Welcome to 'surfers paradise' - commonly referred to as 'indo' among the surfing community.
With thousands of islands (13 000 islands in fact) you can be sure that there is an abundance of perfect surf spots just waiting for you.
From the beautiful and often crowded points of the Bukit peninsula in Bali, to the oil-canvas perfection of the Mentawai islands, Indonesia has long been a pilgrim trail for wave hungry surfers from around the world.
The islands of interest to surfers are bali, lombok, sumatra, sumbawa, sumba, java and timor, however new frontiers and reef passes are still being explored and discovered today; seek and you shall find.
Beautiful weather, dirt cheap (and super tasty) local food, and an abundance of peeling, beautiful emerald green hollow waves - yes - welcome to Indonesia, heaven for surfers, or anyone looking to escape reality and bask in the sun.
Destination Guides For Indonesia
When To Go?
April - October = The on season (the dry season) for surfers. This is when groundswells consistently pound the islands, producing swell after swell, after swell. This is also when the wind fans offshore on the south and west coast surf regions
November - March = The 'off-season' (the wet season) for surfers. The wet season, November to march is when trade winds fire up and the swells are less consistent - however this is also when many East coast waves being to break properly.
Accommodation - Hostels usually cost around $10/night for a shared room, and $30/night for a hotel room, however, Your accommodation costs will vary greatly depending on the region you’re in.
Most of the time, it’s not hard to find a budget option; be it a beachside warung, or a basic room in a surf camp with a mozzie net for $5/night.
Once you find yourself in the more remote regions that usually come with less options, (e.g. mainland south Sumatra) you’ll sometimes have to pay a little more, however don’t be afraid to bargain.
Food - local food is extremely cheap and you’ll become accustomed to eating like a king. Local street food can easily be done for $1 a meal, but expect to pay in the $2-3 range for a solid meal.
Expect to pay more for food In the tourist hotspots (i.e. Kuta, Bali), and the same goes for western food - usually $7-$13 for a meal.
Getting Around - When travelling between islands, you’ll usually have a choice between a public ferry (cheap - starting at $0.50) or a private boat, which will vary in price depending on where you are travelling from and too. Expect to pay $0.50 and upwards for the public ferries (which are painfully slow) and between $10-$100 USD for private, fast boats when travelling between nearby islands.
Small buses operate on the mainland and between islands, which start at approximately $5 for an 8 hour journey.
Hiring your own motorbike/moped (Look for one with a board rack attached) is very affordable and usually quite dangerous - ranging from XX to XX. If you’d prefer the safer and smarter option of hiring a car, prices range from $15-$25 per day, or roughly $200-$300/month (be sure to negotiate if you’re staying for longer).
Make sure you head into your local roads authority before you go, to grab an international driver's licence, but please note; if you don’t have a motorbike licence at home, an international driver's licence won’t cover you for riding one in Indonesia - best to stick to hiring a car.
Getting your own driver for the day typically costs $30-$40; split this cost between a few people and it becomes a very attractive and affordable option.
Taxi’s are generally very cheap (turn on the meter please sir) and available to take you on short or long trips, depending on where you are.
In terms of surfing related transport (i.e. getting out to the surf breaks) - For the outer reef surf spots (and there are plenty) you can save money (and burn off last nights Bintangs) by paddling, however most opt to save their energy and get a local fisherman to drop them off and pick you up for around $1-2 each way.
Daily budgeting - Realistically, you can get away with spending $10 - $20 per day in Indo if you’re looking to go super budget (this includes accommodation, transport, food and a surf taxi each day), however to be on the safe side, budget $20-$40/day and you’ll live (and surf) like a king.
Quick Money Saving Tips
- Bargain like there’s no tomorrow - never accept the first price on anything! bargaining is custom in Indonesia, so get used to counter-offering on everything with a price tag!
- Eat street food - ask the locals or the backpackers with dreadlocks where the cheap local meals can be found - at $0.50 per meal your budget will go further and wider.
- Learn to drive manual - you can save around $5/day if you hire a manual vs an automatic vehicle.
- Get your international driver's license - unless you want to pay an ‘on the spot, unofficial fine’ every time a police officer pulls you over.
How Are The Waves?
Indonesia is truly a surfer's playground - littered with thousands of world class waves, breaking mostly over coral reef (however there are some super fun beach breaks for all levels too) It’s often associated with visions of long, barreling perfect left hand reef breaks, however there are world class right hand waves to be found in most areas as well.
There’s no shortage of wave’s for more experienced surfers, however softer spots and beach breaks present plenty of options for beginners and less experienced surfers alike.
Long, rifling point breaks, super hollow slabs, perfect A-frame set ups, or mellow and fun beach breaks - Indo has it all for the travelling surfer.
Should I Bring Or Buy Boards?
Most surfers will bring their own boards to Indonesia, because when you’re surfing some of the most perfect waves in the world, you generally want to ride something that you feel confident on.
Bali is usually the starting (and ending) point for most surf trips, so this is where you’ll find most of the boards, and the best deals if you’re buying.
- If you don’t have a decent quiver at home you can easily put one together once you get to Bali, and then sell them back to board shops and surfers when you depart (if you haven’t snapped them)
- If you’re flying into the more remote regions such as such as Sumatra or Java, bring your own boards as local options can be, and usually are, very limited.
Surfboard prices in Indonesia are comparable to prices in most western countries - approximately $700-$800 for a brand new board, and anywhere from $100 and upwards for a second hand board.
