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Skip This Over-Touristed Island. Experience These Secret Islands Instead

Indonesia is home to more than 17,000 islands—so why only visit the one overrun by tourists?

Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world, with five major islands, 30 groups of smaller islands, and countless miniature spots tucked away throughout its sprawling setting. This incredible country is home to some of the most beautiful national parks, over 100 exotic endangered animals, the world’s biggest flower, and 34,000 miles of coastline. In short: there’s a lot to explore here.

But despite all that, most tourists just stick to exploring Bali. Those looking to explore Indonesia a little deeper are the real winners, with any number of secret islands playing host to hidden beach coves, untouched coral reefs, never-stepped sand, and rarely visited waterfalls.

Offering a deeper insight into everything Indonesia’s natural world is best loved for, these secret islands are a must-visit for any self-respecting adventurer. Ready to dig a little deeper? Read on for some of Indonesia’s most secret spots.

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Kanawa Island

You’ll probably visit Kanawa Island via a flight to Labuan Bajo island, which is only an hour east of Bali, with flights running most days of the week. This picturesque spot is one of the greenest areas in Indonesia and is filled with sloping hills shrouded in endless grass and trees. In contrast, Kanawa Island itself is surrounded by white sand beaches and brightly colored reefs, perfect for those looking to admire the underwater world without needing to sign up for expensive scuba diving lessons first. The waters of Kanawa Island are practically transparent with brilliant visibility, allowing easy access to admire the rainbow of fish swimming all around.

Related: Jaw-Dropping Photos of Sea Life in One of the Most Biodiverse Regions of the World

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Kei Kecil

Beautiful Kai Kecil is a part of the Kai Islands in the wider Maluku Islands and offers a haven of bright colors in west Indonesia. This remote spot is best loved for its stunning views both above water and below, with staggeringly large caves to explore, rainbow-colored coral reefs, and vibrant greenery in all directions. It’s also a top spot for beach lovers, with plenty of white sand bays just calling out to be relaxed upon. Head to Ohio Lilir Beach to discover Indonesia’s very own heaven on earth, or check out Ngurtafur Beach for a serene, virtually empty paradise.

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Widi Islands

Indonesia’s Widi Islands remain thoroughly underrated and are one of the archipelago’s best-kept secrets. Loved mostly by scuba divers for the area’s pristine underwater world, the Widi Islands are the true definition of an untouched paradise. The Widi Islands sit in the heart of the prized Coral Triangle, an area known as a global center of marine biodiversity. The fish theme continues above ground, too, with plenty of delicious, freshly-caught seafood restaurants thanks to the high population of fishermen who call this spot home. There are 99 islands in total here, so you’re free to beach hop from one uninhabited spot to the next.

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Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is part of Papua, the most eastern island of the Indonesian Archipelago, and a treasured name to anyone who’s explored Indonesia a little deeper before. Getting here takes a little more patience, utilizing a variety of planes, ferries, and cars along the way. But it’s well worth a visit, where you’ll find rainbow birds of paradise, ancient rock paintings and caves, spectacular beaches, and half-submerged islands popping up throughout the area’s azure waters. Raja Ampat is particularly famous for its coral Islands and the abundance of wildlife in the region. The best way to see the area is via a boat trip, but you can also spend a good few hours soaking up the sunshine on either Kabui Bay or Batu Pensil.

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Sumba’s beaches and lagoons look almost too good to be true, with their green and blue shades and sparkling sunshine. This underrated spot is mostly visited by surfers, who quickly fall in love with the island’s incredible breaks and quiet beaches. Weekuri Lake is definitely worth a visit and, on sunny days, you’ll see plenty of children swimming around and laughing. Or, if you’re a sunset lover, head to Walakiri Beach to snap photos of red and pink-toned skies with a backdrop of mangroves. There are waterfalls to trek, fancy resorts to check into (with private beach access), and hills to climb.

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Visit Belitung, a small island east of Sumatra, and take a step back in time. This rustic island is a world apart from the tourist-heavy streets of Bali, following a more traditional way of life with an easy pace and friendly smiles along the way. With its 19th-century lighthouse and Dutch colonial architecture, Belitung is a top spot for budding photographers and offers a whole new experience in Indonesia. As you might expect from a remote island, much of your time here will be spent paddling out into the warm ocean waters or lying back on the dazzling white sand. Tanjung Tinggi and Tanjung Kelayang are two of the most popular beaches in the area and are renowned for their safe and welcoming swimming conditions.

