An ever-popular beach destination less than three hours from Singapore, Bali boasts a thriving culinary scene, new upscale beach resorts and villas, miles of coastline, and a buzzing nightlife. However, one can’t deny that the Island of Gods, which was once a serene paradise comparable to the Garden of Eden, has been tainted by mass tourism over the years.
While we do love weekend getaways to Bali, sometimes all you need from an island vacation is to get away from the crowds — especially after putting up with never-ending traffic jams, shoving past fellow jaded Singaporeans in shopping centres, and spending sleepless nights trying to block out sounds from roaring vehicles. The last thing you’d want to do while on holiday is race other tourists for the best spot on the beach — or get on a two-hour waiting list just to spend an evening at a world-renowned beach club.
Enter: Lesser-known Indonesian islands that have been the best-kept secrets of seasoned travellers, professional surfers and famous celebrities. These destinations are surprisingly just a short flight or ferry ride from the mainland, yet takes us back in time to how Bali used to be before it became a tourist trap.
From the almost-unheard-of Sumba Island to the gateway to the UNESCO-listed Komodo National Park, check out these underrated Indonesian islands where you can spend a peaceful weekend with your loved ones.
Lombok, one hour by ferry (and a 20-minute flight away) from the hustle and bustle of Bali, is a pristine hideaway boasting an endless coastline of unspoilt beaches, horse-drawn carts along its streets, the magnificent Mt Rinjani, and bright green rice paddies — proving that the grass is indeed greener on the other side.
Where to stay: The Oberoi, Lombok, located on the enchanting Medana Bay with untouched beaches and breathtaking sunset views of Mount Agung.
Probably completely unheard of by unsuspecting travellers, this eastern Indonesian island located just an hour’s flight from Bali is a cult surf spot. Sumba’s gorgeous coastline boasts one of the world’s best left-hand breaks and is a seasoned surfer’s best-kept secret.
However, surfing is not the only reason you should come here. This unassuming island is untainted by tourism — and is home to old-growth tropical forests, miles of hills carpeted in tall green grass, and quaint hilltop villages.
Where to stay: Nihi Sumba Island, an award-winning resort boasting rustic-luxe villas set over 560 acres of lush jungle that contrasts with powdery coasts.
Ninety minutes away from Bali is Flores, the gateway to Komodo National Park. Here, you’ll find deserted white sand beaches, surreal volcanic lakes and emerald waters with thriving marine life for diving enthusiasts. Check out the majestic Kelimutu, a volcano home to three colourful crater lakes — while wrestling fewer tourists like you would on Mount Batur.
Where to stay: Plataran Komodo Resort, a tropical beachfront sanctuary for those looking for a different experience.
Quickly becoming a popular alternative to the Island of Gods, Nusa (meaning ‘island’) Lembongan is a small island 30 minutes off Bali’s coast. The tranquil island that used to be the hideout of surfers is now flourishing with chic boutique hotels, upscale beach bars and diving centres, while still maintaining its laid-back vibe.
Where to stay: The Point Resort Lembongan, a private luxury resort nestled on the stunning headland of Nusa Lembongan.
Off the northwest coast of Lombok are three remote islands fringed by white sand beaches, coconut palms and crystal clear waters — each boasting their own unique personality.
Diving with turtles? Head to Gili Trawangan. A romantic escape with your loved one? Gili Meno is your private haven. The perfect blend of both? Gili Air has got you covered.
Where to stay: Gili Teak Boutique Resort, a chic boutique resort with well-appointed wood cottages, stunning sunset views and a laid-back beach club.