When most people think of holidays in Indonesia, especially family trips, one place jumps immediately to mind: Bali. This is not without good reason, Bali’s reputation as a tropical paradise and a haven for tourists has been well established for decades. What many fail to recognize is that Indonesia is a big place and with over 17,000 islands to explore. We think its about time that a bit of attention is given to some of its lesser-known destinations.
As is to be expected when going a little ‘off the beaten track’, tourist infrastructure in Indonesia can, at the best of times, be a little shaky, but for anyone with an intrepid spirit, there is no reason why it should not prove to be a great place to travel with a family. In fact, taking your kids to a place with such cultural diversity and natural beauty will doubtless be an eye-opening and potentially life-changing experience for them and for you.
Children are generally adored throughout Indonesia and it has been said that due to the cultural barriers they will help break down, travelling across the country with them can be easier than doing so as a lone adult. That said, health and safety are pretty hit and miss in Indonesia (safety barriers may be missing and dangerous beaches may not be signposted as such etc) and the traffic can be crazy so you will have to be extra vigilant when it comes to safeguarding little ones.
Let’s explore a few places that may just be worth a closer look:
Best places to go in Indonesia with Kids – Java
Ok, so this one may not be ‘lesser known’, but it is definitely less touristy than Bali and as home to the nation’s capital city, Jakarta, it is a great place to start for those looking to explore other parts of Indonesia. Most of the roads are in good condition and there is a fairly decent public transport network that means getting from one part of the island to another is not too much of a challenge.
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Jakarta
For a busy Asian city, with a reputation as a business stopover, Jakarta has a surprising amount of family-friendly activities on offer. There are plenty of museums and some fantastic shopping malls (including one, FX Sudirman, that has a seven storey indoor slide!) and some great restaurants and cafes. A trip to Waterbom Jakarta is sure to go over well with the kids and a few hours spent splashing round in the water will doubtless prove a welcome break from the heat of the city streets. Maybe not somewhere you would want to stay for the whole holiday, but definitely worth a couple of days.
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Borobudur
The ancient temple of Borobudur, built around 825AD and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, lies in central Java, close to the city of Yogyakarta. The temple is one of the largest Buddhist monuments in the world and is Indonesia’s most visited sightseeing spot. There are plenty of great hotels nearby, offering family rooms and a bit of luxury treatment for very reasonable prices. The surrounding countryside is stunning and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy, including tours of the local, traditional villages and adrenaline filled off-road trips out to Mount Merapi (one of Java’s many volcanoes).
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Mount Bromo
Is an easily accessible and still active (though hopefully not too active) volcano situated in the midst of one of the most dramatic mountainous landscapes on earth? Accommodation in the area is very cheap. A family of four can easily find a room in Bromo for as little as $20 USD! Although at that price range expect the accommodation to be ‘basic’! Whilst better quality hotels can be found a little further away from the mountain.
Losing out on a bit of luxury for a night is well worth it as the best time to get to the summit is just before sunup and the cars come to pick you up very early in the morning. Watching the sunrise over Java from the top of an active volcano, whilst looking down on the clouds, is a truly unforgettable experience! Just be careful whilst walking around the crater (the barrier is rather on the short side!) as you don’t want to end up becoming an unintentional sacrifice to the Mount Bromo volcano!
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Kalimantan
Kalimantan is the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo. It is a great place to experience Indonesian culture, explore the native rainforest and perhaps become acquainted with a few orangutans. Families visiting this part of Indonesia would do well to base themselves at Balikpapan. This is a coastal city with multiple beaches and several great resorts with facilities for entertaining children. It has also won the award for Indonesia’s most liveable city on more than one occasion and is considered a gateway to many of the islands natural wonders.
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Feed the orangutans
The opportunity to see these amazing creatures in the wild is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why people choose to visit Borneo. The best way to do this is to book an orangutan river cruise through the Tanjung Puting National Park. Quick trips via speedboat can be arranged, but really you want to travel on one of the much slower traditional klotok houseboats and spend a few days slowly meandering the park’s waterways and looking out for the wildlife, including crocodiles, probosci’s monkeys and, of course, orangutans. There are several orangutan feeding and rescue centres within the park, that give you the chance to get an up-close look at the animals in their natural habitat.
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Flores
A trip to Flores, tipped by many in the know to become Indonesia’s next Bali, is, for the time being, probably best reserved the more intrepid tourists, however, provided your kids can deal with roughing it just a little bit and don’t mind a few long car drives, it can still be a great place for them to explore. The island’s interior is made up of a dramatic, volcanic landscape, broken up by patches of dense jungle, traditional villages and the Trans-Flores Highway which runs the length of the island from east to west. The harbour town of Labuan Bajo, the gateway to the Komodo National Park, is the most touristy part of the island and is home to several child-friendly resorts.
⇒ You may also like our article on “Things to do with kids in Ho Chi Minh City”
Best places to go in Indonesia with kids – Komodo National Park
Here there be dragons! If you really want to get back to nature and experience life on the wild side, there are few places in the world better to visit than Komodo. Home to 5700 Komodo dragons, the biggest lizards in the world today, and a true throwback to prehistoric times, Komodo National Park, is actually made up of three large Islands, Komodo, Rinca and Padar, as well as several smaller ones.
The only way to access the park is by taking a boat trip from Labuan Bajo in nearby Flores Indonesia. Speedboats can be booked for quick day trips out to the islands, but, to really make the most of your experience in the park, you need to organise an overnight stay on one of the slower sailboats (you have to sleep on the boat, there is no overnight accommodation on any of the islands within the park boundaries). There are several treks, of differing lengths, that can be taken on the islands but visitors must be accompanied by a trained guide at all times.
The dragons are not the only highlights of Komodo, the natural scenery is stunning, particularly the famous Pink Beach, and there are some fantastic opportunities for snorkelling. This trip is probably not suitable very small children, but really what older child would not love their parents forever for taking them to see dinosaurs?
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