Labuan Bajo – The Gateway to Flores in Indonesia

This post was last updated on July 8th, 2020 at 11:41 am


Labuan Bajo is a small harbor town on the west coast of Flores. It won’t remain small for long because Flores is growing at a rapid pace. More and more tourists are finding their way to this beautiful island in Indonesia and all start their journey in Labuan Bajo. It’s not only the place to start if you want to explore the island but it’s also the place for diving enthusiasts and visiting the Komodo National Park. The town itself is not very special, but the area is really one of the most beautiful artworks of Mother Nature you will ever see. Flores really stole our hearts and it all started at Labuan Bajo.

 

A Backpacker’s Paradise

When you visit Labuan Bajo from the east of Flores, a new world opens up to you. Time seems to run faster in Labuan Bajo than in the rest of Flores. The internet is faster, there are hip shops, the food is more diverse and there is a wide range of hotels in all price ranges. Labuan Bajo is a wonderful place to relax and meet people.

 

To us, Labuan Bajo means enjoying western luxury in an authentic setting. More choices in the supermarket, locals who speak English, and one of our guilty pleasures: try something other than Indonesian food for a change.

 

The other side of the coin is that everyone wants to benefit from the growing number of tourists. Besides (sometimes pushy) drivers on the street, you can also enter one of the many tourist offices. Excursions to Komodo National Park, Kanawa Island, and Wae Rebo are offered every few meters. In addition, there are several companies offering boat trips to Lombok and diving around in the Komodo National Park.

 

Arriving at Labuan Bajo by boat at the harbor
Arriving at the harbor of Labuan Bajo

 

Best Things to Do in & Around Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is the most famous city on Flores and for many, it’s the first stop on this beautiful island. You do not have to expect too much from the port itself, but the surroundings are beautiful.

 

So you can jump on the boat and visit the impressive Komodo National Park, explore the surrounding region with a scooter and end up in all kinds of cool places, or simply enjoy the sunset at the harbor.

 

Below, we list the best things you can do in and around Labuan Bajo.

 

Visit the Komodo National Park

A trip to Komodo National Park is the most popular activity you can do from Labuan Bajo. In the main street, Jalan Soekarno Hatta, you will find countless travel agencies to book a tour. “Hello mister, do you want to go on a trip tomorrow?” is the question you will hear on the assembly line.

 

We went on a two-day tour and can absolutely recommend it. You visit beautiful islands such as Pulau Kelor, see the impressive Komodo dragon on Rinca or Komodo Island and you go snorkeling with manta rays. Plus, make a stop at the idyllic Pink Beach and be treated to an overwhelming view as you stand at the top of Padar Island.

 

Besides island hopping, Komodo National Park is one of the better dive spots in Indonesia. It is common to book a liveaboard, where you are on the water for several days and make several dives every day. If you are looking for another great dive spot, take the ferry or plane to Alor.

 

Komodo Dragon on a beach on Komodo Island with blue ocean in the background

 

Diving

The area surrounding the Komodo National Park is known as one of the most beautiful areas in the world for diving. The waters are even on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It comes as no surprise that Labuan Bajo is full of diving schools. There are many different dive spots in the area, so you can dive here for several days and still have a completely different experience every day. The coral is still colorful and untouched and the strong currents and the confluence of warm and colder waters provide a great diversity of marine life. Here you have the chance to see turtles, reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, dolphins, large fish, and manta rays.

 

Diving here is a bit more expensive than you are probably used to from Southeast Asia. This is partly because the Komodo National Park fee has to be paid. This is 175,000 IDR (~ US$12) per day and 250,000 IDR (~ US$17) on national holidays. A minimum of two dives is often mandatory, as the dive sites are a little further away. It is also possible to make a multi-day diving trip. These tours are also called liveaboards and vary from three days to even two weeks. You stay on a boat and make two to three dives a day. Sometimes this is also combined with a visit to the islands in the Komodo National Park.

 

The coral in Komodo National Park is still very healthy and colorful and a number of organizations in Labuan Bajo are working hard to preserve it. For example, DOCK (Dive Operator Community Komodo) is a collaboration between various diving schools to promote responsible and safe diving in the Komodo National Park. We, therefore, recommend choosing a diving school that is affiliated with them. Furthermore, a clean up is organized every Friday by Trash Hero Komodo. You can sign up as a volunteer for this via their Facebook page.

 

View from the top of Kelor Island (Pulau Kelor), near the Komodo National Park

 

Rinca Island

You will also find Komodo dragons on Rinca Island. It is a nice place to spot the giant lizards. Some travelers say that this island is more beautiful than Komodo island. You can take a beautiful walk on the island with a viewpoint to top it off.