Indonesian board shapers & surfers are experts at repairing boards, so if buying a second hand stick, make sure you know how to tell if it’s been snapped in the past.
As with any purchase in Indonesia, if you’re planning to buy boards over here, shop around, bargain and try to speak to a few local or expat surfers to find out where to find the best deals.
The bottom line is - if you don’t have any boards at home that you really want to ride (and if you’re flying into bali) save yourself airline baggage fees and just buy a few boards once you’re over here.
Indonesian Surf Camps & Surf Charters
Surf camps in the more popular destinations (such as Bali and Lombok) are more catered to beginners who are learning to surf. For more information about beginner surf camps in Bali, visit this page.
In the more remote destinations where you’ll find the best quality waves, the accommodation typically consists of a ‘surf camp’ - where you are provided with a bed, 3 meals per day and usually transportation to nearby surf breaks.
Many surfers choose to spend a week or two on a surf charter when in Indonesia, and for good reason - who wouldn’t want to spend a week being chauffeured from one perfect reef to the next?
Remote regions such as the Mentawais have plenty of epic surf charters to choose from depending on where you want to surf and your budget, however, there are also surf charters leaving from bali which cruise the nearby islands of Nusa Lembongan, Lombok and Sumbawa.
Indonesia Surfing Destination's: An Overview
Bali, the most famous island of the bunch, has been in the minds of surfers since the famous film ‘morning of the earth’ put it on the radar in 1971.
Bali has it all - perfect waves, unique culture, friendly locals and very cheap (and very tasty) cuisine
The island is relatively small, which means if the wind turns onshore, no problem, jump in your car and drive 1 hour to the other side where it will be offshore!
You’ll often here people complain that it’s ‘too developed’ or ‘too crowded’ unlike the good ol days - but don’t listen to them, with the right advice and timing, a surf trip to bali can still be one of your best.
Lombok is bali’s dry and deserted neighbour - which also happens to be home to ‘desert point’; one of the surfing world's most famous and perfect left hand point breaks, that, believe it or not, was once a secret spot.
Surprisingly, Lombok is relatively uncrowded!
The waves on Lombok are not considered world class when compared to those found on neighbouring - but there is still blue gold to be found here; there are a range of different waves that work in different conditions, most of them found on the southern coastline around ‘Kuta’
Situated on the southern tips of java, G-land (also known as Grajagan bay) is home to arguably the world’s best left-hander ever; a very long, world-class, barreling left hand reef/point break.
If you're a goofy footer and you haven't been here yet, prepare to be amazed.
The waves, the vibe and the scenery make it easy to see why this place is a mecca for surfers around the world. The wave itself breaks in 4 main sections, and is beautiful yet unforgiving, and for this reason it’s best suited for experienced surfers.
There are a few softer, super fun waves nearby which cater to all levels, so less experienced surfers shouldn’t be discouraged from visiting.
A magical place where the remote Indonesian jungle meets the open ocean, where your only option for accommodation is to stay in 1 of 5 surf camps that line point.
Home to more than 2 dozen world class reef breaks - this area is arguably the world's most wave rich environment.
You'll find mechanical waves here of varying intensity; meaning a surf trip to the Mentawais is suited to all level of surfers.
Surfing here usually requires you to jump aboard an expensive boat trip or stay in a remote surf camp, but the reward is well worth the money and effort to get here.
Sumba lies in the deep west of the Indonesian chain of islands, and has had nowhere near the amount of attention from the surfing world that the other islands have had.
The interesting thing is, the waves here are just as good, if not better!
Sumba is best suited to a trip via one of the few boat charters who explore the region, however this isn't to say that doing it overland is not worth it - you just need time, Patience and the skills in order to be able to rough it.
On the southern coast of Sumbawa lies Lakey Peak (and about 5 other waves) that keep surfers coming back for a number of reasons.
You'll find one of the most playful (and serious when bigger) hollow peaks in the world, and a world class right hander (yay for regular footers) among many other gems.
Flat Day Activities
Diving/snorkeling - There is an abundance of amazing diving and snorkeling spots to be found throughout all of Indonesia, such as Ampat and Togian islands - which are rich in both biodiversity and beauty.
Temples/culture - Indonesia is rich with culture and no trip here would be complete without checking out a few ancient temples - which can be found everywhere. Here are the top 10 temples to check out.
Fishing - Indonesia is a maritime country which means it's rich in coral reef and marine life - great news for the fisherman who loves to surf! If you happen to find yourself on a boat charter, be prepared for plenty of fishing in between surfs.
There are many great fishing spots in the region, but for those who REALLY love their fishing - fishing tours, live-a-boards and resorts will allow to you fish to your hearts content.
Partying - In the more remote regions, your partying will mostly be limited to a few cold Bintangs around the surf camp after a long day of riding waves. For a night out on the town, head to the more tourist heavy areas, such as Kuta, Bali.
Trekking - Most people overlook the fact that Indonesia has some world class hiking and trekking - whether it be a relaxed day walk through traditional villages in Southern Sumatra, or a breathtaking ascent of one of the many volcanoes (the most popular being Mount Rinjani in Lombok and mount Bromo in java)
Yoga - Whether you’re looking to take your yoga teach training course, or simply partake in a little post-surf yoga session to stretch out your spaghetti arms, Indonesia has you covered.
Breathtaking and affordable yoga retreats can be found all over Bali (plenty in Ubud) and on the Gilli islands, however for the surfer looking for a quick yoga fix, there are many studios and teachers willing to teach you throughout the region.