Karimunjawa Islands, a small archipelago north of Semarang off the coast of Central Java has become increasingly popular among backpackers who are on a trip around Indonesia. While Bali and Lombok remain the ultimate tourist destinations, those who are looking for some quiet beach time and slow-paced island life opt to visit Karimunjawa during their journey through Java. Not only is the island blessed with perfect white sand beaches, turquoise water, and a lack of the noisy tourist crowds that afflict Bali, Karimunjawa is also easily accessible from the main tourist hub of Yogyakarta. Make sure to put Karimunjawa islands, Indonesia in your travel itinerary if you don’t want to miss the opportunity to visit one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia.
I’ve been curious about Karimunjawa since my trip to Dieng last year. Some people told me that because of the earthquake in Lombok and Gili tourists fled to Karimunjawa. At the time I thought if they had chosen to go to Karimunjawa to replace Lombok & Gili, this island must be as wonderful as Lombok & Gili. My chance to visit the hidden gem of Java finally came last June as I decided to go on a trip with a friend. Since we both are based in Yogyakarta, we took a shuttle bus (often referred by locals to as ‘travel’) towards Jepara before setting off on a fast boat towards Karimunjawa islands.
Karimunjawa Islands is an archipelago consisting of 27 islands in the Java Sea, Indonesia, approximately 80 kilometers northwest of Jepara, Central Java. The main island, and also the biggest, is Karimunjawa, home to a small town called Karimunjawa, while the second-largest island is Kemujan island. The archipelago is inhabited by around 9.000 people (2011). The population is largely Javanese, while the rest are Madurese and Bugis. Twenty-two of the islands were declared in 2001 as a marine reserve called Karimunjawa National Park. The Karimunjawa islands, Indonesia are part of the Jepara regency of Central Java province.
Most of the accommodation and tourist facilities are located on Karimunjawa island. The island is not small but can be explored by using a motorbike. Most of the roads are in good condition.
HOW TO GET TO KARIMUNJAWA ISLANDS
There are several ways to go to Karimunjawa. If you’re coming from Jakarta, you can take either plane or train towards Semarang. From Semarang, take a shuttle bus towards Jepara (Kartini Harbor) and then continue the journey by slow or fast boat. You can also fly from Ahmad Yani Airport in Semarang to Dewadaru Airport in Karimunjawa. Ticket can be purchased on Traveloka or Tiket.com for around Rp.500.000,00.
Karimunjawa also can be reached by flight from Surabaya at a higher price.
Take a shuttle bus (often referred to by locals as ‘travel’) called Day Trans. The ticket is Rp.130.000,00/ person (plus an additional cost of Rp.15.000,00 if you want them to take you to the harbor as well. Otherwise they will drop you off at their office). The ticket can be purchased by contacting Day Trans Whatsapp number: +628157647342 or at their office in Jl.MT Haryono No.1, Suryodiningratan, Mantrijeron, Yogyakarta. The journey itself takes 6 hours. We took the last shuttle bus departing at 11 PM from Day Trans office. At 5 AM, we arrived at Kartini Harbor and had to wait for a few hours before the fast boat departs at 9 AM. The shuttle bus departs a few times a day. If you don’t want to wait for a few hours in the harbor, you can take a shuttle bus, which departs on an earlier schedule. But it means you need to spend a night in Jepara.
To buy shuttle bus ticket from Jepara to Yogyakarta, contact them at : +6285101326868
Take a plane to Jakarta or Yogyakarta then see the choice of transportations above.
Fast boat or Slow boat ?
I took the fast boat since I wanted to rest after barely sleeping in the shuttle bus and while waiting for the ticket booth to open (I had to check my ticket in at the ticket booth before getting in the boat). I bought the ticket a few days before by directly contacting Bahari Express, the fast boat operator on +6281350679768. It costs Rp. 162.000,00 per person. The boat departs at 9 AM. Two hours later I finally arrived at the Karimunjawa islands. If you want to save time as well, it’s better to use a fast boat. The boat is nice, with aircon, and comfortable. To return to Jepara, you can contact Bahari Express on +62811789200 or buy directly at their office at the pier (cash only).
Note : The operator often sells tickets even when the fast boat is fully booked. If you happen to buy a ‘ticket without a seat’, you have to be ready to sit on the floor or on the deck. It happened to us on the way back to Jepara. The fast boat was fully booked but the owner of the hotel where we stayed helped us to get a ‘ticket without a seat’. It wasn’t comfortable at all since we had to sit on the deck and the tide was high, but at least we managed to return to Jepara as we’d planned.
While the fast boat can be pre-booked the day before, the slow boat (KMP Siginjai) cannot be pre-booked and costs Rp.94.500,00 per person. The journey itself takes 4-5 hours.
Both the fast and slow boat don’t depart every day. Check on the schedule down below before deciding to buy the tickets. Also, don’t forget to check the schedules for boats at the time of travel since the schedule is subject to frequent change at a moment’s notice.
KARIMUNJAWA ISLANDS ACCOMMODATION
On the day of our arrival, someone from the hotel picked us up from the harbor with a car. The owners (a German-Indonesian couple) were nice and friendly. They upgraded our room to a bungalow and helped us to get fast boat tickets to Jepara when the boat was fully booked.
We also rented a motorbike from Ayu Hotel for Rp.70.000,00 per day.
THINGS TO DO ON KARIMUNJAWA ISLANDS
- Exploring the beaches around Karimunjawa main island
Hiring a motorbike will allow you to get off the beaten track and visit parts of the island which very few people visit, locals and tourists alike. This is the best way to explore the main island.