 

Padar Island

It doesn’t get more beautiful than this. Most day tours combine Rinca or Komodo Island with Padar island. For us, this was the most beautiful spot in Komodo National Park. It is quite a climb, but as soon as you are at the top, you have a great view of the island. Choose a spot, take a moment, and enjoy this beautiful view.

 

Green hills and bay of Padar Island near the Komodo National Park
Padar island is very beautiful

 

Pink Beach

Pink beach was not as pink as we expected, but it was one of the most beautiful snorkeling spots in Indonesia. Swim between the colorful coral while the most beautiful fish swim with you. We saw clownfish, pufferfish, and the largest moray eels we’ve ever seen.

 

View of Pink Beach with Turquoise Clear Water and tourist boats on Komodo Island
View of Pink Beach

 

Our Tip – Read more about Pink Beach and other beautiful beaches in Indonesia.

 

Visit Waterfalls by Scooter

There are two gorgeous waterfalls south of Labuan Bajo; Cunca Wulang Waterfall and Cunca Rami Waterfall. You can go there with an organized tour, but more fun (and cheaper) is to rent a scooter and go out on your own. Make sure you drive carefully because the roads are not always good.

 

Our Tip – When you’re on the go, don’t rely too much on Maps.me or Google Maps as the locations aren’t marked accurately. Ask the locals for “Air terjun Cunca Wulang” or “Air terjun Cunca Rami” and you will end up in the right place.

 

Swim in Crystal Clear Water at Rangko Cave


Do you want to experience something special? Then drive towards the village of Rangko (which takes around an hour), and cross the water with a boat in 10 minutes to the entrance of Rangko Cave. If you then walk into this cave, you will end up in a fairytale setting.

 

What is immediately noticeable is the clarity and the turquoise color of the water, partly caused by the incoming light. All you have to do is jump in, then enjoy the magical stalagmite and stalactite formations you see around you.

 

We advise you to go in the afternoon because the lighting is best. Also, keep in mind that the rocks can be quite slippery.

 

Blue water and sunshine at the water cave in Rangko Bay on Flores

 

Enjoy the Sunset


The main attraction of Labuan Bajo is, without a doubt, the harbor with the many boats and the various limestone mountains that rise up from the sea.

 

During the sunset, definitely go to one of the higher hills to enjoy the beautiful view. It is not quiet, by the way, because the mosques and the passing traffic produce a lot of noise 😉

 

Diving in Labuan Bajo

The coral reefs around Labuan Bajo have had a hard time in the recent past. In fact, dynamite fishing was very popular here, which is the reason that a large part of the coral reef was lost.

 

In recent years, however, the area has been protected and many people are committed to restoring local nature.

 

The coast of Labuan Bajo has become increasingly popular among divers and snorkelers in recent years. There are many species of tropical fish in danger of extinction. In addition, the coral reef is also returning to its old form.

 

A fish with an angry face while diving and snorkeling in Komodo National Park
This fish almost looks angry that we’re invading its privacy 😉

 

Excursions from Labuan Bajo

There are some fun excursions you can go on. We describe two of the most famous excursions to take from Labuan Bajo.

 

Boat Trip Through Komodo National Park

Labuan Bajo is the place to start your trip to the Komodo National Park. This island group off the coast of Flores is known for its Komodo dragon, bizarre landscapes, and spectacular marine life.

 

You can book a boat trip for one or more days to the park in Labuan Bajo, with or without diving. We have had good experiences with Komodo Dive Center.

 

TIP – Read more about the Komodo National Park.

 

Boat Trip From Lombok to Flores

If you want to take an impressive boat trip, book the one from Lombok to Flores. One of the most beautiful tours you can do in Indonesia. Nature you encounter along the way is so beautiful that you almost forget to take pictures.

 

There are several organizations that offer this tour, but the best known are Perama Tours and Wanua Tours. The tour lasts 2 or 3 nights where you stop in different places. The boat is small but nice. You sleep and eat on board.

 

During the day you will stop at various places to snorkel, visit waterfalls, or explore the beautiful surroundings of the Komodo National Park. You can sleep on the deck or rent a cabin if you want more privacy. The boat is quite basic, but you have everything you need.

 

In the evening when the sun goes down you can have a beer with other travelers on the deck of the boat and watch the stars.

 

You sail from Lombok to Labuan Bajo on Flores and along the way you pass several islands. Along the way, you’ll visit the Laba Island View Point (see photo below) which has a great view of the island. In addition, you will snorkel along the way and visit a Pink Beach. It is a great tour!

 

View of the surrounding islands from the Gili Laba Viewpoint

 

TIP – Costs for such a tour differ between 1,500,000 (~ US$104) and 1,700,000 IDR (~ US$117), depending on your negotiation skills. You can read more about this boat trip on our blog “Boat trip from Lombok to Flores“.