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Weh Island

Don’t expect your average tourist to have heard of Weh Island, as its remote location and tricky access make this secret island one for only the hardiest of travelers. Also known as Sabang (its nearby parent island), Weh Island is filled with caverns and caves, historical sights, hot water springs, and tropical scenery. This volcanic island is surrounded by turquoise waters adored by free divers, with calm conditions that last all day long. Spend some time relaxing on Iboih beach before checking out the Japanese Bunker, soothing Lake Toba, and exploring the rest of the area by bike.

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Heard of the famous Komodo dragon? As you might have guessed from its name, Komodo island is one of the only places you’ll naturally find this huge creature, along with its neighboring islands. More like a tropical jungle than your traditional paradise island, Komodo is mostly home to intrigued travelers trying to spot the Komodo for themselves. If you’re a fan of colorful scenery, you’ll fall in love with Komodo National Park. As you wander through its tall trees, keep an eye out for the multi-colored birds who sing their way through the forests.

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Kakaban Island sits geographically almost directly above Bali but takes a little coordination to get there. Once you’ve arrived, it’s a haven of bright blue tones, and most of the excitement happens underwater. The most famous thing to do here is swim with the jellyfish, which are completely harmless and float around in colorful blobs around you. However, you’ll want to bring goggles as the water is pretty salty. “Kakaban” in Indonesian loosely translates to “hug,” as the island itself sits in such a way it appears to be hugging its neighboring lake. When not underwater, dig into local delicacies like Tehe-tehe, a dish with a sea urchin shell as its bowl.

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Sombori is spectacularly beautiful: a place where photos can never fully capture its magical colors and breathtaking surroundings. Known as “the Raja Am “t of Sulawesi,” thanks to its similar miniature islands dotted throughout the water, Sombori is home to stalactite diamond caves and secret, golden sand coves with virtually no one around. Located off the coast of Southeast Sulawesi, it’ll take you around three hours via speedboat to reach this spot. Check out Teluk Cinta, a heart-shaped lagoon, the soft white sand of Pasir Panjang Beach, and wander into the spooky Berlian Cave. If you visit the latter at night time, you can spot bioluminescent glow worms wriggling around.

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Bunaken island is one of the smallest islands on our list, and once you’ve arrived, it’s best to explore on foot. There are no cars allowed on this tiny spot, so anyone who visits hires a scooter, takes a boat, or relies on their legs for transport. The marine park is Bunaken Island’s most highly regarded spot, which attracts scuba divers throughout the year who are treated to untouched reefs and a mostly tourist-free zone. There’s also the occasional luxury resort here if you’re looking to spend a few days in paradise without too many tourists getting in the background of your photos. On such a small island, you’re never too far from the beach, and they’re all pretty wonderful.

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Siau Island

Siau island is almost entirely covered by jungle, so you never know exactly what you’ll find here. This exciting island is home to the critically endangered Siau island Tarsier and beautiful flora and fauna. As far as remote Indonesian islands go, Siau is up there at the top—halfway between Sulawesi in Indonesia and Mindanao in the Philippines. This place is largely uninhabited, with large undiscovered patches left to the animals and birds to enjoy. If you do decide to venture over, expect stunning views of mountains in one direction and a peaceful ocean in the other. It’s home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Mount Karangetang, so you’ll want to watch carefully before you venture to Siau.

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The Secret Gilis

It’s easy to get the Secret Gilis (Gili Kedis, Gili Nanggu, and Gili Sudak) mixed up with Indonesia’s larger Gili Islands: namely the party island of Gili Trawangan and its smaller neighbors. But take a boat around the island of Lombok, and you’ll discover the Secret Gilis and all of their beauty. These tiny spots are located on Lombok’s southwest coast and can’t be accessed by regular public boats. Instead, you’ll need to hire a boat to visit these islands and explore their majestic snorkeling spots and peaceful beaches. Looking to stay overnight? One company arranges camping trips here; otherwise, you’re limited to a day’s fun in this secluded spot.