Traveling to Karimunjawa wasn’t actually planned at all, but oh I’m glad that I decided to travel there! In Bandung I met a Dutch couple who had been to Karimunjawa and who spoke about the island as if it were paradise. Did you ever change your itinerary based on tips from people you meet while traveling? Well, that’s exactly what I did with my Java itinerary. I can tell you that it was a very good choice to change my route and visit Karimunjawa!
Also curious about an Indonesia itinerary for 2 months? You can check it out here.
Because wow, they certainly hadn’t lied about the beauty of the island. Here you will find white sandy beaches with an azure blue sea without heaps of tourists who are baking in the sun. Here you can still ride the motorbike through small villages where people will wave enthusiastically. The tourists who visit Karimunjawa are mostly Indonesian and there are still few Western tourists.
I first traveled from Yogyakarta to Jepara by bus and then took the boat to Karimunjawa. This fastboat is fine, but I still got sick after an hour. If you get seasick quickly, chances are that you will on this boat too. But … eventually it’s worth it!
Because once I arrived on the island, I was already amazed. The water was so blue. And the further I went from the pier, the bluer it got, unbelievable!
What to do on Karimunjawa
Rent a motorbike
It’s best to rent a motorbike and explore the island on your own. The roads are generally of good quality but quite narrow. However, there’s hardly any other traffic which makes driving very pleasant.
Of course you visit a tropical island for its beaches. And Karimunjawa has many gems! When driving north, turn left before the road continues east. Here you end up at Pantai Batu Topeng and Pantai Ujung Gelam which are practically next to each other. These are the most beautiful beaches of Karimunjawa.
There are a number of small eateries where you can buy some noodles, chips and drinks. Often they also sell fresh coconuts that you can enjoy in the shade of the palm trees with a view of the azure blue sea. What else do you want?
The locals sometimes ask for a small contribution when you visit one of the beaches. According to them, this is used to keep the beaches clean.
If you follow the road further north and east you will eventually reach Pantai Alano and Pantai Annora. When I was there there was a lot of washed up trash which took away the tropical atmosphere. What is recommended though, is to climb the hill so that you can enjoy a nice view over the beaches and the sea.
A beautiful snorkel spot and a wonderful place to watch the sunset was at a jetty on the west coast. It was located near the guesthouse where I stayed.
To come here, drive to Mangrove Inn and walk onto the property until you reach a grass path with water on both sides. When you walk on to the end you arrive at a jetty from where you jump into the water and swim the coral among the tropical fish!
Snorkeling day tour
A must-do is a snorkeling day tour. You will visit several islands where you will snorkel and have lunch. Such a day tour can be booked at any accommodation for a price of around 100,000 IDR per person.
I booked a day tour and was picked up in the morning and taken to the pier. The group consisted of no more than 10 people. We visited a number of snorkel spots with super beautiful coral and colorful fish. I saw parrotfish, clown fish, but it’s also possible to spot sea turtles, barracudas and even sharks here!
We had lunch on one of the small islands with rice, noodles, vegetables and of course fresh fish. Relaxing on the white sandy beach with a view of the crystal clear blue sea was certainly a pleasure.
With the sunset we visited Pantai Ujung Gantungan which is known for the large sandbar with mangrove trees. On the way back it was low tide and our boat got stuck in the sand. Fortunately, there were plenty of locals in the area who came to our rescue.
If you are on Karimunjawa and you like a fish, then definitely visit the fish market in the center near the harbor. It’s possible to eat very cheap fresh fish there. Even the non-fish eaters can enjoy themselves here, because there are enough small stalls that sell other meals.
Fancy a tasty pizza? You can eat it at Eat & Meet in the center. The atmosphere is super cozy and large groups are also welcome.
For tasty local food, visit Saung Odang Warung. You can enjoy delicious Indonesian food here.
Karimunjawa isn’t a very big island, but there are still enough accommodations for everyone’s preferences. You can choose to stay in the center, but if you rent a motorbike/scooter you can also stay somewhere else on the island. The distances are not very big.
Not many hostels are located at the island, but a popular and cozy hostel is The Bodhi Tree Hostel. It is centrally located and the staff are very friendly. The hostel has double rooms, a family room and an 8-bed dorm.
Looking for a little more luxury, the super-rated Happinez Hills Hotel is the place to be. They have beautiful double rooms and a swimming pool with great views.
If you are traveling on a slightly smaller budget, but would like to stay in a double room, then Karimunjannah House is a very good option. It’s located slightly outside the center, but that is no problem when you rent a scooter.
How to get to Karimunjawa
If you travel to Karimunjawa, take the boat from Jepara. You often arrive there in the evening or early in the morning, depending on which bus you take and where you are traveling from. The best thing is to stay overnight in Jepara. It’s a small fishing village with a number of restaurants and guesthouses. For example, I stayed at La Famille Apartments with a swimming pool. Grab taxi is available in Jepara, making it easy to travel to and from your accommodation to, for example, the pier.
Tip: In Jepara, definitely eat at Yam Yam Resto, Jepara’s number 1 restaurant.
Tickets for the boat can be bought on the spot at the counter in Jepara. Make sure to be there at least an hour in advance to buy your ticket. It’s also possible to buy your ticket in advance at your accommodation, but this is not really necessary. After all, you pay unnecessarily more for this. In high season there were still enough spots on the boat.
On the way back I heard at the hostel that it turned out to be difficult to get boat tickets back to Jepara, so they arranged it for me.
For Karimunjawa you pay 25,000 IDR tourist tax which is used for maintenance.
Yogyakarta – Karimunjawa
From Yogyakarta you can take the bus to Jepara (130,000 IDR) with Daytrans. You can book this bus a day in advance at the Daytrans office in Yogyakarta. This ride takes about 6 hours and the bus leaves in the evening and in the morning. Then you take the fastboat (164,000 IDR incl insurance) that takes 2 hours or the slowboat that takes 6 hours to the island.
Surabaya – Karimunjawa
I traveled from Jepara to Surabaya by bus, an 8+ hour drive. I also met several people who traveled directly to the Bromo volcano and even climbed the volcano that same night. This’s really not recommended, because this ride takes 12+ hours. When I arrived in Surabaya I was already completely wrecked.
Karimunjawa also has a small airport. There is a plane twice a week from Surabaya and three times a week from Semarang.