 

Food & Drinks in Labuan Bajo

We have tested the best places to eat and drink at in Labuan Bajo:

 

The Mediterraneo restaurant is right on the water. The restaurant is cozily furnished and has a large terrace with a sea view. The inner part consists of a dining area with tables and chairs and a place to relax with comfortable beanbags. And the food? As the name suggests, they mainly serve dishes from the Mediterranean region.

 

Do you fancy a hearty burger? You can find delicious burgers at Le Pirate Bajo Restaurant. This place is very popular with expats. There are also great wraps and Mexican dishes on the menu.

 

A local food shop we recommend is Warung Warung. Definitely try the “lalapan ayam” here, if you like fried chicken.

 

Lalapan, a Traditional Indonesian dish
Lalapan, a Traditional Indonesian dish

 

Our other tip is Warung Coto Makassar, where only one dish is on the menu. Very tasty soup with tender pieces of beef. It is a well-known dish in Makassar, Sulawesi’s largest city.

 

In the center, there are also a number of Western restaurants, if you fancy a crepe or a hamburger. You can even eat sushi at Happy Banana Komodo.

 

Local females also sell delicious street food in the evening, such as yellow rice (“nasi kuning”) with vegetables and tuna. In any case, Labuan Bajo comes to life in the evening, around six o’clock. It is a lot more fun than during the day, when it feels a bit dead because almost everyone has gone to the surrounding islands.

 

Our final special mention goes to Artomoro Restaurant. This restaurant serves the tastiest juices in Labuan Bajo. Unfortunately, it’s not directly on the sea, but the terrace on the top floor does have a sea view. One of our favorite juices was a fresh es jeruk (orange and mandarin juice) with coconut. Yum!

 

TIP – If you’re looking for a great (ice) coffee go to Carpenter Cafe & Roastery. There is also a Starbucks near the harbor.

 

Cheap Food at the Labuan Bajo Fish Market

Do you want to eat tasty, cheap food and mingle between the locals? Then head to the fish market just north of the harbor. There is nothing to do during the day, but at night the BBQs are lit and the tables and chairs are removed from the shed. For less than 5 USD per person, you can eat fresh fish, rice, vegetables, and fresh juice!

 

Rows of fish at the Night Fish Market in Labuan Bajo

 

Hotspots in Labuan Bajo

Although this cozy harbor town won’t win a beauty prize anytime soon, it does have many nice hotspots. We have listed the best restaurants in Labuan Bajo for you:

 

  • Ciao Hostel: Not only a nice place to sleep but you can also get cheap and tasty food here. Especially the giant hamburger is amazing!
  • Le Pirate: Every night this place is packed. Not surprising, because it’s in a beautiful location and the food is very good.
  • Happy Banana: The vibe here is a bit “floaty”, but you can eat really delicious food here. If you fancy Sushi then this is the place to be.
  • Molas Cafe: If you have a little higher budget, you can eat delicious food at Molas Cafe.
  • Cafe.in.hit: For when you fancy a good cup of coffee!
  • Mediterraneo: Beautiful views and a great menu. The food is really delicious, but a bit more expensive than most restaurants in Labuan Bajo.

 

Accommodations in Labuan Bajo

First of all, it is good to know that the accommodations in Labuan Bajo are priced a bit higher than, for example, in Bali. For your own (basic) room, you should expect to pay around US$20 per night, including breakfast.

 

We have visited Labuan Bajo twice in high season. Both times a lot of accommodation was packed! We recommend booking your stay well in advance. Here are some of our recommendations:

 

Komodo Boutique Hotel

If you want a good middle-class hotel then the Komodo Boutique Hotel is a must. This hotel was only opened in 2015. Despite its name, the hotel is definitely not a boutique hotel, but it is a great place to stay for a few nights. The hotel is located a bit out of the center, but Komodo Boutique Hotel offers free transportation until 10 p.m.

 

Plataran Komodo Beach Resort

If you want a bit more luxury you can opt for the Plataran Komodo Beach Resort. The rooms in this resort (or villas) are stunning. The entire resort (including the rooms) has a traditional Indonesia theme which is very authentic. Many basic activities are also included in the room rate. If you love going out for a run you will be right at home here. As soon as you go outside you can start a run on a beautiful road or trail. Breakfast has a variety of tasty dishes.

 

Le Pirate Island

Le Pirate has already conquered several locations in Indonesia. This accommodation can also be found on Nusa and Gili Trawangan and also in Labuan Bajo. The property has gorgeous cottages right on the beach with breathtaking views.