The beaches in Karimunjawa are some of the prettiest and cleanest I’ve ever seen in Indonesia. By motorbike, we drove across most of the main island to explore and chill on the beaches. White sand beaches lined with coconut trees, turquoise waters and shimmering sand bars around the island gave off the tropical vibes that we’d been looking for for some time.
Tanjung Gelam Beach
Tanjung Gelam beach is arguably the most famous beach in Karimunjawa. It’s clean and very pretty. The entrance fee is Rp.10.000,00 per person.
Tanjung Gelam, Sunset Beach and Pantai Batu Topeng all lie next to each other and can be accessed by foot from one to the other via a path that runs behind all three of them.
The three beaches seem to be well-taken care of and more developed than the other beaches on the islands with warungs, shacks selling drinks and even umbrellas for hire.
The three beaches are rather popular with both the local and the foreign crowd, especially during a spectacular sunset.
Laendra Sunset Beach
On the northern part of the island, we found Laendra sunset beach in Kemujan village. The beach is part of a resort called Laendra resort. When we got there, there was nobody there except a couple of travelers and some local kids. The sand on Kemujan beach wasn’t as white as on Tanjung Gelam beach and the coastline isn’t too wide. But the beach is still nice and very quiet. We had a good time strolling the beach, playing on a swing, and enjoying the beach hut for ourselves.
Laendra beach also looks clean, although when we strolled around I saw some trash hidden in the bushes. There is almost no infrastructure except some bungalows and a warung. There’s no need to pay an entrance fee to visit Laendra beach.
The most perfect beach that I found on Karimunjawa island is probably Bobby beach. By paying an Rp.5.000,00 entrance fee, I was surrounded by endless white-sand beaches and pristine waters. The nearby islands can also be seen from here. The area is equipped with some basic tourist infrastructure such as warungs that can be found off to one side.
The location of the beach is actually not too far from Ayu Hotel; it’s around 15 minutes of driving from the town center.
2. Snorkeling & Island Hopping
A snorkeling & island hopping trip is the thing you have to do while on the Karimunjawa islands, Indonesia. The beaches and small islands that I visited were so pleasant. I can’t forget how beautiful the turquoise waters are.
The boat stopped at three different snorkeling spots where I spotted a vast array of fish and coral. We had lunch on one of the small islands, consisting of rice, vegetables, fish, and fruit. We also had enough time to explore and chill on two small and quiet islands. It was a great day cruising around the Karimunjawa islands, Indonesia.
The boat trip was organized through our hotel, but you can also book it through a tour desk at the town center. Here is their number: +6281231976914. For Rp.200.000,00 I got to snorkel in 3 different spots, visited 2 islands, and enjoyed lunch with the scenery. The trip started at 9 AM and we were back to the main island by sunset.
3. Bukit Cinta (Love Hill)
A little area can be accessed by motorbike just a few kilometers from Karimunjawa town. It wasn’t a long hike, it only takes 5-10 minutes to reach the peak. At Bukit Cinta, you can enjoy the breathtaking ocean view, climb up to the “nest” to take photos, and also take pictures on a LOVE monument.
The entrance fee is Rp.10.000,00 per person which can be used for two visits. Come here if you want to enjoy the sunset from the top of the hill and take some photos.
4. Visit Mangrove Forest
Karimunjawa not only offers snorkeling experiences and gorgeous beaches, but also trekking along raised wooden boardwalks deep into the forest in a protected mangrove forest area. The trekking itself was fun. We got to see the mangroves, some animals along the forest, and enjoyed a nice view of the surrounding mountains and oceans by going to the top of a viewpoint tower.
The entrance fee for Indonesian citizens is Rp.10.000,00, while for foreigners it’s far more expensive: Rp.155.000,00 on weekdays and Rp.230.000,00 on weekend. But if you have KITAS, you can pay the local price. Yes, the entrance fee for foreigners is way overpriced and the huge discrepancy between Indonesians and foreigners is outrageous. I agree with that. But as of now, those are still the entrance fees you need to pay if you want to visit the mangrove forest. Indonesia is home to one-quarter of the world’s mangroves. Since large numbers of it are disappearing fast, by visiting the mangrove forest in Karimunjawa, consider you that you’re contributing to mangrove forest conservation efforts.
Karimunjawa’s mangrove forest is located 12 kilometers north of the town center. To get there, you need to rent a motorbike or bike. Don’t forget to bring and apply mosquito repellent before entering the forest.
WHERE TO EAT IN KARIMUNJAWA ISLANDS
We went to the fish night market located at Alun-Alun or town square almost every night. Several stalls selling fresh fish are set up every evening. To eat here you just need to choose the fish and method of preparation (grilled/fried/spicy/nonspicy/etc) that you like, sit at the mat with long low tables set up in the square, and waiting for the food to be served.
During our stay in Karimunjawa for 7 days, we tasted various fish, calamari, crab, and shrimp. The fish is served with rice and vegetables. It tastes good and is affordable, often no more than Rp.50.000,00 per person.
If you grow bored with the fish, you can also opt to have other Indonesian meals such as bakso (meatballs soup), mie goreng (fried noodle), ayam goreng (fried chicken), nasi goreng (fried rice) and various juices on other stalls around the square. There are also some restaurants and bars serving western foods such as pizza, pasta, and burgers around the town center.
I spent 7 days and 6 nights in Karimunjawa islands, Indonesia and I can say that I enjoyed every second of the time I spent on the charming archipelago. If you are longing to spend time on a gorgeous island with relaxing vibes and free from the crowds of tourists, I would highly recommend you to spend a few days or even a week here. No need to worry about electricity since it’s available 24 hours. But make sure to bring enough cash since there is only one ATM in the town and sometimes it runs out of cash.
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