Families heading to Indonesia can look forward to some seriously exciting outdoor adventures and a whole lot of island-hopping.
Indonesia is made up of some 17,000 islands – the most famous of which is undoubtedly the honeymoon hotspot Bali, followed perhaps by Komodo, best known for its resident ‘dragons’.
A trip to Indonesia with kids offers near-unlimited opportunities to explore wild nature at its best, and our 30-day itinerary packs plenty of top nature-based attractions and activities, while ensuring that there’s ample time to actually appreciate the experience. Instead of trying to pack in too much into a relatively short trip, we’ve cherry-picked the best spots for kids and adults alike – leaving harder to reach options for a return visit.
The logistics of a family trip to Indonesia can be something of a challenge – those 1,7000 islands are scattered across thousands of miles of equator-straddling tropical terrain, and any trip here will involve a good deal of plane travel as well as jaunts on boats, trains and – for the brave – rattling mini-vans.
Days 1-7 Jakarta and Java
With so many beaches, islands and animal attractions just waiting to be uncovered, visitors to Indonesia with kids might be loathe to spend too much time in the capital, Jakarta. However, this buzzing, bustling city on the island of Java does merit at least a couple of days’ exploring before heading out to explore the rainforest-filled wilderness beyond. The pace of life is somewhat hectic and the city big and crowded, but it’s part and parcel of the Indonesian experience, and the southern part of the city offers enough theme parks and oceanariums to ensure kids can race around to their hearts’ content. Temples and gardens provide respite from the rush and crush of life here, and one near-unmissable attraction is the Indonesia in Miniature theme park (around $1 to enter, fees for some rides and attractions), where the archipelago’s beautiful buildings and attractions are recreated in miniature form, in a vast tropical garden filled with colorful flora and fauna.
Leaving the city, family visitors to Java can hike up the imposing Mount Bromo, visit the astonishing Bogor Botanical Gardens (around 60km from Jakarta, private hire cabs are inexpensive and easy to arrange). The cool, rainy city of Bogor is a favorite place for weekending locals looking to get some respite from the heat of the city. There are plenty of places to stay, kids can tuck into local specialities apple pie and baked macaroni (yes, really!) as well as abundant tropical fruits. From Bogor, the mountain road winds up to a mist-swathed peak, passing a Safari Park along the way. Another worthy stopping point is Cibodas Park, in the foothills of Mount Gede Pangrango, where Java coffee originates from.
?Boxout: Voluminous Volcanoes:
Indonesia has the third largest number of volcanoes in the world (trumped by the US and Russia) and the volcanic isle of Krakatoa (between Java and Sumatra) unleashed what is recorded as the ‘loudest sound ever heard’ when it erupted in 1883 and caused two violent tsunamis.
Day 8-12: Sumatra
Several Indonesian airlines ply the route west of Java to Sumatra, with prices from $30 one way, making the 2-hour flight a convenient and affordable way for families to travel between the two islands.
A hotspot for adventure tourism, ruggedly beautiful Sumatra is notable for its dramatic topography – all ‘witches’ hat’ peaks and bright green, mineral-enriched fields criss-crossed with hardened lava spills. It’s not just for adrenaline junkies, though, families visiting Sumatra with kids can take a dip in a hot spring, visit volcanic lakes, take river boat trips through some of the most biodiverse jungle on the planet, take surf classes, and see orangutans up close at a series of animal rehabilitation centers.
? Boxout: Swimming with the locals
A clear blue river separating the family-pleasing Gunung Leuser National Park (home to rescued orangutans, among other inhabitants) is the perfect place for families to take a dip. Older children can jump off rocks and do some serious swimming, while toddlers can splash in the calm, shallow edges. Monkeys regularly come along for a dip too, but will keep a cautious distance.
Day 13-17 Bali
Regular direct flights take around 4 hours to reach Denpasar, Bali, from Medan in Sumatra. Many visitors arriving in Bali with kids may already have an image of the island – but it is much more than ritzy resorts and hula girls. There are a good many family-friendly eco-lodges on the island, providing a way to see the spectacular scenery up close. The beaches are the island’s main selling point, and they range from white sand beauties to black sand surf spots, and it’s possible to spend the night on river barges. Inland, the cultural capital Ubud is a good base for trekking around stunning rice fields, and families with older children in Bali may be game for walking routes close to the two northern volcanoes – Agung and Batur. A must-visit for families in Bali is Barat National Park, where boar, deer and macaques clatter through the jungle, and there’s some stellar diving and snorkelling to be found at spots such as Menjangan Island (5 miles from the mainland and easily accessible by boat), where the waters teem with colorful fish.
Day 18-22 Lombok
Regular fast boats make the 30-minute crossing from legendary Bali to more under-the-radar Lombok. Here, families will find an awful lot more elbow room on the beach, and the beaches of the southern part of the island are a good place for surfers of all levels to hone their skills. It’s not all beaches, though, the towering mountains are accessible by multi-level walking trails, the sunsets are spectacular, and the turtle conservatory on nearby Gili Islands (a quick and very worthwhile ferry hop) is a family favorite. With less tourism than Bali but no lack of places to stay, it’s worth setting aside at least four or five nights to play on the beaches, explore the jungle and just soak up the magnificent setting.
Day 23-29 Komodo
Via a quick trip back to Bali (overnight here or head straight on), it’s time to head for Komodo – a big hit with kids of all ages thanks to the obvious association with Komodo Dragons. While there are 36-hour ferry rides here, it’s neither particularly comfortable nor safe, so the best way is to take the direct plane – at around $150 the flights are not cheap by Indonesian standards, but many an adventure awaits on Komodo. Another option is to take a multi-day cruise out here, where onboard accommodations are generally more comfortable, but expect to pay for the privilege (and do lots of research into potential cruises before handing over any cash). The island is officially one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, and its appeal for families isn’t limited to those legendary giant lizards. Trekking through Komodo National Park, snorkeling around coral reefs and sailing trips around Komodo and neighboring Flores islands are popular family activities in Komodo, and parents will thrill at the astonishing topography.
?Boxout: Here be Dragons
The island’s most famous inhabitatants – Komodo Dragons – can grow to over 2.5 meters and run as fast as 20km per hour. They’re ferocious beasts, too, so any dragon-spotting trips should be made with a guide. Nearby Rinca island is one of the best places to spot the lizards, but don’t get too close–they’re said to be even scarier than those of Komodo itself.
Day 30 – Jakarta or Bali
Depending on where your return flight departs from, you can catch a direct flight back to Bali, or to Jakarta. The kids are sure to want to take away a few dragon-focused souvenir, so be sure to visit the local markets for handicrafts before leaving the island.