serious conservation??? This is a myth. that appear on the internet. I can barely stand these romantic, naive travel reports that appear on the internet. Facts: There are only a few Bule controlled, financed, patrolled and managed areas with no take zones. There is a grass roots movement ( foreigners again)bto empower local villages with authority to enforce no fishing in the waters immediate to their "jurisdiction." But again it is all about the money. There is plastic in the water, lots of plastic, and fishing monofilament line tangles and TONS of liveaboards who dump bilge and sewage into the sea. Sorong is the primary port for Liveaboards working Raja Ampat. And this port does not permit nor have facilities to handle marine vessel sewage. hzow is that for conservation. And the local fisherman are way over the top with their " line fishing" exploiting the easy pickings. Don't believe me? I will show you pictures. And yes, there is poison stun, spear and bomb fishing. Its all about the money. This area remains good only because it is more difficult and somewhat expensive to access. The more tourist that come, the worse it will get. In fact there is talk about a group building a casino near Kri in R4 North. And western financed modular resortrs are popping up everywhere. Money money exploitation.


Sunday 2nd of February 2014

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


Sunday 24th of November 2013

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


Monday 11th of November 2013

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!


Jaslyn - Travel Top Ten

Sunday 10th of November 2013

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

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