Samalona Island: Off the beaten track, Indonesia

Samalona Island

We loved Samalona Island…

It’s a tiny speck of an island off of the coast of the bigger island of Sulawesi, in central Indonesia. If you find yourself in Makassar, it’s well worth a few days of your time, or even a few hours if that’s all you’ve got, to retreat to this little isle and put the brakes on the wheels of life for a bit. If you’re searching the web for links to lodging or transportation to the island you won’t find much. The families on the island support themselves, in part, by hosting travelers, but no one has thought to create a website yet!

You will love Samalona if…

  • You are sick of big cities
  • You are a nature lover
  • You crave peace and quiet
  • You don’t need “entertainment”
  • You prefer a slow pace
  • You snorkel

Samalona might NOT be for you if

  • You’re not into swimming in the ocean or relaxing on a beach
  • You need air conditioning and “services”
  • You don’t eat fish

Even if you don’t want to stay overnight, you can visit Samalona Island for the day, enjoy the beach, take a snorkel and be back to “civilization” by evening.

Getting there:

Presumably you’ll be staying in a hotel in Makassar. Hop a little blue bus to “Fort Rotterdam” and then cross the street. I’ll be shocked if the boatmen don’t find you before your feet touch the sidewalk, but if they don’t, walk back onto the little “beach” behind the line of street food vendors and you’ll find several little wooden boats that make the trip back and forth.

  • If you’re going out for just the day, expect to pay about $30 USD for the round trip (the boatman will wait for you) It’s about an hour, one way.
  • If you’re going out for an overnight, or more, expect to pay about $40 USD for the round trip as the boatman will not wait… necessitating another round trip for him, which he may or may not be able to fill with new passengers on the day and time you wish to depart.

Accommodations Samalona


Lodging on Samalona Island is in the home of one of the families that lives there. There did appear to be two purpose built “rooms” for guests, but those were not open when we were there (and we were the only ones there.) The families all talked about the folks who had stayed in their homes over the years, and this seems to be the standard arrangement.

Because there are six of us, we were given an entire three bedroom house. We did not have access to the kitchen, but we didn’t need it as three ample meals plus coffee and fruit were provided. We were not hungry!

Some things to know about life on Samalona Island:

  • The beds are traditional Indonesian mats on top of boards, not cushy mattresses like you’re used to
  • There is a bed sheet on the bed, but no cover sheet or blankets provided
  • There are no screens on any windows (meaning insects can come in)
  • One of the three bedrooms we had included a mosquito net, the other two did not.
  • There is no electricity on the island. A generator runs after dark.
  • There is no running water on the island, it is carried from reservoirs and wells.
  • Toilets are bucket flush.
  • One house appeared to have a shower facility, gravity fed, we did not have one.
  • There is no hot water.
  • The food is homemade and excellent!
  • The company is delightful, take time to sit and talk with the residents (very little English spoken, bring your dictionary!
  • The snorkeling is okay. The reef is dying, as are so many, but there are still some good things to be seen.
  • There is a little store that rents snorkel gear (better to bring your own) and that has water, beer and a few snacks.


We heartily recommend Samalona Island

It was three of the best days we spent in Indonesia. The island is a respite from the insanity of the cities and we found it a “recharge” for our souls.


Posted by | Comments (3)  | August 20, 2013
Category: Asia, Destinations

3 Responses to “Samalona Island: Off the beaten track, Indonesia”

  1. Carl Parkes Says:

    Jen, sounds like a great place but the boat transport fees are outrageous. Just how long does it take to get to this island?

  2. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Carl… agreed… it takes about an hour (with a stop at another island on the way) it’s worth it tho… perhaps you’ll be able to get a better deal than we did! 🙂

  3. Jennifer Miller Says:

    Also, there are six of us!