- Southeast asia
A Backpacking Guide to Karimunjawa
When people think of Indonesia, they automatically think of Bali or Lombok, which is a good thing because it keeps the regular tourists at bay so we, the adventurers, can roam free elsewhere. One of my favorite tourist-free island in Indonesia is Karimunjawa, a small island north of Semarang off the coast of central Java. The main island has only one main village, many stunning hills and peaks, and a lot of untouched fringing reefs along the white sand beaches. The island is so remote that they only have 18 hours of electricity per day. If you are looking for a quiet beach time somewhere near Java island and you would like to avoid the typical candidate such as Bali or Lombok, then you will love Karimunjawa.Table of Contents
- Travel Video
- Where to Stay in Karimunjawa
- How to Get to Karimunjawa
- How to Get Around Karimunjawa
- Travel Insurance
- Things to Do in Karimunjawa
- Further Reading for Indonesia
Where to Stay in Karimunjawa
The Coconut House is what made our trip memorable. Right off from the pier we were picked up by Alley, our go-to guy at the Coconut House. He drove us to the guesthouse and gave us a tour around the place. The guest house has a laid-back atmosphere with hammocks and bean bags right on the porch outside the house. The room was good relative to how remote it is, but no air conditioner. Electricity is hard to come by here so very understandable. That said, when the electricity comes on, the Wi-Fi is available and blazing fast. You can also rent a motorbike or organize any snorkeling tour from the guesthouse which is very convinient since travel agencies were no where to be seen.
Alley and friends were super friendly and he enjoyed entertaining us with his amazing guitar skills, while singing Indonesian pop song (by Peter Pan). He is one friendly guy!
The guesthouse is located at the center of the main village, a few minutes bike ride away from the pier with a restaurant within walking distance.
How to Get to Karimunjawa
The best way to get here is to first, fly to Jakarta or Surabaya and from there, get yourself to the island via ferries. I would recommend you browse through Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight from where you live to Jakarta or Surabaya so you can pick the best one that fits your itinerary.
Getting to the island is a bit tricky, hence not many tourists managed to come here. First, you will have to get yourself to Semerang via AirAsia flights or via local trains. Coming from Jakarta, you will have both options available for you, one taking half an hour and another taking 8 hours respectively. From Semerang, you have to get on a bus to Jepara and from there get a rickshaw to the pier.
If you are coming from Yogyakarta (we did this), there was an overnight transfer service from Yogjakarta that will take you directly to Jepara and get the ticket for you. The driver will pick you up at your accomodation in Yogyakarta at 11pm and will drop you off at Jepara around 5 AM where you will get the ticket from the driver and he/she will instruct you where you have to go to get on the right boat.
There is only one slow boat per every 2 days which goes at 7 AM so if you are planning to do this independantly, please plan accordingly and arrive one hour earlier to get the ticket. If you are going with the agency, you will be alright as they will drop you off before 6 AM anyway. Once you are on the boat, it will take you 5 - 6 hours until you arrive in Karimunjawa. You can also take a speedboat which will take you less than 2 hours but it will cost you more and you will have to plan according to their different schedule.
Very Important Note: Getting to Karimunjawa is very dependant on the tide level. Your trip will only be possible if the tide level is low enough so please consult the weather first for both in and out days with the agency before you book anything.
My thought on the best method: Go with the agency. They are as cheap as doing it independently but you don't have to go through the headaches that comes with managing connection and schedule by yourself. Beside, the agency can check the tide and book accomodation and arrange pickups on Karimunjawa for you.
How to Get Around Karimunjawa
Renting a motorbike is the best way hands down. Many of the beaches are only accessible via a fast land transport and motorbike is the only affordable way to go. You can also rent a boat at the pier to go outside Karimunjawa but don't expect any transportation infrastructure here. Hell, they even only have their roads paved recently.
This place is quite cheap compare to all the other countries in the world. If you are planning a trip here, you can expect to pay around 25 - 45 USD per day per person and that should include accommodation and 3 meals.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Indonesia, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Things to Do in Karimunjawa
Bath yourself in the shallow beach of Pantai Barakuda
Pantai Barakuda is a beautiful white sand beach with many fringing reefs for you to swim around. You can walk for miles into the water and you will still be able to lie down without having your nose under water. It is possibly one of the best untouched beach I have ever been. Not to mention there were no other humans in sight!
Watch the sunset on top of a mountain
Only a few minutes ride and a bit of a hike away from the village is the best sunset spot on the island. From here you will be able to see Karimunjawa in its entirety from one end ot another while watching the sun set behind the horizon. Find a good company, get a few beers and you are all set here.
Walk along the Pier
Walking along the pier will offer you a glimpse of what the locals do to survive on such a remote island. From fishing boats tumbling around the shallow water to the sight of curious apparatus built by the locals to help them survive all the way out here.
Go on a day trip snorkeling around the island
If you are not keen on wandering around the island, you can also charter a boat for a full day snorkeling trip around the nearby islands and go island hopping. This is a haven for snorkelers to experience marine life up close without having to deal with crazy amount of tourists. Also, don't forget to swim with baby sharks when you are out there.
Further Reading for Indonesia
I hope this travel guide will help you plan your Indonesia trip. I have visited Indonesia more times than I could count and I have written a ton of articles about the country.
If you are looking for more articles about Indonesia, here is a selection of articles that might help you plan your trip to Indonesia even further:
- Looking for a complete itinerary and travel guide for Indonesia? One Month Itinerary for Indonesia.
- Are you planning to travel to Indonesia as part of a big Southeast Asia trip? Check out our 3 months backpacking itinerary for Southeast Asia.
- Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia and if you are flying into the country, you will likely have to go through the city. Do not let that go to waste and check out our travel guide on things to do in Jakarta in one day.
- Yogyakarta is a great place to break your trip through Java island towards the East. There are plenty of things to see in Yogyakarta so here’s my top 6 things to do in Yogyakarta.
- Looking for an article that summarizes a trip through the Java island? Check out my photo essay of Java, Indonesia.
- Lombok is now gaining in popularity but one of the best things you can do on the island is to trek Mount Rinjani, a volcano on a lake in another volcano on an island. Here’s a complete guide on how to trek Mount Rinjani.
- Gili Trawangan is one of the most popular Gili islands in Lombok and even though it’s crowded, you can often find solitude if you know where to look. Plus, it’s cheap. Here’s an article about exploring the Gili Trawangan.
- Komodo Island is one of the most unique experiences you can never experience anywhere. Here’s a backpacking travel guide on how to explore the Komodo Islands (what to do, which cruise to pick and more).
- Flores is another great island that deserves way more credit than it deserves. There’s the Komodo islands, Kelimutu tri-colored lakes and so much more. Here is a 10 days travel guide for Flores and Komodo Island.
- Talking about Kelimutu, here’s a complete travel guide on how to get to Kelimutu lakes in Flores.
- Are you planning your Indonesia trip as part of a big Southeast Asia trip? If so, be sure to check out my photographic journey through the sub-continent. Here are 64 photos that will inspire you to visit Southeast Asia.
- Wondering where you want to go next? How about Timor Leste? Visit Timor Leste Travel Guide page for more travel guide about Timor Leste.
- To see all articles about Indonesia, visit Indonesia Travel Guide page.
- Looking for more travel guides for the Southeast Asia? You can find more on my Southeast Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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