 

If you’re looking for a cheaper option you can choose one of the great hostels in Labuan Bajo. Read our recommendations below!

 

Hostels in Labuan Bajo

Labuan Bajo is quite pricey compared to other places in Indonesia. We found two very nice hostels where we stayed for a few days.

 

Ciao Hostel

Our favorite hostel is Ciao Hostel. We immediately felt at home here. There is a lovely atmosphere, everything is well organized and it is super clean. We even saw the cleaners dusting the slatted bed bases. On Booking this hostel even gets an 8.8! Be quick, because they are often fully booked.

 

Activities in Labuan Bajo often start early in the morning. As a result, there is not much to do in the town in the evening. Ciao Hostel came up with a great idea. You can watch a movie here every night. Every day there are 3 films that you can choose from and the film with the most votes is shown that evening. You can also eat delicious dishes here, there was a mini kitten, puppy and the staff is very helpful and friendly.


Dragon Dive Komodo

Another nice accommodation is the Dragon Dive Komodo Hostel. Here they also have private rooms. This hostel looks hip, but it comes with a price tag. We thought it was a beautiful hostel, but a bit on the expensive side. If Ciao Hostel is full, this is certainly a good alternative.

 

TIP – More accommodations in Labuan Bajo can be found on Booking.com.

 

View of Labuan Bajo from the boat, a fishing town in Flores
The view of Labuan Bajo from the boat is stunning

 

How to Get There

If you want to visit Labuan Bajo (Flores), you may have to travel quite a distance. How you get there depends on the place you depart from.

 

To Labuan Bajo by Plane

The easiest and fastest way to get to Labuan Bajo is by plane. There are flights to Labuan Bajo from different places, but the cheapest and easiest flights go there via Bali or Lombok. A return ticket costs about US$110 p.p.

 

To Labuan Bajo by Ferry

Since we had a daily budget, we chose the cheapest option, namely by public transport. With a combination of vans and ferries, it took us a total of no less than 24 hours (but it can also take as long as 30 hours) to get there. In total, it cost us less than US$20. We were picked up from our accommodation in Lombok with our final destination set to the port of Labuan Bajo.

 

From Kuta (Lombok) it is about a 3-hours drive to the harbor. There you take a ferry to Sumbawa, the island between Lombok and Flores. This is a very fun and special experience. You’ll be one of few tourists on the boat and the locals really like to start a party. You will then arrive at Sumbawa where you will be waiting for a 12-hour bus ride to the other side of the island.

 

You will arrive here early in the morning. From the port, you take the second ferry which takes about 9 hours to get to Labuan Bajo. This trip is also very special. A tip, get a mattress quickly, find the shade, and sleep well on the deck. We found the tour to be fine and secretly quite a nice experience. You must have patience, time, and desire to make this long trip.

 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to go to Labuan Bajo in Indonesia is from April to October, in which you have a warm temperature and low rainfall. The highest average temperature in Labuan Bajo is 31°C (87.8°F) in October and the lowest is 27°C (80.6°F) in June. The water temperature is between 28°C (82.4°F) and 32°C (89.6°F). The weather and climate of Labuan Bajo are suitable for a sunny vacation.

 

Labuan Bajo has a monsoon climate. There are have high temperatures and a lot of precipitation all year round. Below, you can find the average climate of Labuan Bajo, the monthly temperature, and when most rain falls. With this information, you are well-prepared for your next trip or holiday.

 

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
28°C 28°C 28°C 28°C 28°C 27°C 27°C 28°C 29°C 31°C 30°C 29°C
278
mm
242
mm
244
mm
118
mm
99
mm
31
mm
13
mm
5
mm
16
mm
54
mm
211
mm
267
mm

 

More Tips For a Visit to Labuan Bajo

To prepare yourself for a great experience in Labuan Bajo we’ve listed some more tips.

 

Rent a Scooter in Labuan Bajo

Renting a scooter costs 75,000 IDR (~ US$5.15) per day in Labuan Bajo.

 

If you have the plan to travel on Flores by motorbike, there is an option to rent one in Labuan Bajo and drop it off in Maumere. Lena House Flores is an accommodation that offers this service. In Labuan Bajo, you can reach them at the following number: +6281239201190.

 

Extend Your Visa in Labuan Bajo

If you want to extend your visa in Labuan Bajo, this is possible. We have done this, and normally you receive it in about 3 days. Go to the immigration office “Kantor Imigrasi” which is located near the airport.

 

From the Airport to the City Center

The nice thing about Labuan Bajo is that it is quite small. For example, the airport is located just a few kilometers from the center. A taxi will cost you 60,000 IDR (~ US$4.15) and a scooter taxi 10,000 IDR (less than a dollar).

 

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